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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Pathways To The Cockpit
Whether you want to fly for fun or as a career, there are many ways to become a pilot. Let’s examine some options.
When people wonder, “how do I become a pilot?” they only consider a few possibilities. But there are several ways to earn your wings. Because each person is unique and every prospective pilot wants to accomplish different goals, finding the right path is an essential first step. How can you get into the left seat?

The Military
Many people would suggest joining the military if you want to fly professionally. While that advice was good in decades past, it’s less so today. Sure, the military provides unmatched pilot training. The problem is that modern technology has reduced the number of pilots the military needs. These days, there are roughly 800 to 1,000 pilot slots per year in the U.S. Air Force, and being selected for one isn’t easy. Today, becoming a military pilot requires a 10-year service commitment, a college degree, a rigorous medical screening exam and high scores on different aptitude tests.

Local Airport Flight School
The flight-training facility at your local airport is also called a “fixed base operator” (FBO) and could include other aviation services. These flight schools are a convenient way to earn your private pilot certificate and advanced ratings. Advantages include proximity to home, a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and scheduling around your job.

Drawbacks of local FBOs include aircraft that may be older, small training fleets that could mean scheduling conflicts, high instructor turnover and costs that vary widely. That easygoing training schedule could lengthen the time it takes you to earn your ratings.

Independent Instructors
Some instructors aren’t affiliated with any specific flight school; these people might instruct in their own airplane and could be less expensive than local FBOs. Freelance instructors advertise on airport bulletin boards, at airport cafés and by word of mouth. Ask around about an instructor, interview her or him first, and agree to a few “shake out” flights to see if you both get along.

Training Academies
Training academies are facilities that offer intense, focused pilot training—usually to airline standards. The goal of a training academy is to immerse you in aviation to get you trained quickly. Accelerated training comes at a price: academies are neither cheap nor lax. While you can be in the right seat of a regional jet quickly, it will require complete dedication, considerable financial and time resources, and personal discipline.

Some academies have specialized programs or train pilots for specific airlines, like Westwind School of Aeronautics’ Boeing 737 program and its affiliation with Colgan Air. FTSI’s CAPT program and FlightSafety feed several regional airlines and offer curriculums from zero time to first officer. Some, such as ATP, have multiple training sites.

Degree Flying Programs
Several colleges and universities across the country offer accredited degree programs that include earning all your ratings. These schools offer both the academic and the flight-training pieces of the flying career puzzle. While these require a minimum two-year commitment (to earn at least an associate degree), their focused programs yield graduates who are in high demand with airlines and corporate flying departments. Some schools are reasonably priced, and their degree will give you something substantial to fall back on if you ever leave flying.

Airline Transport Professionals (ATP) Fixed-cost pricing. Fixed-length curriculum. Emphasis on multi-engine experience and cross-country flying. 23 locations nationwide.
American Flyers Finish-up programs for pilots who started their training elsewhere. Full training also available.
Arizona State University Year-round flying weather. Large variety of majors, including air trafPc management.
Baylor Institute For Air Science Earth-and environment-centric programs are designed to foster environmental care through scientist-pilots.
Daniel Webster College Bachelor and associate programs. Offers “ACE” aviation camps for high schoolers.
Delta Connection Academy Subsidiary of Delta Airlines with 17 years in business. Excellent reputation and international students.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University 35 aviation degrees to choose from. Industry leader has brand-new all-glass training fleet.
FlightSafety Academy Advanced-technology learning facilities and simulators. “Business Jet Direct” program. Safety emphasized.
Flight Training Services International (FTSI) Offers Commercial Airline Pilot Training (CAPT) program. Advanced training environment with camera-equipped simulators, flight videos and Avidyne panels. Mirrors military training.
Florida Institute of Technology AfPliated with American Eagle. Offers personal attention, Piper and SR22 fleet, and aerobatic training.
Gulfstream Training Academy Airline training. Students fly international routes to Havana in turbine aircraft. Accelerated program.
Hillsboro Aviation 170-aircraft training fleet. Second-largest helicopter-training program in the United States. www.hillsboro
Kansas State University Actively recruits women. Programs include glider training.
Lewis University Catholic and Lasallian university. Several aviation majors.
Middle Georgia College Beautiful campus. Eight degree programs; 19 certiPcate programs. Fixed-wing and helicopter training.
Mountain State University with Flight Training by ATP MSU offers an on-line aviation bachelor's degree program that includes ATP's Airline Career Pilot Program flight training. 23 locations nationwide.
Oklahoma State University Low tuition (currently about $60,000, including flight training). Out-of-state tuition waivers.
Parks College of St. Louis Jesuit, Catholic university. Engineering and flight science major/minor.
Phoenix East Aviation Reasonably priced. Specializes in foreign students.
Purdue University Rich training history. Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra was outPtted at Purdue’s Hangar 1.
San Juan College Low tuition and living costs. New Mexico area boasts great flying weather year-round. Several degree programs.
Southeastern Oklahoma State University Cessna training fleet includes a twin-engine 310R. Out-of-state tuition wavers.
Southern Illinois University Students fly faculty executives and medical-school missions. Internships with eight airlines. Turbine transition course. King Air simulators.
Spartan College of Aeronautics 80 years of aviation training. Excellent reputation. Multi-engine experience during primary training.
TransPac Aviation Academy Formerly Pan Am International Flight Academy. Strong foreign airline program. On-site, round-the-clock maintenance facility.
Twin5ight San Diego, Calif., location offers 155 hours of hands-on multi-engine time.
University of Cincinnati— Clermont College Two-year Professional Pilot Program offered in conjunction with Sporty’s Academy.
University of Dubuque Airline internships and bridge programs.
University of North Dakota Offers liberal arts degree, bridge program to Jet Blue, and SR20 and Piper fleet.
US Flight Academy Large training fleet includes Diamond, Remos, Cessna and Piper aircraft. Offers helicopter training and Texas location.
Utah Valley University Online programs available. Affordable price. Year-round flying location. Airline afPliations.
Westminster College Liberal arts approach. Offers aerobatics. Trains at Class B airport.
Westwind School of Aeronautics 737 course. Students don’t prepay. No training contract. New training fleet. AfPliated with Colgan Air.

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