Plane & Pilot
Thursday, July 1, 2004

Challenge Yourself

There are lots of ways to have more flying fun. But if you sign up for advanced ratings, you’ll also end up being a better pilot.

Challenge YourselfNo question about it—earning the private license is a major accomplishment. Some pilots will never need to seek additional ratings. The private allows pilots to operate in a wide variety of conditions, and many aviators content themselves with the entry-level ticket.
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Lighter Than Air
Hot-Air Balloon: There was a time when you could “earn” a hot-air balloon rating by simply filling out a form. I have a good friend who did just that and was granted the ticket without ever having set foot in the balloon gondola.

That’s not the case anymore. These days, you need 10 hours in free balloons with at least six flights with a commercial-rated balloon pilot (apparently, there are very few balloon instructors available). Additionally, you’ll need to have logged two flights of at least two hours duration in a gas balloon or one hour in a hot-air balloon and one ascent to 3,000 feet AGL (gas) or 2,000 feet AGL (hot-air) and one solo flight.

Airships: For those aviators who wish to fly what the Navy used to call “Poopy Bags,” the requirement is for at least 25 hours of total time, with three hours of cross country and three hours of flight training at night. Now, go out and try to rent one.

Helicopter: Like the multi-engine rating, the helicopter rating is one of those that is difficult to use after you earn the ticket unless you plan to buy your own helicopter. If you thought multi-engine airplanes were expensive to rent, helicopters elevate rates to a whole new level. Again, a newly rated helicopter pilot will be hard-pressed to find anyone who will allow him to rent at any price because of insurance requirements.

As with the airplane private-pilot rating, the minimum qualification is 40 hours, with 20 hours of flight instruction, including three hours of cross country, three hours of night flying with 10 landings, three hours of test preparation and 10 hours of solo flight. Don’t expect to get away with less than 55 to 60 hours before you’re ready to take the ride.

Gyroplane: One of the toughest requirements for a gyroplane rating is simply finding a place where you can train. There are precious few individuals or schools that offer a gyroplane license.

Requirements for the gyroplane rating are essentially the same as the helicopter ratings. Analogizing gyroplanes with helicopters is a little surprising, considering that gyroplanes fly more like fixed-wing airplanes than helicopters.

Few pilots who have pushed themselves to reach new heights in training find anything to complain about. And there is one thing that we can always rely on: All that extra time training and getting new ratings inevitably leads to new levels of skill.


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