From playing sports in the backyard together to having family game nights, parents have different ways of connecting to their kids. However, when high school begins and school sports, extracurriculars and friends fill up teenagers’ schedules, it gets harder to work in that parent bonding time. For seniors Hannah and Blake Powell, that bonding time comes partly in the form of their dad teaching them to fly a plane.
“[My dad and I] spend a lot of time together because it’s something that he loves and I enjoy it also,” Blake said. “So we spend a lot of afternoons together with him teaching me how to fly.”
By putting several thousand feet between them and any distractions, the two seater plane Blake and Hannah are learning on gives both of them good one on one time with their dad.
“It gives me and them a common bond,” the twins’ father Ward Powell said. “It gets us away from their friends and gives us something we can share together. I really enjoy teaching them.”
Powell is a pilot for Southwest Airlines. He also has his instructor’s license.
“My children are just getting licensed to fly out of the clouds,” Powell said. “There can be clouds in the sky, they just can’t enter them. Other licenses are required for them to be able to fly in clouds or charge for their services, like a commercial driver’s license. There are other levels and they can pursue those if they’d like, but because I am a pilot and we have access to the airplane it’s easy for them to learn the basics.”
In order to be licensed, the twins must each log at least 20 hours flying with their father instructing them, 20 hours flying alone, and be certified to use different instruments on the plane.
According to Powell, teaching his children is a little different than teaching other students.
“Teaching them sometimes I have to bite my tongue,” Powell said. “Sometimes I expect a little more out of them than I do a normal student because they are my children. So sometimes I get a little bit irritated but I’ll bite my tongue and compose myself into being an educator and not a parent.”
As well as having another opportunity to spend time with his kids, Powell says that flying will be a useful skill for them.
“If not a profession I think it’s a great hobby,” Powell said. “It’s something that you love to do, like swimming or gymnastics or football. It’s a passion. Giving them their private license builds confidence, helps them find out what they want to do, and gives them the ability to travel places at a moment’s notice.”
According to Powell, flying could help the twins in their career.
“Say they get a job and their boss had an airplane and needed to go someplace, they would be able to help them with that,” Powell said. “It looks good on a college resume. It builds confidence and esteem. They may use it, they may go on and get an instrument rating and be able to fly in the clouds. They may even follow in my footsteps and become a commercial airline pilot which would be kind of cool.”
While neither Blake nor Hannah plan to become pilots, flying can be useful in other ways.
“It will be a helpful skill when it comes to seeing my family and friends while I’m off in College Station,” Blake said. “Also, it would be a nice job to have if I ended up not falling in love with what I plan to study in college.”
As well as gaining quality time with their dad and a new skill set, the twins now have a new perspective on flying.
“I’ve realized that bigger planes are a lot safer,” Hannah said. “On smaller planes it’s not scary, but you have a lot more control so when you do barrel rolls and stuff like that you feel yourself move. You just realize how safe and stable normal planes are. Not that small planes aren’t, but you can feel all the movements.”
According to Blake, the acrobatics a small plane can do are his favorite part.
“Loops, rolls, barrel rolls, twists and dives, there’s such an adrenaline rush,” Blake said.
As well as acrobatics, both twins admit to enjoying the freedom that comes with flying that driving does not allow them.
“When you’re taking off and you feel in control, it’s like the first time you drove a car but you have access to something totally different,” Blake said. “You have the freedom to not only go left and right but to go straight up if you want to. Just one movement will push you into the sky. It’s definitely scary because it’s so powerful.”
According to Powell, opportunities such as learning to fly are not as out of reach as teenagers often think.
“When I was a kid I went and saw the thunderbirds perform out in my home town,” Powell said. “[Flying was] always a dream of mine. That’s something that a lot of people don’t understand is that you see planes as a high school student or a junior high student you really don’t think that you can accomplish it until you put your mind to it.”