Love at First Flight

Six-year-old Braylon Faulkner fell in love with airplanes on his first flight. Traveling with his mother Michelle Faulkner and grandmother Carol Faulkner-Davis in September 2012 from Orlando to Providence, Rhode Island. His excitement came to the attention of the Southwest Airlines pilot who invited him to the cockpit before the flight.

boy in cockpit of commercial jet

Braylon is introduced to flying by a Southwest Airlines pilot.

His father Brian Faulkner works in business development for a large healthcare company and Michelle was a licensed private investigator in Florida. They encouraged Braylon’s interest in flying. Later that year while traveling in Hiawassee, Georgia, they booked a helicopter ride with Pilot Ron Carroll.

From there Braylon’s fascination continued. He was living in Winter Haven, Florida and he would get excited whenever he passed the airport. Winter Haven airport is also the base of operations for Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base. Braylon enjoyed dining at the restaurant on the field to watch planes land and take off.


His grandmother Carol was a neighbor of Jon Brown, so she asked him if Braylon was old enough to take a ride in a seaplane. In August of 2013, Braylon flew in a Piper Cub on floats. In the fall, he enjoyed a tour of Fantasy of Flight Museum.

boy climbs into red baron model

Braylon visits Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida.

In January 2014, Braylon took a helicopter ride in Sevierville, Tennessee. He took more flights in the seaplanes through Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base and developed a friendship with Instructor Ben Shipps. His parents gave Braylon a logbook to track his flights. Braylon asked for flights to celebrate birthdays and holidays.

Giana shows Braylon her grandfather’s RV-6 at Winter Haven Airport.

Braylon’s grandmother Carol, introduced Braylon to the granddaughter of a pilot friend. Giana Griner, a year older than Braylon, shares his passion for airplanes. They had playdates at the Winter Haven Airport restaurant and watch planes. They shared a flight in a Cessna 210.

boy and flight instructor stand in front of Piper Cub on floats for seaplane lesson.

Braylon with flight instructor Ben Shipps.

When the Faulkners moved to Texas for a better job opportunity, Braylon returned to the seaplane base for a flight with Ben. Though he has family in Winter Haven, Braylon understood he would not be back as often as he wanted to be. Last November, just before the family moved, Braylon flew again with his favorite instructor.

Michelle Faulkner said, “We found a local airport here in Texas. Our church was loading supplies for missionaries, and Braylon wanted to help. They said they’d call us whenever they are loading so Braylon can help.”


Braylon has logged 8.25 hours since getting his logbook. With such an intense interest from such a young age, Braylon demonstrates the passion of a future pilot.

This article first appeared in General Aviation News in 2017.

I Survived a Year without Television!

In 2014, I vowed to spend twelve months without television. Betting and joking immediately ensued among family and friends on how long I’d last. I was addicted to crime sitcoms [“Castle,” “Major Crimes,” “CSI,” “Elementary,” “NCIS,” “Law & Order SVU”] and fantasy [“Once Upon a Time,” “Warehouse 13,” “The Librarians”] and political thrillers [“Person of Interest,” “House of Cards,” “Covert Affairs”], well, you get the idea.

hand pulls electrical plug from the wall

These twelve shows were not the only shows I watched. Add news. With a degree in journalism, being a news junkie is a given. Add movies. Add the occasional documentary and talent competition. I’ve watched absolute garbage after channel surfing because nothing else was on. Addiction and inertia held me captive.

My wakeup call was reading a statistic from the Parents Television Council that children in America watch between four and eight hours of television a day. They spend more time staring at a blinking box than in school! No wonder America has an epidemic of overweight, undereducated children and teens. And what are they learning? Bad behavior from reality television shows and talk shows? Egad. Four to eight hours a day is enough time to master a second language, or learn new hobbies and skills. Righteous indignation rose in me about this monumental waste of our most precious asset–time. I asked my daughter how much time her kids spent in front of the television per day.

And then she asked me how much time I spent. blink. blink. blink.

So 2015 was a test. A cure to my addiction. I wish I could tell you it was easy, that my iron willpower helped me stroll by the big-screen in the living room without temptation. I wish I could say with a straight face that hearing others talk about the shocking season finale of any of my favorite shows didn’t knock the wind out of me. When book club pals asked if I was going to watch the new shows “Sherlock,” “Bosch,” or “Outlander” my resolve quavered dangerously on the edge of quitting this mad personal quest.

Spending a year without television allowed me to read 35 more books in 2015 than in the previous year. I traveled to: Charleston (SC), Jacksonville with my girl pals, San Juan, St. Kitts, St. Barts, Las Vegas, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, New York City, Naples (FL), and multiple trips to North Carolina.

Dragon breathing fire atop Grigott's bankview of San Juan from the fort

group of women shopping in St. AugustineIn April, I worked as a stringer/reporter for General Aviation News at the SUN ‘N FUN Fly-In. You can read my articles by clicking on GA News. It was a joy to combine my journalism training with my aviation hobby and get paid for it! What rewarding joy!

Two jets flying in formation one upside down over the other


Handsome and I also learned gun safety and enjoyed target practice under the watchful eye of a friend from church who had served in the Marines. Getting off the sofa has been rewarding after all.

As we launch into 2016, perhaps many of you will also opt out of television viewing for a year. Imagine all those mean political ads you’ll miss…and the books you will have time to read. Ahem. Oh that topic, let me say that one of my books will be coming out in late spring. So expect to hear more about the book in the coming months. And, yes, it will be available in print for those readers who refuse to read on a tablet, like my mother and mother-in-law.

Joni and MaurySo let the bets be covered. I survived a year without television! Woot Woot. Okay, so I didn’t learn another language, or discover a cure for cancer, but I wrote more, played more, and spent more hours each day toward my lifelong goal of publishing novels.

Remember time is your most precious asset. Tell me, what would you do with four extra hours a day?

No TV Week of Sun ‘n Fun

It’s easy to skip television this week because General Aviation News/SUN ‘n FUN Today hired me to report on news at the fly-in all week. Missing sleep much more than television, but this is a happy kind of tired. Last year I worked on the seaplanes beat, but this year due to high water levels (submerged dock, submerged ramp, etc) the Splash-In was cancelled. Click on this link to read articles I wrote last year.

So this year, I’m the roving reporter, chasing down the elusive Breitling Jet Team engineers who had to reassemble the Czech-made L-39C planes from parts crated and shipped here from Dijon, France. Meeting with missionary aviation pilots gathered from the ends of the earth to stay at the homes of local residents while they enjoy SUN ‘n FUN and spread the word about what they do. Getting the scoop on a Grumman Mohawk (N10VD) painted with the names of Vietnam war MIAs in a stirring tribute that’s being called a ‘flying monument.’ And I had the honor of documenting a ceremony in which the FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award was presented to ten amazing legends in aviation.

Two jets flying in formation one upside down over the other


Tomorrow I get to go see the Breitling Jet Team perform. This is the first stop on their first-ever North American tour. Oh, and the Thunderbirds are performing the same day. EEEEEEEeeeep. Pardon my geekasm. There’s just something about precision aerobatics in reeeeally fast planes that gets my pulse racing.

Ah, the smell of jet A and the roar of afterburners….So television? Meh. I’m having too much SUN ‘n FUN to miss the blinking box.