The following is a guest post by one of our students who has earned her private pilot’s certificate and continues to fly with us – Bobbie Lind.
One of the best things I ever did for myself was learning to fly. It was challenging, fun, exhilarating, frustrating at times and ultimately the most freeing experience of my life. And that’s just the last flight I took.
Being a pilot has some awesome benefits. Very few of my friends fly so I have the cool factor of being the only pilot in the group. I can get to a place for lunch and back again that would take all day or more in a car. And when the kids bring home their class mascots we take them flying.
For the last 4 years, whenever I talk to someone who is not a pilot I get asked the same question. “What does it take to learn to fly”? Now, you can do a lot of research online to get different variations of answers for this question. You can even read this blog post here on Del Sol’s website.
I’m going to answer this question a little differently. It takes 3 things to learn to fly.
This is your why. Why do you WANT to learn to fly? What is the driving reason that makes you interested in learning to fly? In my opinion, this is the single most important thing about learning to fly.
Because it is your motivation – and ultimately, it’s what will keep you going through some of your tougher lessons.
Some pilots want to make a career out of it. Some pilots want to further their business by reducing travel time. Other pilots grew up in aviation following their parents or grandparents around the airport.
Me, I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to break free of the rut and monotony I was in. I wanted freedom and excitement. And I wanted to do something that very few people ever do. So, I called up Del Sol and started my flight training.
Knowing this why for me helped to get me over some of the slumps student pilot’s experience. I was on track to do something cool. Every time I would land the plane during one of our lessons I had a huge smile on my face. And when my friends and coworkers asked how flying was going I had a huge smile on my face. I was constantly reminded of my why. And that kept me motivated to complete my training.
There are several things that anyone can do before they call their local flight school. It will significantly help them on their journey to being a pilot. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a great start.
First, understand that learning to fly is an investment. In yourself and in safety. And it’s best not to look for the cheapest deal when you are investing in yourself and your safety. Some operations that have super low prices cut corners and skimp on the quality of your training. Now, not always…but sometimes.
Quality of training and Value are more important that the overall costs. That’s not to say that I would go to the most expensive flight school either. Which school gives you the best instructors? Can the school teach you in a way that you understand? Does the school have planes that give you a solid foundation in flying (and it’s not always the ones with all electronic gadgets and gizmos).
Secondly, there are a few things you can learn – or start learning – before you even take your first flight lesson.
Weather and weather patterns. It is so critical to flying that you can never have too much information about weather and what it means. Understand clouds and what they mean. Understand what the forecast means. You don’t have to get specific into aviation forecasting as you will learn that in your lessons, but a basic understanding of weather and clouds will go a long way in your training.
Airport signage is another thing you can easily find online and start learning. Here is a great PDF put out by AOPA to get you started. Most types of flying have you taking off or landing on an airport. The markings, lighting and basic operations of an airport are critical. And you can test yourself even if you get on an airliner by looking out the window and seeing if you can tell where you are, what the markings mean, and what taxiways and runway you are on.
The last thing it takes to learn to fly is participation. This is where you really start doing things to learn to fly.
Go and get your 3rd class medical. This is when you visit an Aviation Medical Examiner. This is not your regular family practice doctor, but a doctor who has been certified by the FAA to give Aviation medical exams. You can find a list of them in your area here. If it is your first aviation medical you will get your student pilot certificate with your passed medical paperwork.
Getting your medical and student pilot certificate out of the way first is helpful for a few reasons. If you have any concerns about medications you are taking or your past medical history you can work with the physician to understand what does and does not affect your abilities to fly. It is one way to save money before learning to fly. Let me be clear though, you DO NOT need your medical and student pilot certificate to start learning to fly. You do, however, need them before you can solo the plane.
Call the flight school of your choice and schedule a discovery flight or your first lesson. If the school offers discovery flights take that choice. It is actual flying and gives you a good introduction into what you can expect for additional lessons.
Lastly, be an active participant in your training. Ask questions, keep track of the flying you are doing and be vocal about what you like and what you are struggling with. It will help your instructor to tailor the lessons to you and will make your flight lessons much more enjoyable for you.
There you have it. It only takes 3 things to learn to fly…. Purpose, Preparation, Participation. With those 3 things in mind your future as a pilot should be a bright, safe and exciting one.
If you’re a pilot, how do you answer the question “What does it take to learn to fly”? Do you have any additional insight to potential pilots on what they need to do to learn? Do you have any resources that you point pilots to? Let us know in the comments.