Everyone enjoys recognition; and most people don’t like to brag about their achievements. When one of our graduates rings the bell, they are letting everyone know that they are now a member of this unique fraternity; they have achieved a goal. Ringing the bell also serves as a reminder and a salute to all who rang the bell before them.
The ringing of the bell is something sought after by American Flyers students. We have had graduates who have taken their check rides back at home – several states away – fly back to their AF Alma Mater just so they can join the ranks of those who have rung the bell.
Becoming a pilot is a huge achievement! It is something that such a small population of the world can boast. There are less than 600,000 pilots in the US; only about 2,500 people a month will become pilots. The exclusivity gets more significant when we continue beyond the already unique private pilot certificate. Pilots with instrument ratings are 1 in 1,000, and pilots with commercial or flight instructor certificates are 1 in 3,000. So, depending on which aviation milestone our student just lapped, they are part of a very selective group.
Whether this is their first certification in aviation or just their most recent, it is a big deal. So, it has been a tradition in American Flyers that when someone becomes a pilot for the first time, or gets their next pilot certification or rating, they let everyone in the school know by ringing the bell in the lobby. It is a victory song, and the bell is often rung repeatedly and with lots of feeling. (Some of our poor and defenseless bells have actually been pulled off the wall, but hey – I’m not about to get in the way of an excited new pilot!) The clanging bell signals to everyone in the building that something fantastic has happened, and we all drop what we are doing – students and staff alike – to come congratulate and welcome them into this new phase of their aviation journey. It is their graduation, their “We are the Champions” moment, and it is something very much worth celebrating.