A Dream Becomes Reality

Guest editorial.

Mom’s first flight. Of course I had my best landing ever!

Like a lot of kids, I dreamed of flying. I used to ask for a flying car for Christmas every year. As an adult, that dream didn’t fade away. Now I’m a 23-year-old private pilot with my own airplane—a Van’s RV-6. After a lot of work, I made my dream a reality.

Growing up, it didn’t seem like there were many opportunities in aviation for someone like me. Flying is expensive and signing your 7-year-old up for flying lessons isn’t the first thing most parents would consider. Flying was a dream and, I thought, a dream only.

Well, it was until high school, when I had the opportunity to go up in a Beechcraft Bonanza and was immediately hooked. I remember thinking: People really do this? Flying small airplanes is a thing? So cool!

With plans to travel, I prioritized college, graduating in three years from the University of Oregon. However, when COVID hit, most travel shut down. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to pursue my dream of flying. During my last quarter, I moved home to Sacramento and reached out to Kim Owen, one of my friends who had taken me flying in the past. She put me in touch with Stan Lawrence, who quickly became my certified flight instructor (CFI) and close friend.

Getting Into It

I started informally attending EAA Chapter 25’s Young Eagle Build and Maintain program on Saturdays, learning about general aviation aircraft maintenance from some amazing mentors. I took it all in. This new world was fascinating. Learning was addicting. Aviation was moving on from that dream state and starting to become a lifestyle.

After about a year of flying sporadically, I had about 80 hours in the Cessna 150/150. I was ready for my check ride, but the Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) was fully booked—the soonest date he was available was six months away. So, Stan suggested that, in the meantime, I learn to fly his Van’s RV-14. Like a crazy person, I agreed to do it.

Learning to fly the 14 was one of the most challenging parts of my training. I endured hours of Stan repeating to me “right rudder, right rudder, right rudder” and “keep it straight!” I’m grateful for that feedback now because his voice is always in the back of my head when I’m flying, which keeps me safe.

Rob Davids (DPE) offering congratulations after a successful PPL check ride in the RV-14.

Setting My Sights on an Airplane

I knew I wanted my own airplane and after learning to fly the RV-14, I knew I wanted a tailwheel. When an RV-6 in my price range—meaning: modest—came on the market, I was stoked.

It turns out that this RV-6 was in my price range because it needed a lot of work. At the very least, it needed a new panel and a paint job and the slosh sealant had to be removed from the fuel tanks (I’ll get into that later). There are a lot of other things still to be addressed. It’s going to be a long process to get her into the air. That’s a story I’m happy to share with you in future issues.

The RV-6 project tucked away in the hangar at Sacramento Executive. With much help from her friends Stan, Kerry, Hal and others, N2165U will fly again one day!

The Takeaway

One of my biggest fears when I started thinking about buying a plane was not knowing enough about it, not truly understanding the ins and outs. Through the process so far I’m realizing that this fear is now trivial, as I’m literally dissecting the entire thing and have to know everything about it. I wasn’t planning to put this much time into it, but I need to.

Another fear I have is that I take on projects and never finish them. With this one, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. But I’ve realized that I’m not alone. The community here at Sacramento Executive (KSAC) has come together, helping me and keeping me motivated. I’m thankful that I’m not the only one working on it.

Over the next few months, I’ll bring you inside the restoration process, from picking the RV-6, the purchase and then into the actual restoration. I plan to get into the nitty-gritty while keeping it all entertaining. My hopes are that others can learn from my experiences and get inspired to go work on that hangar queen of your own. You can also follow along with the project and my adventures on my Instagram, @adventuresoftenten and look for video updates here on kitplanes.com.

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Tenley Ong
Tenley Ong is a flight coordinator in Sacramento, California. After dreaming of flying her whole life, she passed her private pilot check ride in a Van’s RV-14 in January 2022. She currently serves on the board of her local EAA chapter while pursuing her ratings and restoring her Van’s RV-6. If she’s not flying, she’s probably riding her bike, skiing or on an adventure somewhere.


  1. Good for you.
    Pursuing dreams is what makes life exciting and yours are inspiring. Keep at it!
    The more we see people following their dreams and achieving them the more we believe in our own.
    That’s what got me believing I too could one day have a plane and now I do.
    Guarantee you’ll never regret buying an RV 6, it’s a fantastic little aeroplane, a regular hotrod of the sky.

  2. Way to go, you have made what most people say is an impossibility a realty. The sky is no limit for you, all ahead full and don’t look back

  3. RV-6.9i owner here, super and well done 😎
    Very much looking forward to your reports… I love to read such, and be involved in personal adventures, good luck!


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