SOLO!!! And Onward and Upward!

The time is here! I have soloed! What a feeling! I would like to thank everyone in the FMA and all the sponsors for making this possible! I would also like to thank the good people at Quality Aviation Services at Jack Barstow Airport, including JT and Janine Rairigh. Everyone has been extremely generous to me and I am very grateful!

The FMA and QAS should be aware and very proud of the financial burden they all have lifted off my shoulders. You guys made it possible for me to accomplish all that I want to accomplish short term, and making the future goals more attainable. It is becoming increasingly difficult for people my age to fund the education we need to get where we want to be, and still have even enough money to fill our gas tanks. Scholarships are almost a necessity these days… Even with a deadly amount of determination and non-stop hard work, I still find it hard to keep the funds suitable to get where I need to in the future, yet still live my life and accomplish my goals. After all, we all have 1 life on this earth and personally, I am definitely not wasting the first 25 years (might I add just under 1/3 of a LONG lifespan) doing nothing but school ūüėČ So in short, thank you, and I am so appreciative of everything the FMA, the sponsors, and QAS has done for me and do for others like me.

So now I guess the best thing I can say is onward and upward! The journey doesn’t stop here, in fact this is the end of the beginning! So, if you are wondering what is next, I think I feel safe predicting a future of hard work, busy schedules, and good times ahead, which is nothing new for me but that’s how I like it ūüôā Hope to see you all in the skies someday!

With incredible gratitude,

Aaron Smokovitz

(Above): The day I soloed and the huge chunk of shirt JT Rairigh (instructor) removed. Quite drafty wearing that shirt these days…

(Below): After topping off fuel, before I departed for my solo cross country.

I Flippin’ Flew SOLO!!!!

Well Ladies and gents, the day has come. I flew solo for the very first time on the 27th of September 2017. I am so proud of myself because this is something I never ever thought I would have the courage to do but here I am.

This is completely and utterly all thanks to FMA Solo Program and all of its sponsors! I couldn’t be more thankful for everybody involved in my journey to becoming a pilot.

The person I need to mention is my former band teacher Mr. Lewis. I’m not sure if you read these posts Mr. Lewis but regardless, I need to address the fact that you are the sole reason I knew of this scholarship and, therefore, a huge part of the reason I could pursue my dream. Thank you for believing in me and helping me obtain the scholarship. I will never forget all that you have done for me.

Now that my thank you’s are addressed, I’ll tell all about my first Solo!

To be completely honest, it wasn’t eventful at all. Nothing scary¬†happened, nor was there a lot of traffic in the circuit but nonetheless it was exhilarating! The feeling of being free in the open blue sky, making your own decisions and being completely alone in your trusty plane is utterly fascinating to me.

To break it down, I first started off a normal flight with my instructor doing regular circuits one morning. We did about four or five when suddenly he orders a full stop. I was confused because we had only flown about a half hour. As we were taxiing back to the school he says “ready to Solo??” My. Heart. Stopped. I told him a shy “umm.. I dunno…” and he told me straight up “you’re ready. I don’t want to wait any longer.” about 10 minutes later I’m sitting at the runway 18 hold short line thinking to myself “what in blue blazes am I about to do?” I made the call to tower and was cleared for takeoff and soon enough I’m climbing through the sky laughing to myself. I didn’t stop smiling the entire time. I did one circuit, landed then taxied to the school. St. Andrews Tower congratulated me on my first solo and I felt even more happy!

So, there’s my story. my first ever solo. I have flown solo twice since then and I’m definitely more comfortable with it now. I will continue to blog my progress towards my license. Once again, thank you so much to all FMA members and every single sponsor, I am so grateful for everybody in support of myself and the other three scholarship winners!


**Videos were taken in calm wind conditions only when safe to do so**

College decision

I hope to be back in the air soon at Murfreesboro Aviation and I’ll report on my progress, but in the meantime, I have other news. ¬†I have been accepted to and will be attending the University of Tennessee in the fall of 2018! ¬†I will be majoring in aerospace engineering. ¬†I also plan to audition for the Pride of the Southland Marching Band next semester.

Busy Month

With the start of school, the ACT test, marching band, and college applications, I have been grounded.  However, I will be back in the air at Murfreesboro Aviation in a few days, after the weather clears.

On the college front, and as of last night, I have been accepted to all 3 of the engineering schools to which I have applied!

I’ll post again as soon as I’m back in the air.

Congratulations, William, for being the first one of us to solo!

My First Few Lessons!

Hey everyone,

Thought I’d create a post to fill you all in on my first few lessons. I have been flying every morning for about 2 weeks now and I have come a long way since these lessons.

The first few lessons were definitely the most challenging. learning everything from stalls, spins, and spiral dives to climbing, descending, and endurance. A wide variety of topics with something new every flight!

My second lesson was an eventful one that’s for dang sure. There had been weather rolling in but our practice area is only a couple miles from the airport so we decided to fly for a bit anyway. we had a great lesson and we decided to head back before the weather caught us. well, had we left any later than we did, we definitely would have been in a pile of trouble. We safely landed but as we were taxiing to our apron, it started POURING rain and extremely high winds. We were very lucky to have touched down before then.

On my third flight my instructor started handing me the control of the radio calls to Ground and Tower as well as to the Practice Area Traffic. it was daunting at first but the guys in the tower are very accustomed to having new students on the radio so even if you mess up, it’s not the end of the world.

Speaking of the Air Traffic Controllers, my instructor, Dane, brought me up to the tower to meet the guys over the weekend. It is definitely nice to put faces to voices and to know who you’re talking to. The technology is astonishing up there!

So, currently, I am on my second day in the circuit. Practicing landings and take offs. I will post more in depth about my circuit experience so far in a separate blog post tomorrow. I need to get back to studying for my PSTAR exam!

Until then, safe skies and happy flying!!


Finally Flying!!

Hey everybody,

I am FINALLY flying!! So excited and very happy. I have delayed in posting for about a week because I have moved in and been coping with living by myself for the first time. I am currently living in a trailer style house with a couple other students right at my school! it’s so awesome o just be able to walk out my front door in the morning and head out for a flight.

Speaking of flights, my first one was on September 2nd and it went extremely well. I have flown almost every day since but over the course of a few days I will write separate posts about some of the lessons.

So, the first lesson went amazingly well. it was mostly familiarization with how things work at the school and how they get things done. My instructor is amazing, very patient and an extremely good teacher. The first day was really scary but I have been slowly making acquaintances.

To keep the semi-short, I will be sure to write another post tomorrow about my first couple lessons. Until then, Safe skies and happy flying!!

– Courtney Taylor

Dual Cross Country

Finally! After a few rain/thunder checks, schedule issues, etc., I finally was able to get in the air and check off my first dual cross country last Thursday! Due to a chuck full schedule as always, I wasn’t able to get in the air for the last 3 weeks or so. I flew from Midland Jack Barstow Airport (IKW), to Lansing (LAN), Flint Bishop (FNT), MBS International Airport (MBS), then home for a grand total of 144 NM.

LAN and FNT are both class C airspaces, and MBS is class D airspace, so the trip was very helpful on getting a good foundation on communications with ATC. I admit, I obviously wasn’t perfect, and had a few mistakes, hiccups and brain farts, but overall I think I did okay, and more importantly I soaked in a lot and learned from the mistakes.

I filed a flight plan, got a weather briefing, and used pilotage and dead reckoning to navigate this cross country, which actually worked pretty well for the most part. Meanwhile JT, my instructor, looks at his fancy tablet and chuckles as he watches me drift ever so slightly off the course line.

On a note about my instructor, JT is an extremely smart man, and an even more experienced pilot. I’ve gathered from his stories that in the past, he used to fly as a missionary pilot in New Guinea, which I can imagine can only present the least desirable conditions for flying (tight airfields, nothing but jungle beneath you, an airplane that doesn’t quite work right more often than works right, etc…) I have a large amount of respect for his knowledge and experience, and his flight school at QAS. And if you ever meet him, you will understand when I say he is a character :). He may be all of the above, but he also has a fun joking personality to him that you can’t help but find funny, and on occasion you have the opportunity to give it back, which makes things kinda fun and takes the serious edge off of things, if you ask me since I’m kinda the same way in a less mastered sense.

Anywho, The cross country went well, could have gone better, but couldn’t have gone better in the sense that I learned a lot! Afterward, we sat down and went over the whole trip, and looked very closely at the hiccups so that I can wrap my brain around it without being rushed in the cockpit, and learn from it.

More to come, and less time to do more since school is starting up again ūüôĀ But we’ll make it happen!

Until next time,



A beautiful day to fly!

Yesterday, I was up again with my instructor Tanner Quigley with Murfreesboro Aviation. ¬†After pre-flight and takeoff, we worked on different in-air maneuvers, including near landings and rapid pull-ups at Puckett Field, which is a glider field near¬†my¬†grandfather’s farm. ¬†Here are¬†photos of our takeoff from MBT. ¬†I’m scheduled for another lesson on Monday. ¬†Stay tuned.

I haven’t done so in a while, but I want to thank all of the FMASolo sponsors for creating this opportunity for me and the other scholarship recipients. ¬†Sponsors like the FMA, Bose, Aviators HotLine, Sporty’s Pilot Shop, MyGoFlight, Gleim, Banjo Ben Clark, Trade-A-Plane,,, Murfreesboro Aviation, Quality Aviation Services, and AVSport of Lock Haven, have helped us pursue our goals of learning to fly!

Back in the Air, Back to School, and College Applications!

I was back in the air on Monday at Murfreesboro Aviation! ¬†My instructor, Tanner Quigley, and I flew from MBT to SYI (Shelbyville), where I¬†practiced touch & go’s. ¬†It’s really cool to fly over all the places you drive on a daily basis. ¬†I’ve learned a lot about driving in Murfreesboro just by flying over it and better understanding the layout of the city and the¬†major landmarks. I also completed the¬†IACRA registration so I can get my student pilot certificate. ¬†I have another lesson today at 1:00 p.m. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I am also back in school – 2 schools in fact! ¬†On Friday, I started my Senior year of High School at Eagleville. ¬†I’m taking 2 classes at EHS: choir and band. ¬†The rest of my courses¬†will be¬†at Middle Tennessee State University where I am a dual¬†enrollment college student. ¬†At MTSU, I’m taking¬†Calculus, English, and Intro to Aerospace.

It’s also time to apply to college! ¬†I’ve been working on my applications and college essays. I’m looking at aerospace engineering programs at the¬†University of Tennessee, University of Alabama, University of Alabama Huntsville, Georgia Tech, and University of Colorado Boulder.

With marching band, mid-state choir auditions, high school courses, colleges courses, ACT prep, flying lessons, and college applications, I have a very busy fall ahead!


Ground school today

Back at Murfreesboro Aviation today for ground school training with Tanner Quigley.  It was great to be back after a break for band camp and a summer class at MTSU.

Today, we covered weight and balance, center of gravity, different engine types, and engine components. I found the different fuel delivery systems very interesting.  My next scheduled lesson is Saturday.  More later!