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Monday, January 23, 2012

Dreaming the life

[A] wing is an odd thing, strangely behaved, hard to understand, tricky to handle.
--Wolfgang Langewiesche, Stick and Rudder

You might feel the same way about beginning the flight training process as ol' Wolfie does about the wing above. Don't worry, and don't panic! It may seem strangely behaved and hard to understand at first, but by breaking it down into small, comprehensible steps, we'll get through it together and wonder why it ever seemed so difficult at the start.

You may be one of those people who has always looked up every time a plane flies over or spent countless hours by the airport watching the planes come in, checking them out as they taxi on the ramp, thinking how cool it would be to be able to climb in one of those and go where ever you want.

Or maybe you're a professional who needs to travel to places that aren't conveniently served by the big airlines. Our flight school trained a lawyer who just wanted to see if it could help him in his practice. Before he was even done, he had some of his colleagues start taking lessons, too, because he discovered how much easier and more productive it made him. As a real-life example, he had an 8:30 a.m. hearing that was in the next state over. Instead of having to drive the day before and spend the night in a hotel room, he slept in his own bed, got to the airport early that morning, flew himself, and was back that same afternoon with energy to spare. I also personally know at least 4 doctors who have a second (or third) practice in a location that would be too far to drive but is a short flight away.

Perhaps your career goals are somewhere in the field of aviation itself. A pilot certificate is very useful to have when considering becoming an air traffic controller. Furthermore, interviews with airlines for piloting jobs tend to be rather short if you can't fly an airplane.

Or maybe you're someone who thinks that the TSA has gone insane and thinks that just because they're getting on board an aircraft, a citizen of a country that calls itself the "land of the free" shouldn't have to surrender their dignity at the door. Well, if you learn to fly yourself, you can have all the cupcakes you want without fear that some lowly-paid government TSA drone will confiscate them. And no one will pat down grandma if you take her flying with you.

Or maybe you'd like to visit relatives or children hundreds of miles away. In many cases, flying yourself is actually faster than taking an airliner. As an example that happened to me not long ago, I had to go to Atlanta twice in the span of about a year. The first time, I traveled by airline because I had to due to circumstances. It took me over 7 hours each way because of a layover. Tack on another 2 hours because of the security screening process and you've got 18 hours for a round trip via airline. The next time I went to Atlanta, I flew myself in a Cirrus SR20. The round trip time flying myself from Cleveland to Atlanta was 6.9 hours!

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and the first step toward your certificate is to identify what it is you want to achieve as an aviator. I've listed several reasons above, but you may/probably have a reason all your own. Whatever your reason(s) for wanting to learn to fly, you have a dream. Now it's the flight school's purpose to turn that dream into a reality. In my next post, we'll look at the different kinds of flight schools and figure out which one is right for you.

Tailwinds and blue skies!

Cleared for Approach

Once you have tasted flight, you will walk forever with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will long to return.
--Leonardo da Vinci

Hello, and thanks for joining me here to do some hangar flying! If you're just beginning, or even just wondering if flying is something you can or should learn to do, you'll have a ton of questions, and there are some questions you don't even know you should be asking. In this blog, I'll discuss learning to fly from the student pilot's perspective but with the experience gained as a CFI (Certificated Flight Instructor). This will, I hope, enable you to get through your training in record time, minimize frustration and cost, and maximize fun--which in the end is what flying is all about!

I learned to fly at a Part 91 flight school--in other words, an "unstructured" school, as opposed to a Part 141 program, which is a closely-supervised, rigid curriculum. (Don't worry, I'll go into way more detail on the differences in a later post to help you weigh the pros and cons and decide which suits you best.) This means I got my private, instrument, commercial and multi-engine ratings at my own pace, with almost complete freedom (and responsibility) in how I approached them. However, when deciding to become a flight instructor, I looked at going to one of the academies advertised in Flying Magazine. One of the most helpful websites I found in making my decision was a blogger who kept a day-by-day account of his experience at that academy. In that vein, I'm going to be posting a lesson-by-lesson account of the typical experience of a student pilot from the very first discovery flight through first solo, the checkride, and using that "license to learn".

This blog's title is a take on Stick and Rudder, one of the classic books on becoming a skilled pilot. Along the way, we'll go into these topics and more:

  • Choosing the flight school that's right for you
  • Choosing the instructor that's right for you
  • What to expect during your training
  • How to study for lessons, the written exam, and the dreaded delightful checkride
  • Discovering the right learning style for you
  • Dealing with learning plateaus and sticking points
  • What to do after you get your certificate (is an instrument rating/commercial/etc. a good idea for you?)
  • What this new Light Sport Aircraft thing is all about

If you're going to be joining me for this journey, it might help to know a little about who is going to be your guide. I'm a commercial pilot and a CFI, CFII (CFI - Instrument), and MEI (Multiengine Instructor). Since I can't get enough of aviation, I also have an AGI (Advanced Ground Instructor) and IGI (Instrument Ground Instructor) certificate. I spent years as the IT guy for a hospital, but after getting tired of feeling like I was living in the movie Office Space, I decided that the only office worth sitting in all day was one a mile in the sky. I went to ATP's CFI academy and began working as an instructor at the school where I originally learned to fly, Zone Aviation. Now I get paid to, as John Gillespie Magee, Jr. so elegantly put it, dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings, climb sunward and join the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds, and do a hundred things you have not dreamed of. Come along and I'll show you how to do those things, too!