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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What’s It Like?
Typically, students start with a familiarization flight in which the basics of flight are introduced. An instructor will review the school’s training syllabus and what will be expected of you. You’ll be given direction as to what additional materials you’ll need and go through an identification/security process.

Once you’ve begun training, you’ll arrive at the airport having read and studied a specific area of aeronautical knowledge. Your instructor will brief you on what you’ll cover in the air that day. In aviation, you must perfect both aeronautical knowledge and physical flying skill.

For each lesson, you’ll take to the sky in the pilot’s seat. You’ll spend about an hour practicing different maneuvers and procedures with your instructor. Your mind will fill with new knowledge, and you’ll race to absorb it all. The exhilaration and adrenaline you’ll feel is unparalleled!

As time goes on, you’ll become one with your craft and effortlessly control your airplane, work the radio, navigate and maintain spatial awareness—all at once. When your instructor feels you’re ready, you’ll be set loose in the airplane, all alone, to complete your first solo flight—an important rite of passage.

You’ll spend many hours flying “cross-countries” (flying to an airport at least 50 miles away). You’ll experience night flying, flying by instruments, flying in wind and a dozen other things.

Once you’ve passed the written exam and fulfilled your flight-time requirements, you’ll take your checkride, the last milestone of the pilot certificate. There, your aviation knowledge and flying skills will be tested and evaluated by a special FAA pilot examiner. If you pass his or her careful scrutiny, you’ll be awarded your pilot certificate.

What You Really Need
Forget the gadgets and gizmos that tempt you as soon as you begin flight training. In addition to the training syllabus recommended by your school, you’ll need only a few basics:

Item Cost Comments
Logbook $6–$25 Where you track your flight time, flight instruction and instructor endorsements. The price reflects workmanship more than utility.
Headset $100–$1,000 Personal preference plays a big part here. These protect your hearing and allow you to communicate with ATC.
Sunglasses $10 and up Though glare and ultraviolet radiation when flying are real issues, special sunglasses aren’t necessary. Whether cheap or expensive, look for UV protection and comfort.
Plotter $6–$15
A plastic ruler device used for laying out navigation courses.
E6B computer $8–$75
This device allows you to perform various aviation calculations. You can buy a manual version or the electronic, calculator-like one.
Charts $8
Pilots call maps “charts.” You’ll need a sectional chart for your flight-training area. Your instructor will guide you here.
Airport/Facility Directory (A/FD) $5 A special directory of all airports and landing sites in your geographical area. You’ll use it during cross-country navigation.
Flight bag
A place in which to carry all your stuff back and forth to the airplane. It can be a small backpack or fancy case, but make sure it’s light, durable and fits into small areas.
Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)
Prices vary
A pilot’s “Bible.” It contains the officially recognized procedures used by pilots. These come out yearly.
Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH)
This is like the “owner’s manual” for your training airplane. You’ll need one specific to your airplane.


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