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Ryan Sanders ’12 Solos Airplane

 Ryan Sanders, the son of Thomas and Deborah Sanders of South Fayette, PA, accomplished his first solo flight on January 11, 2012 at Front Royal-Warren County Airport. The 18-year-old is a senior at Randolph-Macon Academy, a private Virginia boarding school that offers a flight training program.

Ryan Sanders '13 soloed in a Cessna 172 on January 11, 2012.To successfully accomplish his first solo and earn the solo “wings” pin awarded at Randolph-Macon Academy, Sanders had to complete three take-offs and three landings alone in a Cessna 172 airplane—before the rain set in.

“The lesson plan said I was supposed to solo, but I was kind of skeptical,” he said. “When we got up in the air, we could see clouds forming over the rivers and coming our way.”

After Sanders finished going through his practice runs, Randolph-Macon Academy flight instructor Ryan Koch jumped out. “He said, ‘The plane should handle better without me in it,’” Sanders recalled. “Then he said, ‘Have fun.’”
First-time soloists often have a lot of butterflies in their stomachs, but although Sanders felt a bit shaky at the onset, his nerves quickly settled once he lifted off the ground. “It felt natural,” he said. “Even with landing, there wasn’t any hesitation. I knew what I was doing.”

Sanders finished his solo just in time. Within 30 minutes of getting back on the ground, the visibility went down. He was the last Randolph-Macon Academy student to fly that day.

The Pennsylvania native came to Randolph-Macon Academy in his sophomore year because it provided him an opportunity to receive a college-prep education and learn to fly at the same time. He is a member of the band and the handbell choir as well as the armed drill team. Sanders has participated on the varsity cross-country and golf teams.

Sanders plans to continue flying, with the goal of obtaining his private pilot certification by the end of the school year. He hopes to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University or Kent State University and eventually become an Air Force pilot. 

Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA), founded in 1892, is a college-preparatory, coeducational day and boarding school for students in grades 6 through 12.  Students in grades 9-12 participate in R-MA’s 91st Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) and have the option to participate in a unique flight program. R-MA is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is located in Front Royal, VA.