Checkride Milestone — Christina Basken

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be able to say the words, “I’m a pilot.”

On July 1, I logged my first flight lesson with my CFI, John Dorcey, EAA 68060. On Saturday, November 14, I passed the first portion of my checkride (oral) and had to discontinue the flight portion due to weather.

One week later on November 21, my wildest dreams came true when I was taxiing back to Kermit Weeks Hangar here in Oshkosh, and my examiner, Dick Hanusa, EAA 295217, looked over at me and said, “Well, I think you passed.”

As a kid I always thought that pilots were crazy cool, and ridiculously smart. I looked up to my grandfather, who was a helicopter pilot, and uncle, who is a commercial pilot for Southwest Airlines. As it turns out, pilots ARE crazy cool and ridiculously smart — just kidding.

Actually, I realized that becoming a pilot was much more realistic than I had ever thought it was.

Taking an internship at EAA in 2018 was the best decision I ever made, taking a second internship at EAA in 2019 was the second-best decision I ever made, and accepting a full-time job with EAA was the third-best decision I ever made.

EAA helped me understand that aviation isn’t just for the top one percent — it’s actually an incredibly welcoming community of people who truly love aviation and will give you the shirt off their back to help you if it means they can share their passion and talk airplanes with you.

I remember the first time I ever laid my hands on the controls of an aircraft. I was working on an assignment for EAA Sport Aviation when the owner of an LSA Challenger asked me if I wanted to give it a try. Right then and there, I fell in love. I called my mom later that night, “Mom, there’s going to be another pilot in the family.”

Earning my certificate wasn’t easy. I learned more about myself (strengths, weaknesses, more weaknesses) as a student pilot than I did as a journalism student. While my certificate no longer says student pilot, I know that I still have so much to learn, and that I will probably never stop learning as a pilot.

My CFI, John, was the best instructor I ever could have asked for. One of my biggest struggles during the process of earning my certificate was having confidence in myself. John and I both knew that I knew the material, but I would still catch myself in self-doubt.

The best piece of advice I can give to anyone thinking about going after their pilot license is to find a CFI that you are comfortable with. A good CFI will not only make time in his/her schedule, but encourage you to fly as often as your schedule allows to avoid becoming “rusty.” The biggest challenge to a CFI is finding the right balance for each student; knowing how much to push a student; and knowing when to dial back and make sure they are understanding the current concept before moving on to the next. Luckily, John did all of those things and more. I can’t even begin to thank him.

Have you reached a milestone recently? Passed a checkride, given your first or hundredth Young Eagles flight, flown your homebuilt for the first time? Tell us about it at

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