Plane & Pilot
Saturday, March 1, 2008

Learn To Fly: March 2008

Becoming a pilot is a dream for many. Here we present the basics to help you make that dream a reality.

learn to flyTo learn to fly is to step off the precipice of the ordinary and mundane. It’s a step into a new world that challenges your mind and senses, and rewards you like nothing you’ve ever dreamed of. To become a pilot is to see the face of our planet from the vantage point of angels.
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How Long Will It Take?
Learning to fly is a funny thing; it gives back only what you put in. You can’t “fake” your way through flight instruction with minimum effort. Piloting demands your very best, so you must make up your mind that you’ll be dedicated to this thing called flying.

Experience shows that taking a minimum of two or three lessons per week is the best way to become a pilot. There are “total immersion” programs available where you fly every day—sometimes twice a day—and finish faster. Stretching out your training too much makes it difficult to retain your flying skills. Repeating lessons increases your costs and leads to frustration. Many a pilot-to-be has quit because she or he took too long and lost interest.

Though the FAA requires only 40 hours in the air, in practice, few people earn a certificate that quickly. The national average is between 60 and 70 hours. Flying four times a week, you could earn your certificate in about three months. If you remember that everyone learns at a different pace, you’ll be less likely to compare your progress to someone else’s.

learn to flyHow Much Will It Cost?
You’ll pay an hourly rate for both the airplane and instructor. Most schools typically schedule a two-hour block per lesson that includes a preflight briefing, flight instruction and postflight review. Hourly rates depend on the type and size of airplane chosen for training and the part of the country you live in. A newer, fully equipped four-seat trainer in Los Angeles will be more expensive than an aged two-seater with basic instruments in the Midwest. Instructor rates vary equally.

You’ll need materials and equipment to augment your flight training. You can save a lot of money by being frugal in this area. Headsets can be borrowed or purchased used on eBay. Learning materials can be found at a library or perhaps a used bookstore. Fancy sunglasses, watches and jackets are unnecessary. There are only a few basics you need.

You can safely expect to spend between $6,000 and $9,000 total to earn your private certificate. The wide swing is due to variables like fuel cost, airplane size, learning ability, geographic location, frequency of training, etc. There are programs available that offer a fixed-cost package as long as you learn at their pace. Airline fast-track curricula also are available that give a discount for including several certificates and ratings in one package, done back-to-back and full-time.

Where Do I Go To Learn?
Start by visiting your local airport. Nearly every airport has a flight school on the field. In pilot parlance, these are called FBOs (which stands for fixed-base operators). The differences between FBOs are as numerous as airports themselves. There are tiny schools with just one airplane or huge schools with fleets of airplanes. At one FBO you’ll find scores of young instructors working toward airline and corporate jobs, while at another you’ll find a seasoned veteran or two instructing because they love to teach. Each has its merits.

At some airports, there are control towers and multiple runways, while at others, you may find a single grass runway with no tower at all. Some schools teach in high-wing airplanes and some in low-wing. While pilots forever argue the benefits of each, in the end it makes little difference. All pilots must pass the same tests and meet the same requirements before they become certified.


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