Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Paths To The Sky

So what’s it really like to go for your sport pilot ticket?

Atlanta pilot Glenn Kidd passed his light-sport checkride in just 32 flight hours in a German-built Fk9 Mk IV.
In the seven years since FAA created the sport pilot/light-sport aircraft (SP/LSA) category, even with economic woes, nearly 2,000 LSA now grace America’s skies. Because of the rule, we have recreational aircraft to fly locally or cross-country, at speeds of up to 120 knots, for hundreds of miles on a single tank-up. They land under 45 knots; you can do your own light maintenance; you can build one from a kit; most of all, they’re easy and fun to fly. All you need is training.

Spot landing in vats of butterscotch pudding? Short-field takeoffs over teacups filled with baby chihuahuas for prize money? Let’s hope we never see that reality TV show. But if audiences could vicariously get a feel for the joyful dream all pilots share, aviation might well bloom again. Every pilot starts with that dream: a magical compulsion to engage the mysteries of the sky. Let’s meet a few.

Finding Time

John Auchincloss is a lawyer at a busy financial firm, who faced a familiar challenge: how to find time to train. “I tried to fly every weekend,” he says after earning his license in 2010. “But travel and Northeast weather stretched it out.”

Auchincloss began with a bang at Technam Echo at Lockwood Aviation in Sebring, Fla. “I flew 20 hours in one week alone: twice a day, morning and afternoon.” Then weather and work took their toll, adding 40 more hours over eight months in a Flight Design CTLS.

Jeff Hudson
John Auchincloss
The busy lawyer reflects back on the biggest challenge with instructor John Lampson from Premier Flight in Hartford, Conn. “It took a lot of landings to get comfortable. Then, since we hadn’t done a lot of slow-flight or soft-field training, I struggled on the checkride...but got through it.”

One exciting moment came when the engine “sagged” 500 rpm just after liftoff.

“I was too far down the runway to abort, but had positive climb rate—I was solo—so I called the tower, went around and made a safe landing. We never found out what caused it. Perhaps it was water in the fuel, but that was sobering for a newbie. My earlier engine-out practice really helped.”

His checkride examiner was “determined to do every last thing. We had a three-hour oral and two hours for the practical. But he was a good guy who was out to teach me the right way to do it. Once I demonstrated it properly, he passed me. I learned a lot from him.”

With a brand-new CTLS coming his way soon, John Auchincloss plans to continue his training. “You’re more likely to be a safer pilot.”


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