Rosemount High School junior completes first solo flight
Regan Hansen, a 16-year-old junior at Rosemount High School, taxied into position, guided her plane down the Airlake Airport runway and eased it into the air.
She completed her maneuvers, circled back and landed.
For Hansen, who has somewhere close to 14 hours of flight time under the watchful eye of an instructor, the sheer act of navigating a plane from ground to air and back again had become somewhat unremarkable.
This time was no different, except for one thing — she was all on her own.
"I went into it thinking it was just an ordinary lesson," Hansen said of her first solo flight on Sept. 18. "Then all of a sudden my flight instructor just kind of said, 'Hey, why don't you let me out and try by yourself.' He didn't give me any forewarning, except for when he was getting out of the plane."
Hansen's upbringing may have contributed to her love of aviation.
Her father, Greg, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and her sister Sydney, who graduate from Rosemount High School last year, is in her first year at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"We have a bunch of model planes all over the house," she said. "I've always looked at those, especially when I was a kid ... I had model airplanes in my room."
Every time her dad switched planes — he flies commercially now after flying fighter jets for the Navy — he brought home a poster of the cockpit layout, which Hansen continually hung in her room.
Her family also frequented the Oshkosh, Wis., air show.
"I just remember one time I went with my grandparents and I saw the F-22 take off and I was like, 'Man, I want to fly that thing.' So, I don't know, it's always kind of just been a love for flying," Hansen explained, although she participates in other, non-flying activities include lacrosse, Nordic skiing, student council and cross-country, just to name a few.
While Hansen said she draws inspiration from her dad's career, she has her own ambitions.
She is working toward her private pilot's license and hopes to attend one of the service academies after high school. Hansen currently holds the rank of Cadet Chief Master Sergeant with the Civil Air Patrol 130th Composite Squadron.
"I want to fly fighters, kind of like my dad, but I don't know — I don't like to use the term 'following in his footsteps' because I also want to blaze my own trail," she said.
Hansen said she was slightly shocked at the prospect of flying alone, but glad she didn't have time to worry leading up to the flight.
Her heart was pounding so hard from the adrenaline she could hardly tell what she said over the radio before takeoff, she said, but once in the air she settled in.
She completed the sequence three times, landing and taxiing to the start each time.
She was nervous for her first landing, which went smoothly, as did her second. By the third, she figured she had it down.
"But then the third one, I don't know, I got kind of a little too cocky so it wasn't my best landing," she said. "You know, I was like 'I have this in the bag.'"
On the way home, Hansen felt a wave of relief, followed by a wall of exhaustion.
"This was after the fact, after all the landings and I was on my way home — I just hit a wall, where like all this adrenaline and stress just went to nothing and I just got so tired," she said. "It was honestly one of the weirdest experiences of my life, because I've never been so exhausted and drained."
Hansen said she is looking forward to more flights in the near future and is excited to get up in the air all on her own.
Above all, however, it's a simple love of flight for Hansen, as illustrated by her description of one of her favorite airports, Paris' Charles de Gaulle.
"It's really cool because some of the terminals have a lot of windows so you can constantly see what's going on out on the runway," Hansen said. "You can be constantly watching planes take off and land."