Flight training can be an intimidating, solitary venture full of twists and turns for student pilots. But Angelina (“Angel” to her friends and flight instructors) and her father, David, also a student pilot, are experiencing the ups and downs of flight training together—right down to soloing on the very same day.
“It wasn’t planned, I’ll tell you that. I’m the type when you’re ready you’re ready, when you’re not, you’re not,” said the Tumbarellos’ flight instructor Alex Bosse. “Angel was ready to solo actually a week before she actually soloed, but… if it’s not one thing it’s another… but she was ready to go. David wasn’t. It wasn’t even on my horizon [to solo him].”
Learning how to fly had been on David’s mind for some time, but he didn’t immediately enjoy flying in the same way that his teenage daughter did. “I don’t know if I would have kept going because I didn’t fall in love with it right away. It’s taken me time… but now… I have fallen in love with it,” he said.
Although unconventional, the hour-plus drive back and forth to their lessons at Garner Field in Uvalde, Texas, serves as the duo’s briefing and debriefing room. It is here where they work together to prepare for flights or break down topics that Bosse had taught that day. “I’m not a classroom person… she’s carrying me through it,” David said.
On December 1, the clouds had cleared, and the Cessna 172 was free of squawks, so Angel, who was 16 at the time, completed her first solo flight. Although proud, David’s tone had changed. “We’re very competitive at everything. When she went up and did her [solo]… I was very nervous, but she did it and after she did it I was like oh man, OK now I want to do it.” However, Bosse wasn’t convinced, noting that he thought David’s successful lesson days before had been “a fluke.”
After Angel taxied back to the ramp, victorious from her first solo, David decided to prove he could do just the same. “I knew getting in the plane… that the first one or two landings had to be as good…so I tried my best. When he said he was getting out [of the airplane] I just wanted him out… I know I’m not as good of a pilot as she is, but… that day I felt like… her equal.”
Although soloing an airplane is one of the many milestones that every student pilot must achieve to become a pilot, it is rare to share the occasion with your parent or child. “I’ve seen a few young ladies doing their solo… maybe a dozen… so I thought… this is typical. But according to others, it’s rare just for a young lady to do it, and then they told us they’ve never heard of a father and daughter doing this. I didn’t know the significance of it,” David said.
As far as the Tumbarellos’ future in aviation is concerned, the two have somewhat different visions: Angel is “just going with the flow,” steadily chipping away at her certificate, but David has something else in mind: “I’ll just say it would be really cool if I could pass before her… but I’m just hanging on to her coattails.”