|SHARING PASSION. Jeff, an aviation marketing consultant, Chris, a NetJets pilot, and the J-3 that made all the difference.|
There was a time when aviation seemed to be a distant world, out of my reach. I didn’t know any pilots, and as far as I knew, you had to be in the military or have millions of dollars to become one. While my classmates forged ahead on paths to become doctors and lawyers, I stumbled around, sneaking peeks at airplanes passing overhead and memorizing the aviation alphabet. But, one day, everything changed. I met Jeff Russell, a private pilot who introduced me to his J-3 Cub—a cheerful yellow two-seat plane that greeted me with a smile wrapped around its 65 hp Continental engine. Instructor Chris Nesin and I filled Three Zero Hotel with auto gas, and up we went. It may have been a flight to nowhere—we flew patterns on a remote grass strip—but it took me everywhere. With the first entry in my logbook, there was no turning back.
Recent letters from readers asking how to turn their flying dreams to reality have reminded me that my quandary wasn’t uncommon. This month, we look at what you need to earn your wings: training requirements, flight schools and academies, estimated expenses and much more. Jamail Larkins, an ambassador of aviation education for the FAA, details the rewards and challenges of earning a pilot license, and offers tips to make the process simpler and easier. One important piece of advice from Jamail is to find an instructor who’s right for you. We take this one step further and ask our “dream team” of flight instructors to provide pointers. John and Martha King of King Schools discuss managing risk, and Hal Shevers of Sporty’s helps us stay safe during instrument approaches. Patty Wagstaff applies techniques she has learned as a national aerobatic champion, and mountain-flying expert Lori McCall shares the importance of mastering airspeed control in challenging environments.
As part of this issue’s “learn to fly” theme, Marc Lee flies the latest model of the Liberty XL2. Liberty touts the Vanguard as a great trainer, but we think the two-seater is much more. “It feels like a comfortable cross-country airplane,” reports Marc on the fully IFR-certified plane. “It has that auto-like comfort factor and smooth-flying character.” Visit our online home for video footage of Bill Cox flying our air-to-air photo shoot low over the blue waters and rocky western shore of Catalina Island. With such a dramatic backdrop, you might not guess we were just 30 nm from the downtown Los Angeles skyline.
Another spectacular setting that we visit is the rugged Canyonlands of Utah, where Jim Lawrence experiences the extreme in Todd Peterson’s 300 hp brainchild, the King Katmai. They operate the super-STOL Cessna 182 conversion out of craggy dirt strips in deep canyons, with landing distances as short as 200 feet.
Whether you’re a seasoned bush pilot or the ink on the first page of your logbook is still wet, all of us started at the same place: the beginning. Your path to the skies may not be straightforward, but don’t let that discourage you. Students can obtain training materials at www.learntoflykit.com, and we invite everyone to visit our page on Facebook.com (search: Plane & Pilot Magazine) to view updates, photos and videos and to network with other pilots. We hope Plane & Pilot will inspire you to persevere with your passions, just as Jeff, Chris and the J-3 did for me.