Growing wings: learning to fly
This is not symbolism, we’re talking about becoming a recreational pilot. Ok, not living the childhood dream of literally growing wings, but the adult version of completing a privet pilots licence.
For as long as I can remember, my parents have talked about flying. Christmas normally had the latest flight simulator under the tree. My parents dream became realty when they bought there first plan 10 years ago. At the time, I was amazed and impressed. You know how to encourage your kids to “reach for the stars”? It is to live an extraordinary life yourself. Well, my parents do that. So when I found myself in my hometown for the summer, it wasn’t long before I was sitting in a Cesna 182 staring down the barrel of a runway.
The process begins with a trip to the medical doctor for a check up.
Ground school can be done online and takes about 80 hours. I signed up to Pilottraning.ca and cost under $300 but if cost is going to hold you back, you might as well not begin. Because 40 hours in a plane with a trainer, fuel, exams & other red tape will set you back about $15,000 out of pocket.
My instructor Will Dobbins, is a fun and considerate person on the ground. But in the air he is demanding and unwavering. It is his way or nothing. Which is comforting as you stare at the earth from 10,000 feet.
10 things to remember when you start flying
1) Start. There is a constant drive to ‘prepare’, but don’t let that stop you from just getting started. There are a few time sensitive things that expire (medical 5 years) but for the most part just starting is a big step.
2) Perfection is a killer. The type of people that are interested in flying are normally the technical type and when faced with death as the consequence, we tend to want to “do it right”. Trust me, if you are doing or thinking about something that is risky or dangerous, you will know. I’m not advising cutting corners at all. I’m advising not re-watching the 45 minute presentation of engine layouts 4 times. If you miss or forget something you will be reminded during a quiz, in the readings, by your instructor or on an exam.
3) Take notes when talking with your instructor. They will tell you exactly what to do and what to remember. They have the experience and your best interest in mind. Use your notes to ensure you do everything they ask/recommend.
4) Arrive early to lessons. When you are paying hundreds of dollars per hour to fly, be there early every time. Even if you are completely ready and there is nothing to do, just give yourself a break to breathe.
5) Not everything is a discussion point. I tend to chat. I like people and want to talk about things. Leave this attitude on the ground. Develop good focus in the air. If something the instructor is explaining is unclear then mention it. But resist the urge to dive into every thought. You don’t need to be right. You need to be alive.
6) On the ground ask the instructor questions like “how can I make this easier on you”? The focus is always on you. Shift the context by acknowledging the trainer is there and is dealing with you.
7) Don’t take it personally. If you knew how to fly, land, operate a radio, maintain paperwork then you would already be a seasoned pilot. Much like learning a new language, leave room for mistakes and learning.
8) Realize it takes time and more time. Because everyone starts flying Visual Flight Rules(VFR) weather gets in the way.. a lot. So plan to fly and be prepared to fly but half the time weather cancels your flight. This is the nature of the beast.
9) You’re not a test pilot. Everything you learn is what you need to keep you safe. There is no need to do anything outside the requirements. No need to “push yourself”. And if you have the adrenaline junky disposition, best pick up a safer sport like skydiving and let someone else fly 🙂
10) Recognize that no one uses a private pilots licence for anything but fun. It is of very little utility, never makes money, and is at best fun. So relax and enjoy yourself.
Here is a flashback to last year when we went to Calgary’s Aerospace Museum. I guess it’s been an interest for a while!