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Monday, January 23, 2012

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!

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