Ryan Ilmberger, left, receives congratulations from instructor Sam Monte.
wphoto provided
Ryan Ilmberger, left, receives congratulations from instructor Sam Monte. wphoto provided
On his 16th birthday, Ryan Ilmberger carried out an unusual family tradition: He soloed in an airplane. Like his father on his 16th birthday, Ilmberger flew an airplane by himself before he could drive a car by himself.

Two years ago, the Ilmberger family was living in the San Francisco Bay Area when they learned about the Flight Science program at Sisters High School (SHS). After visiting Sisters, and learning about the unique collaboration with Outlaw Aviation at the Sisters Airport, the family made the move to Sisters to allow Ryan to participate in the program.

Ryan set a goal to solo on his 16th birthday, the minimum age required by the FAA to solo an airplane. After a few practice touch-and-go landings in Outlaw Aviation’s Cessna 172 with Sam Monte, Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI), Monte felt Ilmberger was ready to perform the maneuvers by himself.

“Are you confident you can do this?” Monte asked him.

“I felt nervous, but I told Sam ‘Yes, I’m ready’,” Ilmberger recalled. “The plane felt so light with just me in it, so I had to use more flaps than usual to get the plane on the ground. But it was the smoothest landing I’ve ever done. I just didn’t want to bounce, with so many people watching.”

“Ryan is good at setting goals, and then putting in the work to achieve them,” said Monte.

“For a 16-year-old to solo on his birthday is a rare achievement. It’s a true test of character. We are very proud of Ryan’s dedication,” said Walt Lasecki, CFI with Outlaw Aviation.

Ilmberger has taken the Flight Science classes at SHS, and participates in the weekly group ground classes hosted by Outlaw Aviation for students preparing to take the FAA written exam. There are currently 20 SHS students in the Outlaw flight training program.

Carrying on a passion for aviation, Ilmberger intends to pursue a career as a pilot, and become a CFI. His father, Steve, is a professional pilot, flying large helicopters for ODF fire suppression, and a CFI. Years ago on their second date, Steve introduced Ryan’s mother, Lonnie, to aviation with a helicopter ride to an island.

“There were no doors on that helicopter! But it was fun. Aviation has been a big part of our life together since that day,” said Lonnie.

Although early in his flight training, Ilmberger has already received a scholarship from The Roundhouse Foundation to help fund his flight lessons.

“We are so very grateful for this program offered at a public school, and scholarships available to students,” said Lonnie.