Leonardo da Vinci once said, “For once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” There are more than 600,000 registered pilots in the United States, and each of them can relate to this quote.
Whether you’ve longed to be in the air from the very first time you spotted an airplane, or you realized much later in life that you wanted to know what the world was like six miles above the ground, the journey to gaining your pilot’s license is an experience that’s sure to forever change the way you view the world.
In order to truly understand what the experience of working toward a pilot’s license feels like, I invite you to remember the feeling you had when you were working toward obtaining your driver’s license—the freedom it provided you and your friends during high school, the sense of adventure and independence you felt when you finally passed the test. Once you’re fully reminiscing about how much fun those escapades were, throw that experience completely out the window, because obtaining a pilot’s license will be exponentially greater.
No matter what age you are, I can promise that becoming a pilot entirely changes your perspective of the world. For the very first time, you’ll have the ability to hop into an airplane just to fly to a different state for lunch and be back home in time for dinner with your family. You’ll be able to get behind the wheel of an airplane to make it to a series of meetings in different states in one day, which would otherwise be impossible. Not in the mood to deal with the rainy, cold and cloudy weather outside? Well, with your pilot’s license, you’ll be able to get in an airplane, climb a few thousand feet above the ground and break through the blanket of white, puffy clouds covering Earth to experience a beautiful, sunny day, while the rest of your neighbors experience the dreary day below.
I’ve had my private pilot’s license for more than seven years, and I’ve accumulated some amazing experiences during my 1,300 hours of flight time in more than 36 different types of aircrafts. I’ve had the opportunity to fly throughout Canada, the United States and even certain parts of the Caribbean. I’ve done everything from experiencing majestic landscapes and sights from seven miles above Earth, to traveling in a military fighter jet a few hundred feet off of an ocean deck at supersonic speeds—and everything in between.
|FOR THE LOVE OF FLYING. As a representative of the FAA, Jamail Larkins promotes aviation career opportunities to America’s youth, sharing his love of flight.|
Now that I’ve shared with you the unbelievable benefits of learning to fly and obtaining your pilot’s license, I also must share some of the challenging aspects of learning to fly. You have to make sure you’re fully committed to this industry, because it’s going to take a substantial amount of time, energy and effort to obtain your license. You’ll also spend countless hours studying for your private pilot written exam and preparing for your oral examination—not to mention the numerous practice flights you’ll have to take in preparation for your practical exam.
All of this can be extremely stressful, sometimes even frustrating and exhausting. Despite how overwhelmed you may feel at times, I urge you to hang in there and stick with your training regimen. Expect the first few lessons to be hard. Reading and, more importantly, understanding all of the instruments inside of the cockpit, trying to figure out how to make the airplane do what you want it to do and even steering with your feet will all take some time. If you stick with this major investment, however, you’ll be rewarded with an unbelievable gift—the gift of flight.
Regardless of which aspect of aviation may most interest you, there’s some segment that will keep and hold your attention for a lifetime. Here are a few tips I’ve compiled to help you make the most out of your journey toward your pilot’s license:
1) Come to the airport prepared for each flying lesson. If your instructor informs you that, on your very next lesson, you’ll cover turns, climbs and descents, come prepared. Before the lesson, read up on the factors of lift; what controls an airplane on the vertical, horizontal and yaw axis; and how drag and angle of attack affect airspeed and lift. By doing this, your lessons will be a lot smoother and quicker, and you may even have the chance to try new or different things with the time you save. This not only will make your learning experience easier, but also will make it significantly less expensive.
2) Find the right instructor for you. Every student has a different method of learning, and every instructor has a different method of teaching. You and your instructor will be spending a significant amount of time together, in very close quarters, so it’s crucial to make sure your personalities match. This will ensure that you have the optimal learning environment and experience.
3) Get a mentor. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) operates a program called Project Pilot (www.aopaprojectpilot.org) that links established pilots with private pilot students trying to obtain their pilot’s license. With a mentor on your side, you’ll have someone who knows what you’re going through, someone you can lean on through the tough times and a personal “cheerleader” helping you along the way who will be there for you through all the highs and lows.
4) Last but not least, enjoy the moment. When you’re learning how to fly, it’s easy to get caught up in regulations, procedures and technicalities of flight. While all of these are important, don’t ever lose sight of the primary reason you decided to learn to fly in the first place. You’re experiencing something that the majority of the population will never have the chance to try—something that will open your eyes to unbelievable opportunities. So enjoy it…don’t lose sight of the thrill of flight!
These four tips may sound very simple, but following the above basic guidelines and the advice from your mentors will allow you to become a safe pilot who can enjoy the excitement of general aviation a lot quicker, cheaper and easier than you can possibly imagine.