We Announce our Lessons Learned Essay Contest Winners!

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We are delighted to announce the winners of Plane & Pilot’s Lessons Learned About Flying Essay Contest. Of the many dozens of entries, almost all of them good, we received a handful that were simply exceptional.

The idea behind the contest was simple, for readers to submit a story about their flying experience and what important lessons about flying (and about life) they learned from it. It’s often said that every pilot has one of those stories, but I’ve always thought that an absurd notion.

When we launched our monthly Lessons Learned about Flying (and about life) column almost seven years ago now, it wasn’t revolutionary. A handful of aviation brands feature a similar piece in their magazines. The oldest one is at Flying, where I worked for 20 years. That magazine popularized the first-person pilot story genre, and while I was there, I compiled and edited a couple of book-length collections of those stories.

Those stories are reader-submitted and usually tell a tale of a flying challenge that gave the writer an insight about flying safety. For decades, that column was illustrated by legendary aviation artist Barry Ross, who for the past couple of years has been illustrating for Plane & Pilot’s Lessons Learned about Flying. Barry’s work is the best in the business, and their loss was our gain.

The Winners!


Without further ado, the winners of our inaugural Lessons Learned about Flying essay contest are, first-place, Jim Magner with his terrific “Nothing To Read Here At All” story of a tragic accident that never happened.

In second place is talented writer and photographer Ryan Lunde for his excellent essay entitled “An Unplanned Visit to Little Buffalo,” in which he flies an owl in need of rescue to a stormy destination at a recovery center.

Our third-place winning entry was a delightful tale by Mary Margaret McEachern titled “My Failed Engine Taught Me How to Trust Myself,” in which she recounts her adventure with an engine failure at 400 feet shortly after takeoff in her Mooney M20 she calls Ladybug.

Here’s a snippet from Jim Magner’s top-prize-winning piece:


So, I read all the accident reports, not with a macabre voyeuristic curiosity but with a purpose. Whenever I read one, I put myself in the cockpit. I imagine that the passengers are my wife and kids or business associates. I imagine what it might feel like to have to cancel the trip; one that I’ve been talking up and that they have been excitedly looking forward to. I imagine sitting there, perfectly fine one minute, only to discover that something very unexpected has just happened.

Look for Jim’s excellent story in the March edition of Plane & Pilot and the other prize winners in the months to come. Congratulations to all!


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