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Dollar Ride, First Flight to Wings

  • Published
  • 47th Flying Training Squadron Public Affairs

Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas-- To a pilot, few things are as nerve wracking as the first time they climb into a cockpit and fly a plane. But boy is that dollar ride memorable. 

“I’m definitely nervous,” said 2nd Lt. Christopher Ugale 47th Flying Training Wing student pilot before his first flight, “A little bit of anxiety, but definitely excited.”

The term “Dollar Ride” dates back to the early 1900’s when local bush pilots at fairs would take aboard passengers and allow them to act like they were flying the aircraft for a dollar. For modern student pilots it's more than just acting like they are flying the plane, this will be their first time taking reins.

Luckily for the students, they aren’t taking to the air alone. During their transition from simulators and theoreticals to actual flight they are guided by an experienced instructor pilot.

“The dollar ride is the student’s first exposure to the actual aircraft,” said Capt. Sarah Fotsch, 434th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot. “For me, getting to see the joy of a dollar ride on their face and the way they talk about it afterwards reminds me of how cool my job is every single day.”

During the hour and a half flight, student pilots at Laughlin work with their instructors and get a feel for the controls, as well as take in a new perspective over the local area.

“It was a good experience,” grinned 2nd Lt. Ugale after his flight, “I got to see Del Rio from the top and actually see Laughlin from the top…I feel like I’m over the hump.”

As memorable as the Dollar ride is, it is only the first of many milestones, such as the transition check flight or the first solo flight, as they progress through pilot training.