First Solo

Genesah Duffy, Chief Pilot, ICON

Straight after her first helicopter solo, Genesah Duffy’s instructor crashed the aircraft… 

How did you get into aviation?

After my time in the Navy, I randomly went on a discovery flight over Tampa Bay. That flight was amazing – and life-changing. Within a month, I’d quit my job, changed schools, and started flight lessons.

How did your flight training go?

Learning to fly was a unique experience for me. Having no aviation background, I was definitely out of my comfort zone. I was one of my instructor’s first students and the first time practicing stalls, I accidentally put the aircraft into a spin…

Tell us about your first solo?

It was awful! On my first landing after my instructor got out, the tower told me to taxi back in between runways – and I ended up going down the wrong taxiway… On my second landing, I bounced for the first time ever. As I’d never bounced before, we’d never discussed what to do when it happened. Luckily, another student before me bounced on his solo and told me he applied full power and went around again. I thought ‘Let’s get out of here!’ and did exactly that.

On my first cross-country solo, weather came in suddenly and the airport where I was supposed to land went IFR. I’d never visited the alternate airport before, couldn’t see its smaller runway through the rain and landed at the bigger runway, causing an Air Marshal aeroplane to have to go-around. 

My first helicopter solo, in 2019, went well. However, afterwards the instructor took me for a celebratory lap and crashed… We impacted the ground at 40mph, rolled three times and got the tail chopped off. I knew if I didn’t get back in soon, I’d develop a phobia, so three days later and all bruised up, I soloed the helicopter again.

You completed PPL, CPL, Instrument Rating and Instructor Rating in only a year. How did you manage that?

It was a lot. Seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset, I was either flying, taking classes, or working my part-time job. I’m the kind of person who puts the pedal to the metal to accomplish something. After graduating, I worked at an aircraft maintenance shop right across the street from Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base. Seeing those Cubs take off from the lake, I soon found myself leaning towards the adventurous side of seaplane flying.

Is the ICON A5 different from other aircraft to fly?

It’s incredibly easy to fly in general. It’s very docile, forgiving, and ergonomic – your eyes and hands go where they’re supposed to go almost automatically. At ICON, we offer two transition courses – TX-L, a five-day-course from land to sea for pilots who’ve never flown a seaplane before, and TX-S, a two-day-course for pilots who are already certified both land and sea. Many of them stay a few days longer to gain some more experience. Since you can’t just rent a seaplane in the States, a lot of seaplane pilots never fly by themselves after getting their rating.

Who are the owners of the ICON A5?

They’re an interesting mix. A5 owners range from young entrepreneurs or CEOs who have never flown before to retired commercial airline captains who haven’t flown in years but got their spark for aviation re-ignited after seeing this aircraft. We also have many dual-rated pilots.

What aircraft would you have in your fantasy hangar?

Although the A5 would be my first fixed-wing aircraft choice, I’d go for a helicopter, probably a Bell 407. Two years ago, I obtained my helicopter add-on and I’m planning to get my CPL(H) in 2022. When I started flying lessons, I wasn’t sure if I wanted fixed-wing or helicopters, it just happened that the fixed-wing school called me back first!

What do you love about flying most?

It gives you a sense of power that you don’t get anywhere else. 

I’m the type of flyer who hooks up music to my headset, avoids all airspace and just flies up and down the coast. I love doing my own thing, enjoying the elements and being in complete control.

Genesah’s YouTube channel.  

Solo stats

Chief pilot and Senior Director of Flight Operations at ICON Aircraft Genesah Duffy loves the adventurous side of seaplane flying.

When 12 June 2013
Where Hollywood North Perry Airport (USA)
Aircraft Cessna 172
Hours at solo Approx. 15
Hours now Approx. 2000
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