Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Do Something Magical: Learn To Fly

Innovation continues to change flight training, but it’s still about the fun

Learning to fly takes commitment and dedication, but opens the door to a new world of adventure.
I'm still learning to fly. Even three decades after earning my private pilot certificate at 17, I'm still a student pilot, and I'm okay with it. I've learned it doesn't matter where you are on the grand road of aviation, an ATP or a newbie taking your first lesson in a Cessna Skycatcher. What matters is that you're on that road. It's something that makes aviators special; we all begin at the same place and never stop learning.

Just about anybody can learn to fly. I've met thousands of pilots during my time in aviation, and they run the gamut in terms of ability, intelligence, skill and physical shape. The common denominator in each one is the burning desire to fly and the drive to challenge themselves to achieve a goal that only a tiny percentage of the world ever will.

As we ease into the new year, many of you have put "learn to fly" on your resolution list. I'm going to let you in on a little aviation secret: Once you've dreamt about flying, you'll never stop. You might as well hang on because you're in for the ride of your life.

Flying's Fuel: Passion
Flying is fun; really fun. In fact, it's a lot more than just "fun," and our English language comes up short in providing words that can describe it fully. There are elements of great challenge—both physical and mental—that give way to great washes of peace and tranquility. There's the acquisition of a skill and the elation of using it to its ideal. There's the deep satisfaction of taking your aircraft like an artist takes a brush, in preparation of doing something magical.

And for all pilots, there's that reverent moment when you're strapping yourself into the airplane and, for the first time, you feel like you're putting it on, like you're wearing it. Flying then becomes a dance between just you and the clouds, separated from the Earth by a lot more than just distance. It's when you and the airplane are one, and you don't so much move the stick as you think the maneuver— and the airplane obeys. Those are the best days in flying.

I talked to pilots young and old to explain the lure of the sky and to hear the real voice of aviation. One thing they all share is passion, and it seems to be the key ingredient in aviation.

Karissa Hess is only 15 years old but already has a burning desire to fly. She has always imagined what it would be like to be in the air, and she got to experience it for the first time in an open-cockpit biplane, which only served to cement her goal to become a pilot. Her parents don't love the idea of her pursuing a life in the air, but for Hess, it's a calling that's been there since she can remember. "I've always wanted to be up high," she says, "getting a bigger perspective on the world." And her aviation plans? "I want to be an Air Force pilot! I think that would be really cool."


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