Fifteen Year Old Leeanne Kaplan on Her First Solo Flight

Learn to Fly RPC student Leeanne Kaplan won’t be forgetting her 15th birthday in a hurry, after completing her first solo flight.

Leeanne started studying the theory components for her Recreational Pilot Certificate (RPC) at age 13, patiently waiting until she was 14 to be allowed to take the controls of an aircraft in flight under the guidance of her instructor.

And then, on the day of her 15th birthday, Leeanne successfully completed her first solo flight. Given that 15 is the minimum legal age at which you are actually allowed to fly solo, Leeanne is surely one of very few people that have actually achieved that milestone so early.

We asked Leeanne a few questions following this amazing achievement:

1. How do you feel after your first solo flight?

To be perfectly honest, after flying solo for the first time, I felt really self-accomplished and proud of myself. In the hours leading up to my flight and on my way to Tooradin, I was incredibly nervous. I wasn’t worried that I would crash, but more that I would forget something and disappoint everyone. However, I got over my nerves and just did it, and I’m glad that I did!

2. What was the most challenging thing about it?

The most challenging part about it is deciding to actually do it. By this point my nerves had calmed down but the first time Anurag (Leeanne’s instructor) asked me if I wanted to do a circuit by myself I put it off and asked to do two more with him.

I found that I just had to commit to it and to know that I would be fine, which I was.

3. When did you decide that you wanted to get a pilot licence?

In December 2016 I went to the HASSE x NASA Space School in Houston (Texas, USA) for two weeks and they were talking about the different career paths NASA can offer, one of which was a pilot. Being able to fly a plane has always interested me, and when I came back from the USA I decided to pursue it.

4. What do your friends at school think?

My friends are completely obsessed with me flying and they hardly ever shut up about it. When I told them that I flew solo I was bombarded with comments, congratulations, and videos, anything where they could get their message across. Needless to say, they are extremely supportive of me but I always get asked this one question; “When can you fly me to _____?”

5. What is your ultimate goal for your aviation career?

I don’t have an exact goal for my aviation career. But I’m certain I would like to fly for a great airline like QANTAS. There are so many options and I know I have a long way to go. Plus I don’t have to decide now.

Student pilot Leeanne Kaplan with instructor Anurag after completing her first solo flight on her 15th birthday.

The Best Time To Start Flight Training

With an enormous increase in pilot demand predicted globally in the next 20 years, there’s never been a better time to consider an aviation career. It’s fantastic to see young people like Leeanne with the passion and enthusiasm to start so early.

The aviation industry has traditionally been somewhat male-dominated, but that is changing. There are many progressive airlines that are proactively looking to recruit more and more female pilots. It’s role models like Leeanne that will help to encourage more young females with a passion or interest in flying to have the courage and drive to pursue it.

Learn to Fly offers a range of courses to suit budding pilots of all ages and experience. For young people like Leeanne, the Recreational Pilot Certificate (RPC) is the best place to start. It allows you to commence learning and progress at a younger age than other courses such as the Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL).

After achieving your RPC, there are many other options available to you. You can add a Cross Country Endorsement, which allows you to fly further. You can also opt to convert to General Aviation training and progress towards a Private Pilot Licence (PPL).

Whether your aviation career goal is to be a flight instructor and teach other students, fly charters, or become a Captain with a major airline – you will find plenty of exciting opportunities within this fast growing industry.

We very much look forward to seeing where Leeanne’s flying career takes her.

Are you looking to start your pilot training? Get in touch with our flight training specialists. Email [email protected] or visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.


4 Important Tips to Help You Prepare For Your First Solo Flight

The time is here! Your very first solo flight! Just like the time you first drove your car alone after getting your licence, the feeling of flying solo can be exhilarating, but very overwhelming. There’s also a higher margin of error, as your instructor will not be next to you to guide you. But, once you’ve read these few tips to help you prepare for your first solo flight and completed all the solo flight training requirements, you’re ready to feel the independence that comes from flying solo!

Go easy on yourself

Remember, you are still learning. Just as when you were first learning how to drive, your reflexes were much slower, you weren’t that good at changing lanes or braking smoothly or at the dreaded parallel parking. That first solo drive must have been nerve-wracking, and you might have wanted to stop the car in the middle of the road and take off running.

Learning how to fly is much the same. You might get frustrated at the time it is taking you to master a new skill or learning how to land safely. But it is important to remember that calm and collected pilots make safe pilots. Stress and anxiety can affect our decision-making powers, thus putting us at risk of making even more mistakes! Remember to take a deep breath before each lesson and remind yourself that you’ve got this, even if it seems like it is taking forever!

Listen to your instructor

Your first solo flight will typically involve successfully taking off, completing a circuit pattern and safely touching back down on the ground without the help of an instructor. To prepare for your first solo flight, you will complete this exact same flight many times with your instructor sitting next to you. Use that time to soak up as much information you can, and use your instructor’s experience.

It’s very important that you listen to everything your instructor tells you, and that you are open to their advice and suggestions. Flight instructors have seen many pilots before you, all with different learning styles and different strengths and weaknesses. When an instructor identifies a weakness in your flying, this is the best opportunity to listen, learn, and make it into a strength.

Mental rehearsal and practice on the ground

In the days leading up to your first solo flight, practice flying mentally. This involves sitting on a chair and visualising that you are flying the circuit and thinking of how to fly the plane. It’s not even a bad idea to do this after every flight lesson, in order to make your movements muscle memory. This will save you time trying to figure out what comes next when you actually fly solo when it comes to procedures, radio talk and check as these things will already have become automatic by then. This method of training is also known as “chair flying”.

You can also prepare for your first solo flight by using a flight simulator. A flight simulator allows you to understand the controls and mechanics of the cockpit and repetitively practise taking off, manoeuvring, and touching down without ever leaving the ground. This is a safe way to gain the skills and expertise required to be able to fly solo.

Trust yourself

Finally, once you have successfully completed your solo flight training and your instructor deems that you are ready to take the aircraft on your first solo flight, it is important to trust yourself and trust the skills you have been taught. Get some good sleep every time before a solo flight and don’t let the negative thoughts take over. You know what you are doing and you have practised hours upon hours for this, both physically and mentally.

It might seem daunting at first, but once you step into the cockpit, you are likely to remember everything you have been taught and you will successfully complete your first solo flight like a bird flying in the sky—naturally and effortlessly. You’ve got this!

As you prepare for your first solo flight, just remember… You got this!

Want to experience flying solo? We have a range of courses to get you there. Email [email protected]. You can also visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour. For more great flying tips and the latest flying videos, click below and subscribe to our YouTube channel!