It was 4 a.m. when the alarm went off July 2, 2020. Mac Copeland grabbed his first cup of Pilot Fuel (a.k.a. coffee) and pulled up the ASOS Weather briefing on his phone. He hopes the low level clouds and rain to the northeast of the Wichita Metro area would continue to move in a northeasterly direction, so he could continue his flight plan. Today, he would be the third generation of the Copland family to solo from Beech Field (BEC), previously known as Copeland Airport (K31).

Not only was this a historic day for the family, but it was also day of remembrance of those aviation icons that came before Mac. Three aviators that landed their aircraft on that very ground made aviation history.

First was Charles Lindbergh who landed at K31 to meet with Walter Beech in 1929 following his nonstop Transatlantic flight.

Second were Amelia Earhart and Mac’s grandmother, Marilyn Copeland. The day was chosen in remembrance of Earhart who disappeared July 2, 1937, on her attempt to circle the globe around the equator. Earhart had a large influence on Marilyn as she learned to fly – not only by the historical value that the aviatrix contributed to flight, but also by the lasting effects she had on women in aviation.

Marilyn was the general manager and co-owner of Copeland Airport with her husband, John, who taught her to fly. Marilyn took her flying seriously, competing in more than 30 coast-to-coast air races. She became President of the Ninety Nines, the organization of licensed women pilots for which Earhart was the first president. Later, Marilyn became the chair of the project to restore Earhart’s childhood home in Atchison, Kansas.

Third to influence Mac was his father, David Copeland, who also soloed out of K31 – 16 airplanes on his 16th birthday – and worked at the airport as assistant manager, which lead to his current aviation career.

Mac did not fly with Lindbergh, Earhart or his grandmother, but was always in the right seat growing up as his family flew to their favorite weekend getaway at Grand Lake as well as attending EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh 12 years in a row. While attending and playing football for The University of Kansas, Mac found the time and earned his way to pay for flying lessons. After growing up in a flying family – flying with his father as well as Sean Tucker in his Extra 300 – Mac was further influenced to focus on a self-taught ground school and flying.

This solo on July 2 was a culmination of his hard work, honoring the legends of the past and his passion for flight. Since his solo, Mac continues to play football at KU, study and is working toward his private pilot’s certificate.

solo at copeland airport