By Kris Magstadt
On May 10, 2022, my husband, Kevin, and I had the privilege of adopting two of our beautiful grandchildren, Kaiden and Michaela. It was a magical day.
As our one-year anniversary of the adoption approached, we tried to decide how we would celebrate. Michaela requested a photo at the courthouse and dinner at Olive Garden, just as we had done on adoption day. Neither had ever been in an airplane. Growing up with aviation and my father as a Cessna dealer and Fixed Base Operator (FBO) owner, there was no way I was going to have their first flight in anything but a small plane, and, hopefully, a Cessna.
I quickly contacted Jon Simmers, a good friend at Bismarck Aero Center (BAC) and proposed the idea. We sat down and planned, and oh what a plan! Red carpet, flight wing pins, cupcakes, and the whole nine yards. He immediately knew which pilot, and was as excited as me. We decided to keep it a surprise for the children.
Well, May 10 finally arrived. First we took pictures at the courthouse, and then were off to a school track meet. We quickly went home to prepare for dinner, or so the children thought! As we were driving, I asked Kevin to quickly stop at the airport to drop something off for Jon. There was no suspicion, since they were aware of my years as the Quarterly editor and my frequent conversations with them about aviation, my dad, and my aviation friends; I told them I wanted them to meet my friend, Jon. They pleaded that I not talk for long, as they so often state that adults talk too much.
SURPRISE! We got inside the FBO and there stood Clint, the lead Certified Flight Instructor at BAC! What a smile he had on his face. We walked around the corner and there were balloons, cupcakes (with TONS of frosting) and sweet tea, all arranged by Linda. What was going on? They were asked if they’d ever flown. “No,” they said. Then Clint asked them if they’d like to fly. Yes could not come out of their mouths, as they were wide-eyed and jumping for joy!
Before we went up into the beautiful blue sky, the entire staff of BAC came for refreshments and spent time telling them what role they played in the organization and about their first flight. The children learned so much. What a special treat to hear what goes on behind the scenes to insure safe flight.
Then it was time for pre-flight! I have never, in all my years around aviation, seen anyone explain, include, and excite someone about the intricacies of what makes a plane fly as Clint. He was so easy to understand and included them in every aspect. To this day they talk about flaps, rudders, lift, and drag. Next, it was time for take off! Each took a turn in the pilot seat. Their faces beamed with delight and awe. They were actually flying! Clint let them take the controls (safely), explaining everything in words that made sense to a 10- and 11-year old. He did it all with his brilliant smile and positive, happy attitude. He was just as much a kid as they were! It was obvious that flying is his passion. They flew over our home and their school, and both kids were shocked at how small everything looked. Michaela had nice easy turns, while Kaiden was a little more daring and his turns were a bit steeper. But, best of all, they were flying.
So many of us take that gift of flight for granted. I know I did, growing up at an airport. I always thought the train or car would be more fun. I now know much better! We forget that rush of adrenaline when you first take-off and float through the sky and clouds, slowly drifting back to the ground.
Unfortunately, the flight had to end. We were met by Jon, rolling out the blue carpet and helping us out of the plane. The kids made a jump for joy photo with Clint. He took them into the FBO and straight to his office. They were confused, as they thought they were done. No, Clint promptly pinned on flight wings and sat them down. Suddenly, he was writing in a little black book. He presented each of them with their own logbook with their first lesson time already logged! What a wonderful end to a day our entire family will remember and cherish.
Without Jon, Clint, Linda, and the staff at BAC, this special day wouldn’t have happened. I believe they all shared our excitement, and we will be eternally grateful for their kindness and commitment to sharing the gift of flight with the youth in our community.
I can’t tell you if Kaiden and Michaela will be lifelong pilots, although my hope is that they will. I can tell you, however, it was another magical day in our lives.