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High school alumni continue “dollar ride” tradition

dollar ride

Lt. Col. Alexander Heyman, right, 71st Student Squadron commander, and 2nd Lt. Mitchel Bie, student pilot, shake hands after the dollar exchange following Bie's "dollar ride," March 8, at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. It is traditional that students in Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training give their instructor a dollar after their first flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman Zachary Heal)

Dollar ride

Lt. Col. Alexander Heyman, 71st Student Squadron commander, and 2nd Lt. Mitchel Bie, student pilot, prepare for takeoff in a T-6A Texan II, March 8, at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman Zachary Heal)

Dollar ride

Lt. Col. Alexander Heyman, 71st Student Squadron commander, and 2nd Lt. Mitchel Bie, student pilot, prepare for takeoff in a T-6A Texan II, March 8, at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The T-6 is the first aircraft students attending Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training learn to fly before moving on to more specialized aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman Zachary Heal)

Dollar ride

Lt. Col. Alexander Heyman, 71st Student Squadron commander, and 2nd Lt. Mitchel Bie, a student pilot, perform a pre-flight check on a T-6A Texan II, March 8, at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman Zachary Heal)

Dollar ride

Lt. Col. Alexander Heyman, 71st Student Squadron commander, and 2nd Lt. Mitchel Bie, student pilot, walk out to a T-6A Texan II, March 8, at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The T-6A Texan II is a single-engine, two-seat primary trainer designed to train student pilots in basic flying skills common to U.S. Air Force pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman Zachary Heal)

Dollar ride

2nd Lt. Mitchel Bie checks his mask in Life Support before his "dollar ride", March 8, at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The dollar ride is the first flight that a student pilot takes in Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman Zachary Heal)

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – In the early 1900s, pilots would charge a dollar at the fair for customers to ride front seat of the airplane and act like they were flying. Today, in Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT), the “dollar ride” is a little different.

The dollar ride is the first flight a student pilot takes during SUPT. Since it is impossible for a student pilot to fail their first flight and nothing in life is free, the students give their instructors a decorated dollar after the flight to pay them back for the ride.

On March 8, 2nd Lt. Mitchel Bie, a Vance student pilot, took his dollar ride, with Lt. Col. Alexander Heyman, 71st Student Squadron commander. 

“The dollar ride is integral to the SUPT experience,” said Heyman. “It’s the first opportunity for the instructors to set the tone of the training.”

What made this dollar ride unique is both the student and the instructor attended Sycamore High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“I found out during my first week here that Lt. Col. Heyman went to Sycamore,” said Bie. “When I was told I was going to fly with him for my first flight it made me a little nervous, but I was also excited for the experience.”

While they both graduated from Sycamore High School, their classes were a number of years apart. Heyman graduated in 1996, while Bie graduated in 2013.

During his career, Heyman has been an instructor pilot for three assignments. He strives to make a positive impact on a student’s training during every dollar ride, he said.

“The most memorable thing he said to me was to take pride in how you park the aircraft,” said Bie.

Bie’s parents were also pilots. His father flew the F-15E Strike Eagle and his mother flew the KC-135 Stratotanker.

“I’ve been looking forward to my dollar ride in pilot training since I was nine years old,” said Bie. “The fact that it was even more special was awesome.”