A Santa Ynez Valley Union High School student who received a flight instruction scholarship at a Young Eagles event during Airport Day last May made his first solo flight Saturday morning.

In an American aviation tradition, 16-year-old Ryan Casey lost his shirttail to flight instructor Yves Bajulaz following his first solo flight in a Cessna 172 single-engine aircraft from Santa Ynez Valley Airport, said Robert "Captain Bob" Perry of the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association.

The scholarship, provided by grants from the Santa Ynez Valley Airport Authority, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and the Rotary Club of Santa Ynez, paid for the majority of Ryan’s flight instruction and aircraft rental prior to his solo flight, Perry said.

The Experimental Aircraft Association local Chapter 491 hosts the Young Eagles event at Airport Day and is also one of the sponsors of the flight training scholarship, he said.

Before Bajulaz released Ryan for his solo flight, he reviewed such essential skills as emergency procedures, aircraft maneuvering in all speed ranges and configurations, radio communication, airport traffic operations and local traffic procedures for Santa Ynez Valley Airport.

With a large contingent of Ryan’s family members on hand, Bajulaz flew one circuit of the pattern with Ryan, then had him return to the ramp and exited the airplane, Perry said.

Ryan then restarted the Cessna, taxied out to Runway 26 and performed two more takeoffs and landings.

After a third takeoff, Ryan flew to Solvang and returned to enter the pattern for his third solo landing of the day.

After taxiing back to the ramp and shutting down the aircraft, Ryan was met with family applause and Bajulaz bearing a pair of scissors he used to cut off the student’s shirttail.

The tradition of cutting a solo student’s shirttails comes from the days when the instructor sat behind the student in tandem, Perry explained.

Because it was hard for the two to communicate, the instructor would pull on the student’s shirt to get his or her attention, he said.

When the student was good enough he or she didn’t need the instructor onboard, he or she also didn’t need the back of the shirt anymore, so it was removed upon conclusion of the first solo flight — and a tradition was born.

Ryan said he plans to continue his flight instruction and obtain his private pilot certificate with an eye toward opportunities in military aviation.

He said after graduation from Santa Ynez Valley Union High, he intends to pursue an undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering.

For information on applying for the flight scholarship or flying at a local Young Eagles event, emai eaachapter491@gmail.com.

This report was compiled by Associate Editor Mike Hodgson. He can be reached at mhodgson@leecentralcoastnews.com.

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News Editor

Mike Hodgson is news editor at the Santa Ynez Valley News, where he writes about local government, special events and the people who live in the Valley. He has been a photographer, writer, news editor and managing editor at weekly newspapers since 1972

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