|When Kristin Henry’s dad bought a Cessna 152, he offered his young daughter the opportunity to learn to fly. Not only did she grab it, but she took flight training further than most people her age even imagine.|
The sun wasn't up yet, but Kristin and her father were. She was already busy preflighting the family’s Cessna 152 for a flight from their home in Sea Ridge, Ark., all the way across the state to Jonesboro, Ark. A dozen hours, two oral exams and two check rides later, Kristin would be back home with two new ratings in her hand—a private-pilot license and an instrument-pilot rating she earned that day. Not a bad present on your 17th birthday.
“It was a dream come true,” says Kristin. “I had been flying for so long, and then all of sudden, I had my private and my instrument on the same day. It was awesome!” Kristin started taking flight lessons at the age of 14.
“We had to make several calls to different FAA examiners before we finally found someone who would give Kristin both check rides on the same day,” remembers Greg Henry, Kristin’s father. “Some people told us it couldn’t be done, but we kept calling until we reached David Vaughn in Jonesboro.”
“It was the first time that I had done something like that,” says Vaughn. “I was amazed that she flew all the way down here, flew the private check ride, flew the instrument check ride and then flew home! It was fun for me. I’ve been doing this for 14 years, and I’ve never done a private and an instrument on the same day for the same person, especially for a 17-year-old girl on her birthday!”
But like anyone sitting in the left seat with an FAA examiner, Kristin was sweating bullets. “It was a cold day, and Mr. Vaughn kept turning up the heater. Of course, that only made me sweat more!” she remembers.
Little by little, she accomplished the items David Vaughn asked of her. “There was a lot of wind that day, so it made the instrument approaches really fun! And before the check ride, I was having a hard time with holding patterns, but I nailed them for Mr. Vaughn.”
When Kristin began her flight training nearly three years earlier, none of her friends quite knew what to think. “My friends thought it was pretty cool, but when most of them think of flying, they think of Boeing 737s.” When her father purchased a C-152 and offered to pay for her flight instruction, Kristin jumped at the chance.
“I remember the first time I did stalls. My dad had really psyched me up, but I was scared to death—scared to stall the airplane. But I got over it. I had an excellent instructor who always encouraged me. Once I finally got the hang of landings, I suddenly thought, ‘Hey, this is something I can probably do!’” Now there’s no stopping her.
“I’ve started working on my commercial-pilot rating, so I’m building hours,” says Kristin. She also has begun advertising herself as a ferry pilot. So far, she has delivered two airplanes for customers, one to Boston and the other to Tampa, Fla. “I was scared that when I showed up to pick up an airplane to ferry, the owner would say, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re just a kid!’ But that didn’t happen, and both of the airplanes got there, so I guess they’re happy about it.” Her father accompanied her on both flights.
As senior in high school with a 4.2 GPA, Kristin is planning to become a college student very soon. She has applied to both the Air Force Academy and MIT.
“I’d like to be an aeronautical engineer or maybe a test pilot,” says Kristin. “There are a lot of opportunities out there. You don’t have to be just an airline pilot.”
Now Kristin has an arrangement with the family airplane that many kids have with the family car: “Yes, you can use it, but you’re paying for the gas,” her dad told her.
“My dad takes care of the maintenance, but I pay for my own avgas,” she smiles. And like all high-school kids, she enjoys taking her friends along. She always asks her parents (and her friends’ parents) before she goes, and so far, she has never gotten a “no.”
“There are all kinds of kids who have never been in little planes,” she says. “And when I’m 18, I’m going to get my CFI [certified flight instructor] rating and teach them how to fly!”
Kristin has already begun telling her friends about how wonderful getting a pilot’s license can be. “It’s a lot more work than a lot of people think it is, but it’s so awesome!” she says. “It’s one of those things almost anyone can enjoy. It’s fast and exciting, so if you’re the kind of person who wants to go out and ride a motorcycle, you’ll love it. Or it can be very relaxing if you’re one of those kinds of people.” And if you ask Kristin which one of those people she is, the big smile on her face indicates she’s a little of both.
“Flying is absolutely unbeatable. There is nothing else like it!” says Kristin.
|LEARN TO FLY|
|Here’s the nitty-gritty on getting a pilot’s license|
| The Big Picture
There are now two types of pilot licenses: the traditional private-pilot license and the new sport-pilot license, each of which will allow you to fly an airplane and carry passengers.
Sport pilots may learn in light sport aircraft (LSA), a new category of plane with limited horsepower and speed capabilities. They may only carry one passenger and are limited to flying during daylight hours.
Private pilots can fly a wider variety of aircraft and are consequently subject to more training. The minimum training time for private pilots is 40 hours (although most pilots require more), while sport pilots require a minimum of 20 hours. Student pilots must be at least 17 to earn either license. Both licenses require ground training, some dual flight training and solo flight training followed by a practical test of your skills.
During groundschool, students learn about a variety of subjects, including weather, aviation rules and regulations, aerodynamics, navigation and flight planning, aircraft performance and more. At the end of the ground training, students take a multiple-choice and written test. A passing score of 70% or better is required before a student can receive a pilot’s license.
Dual Flight Training
Solo Flight Training
Before the solo flight, private-pilot applicants are required to pass an FAA medical examination performed by an approved physician. Sport pilots need only have a driver’s license and the acknowledgement that they have no preexisting medical conditions that could interfere with their ability to pilot an aircraft.
The Practical Test
The Cost Of Learning To Fly