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Pilot takes first solo flight at Lebanon Airport

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Dale Donoho, left, and his flight instructor, Rhett Kamm, stand next to the Cessna 172 airplane after Donoho’s solo flight.      JENNIFER HORTON / The Wilson Post


A local flying enthusiast took his first solo flight Thursday morning under sunny skies and a bit of a breeze and landed perfectly on the runway as his proud parents watched.

In addition to being a student at RediAir Flight Support at Lebanon Municipal Airport, Dale Donoho, 21, of Lebanon, is also a fulltime employee there working as a lineman, or fueler, for other aircraft.

He called his solo trip “exciting,” and added, “I’ve always enjoyed anything with a motor. I’ve driven everything. I decided I wanted to try flying now.”

Donoho has been at RediAir since summer 2009. He works with three other people, also linemen and also all pilots, at the airport. The other three are seeking their aviation degrees at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.

“It’s just a passion that they have,” said Myron Lasater, vice president and director of operations for RediAir. The company serves as the Fixed Base Operator of the city’s airport.

Donoho has received his instruction from Rhett Kamm, who has worked as a flight instructor for more than 10 years, mainly in Colorado. He has been teaching here, he said, about two years.

“He did well,” Kamm said of his student. “The airplane’s in one piece.”

Donoho soloed in a Cessna 172 single-engine plane.

A pilot-in-training’s first solo flight is the first big hurdle of acquiring a pilot’s license, Lasater said, adding it takes 8-10 hours of instruction to get to where someone is ready to solo.

Once a solo flight is completed, successfully, then the student works on patterns to include landing and takeoff, then rejoins the instructor for the advanced curriculum which includes cross country flying, night flying, flight into controlled airspace and basic instrument flying (weather avoidance flying) with the instructor. Then the student is released to make his or her first solo cross country flight of 50 miles and then return. The student then takes a longer cross country flight of 300 nautical miles with two stops included. The student then spends time refreshing his or her basic training.

That prepares the student for the private pilot checkride, or practical test, with a representative of the Federal Aviation Administration, who will issue the pilot’s license upon successful completion.

In addition with flight training, Lasater said, students also receive ground instruction and must take a written test from the FAA.

It takes about three months on average to accomplish an entire flight instruction program, he added.

A student who receives his private pilot rating is allowed to fly anywhere in the world with the proper permission, in good weather conditions and with passengers.

Some recreational pilots who receive their Private Pilot rating stop at that level, but others go on to the next level which is instrument rated for flying in adverse weather conditions.

Then there is the commercial pilot rating which allows flying multi-engine planes. Pilots who fly airline planes hold a commercial pilot rating.

RediAir offers training for private pilot, instrument, multi- and single-engine flying.

To become a pilot, you must be at least 16 years old to solo, 17 years old to receive your private pilot certificate, 18 years old to become a commercial pilot and 23 years old to be an airline transport pilot. Various numbers of hours of flying time are also required.

And you must pass a medical exam, sometimes called a flight physical.

Donoho said he will continue with his lessons.

“I plan to be a corporate pilot. It’s a long road, but I’m ready for it.”

Donoho said his solo flight was “very exciting,” and added, “I was a little nervous at first. Rhett Kamm, the instructor, taught me well and prepared me for it.”

Kamm, he said, told him he made a good landing, and “let me be on my own.”

Donoho will be busy as he follows the steps required in obtaining his private pilot rating and noted he has a lot of studying to do for his upcoming checkride.

After his solo was complete, Donoho emerged from the plane where he was congratulated by Kamm and Gene Gracyalny, a RediAir mechanic. He then received a hug from parents, Tammy and Keith Jones of Lebanon.

Everyone went into the airport terminal where Donoho was treated to the ceremonial cutting of his shirttail, an event that traditionally occurs after someone has successfully his first solo flight.

According to Google, the tradition began in the days when there were tandem trainers. Back then, a student would sit in the front seat of the plane and the instructor would sit behind him. Many times there were no radios in those early days so the instructor would tug on the student pilot’s shirttail to get his attention and then yell in his ear what he was supposed to do.

A solo flight means that the student can successfully fly without an instructor so there is no longer a need for the shirttail. It is often the instructor who cuts the shirttail off. Lasater said Donoho’s shirttail will be put on a wall in the terminal, also a tradition.

RediAir also provided a cake decorated with a runway and several toy planes.

RediAir took over as FBO in April 2008 with Kerry Bay and Sonny Belew as partners in the company.

If you are interested in learning how to fly, call RediAir at 444-0031. The airport is located at 760 Franklin Road, Lebanon. You may also visit

Editor Jennifer Horton may be contacted at

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