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"SO THERE I WAS..."
Bill Mauldin
October 11, 1954
Having recently taken to the air, Bill Mauldin launches his new column on flying with the stirring tale of his first solo flight
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October 11, 1954

"so There I Was..."

Having recently taken to the air, Bill Mauldin launches his new column on flying with the stirring tale of his first solo flight

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An airplane pilot's first solo is supposed to combine the thrill of a ski jump, the satisfaction of crossing a new frontier and the exhilaration of a bird. It's an unforgettable experience, the old-timers will tell you; and they are so right. I'll never forget mine, anyway. It was on a Friday the 13th.

I was taxiing past the hangar for my fourth take-off of the afternoon, thinking I should have taken up boating, when my mentor unexpectedly opened the cabin door. He just wants fresh air, I thought, and kept moving.

"How can I get out if you don't stop the fool thing?" he growled.

I put on the brakes.

"You said a half hour today. We've still got 15 minutes."

"Well, you might as well use it up. You're paying for it," he said, stepping out.

Once, in my aggressive teens, I had courted a girl for several weeks, with steadily waning hopes, and all of a sudden had found her cooperative. Then, like now, I was surprised to the point of utter confusion.

"The hell with this," I said. "I'm not ready."

"If you want to sit here talking about it for 15 minutes, it's all right with me," the instructor said. "Idling engines save us gas." He walked away.

"But I've been overshooting all my landings lately!" I hollered after him. "You said so yourself."

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