When I soloed, I didn’t get my shirt cut, water dumped on me or dunked, a bell rung, or a bottle of champagne (I was 16, so that probably would have been a bad idea).
I got a dollar.
But it was a pretty cool dollar.
My instructor gave me a crisp, fresh from the bank, one-whole-dollar to memorialize the moment.
Sounds pretty lame huh?
But it really wasn’t.
It is kind of a play on the military “dollar ride” for which a new student traditionally gives the instructor pilot a dollar for taking them on the ride and a little bit of a play on commemorative options for first solos when a student flies by themselves in an aircraft, a first solo, as a pilot for the first time.
It becomes a commemorative item that signifies your accomplishment. one might even contemplate the future implication that flying would become a paying profession at some point if you continue in the effort and pursue a career. At the age of 16, when I soloed, I didn’t know that would be my path but it certainly ended up being exactly that.
Like most traditions that generate a gift like this, it comes with some rules.
First, anyone that was there on the day you soloed has to sign it. In my case, on a cold February day in 1993 in Northern Wisconsin, the only two people present were my mother, Amy Sue Blair, and my instructor, Colonel Gerald R. Beekman. Both of them sadly have now passed away, but I will forever remember their part in my solo day.
Second, you have to keep it and carry it with you. It is meant to be kept with you. To keep it from being ruined, I have laminated mine and it resides in my wallet.
Third, and the potentially painful point. As I was told, if anyone who knows you got one of these ever challenges you to produce it at “an establishment of libation” AKA a bar and you get caught without it then you owe the ENTIRE BAR a round of drinks. Not just the person who challenged you. My carriage of mine in my wallet may relate to this motivation along with the sentimental value. It’s kind of a play on a challenge coin tradition here also in that respect.
This is a tradition I have experienced that I just thought was pretty cool and fun. I am sharing it with a hope that if you are an instructor reading this, you help me revive it! Who knows, it just may get you a free beverage at a bar someday.
I have given every student I have ever soloed one from me. I will give them to all my future solo students, of which I hope I have many more!
By the way, I have never caught one of my students in a bar without theirs, and no one has caught me either. Yet.