Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Learn To Fly: Fun Things You Can Do With Your Certificate

Flying an airplane is an unmatched experience, and you can do some amazing things once you earn your certificate

learn to flyAh, if only you knew how to fly! You could escape the shackles of your humdrum life and soar above its stresses. You could wake up in Nebraska, eat a cheeseburger for lunch in Colorado and settle in for the night on a crystal lake in Idaho. You could fly biplanes or jets or spiffy little yellow Cubs with smiling bears painted on their tails. But how much will it cost, how long will it take and how safe is it? What can you do with a pilot’s license?
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Make Lifelong Friends
Pilots are special people. It’s a simple truth that flinging an aircraft through the air, a mile or more above the ground at three-digit speeds, is something not everybody does. The ability to do it safely, combined with a love and passion for airplanes and flying, bonds pilots together on a deep level.

Stand around any airport or stick your head into an open hangar, and you’ll soon be welcomed by a smiling pilot or two. Aviators are people who live life to the fullest and are enthralled and nourished by aviation and the airplanes within it.

As a pilot, you’ll take part in the time-honored “$100 hamburger,” a term used to humorously describe flying to another airport just to eat lunch. Pilots joke that the hamburger ends up costing $100 by the time you factor in the airplane cost. These are get-togethers where pilots hang out, admire each other’s airplanes, do a little hangar flying (good-natured bragging) and take to the skies on beautiful weekends.

learning to fly
To view at a larger scale, please click on the images above.
learning to fly learning to fly

learning to fly To view at a larger scale, please click on the image above.
Challenge Yourself
Where much is given, much is expected. This holds true in aviation as well as in life. As you learn to fly, you’ll learn about yourself; the sense of accomplishment and pride you’ll feel is due to the mental and physical challenge that flying entails. While it’s not difficult, flying does demand study, concentration and energy. Because you’ll never stop learning about aviation, there are many paths open for pilots to challenge themselves further.

Aerobatics is one area to explore after you get your private pilot certificate. Aerobatics is like aerial ballet. It’s making your aircraft do what you want it to do, in three dimensions. Aerobatics is a high-performance activity, and it demands stamina and constant practice, but it’s rewarding and incredibly fun.

Mountain and bush flying present special challenges for pilots. Many flight schools offer specialized courses in these specific areas. Becoming proficient at this type of flying is a real kick in the pants. Air-camping next to your airplane and seeing what this great country has to offer from the air is an unmatched experience.

Other things to do with your pilot certificate include tailwheel flying (usually classic or antique airplanes), flying on snow or experiencing the amazing world of floatplanes (flown on water). If you do nothing else after earning your certificate, then at least get a few hours of floatplane or seaplane flying on some pristine lake—more than likely, you’ll be hooked for life!

learn to fly
Private pilot students must fly for a minimum of 40 hours—though most average 55 to 65 hours—before they can qualify for the private pilot certificate.
Stand As A Unique Individual
When you earn your private pilot certificate, you’ll be joining the one-tenth of one percent of the population that knows how to fly an airplane. Phrases like “three-niner whiskey, level at five thousand” will roll off your tongue like a fast-food order. (You’ll also be able to go on dates in style. How many ground-dwellers can offer their spouse or date a romantic dinner followed by seeing the lights of the city twinkle from a mile up in the sky?)

You’ll take part in weekend fly-ins and huge aviation events, e.g., the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) AirVenture convention that pilots simply call “Oshkosh.” It’s a week of air shows, seminars and exhibits of and about flying that’s held annually in Oshkosh, Wis. You can travel to Florida for the annual Sun ’n Fun Fly-In where pilots from across the nation come to drink from the fountain of aviation. You can fly across the country and write a book, or take photographs of the patchwork quilt of small airstrips that dot the nation. You’ll experience a freedom that few others have tasted.

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