So you want to fly...
Flying is one of the greatest experiences on this planet. There’s an old saying, “A mile of road can take you a mile, a mile of runway can take you anywhere in the world.” It’s actually true. Flying opens up a new world to anyone. As I’m writing this article I’m currently sitting in Nassau, Bahamas. Quite a place and wouldn’t have had this opportunity if I hadn’t become a pilot.
People ask all the time, how do I get into flying? Where do I start? I always say, go down to your local airport and talk to a flight instructor about getting a discovery flight. A discovery flight will allow you to see what handling the controls actually feels like. At Texan Aero, we do these quite often and it’s extremely rewarding to see the look on peoples faces when they take the controls.
After confirming that flying is for you, the next step is going to an Aviation Medical Examiner and get a medical exam. If you’re thinking of making this your career, I suggest getting getting a first class medical. If this is going to be a fun hobby, I suggest getting a third class medical. You can find a list of examiners online from a quick google search.
The next step is wrangling an instructor. Again this will take another trip out to your local airport. Talk to the line staff or your airport manager. See who they suggest. Talk to other pilots who are out and about. Ask lots of questions. When you finally meet an instructor ask as many questions as you can. Don’t feel bad about asking too many. Ask them what makes them a good instructor. You’re about to be stuck in the cockpit with this person for at a minimum twenty hours. Make sure you’re going to connect with this person.
Once you’ve selected an instructor, you’ll have to figure out an aircraft to fly. There are many options for this, but the two most common are buying or renting. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Renting is somewhat less complicated. There’s no major upfront cost. The owner takes care of all the maintenance costs and hangaring. The bad thing is, it isn’t your aircraft. This means you won’t always be able to have access to the aircraft. Another thing is the aircraft could always go away at any time during your training. Buying can actually end up being the most cost effective way to accomplish your training. If you can handle the upfront cost, you can get your training done and sell the airplane for what you paid. We like helping people find and purchase the right aircraft for their goals.
Now that you’ve got an airplane, it’s time to start flying and studying. You’ll have to pass a written test before you finish your training. I always suggest getting this done before you start flying. What tends to happen if you start flying first, is you say you’ll study while you fly but then you don’t study but keep flying. Pretty soon you’re done flying and you haven’t passed your test. Now you have to stop and study. This means time will pass without you flying while you study. By the time you pass your test, you’ll have forgotten all the things you learned when flying. Then you’ll have to spend more money getting retrained and refreshed in maneuvers and procedures. Studying for the written exam can be accomplished a couple of ways. You can purchase a home-study ground school kit online or go to an actual in person ground school. There are a variety of home-study kits that can be found online or in pilot supply magazines. I suggest asking around and find the one that best suits your learning style. Once you’ve studied and feel you can pass the test, discuss it with your instructor and have him sign you off for the test. If you don’t like studying on your own and you need that push, I suggest an in person ground school. American Flyers is a company in our local area that does a weekend ground school. These are fairly simple but are like drinking out of a fire hose. You are basically in ground school from 8-5 Friday, Saturday, and most of Sunday. After you finish the school on Sunday, they sign you off and you take the written there. Once the written is passed, it’s on to the fun part of flying.
Forty hours are required to accomplish your private certificate at a minimum. Of this forty, twenty of these have to be with an instructor. There are a couple other requirements along the way with different sorts of time i.e. cross country, instrument training, night training, and landings. Once you’ve accomplished your training requirements, it will be time to prep for your check ride. The check ride will consist of a ground portion and a flight portion with an FAA examiner or a Designated Pilot Examiner. This is the final step before becoming a certificated pilot. Once the check ride is finished, there will be much rejoicing as you’ve joined a very elusive and elite club.
Below I’ve included a couple of tables to show some costs of pilot training options. These are just estimated costs for the minimum hours of flight. However, I always like to point out. If you went to purchase a new car, how much would you put down? $5000? $10,000? Would you pay cash outright? I think you’ll see that for the price you were willing to pay for that new car, you could learn to fly and fly all across the country for less than half of that new car. If you have any more questions please feel free to contact us or come out for a discovery flight.