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Five years ago, 15-year-old Abby Martin climbed into the back seat of Frank Kidd’s Piper PA-18 Super Cub for her first flight in a small plane.
Fast forward to Monday, when Martin, 20, a certified flight instructor, signed off on Kidd’s Federal Aviation Administration-required two-year flight review.
“I feel like everything comes full-circle,” Martin said. “I got my certified flight instructor (license) in July, and I haven’t used it yet, so he will be my first signature as a CFI, the first person who ever took me flying, so that’s pretty cool.”
Martin, who is the daughter of Dr. Lew Martin and former state Rep. Susan Martin, is currently a junior at Middle Tennessee State University.
“My major is actually called professional pilot, so whenever I get a degree it will be in professional pilot. I want to be an airline pilot eventually,” Abby Martin said. “I am currently in a cadet program with Republic Airways.”
“It is very rare that a 15-year-old that you fly one time takes that kind of interest in it and comes back... now she is gong to do my flight review,” Kidd said.
Kidd remembers Martin being “like a sponge” during that first flight.
“You couldn’t say enough about flying,” Kidd said. “If someone’s interested, I’ll let them handle the controls. I’ll tell them some fundamentals of flying, and so I gave her the stick and she was great. She did quite well for her first time. She held altitude, heading, turns and it was just amazing her first flight, first time in an airplane and she’s handling the controls and flying. There was something there.”
Martin’s parents had given her a picture of Kidd’s face on Christmas and a note that said he would take her flying.
“I was super excited about it,” Abby Martin recalled. “I think we tried to go the next day and the weather wasn’t good, so we went the day after that and I just loved it. Every single time I came home from school, I would call Frank and say, ‘Can we go flying? Can we go flying?’ And eventually he said, ‘You know you can take lessons, right?’ So I started to get interested in that. From the moment he handed me the controls, something clicked, and it was all that I ever wanted to do anymore.”
Martin joined the Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles, a group for youngsters who have taken their first flight in an airplane.
The following year, Martin came back to celebrate her 16th birthday with a flight in Kidd’s plane.
Martin knew she wanted to do it again.
“I didn’t necessarily know where it was going to lead me,” Martin said. “I just wanted to experience it again and again. Every time I did it, I loved it a little more until it developed into a career path as a pilot.”
“We’d talk a lot more during the flight because early on, you could see she wanted more information, so I started teaching her about navigation and flying,” said Kidd, who retired as dean of continuing education at Wilson Community College in 2005. “I’m not a certified flight instructor, but I have got a lot of experience, so I would just share.”
Kidd had been bitten by the flying bug from an early age too. He could identify with Martin’s enthusiasm.
“My dad was a pilot, so I flew with him as a young kid,” Kidd said. “I remember my first flight was in the backseat of a tail-dragger, an old trainer from World War II. I was probably 6, and I went with my uncle. He was the pilot. My dad sat in the back, and I sat on his knee. It was the same thing. Something clicks. You like it. You want more of it. Again, it was a pretty day, and I liked the idea and so I flew with him a lot.”
Kidd didn’t get his license until 1981 when he came to Wilson.
“I have been flying ever since,” Kidd said.
When Kidd found out that Martin had certified as a flight instructor, he reached out to the young pilot.
“I said, ‘You know, I’ve got a flight review coming up, and I would love for you to do it. I would love for you to be in my logbook,’” Kidd said.
So Monday morning at the Wilson Industrial Air Center, Kidd and Martin took off in Kidd’s Piper PA-28 Cherokee Warrior.
“With a flight review, the only thing that is required is an hour flight and an hour ground, so it’s kind of up to the CFI what they want to do with the pilot and how they use their licenses,” Martin said.
The pair practiced stalls, practiced different kinds of landings, practiced steep turn and generally practiced the fundamentals Kidd was required to perform to get his license in the first place.
After graduation, Martin hopes to become a first officer at a regional hub flying passenger jets.
“I don’t really have a set plan. It’s wherever life takes me, I’ll go,” Martin said. “That’s kind of the beauty of flying; I can work from anywhere. Wherever the wind pushes me that day. So I owe a lot to Frank. He’s truly my beginnings in aviation, and he helped me take off, pardon the pun.”