Student pilot finds identity through aviation Ava Seccuro-staff writer

It’s not every day that someone is able to fly a plane before they are able to drive a car, but for junior Ryan Biehl that just so happens to be the case. When Biehl took his first solo flight on Oct. 2, 2017, it ignited a fire within him that had been brewing since his early childhood.

“There’s a ‘holy s***’ moment...I remember feeling...butterflies in [my] stomach. I was like, ‘Oh, that’s what that is’ because I had felt this on airplanes all my life, but this time, I was doing it,” Biehl said. “I don’t know if love at first sight is a thing, but if it is, that’s the closest thing I’ve been to it. I just knew right then that I could do this every day and never get bored.”

Biehl prepares for his first solo flight on Oct. 2, 2017. "I remember very clearly thinking, 'I should be scared right now' but I just wasn't," Biehl said.

Being a pilot himself, Biehl’s grandfather, is much accredited to influencing Biehl’s love for aviation. Even though Ryan is no longer a child, Biehl and his grandfather still find time to connect through small activities they did together while Biehl was growing up. Whether it’s talking about planes, or being present for milestones, such as Biehl’s first flight.

“When Ryan was little, his grandfather used to take him to the airport all the time,” Biehl’s mother, Hope Levy-Biehl, said. “It’s always been something that they’ve done together...talk about airplanes, watch airplanes. They’ve been to a bunch of airshows together, so it's definitely been something that’s tied them together and that they share in common.”

Biehl and his grandfather have always been close. Even after intermittent periods of not seeing each other, their collective passion always leads them to pick up right where they left off.

“We haven’t really gotten closer [because] it’s always just been there. Since before I could talk, it’s always been [that] we were the airplane people in the family,” Biehl said. “I think it probably annoys others in the family when we’re at dinner and we’re just talking about airplanes for three hours and ignoring everyone else. It’s a special bond between the two of us. We go to air shows a lot, we go to the [Santa Monica] airport for lunch every once in a while.”

As Biehl’s grandfather completely approved of Biehl’s aviation pursuits, Biehl’s mother was hesitant, at first, to condone his desires to earn his private pilot license.

“My initial reaction when he said he first wanted to learn how to become a pilot was to be scared and nervous,” Levy-Biehl said. “You want your kids to happy and find the things that motivate and inspire them, but you also want them to be safe, so...I was worried that [being a] student pilot that flew small planes isn't the safest vocation, but what I’ve come to learn is that...it can be done in a safe way. He’s shown me that he can handle that responsibility.”

Biehl’s entire family has witnessed a noticeable change in Biehl’s character and maturity. His dedication to aviation has not only coincided with his prowess in the plane but has also altered his disposition outside of the plane.

“For Ryan, flying has made him a very grounded, responsible person. I think in order to be a pilot, there’s a lot of planning and organization [that goes into it], and there’s obviously a lot of responsibility [involved],” Levy-Biehl said. “The skills that he’s learned to do as a pilot have also translated into him as a person.”

Biehl’s flight coach Howard Israel, while already impressed with Biehl’s knowledge and enthusiasm with aviation, claimed that the minute Biehl’s ascended for his solo flight, the change was imminent and immediate. Biehl would never be the same.

“There aren’t many 16-year-olds in the world who have been up alone in an airplane and it changes you,” Israel said. “I said to Ryan’s mother, the young man who comes down from this solo will not be the kid who went up.”

No matter how greatly Biehl’s grandfather has influenced his sky-high passion or how much Biehl has developed from his experiences, the euphoric feeling of flight has kept Biehl hooked more than anything else.

“It’s kind of like all your responsibilities in life and everything that sucks in life, what you’re busy and worried about, get weighed down by gravity,” Biehl said. “When you get off the ground it all just falls away and you don’t think about anything. You’re just free to fly.”

To watch Biehl's progression from his sophomore year up until now, click on the video below.

All photos are courtesy of Hope Levy-Biehl.

Created By
Ava Seccuro


Hope Levy-Biehl

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