Like riding a motorcycle, flying an airplane is an opportunity to don a leather jacket, get closer to the sunset, and earn the admiration of an entire Wendy's staff by going through the drive-thru. Rise to new heights with today’s Groupon: for $49, you get a private introductory flying lesson at Big Air Aviation, located at Marchman Field in Rutherfordton (a $100 value).
Big Air Aviation's pilot, Rob, is an FAA-certified flight instructor who has 13 years of flight-instructing experience and more than 8,000 hours of logged flight time. He begins each one-on-one lesson by explaining the fundamentals of flying and love-letter skywriting. Then students scrutinize the Cessna 152 Sparrowhawk to ensure it is safely operating and free of ghosts. After takeoff, the duo cruises the cloud highway for 30 minutes, passing over the tree-sprinkled mountain foothills of verdant Rutherford County.
Big Air Aviation
Whether Big Air Aviation's students are first-time fliers or seasoned jumbo-jet pilots, they all start in the same spot: the passenger seat of Cessna 152 Sparrowhawk. Starting off behind the yoke of the small, light aircraft presents a completely different flying experience from a 747 at an airport. “A commercial jet is like a cattle prod,” says Rob Craig, the founder of Big Air Aviation. “But this thing—you can go wherever you want to go.” Once student and teacher have ascended into the clouds, the student gets the chance to chart an individual course over the green foothills of Rutherford County, speeding over treetops or slowing down to high-five hot air balloon captains.
Rob says introductory lessons are brief: an overview of measurement instruments, controls, and rotor petals is enough to equip students for a brief flight. It’s this accessibility that proves the Cessna 152 Sparrowhawk’s biggest draw, and over the years, Rob has watched many of his former students transform what began as a hobby into a full-time career.