Ben Van Handel – Solo Milestone

Congratulations to Ben Van Handel, EAA 1145612, who soloed in a Cessna 172 on Saturday, September 9 after spending the summer interning with EAA’s Young Eagles program.

Ben said he had been looking forward to soloing for a while, and loved both the freedom and responsibility of flying alone for the first time.

“It really was a dream come true,” he said. “It’s something I wanted to do for a long time. Being one with the airplane and experiencing the freedom that comes with the first solo flight and realizing that it’s all you flying is quite the experience.”

Ben’s flight lessons have been entirely funded by Phillips 66 thus far through the Phillips 66 Flight Training Award presented during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017, and he said he’s incredibly grateful for that financial support at this time in his life.

“That’s just a huge relief, especially with me being in college,” he said. “I would never be able to be flying right now; with school and everything it’d just be too much.”

Ben is the first pilot in his family, and at 20 years old he sees a future in aviation in front of him, as he plans on going for his instrument, commercial, and multi-engine ratings on his way to a career as a commercial pilot.

There’s no doubt flying would be a great career for Ben, as he said he has an appetite to continue going up and seeing as much as he can from the air.

“The new perspective is really what drives me,” Ben said. “You’re always learning, you never have it all.”

Congratulations, Ben, and we look forward to seeing what else you’ll accomplish in the years to come!

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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