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Traditions at the Florida Academy

Date: 13 August 2018

Tradition is defined as an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior. In the case of our L3 Airline Academy, a tradition is an action in result of an event that each and every successful pilot participates in throughout their training.

The First Solo – Shirt Cutting

This tradition is not so much an L3 one, but a National tradition that has taken place for many years in the United States. Upon completion of a student pilot’s first solo flight, the student’s instructor will cut off the back of their shirt and sign/draw on it. These drawings can include anything the instructor wants, but almost always includes the date and the Tail Number of the plane the student was in. This tradition provides each student with a souvenir that will help them remember their training – pilots often say that they always remember the number of the plane they flew on their first solo, so having a souvenir to keep for the rest of their lives is a great way to remember where they came from.



The purpose behind this tradition stems from a long time ago, when planes had only two seats, front and back. This was before radio communication was put into airplanes, so instructors would need to yell in order for the students sitting in the front seat to hear them. The instructors used to tug on the back of the students shirts in order to get their attention, so when they yelled the student would know to listen for their instruction. Cutting off the back of a student’s shirt upon his or her first solo implies that the instructor no longer needs to tug on the back of their student’s shirt to tell them what to do; the student is now capable of flying all by themselves.



The Bell Ringing

On a typical day at L3 Airline Academy in Florida, wandering around campus may seem a little quiet; you’ll see students studying, administrative employees typing away at their desks, and instructors helping their students prepare for tests in the Learning Resource Center. However, once you cross the threshold of the operations building, you will have entered an entirely new world. In the Ops building, among other things you will hear the chatter of students preparing for a flight, murmur of instructors in the briefing rooms, and the shouting dispatch officers calling out flight numbers. But amidst all of those noises there is one sound that will stand out. It will start with the loud ringing of a bell and then there will be a sudden hush throughout the building. Next you will hear the voice of a proud instructor, shouting the name of his or her student and the name of the check ride the student just completed. After the instructor announces the student’s newfound success, you will hear everyone else in the room going crazy with applause, cheers, and if you’re lucky our dispatch team will ring the bells they keep behind their desks.  Next, the student’s instructor, with the help of someone else, will remove the student’s current epaulettes and replace them with the next stages epaulettes.


This ringing of the bell signifies the completion of a certificate or rating– a noteworthy step towards each student’s end goal. This performance also indicates a fresh start – the student will move onto the next  phase of training, where he/she will have to master a whole new set of skills or learn to fly a new type of plane!


The $100 Hamburger

The $100 hamburger is a tradition in the general aviation community as well as at L3 Airline Academy in Florida. If you have never heard of the $100 hamburger before, it may not be exactly what you’re thinking. No, we don’t send our students out to a super classy five star restaurant to actually pay $100 for a hamburger - although this might cost less than the actual meaning. In the general aviation community, the “$100 Hamburger” refers to hopping in your plane and making a trip somewhere to go grab some food. As Matthew Preusch from the NY Times states, the $100 hamburger is “sort of the aeronautical equivalent of lazy Sunday drives in which the destination isn’t as important as the pleasure of getting away.”

At L3, the $100 hamburger trip takes place during one of our student’s cross country flights.  Since our academy is located in Central Florida, we have airports in every direction and at most of them someone decided to put a restaurant.  Once they arrive at their destination, the students and instructors will typically get out to gas up their planes, stretch their legs, and grab some lunch. This lunch is our version of the $100 hamburger – and no, it still does not need to be a hamburger!


The traditions our pilots uphold here at L3 Airline Academy in Florida may seem a little odd, and they may be. But our traditions are what makes us who we are and in order to really understand what we do and why we do it, you just need to experience it for yourself.


- Carl Gegenheimer
Chief Flight Instructor


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