Time for You to Fly One of the biggest moments of your life will occur on a relatively lonely airstrip with just one other person with you. And that will be the first time you actually take controls of an airplane and take it out on your first flight. This moment is what makes the difference between every other kind of training and the path you have chosen to get your pilot's license and become a pilot. While lots of schools have hands on training, taking an airplane into the sky is unlike any other classroom experience there is. But "flight school" would be pretty much useless if it didn't include actual air time where you are the one doing the flying. After all, once you pass the pilot's test, you will become certified by the FAA which means that you are qualified to fly an airplane and that you can take that plane up, handle different situations during the flight and return it to ground safely. When you get notification from your instructor when the day will be that your first training flight will be, you will probably be a bit nervous. It will be a nervousness that will be mixed with excitement. No doubt during the course of your training up until then you will have seen pictures of a cockpit and even sat in the aircraft learning the controls and gauges so you can tie your "book learning" to the live experience of flying an airplane. Pay lots of attention during the classroom part of your training. This isn't like studying English literature or American history. Every scrap of knowledge you get in the classroom will have direct and important application when that moment comes that you taxi that airplane out onto the runway to take it into the air. So learn and ask questions and leave no stone unturned in your eager quest to conquer every detail of this complicated and important field of learning. The thing to remember as you strap into the pilots seat of that flight schools airplane for your first flight is your instructor will be there every step of the way and he or she won't let anything go wrong. The passenger seat of the cockpit of a training craft has parallel controls so if your instructor senses you need help, he can take over and demonstrate the technique for you in actual flight practice. There is no better learning situation than this. You will go through every aspect of the flight and there will be checklists of things to be mindful of from the moment you sit down at the controls to the end of the flight when you have landed the craft and step out of the plane with one flight successfully under your belt. Again, you will have covered all of this in class but you might feel overwhelmed when you are actually in the process of taking a flight out because you will not only have to remember dozens of things to check off, you are dealing with the sensations of flying an airplane. But don't worry because your instructor knows that especially on this first flight, you will not be an expert at every aspect of the flight. He will help you start the engine, taxi it onto the runway, interact with the tower and take off. During the flight, your instructor will be having as much fun as you watching you discover the fun of flying and banking the plane, gaining altitude, changing directions and dealing with shifts in the atmosphere around you. And when the time is right to land the plane, the most important part of the flight, your instructor will be very involved and maybe handle this first one for you so you can get on the ground safely with a good learning experience behind you. Pay attention, ask lots of questions and get comfortable with what is going on. If you feel some nervous jitters in your stomach, that's normal. Just breathe through them and remember your training. In the flights ahead, you will take over more and more of the controls until finally you are flying the airplane solo. But you will never forget that first time you took that airplane into the air and even though you were a student, you were taking that first important step toward becoming a pilot. It All Starts with Desire That first inner prompting that tells you that part of your destiny is to fly an airplane might just come when you watch airplanes take off and you can only think, "It would be so cool if I could do that." Sometimes we talk ourselves out of going for that dream thinking that only Air Force pilots or people who are on the path to fly jumbo jets can get a pilot's license. But really anybody can do it, even you! It might surprise you to learn that tens of thousands of people start out on the path to get a pilot's license each year and most of them do it not to become a professional pilot but just to pursue the dream. But it really all starts with that desire and that inner urging to at least try it. Once you get a pilot's license, there are a lot of practical ways you can put your love of flying to use. Sales people use it to get to more customers. Being able to fly your own airplane also opens up new ways to go see friends and loved ones. But even if you just want to fly for the sheer fun of it, it's still worth your while to look into how to get your pilot's license. All you have to do to start your path toward becoming a pilot is head out to the airport where there are hundreds of people who know the ropes of the airline industry. But for better results, don't go to the biggest airport in the region. In almost any major or medium sized city, there are small local airports that provide service to private pilots, business aircraft, helicopters and other specialized flying needs. It is there you find the true flying enthusiasts and it is there that you will find flying instructors mixing with mechanics and other airline industry professionals in a relatively relaxed setting. The first milestone of your search is to meet a few flying instructors who can give you specifics on how to find out if you really have that inner drive to become a pilot. These small regional airports are often the homes of a number of flight schools who are always looking for customers and you can often find an instructor with an hour to kill who will give you a tour and help you get a basic understanding of the process you should plan to go through to get your pilot's license. Once you make contact with a mentor who can guide you in how to go forward with your flight training, he will get to know you and your goals. Many flight schools have the flexibility to design a program around what you want to do with your pilot's license. There are several levels of pilot's certification so you don't necessarily have to aim for the highest and most expensive license which would make you able to fly for American Airlines. If you just want to take some short flights around for fun, a sports or recreational license is a perfect fit for you and the flight school can get you there efficiently. Even on that first interview with your instructor and the school, you may get offered a chance to go up in one of the school's planes and even to sit in the pilot's seat. These aircraft are designed so the instructor can control the plane from his seat too so you can hold the controls and put your feet on the pedals that control acceleration and lift and as they move in reaction to the instructors movements, it will feel like you are flying that plane. If that first experience permanently hooks you and confirms in your heart that flying an airplane yourself is a must do priority, then you are on your way to getting your pilot's license. You can get started the next time the school has a class scheduled and step by step move through the process of getting that license and becoming a pilot. Just take it on as an adventure, even a lark because even if sometime along the way, you change your mind, you can always come back later and pick up where you left off. The Fastest Way to Get Off the Ground If you were to interview many of the people who set off on that quest to get their pilot's license about their motivations, you would get answers all over the map. And for many the goals are quite ambitious and they might include starting their own private charter company, becoming a private pilot for a business like a church or an oil company or working up the system all the way to the top until they are able to fly the jumbo jets on exotic international flights. But for many of us, we just want to be able to fly for the sheer fun and joy of getting up there with the birds and enjoying the freedom of being airborne. This is just as respectable a goal as any of the others. And if you know your ambitions before you go into flight school, you can customize what you need and allow the school to tailor your program to your dreams so you get just the right amount of training and no less but also no more. The cool thing is that the FAA recognizes that many want to learn to fly because it's a wonderful hobby and to just have the fun of going up in an airplane under their own control from time to time. There is nothing wrong with knowing that is your level of interest and it's healthy for the airline industry when people express their fascination with flying by just using a pilot's license for the enjoyment of the sensation of flying an airplane to get above the landscape and have a fun afternoon doing so. So to respond to the interest in a level of licensing that fits your goals, the FAA introduced a "lighter" version of the pilot's license called the sports license that gives you the training and the certification to say you do know how to fly but it is a license that is custom made for the recreational pilot like yourself. This is a great response to the need for a type of pilot's license that is not so concentrated on a career in aviation or on the heavier level of responsibility and learning that a private pilot's license brings with it. The sports pilot's license has some restrictions but it allows you to enjoy flying lighter aircraft for short flights under controlled circumstances. This fits the "joy ride" desire that is exactly what attracted you to the hobby of flying in the first place. The category of aircraft you are certified to fly are called Light Sports Aircraft (LSA) and that category includes two passenger airplanes, gliders and even aircraft that are lighter than air like hot air balloons. So when you go to a balloon festival, most of the pilots of those balloons have sports pilot's licenses meaning they are qualified to fly at this level of aviation. The age restrictions for a sports license are pretty much the same as a private pilot's license but the medical requirements are not as strict and in most cases if you are medically qualified to have a driver's license to drive to the airstrip for the lessons, you are qualified to earn a sports pilot's license. You still have to go through flight training but the number of flight time hours are not as stressful and the written test is customized to the less demanding level of interest you have in flying. The great thing is that you can go ahead and get a sports pilot's license and begin enjoying flying on an occasional basis and stay at that level as long as you want. But if at some point down the road, you want to move on to a private pilot's license, all of your work on the sports license applies so you just have to "upgrade" your training to the more advanced certification. But with the sports license you can take a friend up for a flight, tour the local landscape or enjoy a quick flight to a neighboring town to visit friends or attend a sporting event. It is the fastest way to get up in the air but you are still a certified pilot so the FAA has recognized that you know what you are doing in the pilot's seat of an airplane. Testing Your Knowledge Before You Fly When you boil down to the basics of the things you must do before you can get a private pilot's license, it is basically three things. You must log 40-50 hours of flight time with your instructor with at least one solo flight in there. You must pass a flight test where an FAA examiner goes up in the airplane with you to check out your knowledge and skill in handling the aircraft. And you must be able to pass the FAA written pilot's license exam. Maybe because it's a written test, that exam is often the thing that is most intimidating to people. For many of us, fear of written exams starts in school. So the more you know how to pass that exam, the better prepared you will be when you go to the testing center to take the test. When you were in school, it was considered cheating to know what was on the exam before you took it. But your instructors and the FAA want you to pass this exam. So you can pretty much know the questions you are going to have to answer before you get there. When you attend flight school, almost all of the classroom time will be devoted to preparing you for this test. So they can help you get a feel for what is going to be asked. But you can also download from the internet preparation kits, test manuals and example tests that will have the contents of the test laid out for you. So before you start day one at ground school for getting your pilot's license, get a feel for what is needed to pass that test and make sure you capture that knowledge from class, the textbook or wherever you find it in your training. You can virtually build a data base with the answers they FAA test will want word for word and study that concentrated guide extensively before going for the test. There is just one thing that will defeat the jitters of taking the pilot's certification test and that is when your knowledge is so complete that there is literally nothing that they can ask you that you don't know well. So when you attend class at ground school, approach it differently than you might have at high school. Be an aggressive listener and note everything of substance that you will need. Go in there like a hungry bear and gobble up the knowledge the instructor has to share with you. If you miss even one little thing or don't understand something, ask questions. Sit on the front row so you don't miss a thing. In this way, you will walk out of each day in class with a complete encyclopedia of what was taught. Be just as aggressive about the text book and any supplemental material you can pull together. The pilot's exam is not a mysterious entity. Lots of people have taken it so you will be able to find a huge amount of information out there on what to expect. Eat that information up and go over it every day over and over again until it is deeply buried in your brain. Then when each question comes up, the answers will flow out just as naturally as telling someone your name when they ask. This approach to taking the pilot's certification test has a double value. By being very active and going after the knowledge you need, you are also putting all your energies into becoming a great pilot too. And then when you finally get your pilot's license and start pushing ahead in your career in aviation, your training will pay off over and over every time you take an airplane into the air. Step by Step to Flying Probably the first big step if you want to get moving on a career that involves flying an aircraft is to get a pilots license that enables you to serve as a private pilot. To put that in context, there are lesser pilot's licenses such as the student's license or the sports or recreational licenses but there are a lot of limitations on those licenses. If you want to be able to fly in support of your business (but not as your business) or to be able to fly with some freedom as part of your private life, a private pilots license is a good step and it's a natural first step even if you plan to go on to train to become a commercial pilot down the road. Like any other certification, the path to getting a private pilots license is fairly set in stone. You will have to be in the right age range as you cannot become a pilot if you are younger than 16. With that simple requirement out of the way, the step by step process toward finally realizing your dream of having a private pilot's license is: 1 - Research the flight schools in your area and make sure the one you use has a good reputation, a well developed program and equipment to support it and teaching staff that both knows how to fly and knows how to teach. Make sure the flight schools that make your cut are certified to offer pilot training that will result in a FAA recognized pilot's license. 2 - Make sure your finances are in order because flight school will run between $3000 and $5000. There are scholarships available and you might be able to use federal student loans through FAFSA if the school qualifies. 3 - Enroll in flight school and clear your schedule. Getting your pilot's license should be your life's passion for the next few months. 4 - Get a medical certificate that is specific to aviation. A general check up is not enough so work with the school to find a doctor who can help you pass the medical requirements to be able to fly. 5 - Go through the ground training to be able to pass the written pilot's license exam that is required by the FAA. These classes will take about four to five weeks to complete. 6 - Take AND PASS the written exam required by the Federal Aviation Administration at any FAA testing center. 7 - Work with the school to complete thirty to forty hours of required flight time with a certified instructor. You can move through his requirement at your own pace which means as fast as you can afford to get through it and schedule the time with the school and the instructor. The school will provide the airplane as that is part of the fees you paid. 8 - Your next to last flying "exam" is a solo flight with no instructor on board. 9 - For the final "big" exam, you will go on a flight with an FAA tester who is certified to validate that you know what you are doing in an airplane. 10 - Don't get nervous, you know what you are doing. Pass that final exam and you are home free to receive your private pilot's license nice and legal. You are going to learn a lot during this process. Don't be fooled, it is a lot of new stuff to learn and you are basically learning an entirely new physical skill similar to when you learned to swim or ride a bike. So throw yourself into those test flights and get as comfortable controlling an airplane as you are driving a car. You can do a lot not only to speed up the process but to cut costs by working hard on your own to conquer the skills you need to become a great private pilot. You can study the written the test on your own and complete the FAA test whenever you are ready. But once you have that license, you will be glad you worked hard to get through the process successfully so that from now on you can honestly say to people, "I am a pilot". Your Pilot's License Can Help Mankind Whenever there is a natural disaster, the one thing that is needed is for pilots who can take supplies in to those in need and look for people in need. Small airplanes like you would use once you get your pilot's license are a perfect way to help out because they can fly low and maneuver easily in places larger airplanes cannot go. This is one of the truly great rationales for you getting your pilot's license because it really can enable you to help others in a way that is very much needed. If you are involved in a charitable organization, having a pilot's license can be a huge benefit to that group, especially if you also have your own plane or access to aircraft that can be accessed to pitch in. Many churches operate missions groups that need to be able to get to remote regions of this country or others that can only be accessed by private plane. So when you study to get your private pilot's certification, you can make sure you get some training in flying in rough terrain and maybe even landing in on an unprepared surface. That kind of knowledge can save lives and get help to people when they need it the most. During hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters that have hit so many places, one of the most important jobs that is needed very early on is for scouts that can fly low over stricken areas to search for survivors and to help map and identify the depth and scope of the crisis. Many people who set out to get their private pilot's licenses do so out of a deeply held drive to prepare for this kind of mission. There may be no more gratifying moment than for you to fly over a flood or tornado stricken area and to spot a survivor that is clinging to life and to signal them that you will get help back to them. When that family is dramatically saved by the helicopter crews, you will have a direct impact on the saving of those lives and you can carry that knowledge with you for the rest of your life. You will train or relatively small airplanes during flight school and on a limited number of aircraft as well. But people in the business call the pilot's license a "license to learn" because from the moment you get that first license, you will be constantly learning how to fly other kinds of aircraft and even getting higher level certifications to fly transport airplanes or large craft that can carry a larger amount of people. This won't come the day after you graduate from flight school. But getting that initial pilot's license is a huge step forward toward moving more quickly to learn about these utility aircraft that can expand your usefulness in crisis situation. It is when you can fly the larger transport airplanes that you can then kick it up a notch to fly large amount of supplies into an affected area. The hurricane Katrina situation is a good example because during those first critical days and weeks, so much was needed by people who could not get out of that crisis zone. Your help could save not just a life but hundreds of lives if you are the pilot who helped get those provisions to needy people. There is something deeply gratifying about using a special talent to help people in need. And when you had to put a lot of yourself out to get that talent like you have to do to get your pilot's license, using that skill to bring relieve to people is even more meaningful. And if anything makes it worth trying hard to learn to fly, giving a little bit back to mankind sure is that thing. You Can Make Your Dream of Flying a Reality There is a club that formed a number of years ago which gave its association the strange name of "The Man Will Never Fly Society". This group of skeptics, it turns out, is a frivolous group whose real charter is to get together and drink. Most reasonable people know that not only does man fly but almost everyone has flown as a passenger in some form or another in their lives. But you and I could be part of the "I will never fly society". If you have often wondered if it would be possible for you to get your own pilot's license and actually find an airplane all by yourself, it really does seem like a dream that is far out of reach. We all have dreams. And while in childhood we might dream of being King Arthur's knight or a fairy princess, those dreams pass. But some dreams may start in childhood and stay with us for a long time. Those dreams may be more than just childhood fantasies. They may be a deep inner voice telling you your destiny in life. And for a lot of people, that dream of flying never goes away, even if you stop talking about it when you "grow up". That dream you have of one day learning to fly may be that inner child in you telling you that this is something you were born to do and to be fulfilled as a person, you must indeed someday fly. That doesn't mean you are going to become a full time pilot of a major jumbo jet, although if that is your destiny, that's great. Maybe being able to fly will enable you to do good things for a charitable organization. Perhaps it will free you to see the world or to do some good for someone that you cannot even imagine right now. Whatever the case is, it might be time to find out what is holding you back from going after that dream and get you moving down that path to see the dream become a reality. In a lot of cases, we get intimidated when we peek into the cockpit of an aircraft maybe after a commercial flight and all of those dials and levers seems overwhelming. You look at that pilot and you think, "How can he keep it all straight?" And when you feel that urge to fly an airplane, you think that it's impossible because how could you ever conquer the technical knowledge needed to operate a complicated thing like an airplane? Just as often the thing holding us back is just not knowing where to start. We fear that the society of pilots is an elite race and that we just don't have the stuff to fit in. Insecurity, fear of trying, fear of failing and fear that we aren't smart enough are all ingredients that keep you always wondering and never going for it. However, when we begin to replace those fears with reality, we see a whole different picture emerge. The truth is that the path to learning to fly is one that is well known and well tested. In fact, thousands of people every year learn by going to a local flight school and taking a few classes and then sitting with a skilled trainer to learn to take an airplane up and fly. It not only is possible, it's relatively easy to do and the schools are ready and willing to give you the knowledge and skills to realize your dream. All you have to do is pick up the phone and get the ball rolling. And within a few weeks, you too could be flying above the clouds, just like that kid in you always dreamed of. Turning a Passion into a Career in Flying The desire to fly with the birds in the sky is as old as mankind itself. Some of our oldest stories from ancient myths involve man's desire to fly. So if you felt that yearning which in our day in age means getting a pilot's license, you are in good company. But there are as many directions a pilot's license can take you as there are people who want to be certified to fly with the birds. Your final goals in the airline industry might change and evolve the deeper you get into the culture the airline industry. For many of us, at first we want to get that pilot's license partly for fun so we can enjoy that occasional outing with family and friends and maybe just to prove to ourselves that we can do it. But once the "bug" of flying gets in your system, don't be surprised if you see yourself involved in aviation full time and turning your passion for flying into a very successful career. As soon as you to see yourself as a professional in the airline industry, you will do well to change your approach to training and your preparation for your next big step in the world of aircraft and flying. If you are going to follow a path within the world of the big airlines to perhaps work your way up to eventually pilot a big commercial jumbo jet, that is a different educational goal from becoming a sports pilot for fun or to just be able to fly from time to time as part of your business. Obviously a career as a commercial airline pilot is going to take a lot of time and patience to work your way up to that level in the industry. But if you know that is your long range goal, your trainers and the flight school you attend can make sure you are given coursework that targets that higher level of pilot's license than most "hobbyists" go for. And because you are serious about a career as a flyer, you can also begin to learn more and more about the culture of the airline industry and network with the "right people" for your next big steps in that direction. But one creative option that is an outstanding way to prepare for a career in the airline industry whether that is to work as part of a large organization or to start your own business is to go after a four year degree in flying or aviation which gives you much greater depth of education. The costs of getting a pilot's license are pretty high. And when you are done, you will have that pilot's license but nothing more. It will be up to you to learn the business side of the airline business. But by channeling those funds into a full degree plan, you will still get your pilot's license but it will be integrated in with a full program that will give you the business exposure, support courses in accounting and math and exposure to other aspects of the industry such as aircraft repair, flight control and aviation management at all levels of the business. You will come out of this program with a full degree that you can then take on to specialized training or even to a masters or PHD in the field. This is a worthwhile consideration especially if you think you might start your own flight school or another support business that supports the industry. And it never hurts to have exposure to how the entire airline business works if you plan to be part of it long term. It won't take much to check out what programs are available and it might be one of the smartest career moves you ever made. Getting your Pilot's License on the Cheap There is a difference between being economical and being cheap. And when it comes to getting your training for your pilot's license, you want the best training you can get. When you finally get to the point that you can fly an aircraft, not only will your life be in your hands, the lives of others, possibly your family and friends may depend on being able to handle that aircraft with skill and with a good background in training. But flight school and pilot's training is not an inexpensive operation. You are learning to operate some very sophisticated machinery and to learn a new skill that is different than anything else you have ever done. But even though you do not want to cut corners on the important elements of your training which is time with your flight instructor and in the air learning to handle that aircraft, with some extra effort on your part, you can cut some costs and not compromise the quality of your pilot's license. There are two big sections to pilot's training which are the theory and the practice or the book learning and the application or hands on learning you do working directly with the aircraft. When you go up for your pilot's license, you will face a pretty rigorous written exam. So much of your time in flight school will be in class walking through this material. But there is no requirement that you learn this material from an instructor. You can work with a Part 61 flight school which has the flexibility or tailor your program (as opposed to a Part 141 school which conduct classes in strict accordance with guidelines) so you can do a lot of that study and concept learning independently and not have to pay to sit in class to learn what you could have conquered at home for free. You can buy books that will walk you through every aspect of the pilot's license test and sit down at your kitchen table and learn it all as fast as you are able to absorb knowledge. Many of these tutorials will have quizzes and example tests so you can have someone work you over pretty good so by the time you walk in to take the written exam you are ready. Of course there are plenty of online sources that can give you the same in depth training absolutely free. Sometimes studying online is easier because it's a bit more interactive and fun. One such site is http://www.flightcentral.net/sport/training.htm but you can Google "pilot's license training" and locate others from reputable agencies that will do the job just as well. The hardest thing about home study is to keep yourself accountable and moving forward though. So set a schedule of what you are going to achieve and make steady progress, just like you would if you were in a classroom setting. You can then download the Practical Standards Test (PTS) and study the actual layout and questions that you will be required to pass "open book". So by the time you are ready for the test, you are really ready for that test. You can also work with your instructor to help you be totally prepared when its time for actual flight training in the air. He can give you the checklists so you are ready when you show up. If you make mistakes, learn what you did and practice that skill in your armchair at home. The more you get out of the way on your own, the less time in the airplane which costs by the hour. And by taking charge of your training and only using the experts for hands on training you need, you get just as good an education in flying but you save a ton of money. Getting Your Pilot's License for the Fun of it There are a lot of great motivations for getting your pilot's license. The field of aviation is full of employment opportunities and if that is where you want to make your career, you can keep adding to your skills and climb the latter to more responsibilities as you learn to fly bigger commercial aircraft, for more money as well. Another motivation that often drives us to want to fly is that it opens up new ways to be of service to others. If you like to work with charitable or church organizations, being able to fly to sites of disaster is an extremely valuable skill to offer. But one great payoff for the investment of work and money you put into getting your pilot's license is that you can have a lot of fun when you can take to the skies and do some exploring from that high up. Being able to fly whenever you want to adds a whole new world to your entertainment life and it might become your recreation of choice, at least when you first get your license. For one thing, being able to get up above your city gives you the ability to explore your town in an entirely new way. You can find your house and get a perspective on the neighborhood that you may have never seen before. You can follow streets along and see little neighborhoods and businesses that you had no idea was there. Take a friend a few maps with you and enjoy gazing down on the city from literally the birds eye view. Flying opens up whole new opportunities for your dating life for sure. Taking your best girl up for what is without a doubt the most romantic way to view a sunset is sure to get the romantic juices flowing. And because flying extends your borders to other communities and even to border states, you can dash to a nearby town for an exotic dinner or follow your favorite sports team around much easier than by car. As soon as you begin using your pilot's license to explore the world around you, you are going to discover some natural wonders near where you live that you may have never seen before. You may find hills and even mountain ranges that will call to you to come and explore from the sky. And as long as your gas supply is good, you can wander those hills with complete freedom knowing you can get back to your landing strip with a new adventure under your belt. If you spot a stream or river that you had never tracked down before, you will want to get back into the sky as soon as possible to follow the trail of that river to see where it runs. Your imagination will be going wild imaging the lives of those who live along those banks. The great thing about flying is that you don't have to be held to any highway or road. You can go to the most remote locations and gaze down and even take pictures and know that true thrill of exploring and discovery. If you are a camera bug, the open skies will give you chances to get photos unlike anything you ever could capture before. Imagine flying near a souring eagle and being able to get close ups of that majestic bird in a natural setting. You have seen pictures like that but to be able to capture it live will be a thrill that will be hard to top. That camera will get a work out with the huge diversity of nature shots or even great pictures of the really majestic architecture of your own city that takes on an entirely different aspect when you photograph it from the sky. The range of ways you can explore the world and have new adventures flying free would just keep opening up to you. And you could explore them with loved ones, friends and family and get a lot of wholesome fun because you took the time to get your pilot's license. The Day After you get Your Pilot's License There is a singular thrill that surges through you the day get your first pilot's license. You feel as though suddenly you grew wings and stopped being a terrestrial creature and in a way became a cousin to the birds who were free to fly the skies at will. That little license says that you have the knowledge and the skills to take an aircraft and sour far above the rest of mankind, even if only for a little while. So what next? The instinct most new pilots have is to get out there and show off this new skill. But the one thing you should have learned in flight school is to take it easy and be very cautious about every decision you make when it is you taking the controls of an airplane. Naturally you will want to gather your friends and family around and they will want you to take them on a flight to put your new pilot's license to use. And it's ok for you to be proud and to want to show your loved ones that you are capable of flying just like you always said you would one day be able to do. But also let a certain amount of fear and trembling remind you of everything you learned. When you get in the pilots seat of that airplane and you have passengers back there, this is not the same as having that flight instructor sitting in the passenger's seat with dual controls ready to step in and correct your mistakes. It's not pleasant to remind ourselves of this one fact but it's good for you to keep in mind that planes can crash and crashing a plane can kill you. Moreover, it would be a disaster if you had a mishap on one of those first flights out after you got your pilot's license and you lost or injured someone you love. That specter of danger which is also why flying is exciting, should help you approach these early flights with the greatest of caution and to make very conservative choices in when and where you take your "joy ride" to show off your talents to your family and friends. They say that when you see a juggler juggle five balls in the air during a performance, he can probably juggle seven or nine in practice. But he only does what he knows he can do when it comes to involving other people. Well you should adopt that same caution because these are lives on the line, precious lives. Schedule these early trips on the best possible days for flying. Pick days where there is a light breeze, bright blue skies above and that you feel great. Make sure the airplane has been inspected to the most precise detail and that every possible precaution has been taken. In the air, no hot dogging. Fly in simple, easy to execute patterns and don't go far before you return to the airport and land safely. When you get off the airplane, your wife and kids and friends will be all totally impressed. And you can breathe a sigh of relief that you "pulled it off." They often call the license to fly a plane a license to learn because you will keep learning more and more every year to stick with your passion for flying. Next you can take on learning to glide, learning to fly only by instruments and learning other aircraft. Each of them will be another skill to add to your resume. And each one will be exciting. So getting your pilot's license is not the peak of the mountain of flying. It is just the first step up the mountain to a vast world of aviation that you will never tire of exploring.
From Flying an Airplane to Owning One There is a natural progression of involvement in your love of flying that all starts when you first catch the dream that you really can become a pilot. It's a big job to get out there and find out how to get through flight training school to get your pilot's license. The money, time and effort to get that training is demanding but its actually good that it is because when you finally pass the tests and do your solo flights and you earn that license, you really walk away with a sense of accomplishment. But you walk away with something else even more exciting which is a license that says that you really are a pilot and the authorization to take an airplane up in the air. It's an addictive feeling to fly an aircraft and there are lots of opportunities for jobs that will take advantage of this well earned skill you. So just as there is a natural next step after you get a drivers license to want to own your own car, very often new pilots begin to get the bug to own their own plane after they become addicted to the love of flying. There is no question that the freedom you will gain from owning your own plane will take your love of flying to the next level. And there are some good economic reasons for taking this step too. Very often you can build a small business of your own just putting your plane at the disposal of people who need it. Offering charter airplane services to businesses or individuals to get them where they need to go quickly and efficiently can be a good paying career and give you the chance to fly to lots of places you may have never thought about before. Owning your own small business built around your plane and your love of flying can go a lot of different directions. You might find a great market offering recreational flights to people who want to get up above the town and look down on it like the birds can do. Often groups will charter an airplane to take them to the nearest city that has a national sports franchise to see the big game. These kinds of customers are often able to pay handsomely for your service and who knows, you might get to see the game too. You should do your homework before thinking about buying a plane though because not only is it an expense up front but there will be ongoing costs that go with owning such a unique vehicle. Obviously you can't park the plane in your garage or back yard so you will need a hanger to house your airplane day in and day out. Most of us don't own our own hanger right off the bat so that will be an ongoing cost as well. And if you have your plane in a public hanger at the local regional airport, how will that affect your ability to use the plane at a moments notice if you want that kind of access? But one of the biggest issues that you will need to be prepared to provide for when becoming an airplane owner is maintenance. Perhaps you became fascinated with the mechanical side of airplane technology when you went through flight school. So a career as an airplane mechanic might be ahead for you and it might be tempting to learn to take care of your own airplane as well. But its best to at least keep on retainer a qualified airplane mechanic to perform routine maintenance and to "check out" the plane routinely to make sure it is in good working order. When you get that plane in the air, the last thing you want is for you to not know if the plane is sound mechanically. So while paying a mechanic to service your plane routinely is an expense, it's crucial that your plane be safe to fly every day. So it's a worthwhile expense. All of these costs mean that if you want to own a plane, you will have to commit to take care of it. But the fun of owning a plane and the potential for high paying charter business means that it might be a very good next step in your ongoing career as a pilot. Evaluating a Flight Training School When you finally make that decision to go for your pilot's license, it's an exciting step for you. It will be fun to tell friends and family that you feel it in your bones that you are ready to put in the time and effort to get that all important pilot's license to start your journey toward success. But just as in any area of specialization, finding the right school that you feel good about using to achieve this goal takes some looking and some evaluation. You will be putting a lot of time and money into the flight school you choose. And they are taking you through not only some knowledge training but a discipline of learning to become a completely different person. You will go from a person whose idea of flying was sitting in coach and thinking about your in flight meal to the guy in the cockpit calling the shots. You will "become" a pilot and you want your guide through this transformation to be a good one. There are basically two kinds of flight schools and they are referred to as Part 61 or Part 141 schools. Now naturally you would assume one category to be superior. But in terms of the outcome, both can get you the knowledge and experience you need and help you become a pilot. The difference is their approach. A Part 141 school must live up to a very strict curriculum that the FAA lays out and every Part 141 school operates exactly the same way. Obviously there are some values to this approach. The primary value of going to a Part 141 flight training school to get your pilot's license is that because they all operate identically, you can change teachers or even schools midstream and just pick up where you left off. A Part 61 flight training school doesn't put itself into that discipline. So these schools will have a greater variety in the way the material is presented, the order it is given to you and how you learn it as well. Part 61 schools can use more creativity in how they take you through the process and very often the instructors are more creative as well. And since pilots are notoriously independent people in the first place, you will probably meet more "characters" at a Part 61 school. Neither of these two types of schools is actually superior. Since the pilot's license testing is standardized, they will all get you there the same way. The Part 141 approach gives you the security that they are completely governed by the FAA and the ability to change teachers or schools with no disruption to your education. A Part 61 school can customize the training to you and if there is an area of instruction that you might need extra help with, they can be flexible and make sure they cover the bases you need covered in greater depth. Before you decide on a specific school, get a good list of the best regarded pilot's license training schools in your area. The administration at your local airport will be able to point you in the right direction. Many times a large city will have a number of smaller airports that service charger flights and smaller operations and they often have flight schools on premises. So if the international airport isn't being helpful, try the smaller ones in the area. Then set about checking out the facilities, the teachers, the planes and the reputation of the schools. By interviewing not only the staff and teachers of the school but graduates to find out the good and bad of each school, you will have done your homework well. But also get to know the instructor who will be your primary guide through learning to be a pilot. This will be your mentor on that first big moment as you take the controls and take an airplane up for the first time and you and he (or she) will be alone in that cockpit frequently as you log the necessary air hours to qualify to take the test. But by checking this all out ahead of time, by the time you put down your money and start the process of learning to become a pilot, you will know that you are in good hands with the school you selected. Certified to Fly When you first got the vision to become a pilot, how did you see yourself? For some of us it is at the controls of a jumbo jet operated by one of the big airline companies flying from one exotic location to another and having the power and responsibility for that billion dollar airplane and hundreds of lives. For others it's being a private pilot for a small airline flying rich people around or just flying for your own pleasure. You are free, literally "as a bird" to glide over the world gazing down and deciding where you might land before taking to the air again. These are fun images and even as you work your way through flight school and then start "paying your dues" in the airline industry to work toward your goal, its good to keep the dream so you always have the next rung of the latter ahead and you never give up. It's good to have a firm idea of who you want to be as a pilot because it actually affects the kind of pilot's certification you will go for after flight school. So understanding the different kinds of certification and what is required to meet the requirements for that level of responsibility can be important. Of course, your goals may change the longer you stay in your career as a pilot. But if you know going in what is required, you can tailor and customize your training and preparations around your goals. There are actually six levels of pilot certification, one of which you may already have. If you are already in flight school and you have gotten to the point that you are taking training flights and handling the craft yourself, you had to already get a student pilot certification. All pilots' certifications have requirements and restrictions so obviously as a student pilot, you can only operate an airline in the instructional setting and not on your own except for your final solo flights as authorized by the school. Just above the student level but a pilot's certification that you can use for your own purposes are the sports and the recreational pilot's license. These certifications are less restrictive than the student's license but you will be limited to fly only in good weather conditions and strong daylight, that your distances will be limited as will the type of aircraft. You can also only have one passenger with a student license. What the FAA has created in the sports and recreational licenses are certifications that allow for some enjoyment level flying but are not certified at a high enough level to make being a pilot your career. The top three levels of pilot's licenses are the private pilot license, the commercial pilot and the airline transport license. The names are fairly self explanatory. Often new pilots try to reach the private pilot level before going on for the more demanding higher level licenses. With a private pilot license, you can operate a much greater variety of aircraft including helicopters and balloons and you can use your pilot's license as part of your job although you cannot be paid for flying. So your job may be crop dusting and you are paid for that and your ability to fly a small aircraft is in connection with your job. Obviously the commercial pilot's certification and the airline transport pilot's license are the ones you would go for to be able to fly the big jets. But you may never need to get that far. So evaluate your goals and target your certification accordingly. In that way you are using your training time well and when you have reached the level you aspire to, you will get that sense of satisfaction that you are a pilot who is realizing the dream. Breaking Out the Costs of Flight School The term "hidden costs" strikes fear into most of us because it means we are going to pay more for something than we thought. Sadly, many times a business will hide some costs of goods or services so you can "discover" them once you have committed to use the service. Having to pay for a pillow on a flight after you already forked over hundreds of dollars to the airline is a classic example of hidden costs. When you are preparing to go into flight school to realize your dream of getting your pilot's license, its is imperative that you know how much you need from a budget perspective before you sign a contract to go through the program. So to be sure you are not going to get hit with a lot of "hidden costs", it pays to know the terminology and to know what questions to ask before you agree to use that school to get your license to fly. When you first contact a flight school, they will lay out the red carpet for you. You will get a tour of the facilities including the classrooms and the airplanes to be used for your in flight training. You will meet wonderful instructors and the end of the tour will probably include a test flight where you get to sit in the pilot's seat as though you were actually flying that plane. That experience alone can hook you to want to be part of their program. Then they will present you will some colorful brochures, a contract and a class schedule and finally, a schedule of costs along with payment options. There is a good reason they are showing you the costs last. They want to get you excited and "hooked" before you review the fees. It's important to remember that the majority of flight schools are "for profit" businesses and the competition for customers is intense. The number one reason a school fails to "close the deal" is often the cost. So if they can soften that blow by not showing you some of the costs of getting your pilot's license with them, they might be able to get you into class and you will just deal with the additional costs after the fact. This is a little bit deceptive but they do it to get business. It's up to you then to know what questions to ask and to understand the terminology of the schedule of fees. Make sure that when you get the estimate of what you will have to pay that it is broken out in some detail. If all they are quoting you is the cost of classroom instruction, that underestimate the costs tremendously. Additional costs will include: * Books and classroom supplies. You may need to buy these yourself so to get a complete budget, do that shopping before signing a contract. * Duel instruction fees. A big part of your training is in the air. What they might not tell you is that you will have to pay for the instructor's time by the hour for every hour you are up there with him. And you must plan for the cost of the plane. Plan for a minimum of $50 an hour labor and $100 an hour for the equipment. But this is something that is worth getting an exact quote on when you are estimating what it will cost to get your pilot's license with that school. * Fuel costs -- it takes gas to operate that airplane while you are flying it. They might not be including the cost of gas in with the airplane rental fee. Make sure you know what to expect as that can be a big hidden cost, especially with gas costs high as they are right now. In order to get a cost number you can depend on, you must estimate how many hours of flight training you are going to need. The FAA requires that you have a minimum of 40 hours flight time and you may need more to cover the many situations you must understand before you become a solo pilot. Also keep in mind you must do one final flight where you go up with an FAA examiner so find out the costs of his or her time and add at least an hour of flight time to your totals. Staying on Top of your Game as a Pilot If they didn't tell you in flight school as you studied for your pilot's license, you certainly learn it pretty quick after you get into the airline industry that the pilot's license is only the beginning of a lifelong of learning and growing in a field that is always changing. So even after you get your career as a pilot launched and are making a living in the trade, there are always ways you can be working every day to keep up with what is going on not only in aviation generally but with your local airline industry and what is going on even within your own company. It is for this reason that the best thing you can do for your career as well as for your day in and day out ability to stay on top of the game at the local level is become part of the tightly knit group of other pilots in your area. Pilots are a very unique breed of people and the experiences you have in the pilots seat of an airplane are unlike any other profession there is. So its natural you will won't to be together because you are a community of people who are the only ones that have that common experience. Networking with other pilots gives you benefits that really cannot be quantified. And you really don't go about this task in an organized fashion. You do so around the airport in the lounge as you encounter other pilots and you share details about the flying conditions that day or other important things pilots need to know. Not only is that valuable at the time but it can pay off long term. If something important develops during the day, you can find out about that before it affects your flight. Problems with the runway, with the tower or other issues that could dramatically affect your flight fly through a network of pilots far before any official notification. Your network of pilots will become a network of friendships that can provide a support group one for the other in the case of emergencies. You will learn each others flight schedules and if one pilot cannot perform, there is someone that can step up and handle that flight. The network of pilots can also be self correcting. If one pilot needs some help getting back on top of his game, you and the other of your support group can pull him aside and talk him through he rough patch. That may even mean supporting each other during personal crisis or to get into a 12 step program. But this kind of support means you don't have to let any pilot just fall out of the program if you are watching out for each other and helping each other when help is needed. There are other levels of networking that you can tap into as a member of the aviation community that you may not have thought of before. Even though we think of the FAA as that big governmental agency in the sky, this agency is staffed by people who have a vested interest in taking care of pilots and making sure everybody lives up to some standards to the industry is safe and profitable. There are local members of the FAA who would like nothing more than to know every single pilot better to find out how the agency can serve your needs. You may not know this but the FAA holds meetings every other week that are classes for pilots just like you to help you stay up to date with your education and to answer any questions that may have come up about the industry and the FAAs relationship to it. The FAA offers free training and publications all focused exclusively on the aviation industry that you can take advantage of just for the asking. So include the local FAA representatives in your network of professional associations. It will pay you well to tap this huge government resource. But don't limit your networking just to these two groups. Get to know the mechanics that take care of the airplanes your lives depend on. You would even do well to stay current with what is going on with the flight instructors who are training new pilots as they are often more up to date on the industry than old pros like you. Somebody Has to Fly the Goodyear Blimp Getting your pilot's license is just the start of a life in the world of aviation that can really take you anywhere. While there is a lot you can do with just a private pilot's license, you can take that starting point and go into helicopter flight, flying gliders or even on up into larger aircraft until you get licensed to fly the big jets for the big airlines. But one specialization that you may or may not have thought of is flying those blimps that you see over stadiums during ball games or over the parades at holidays. We tend to take for granted that they are up there doing whatever Goodyear or whoever owns the blimp wants them to do all by themselves. But somebody has to fly those blimps and your pilot's license is a good launch into what will become a very fascinating job that is unlike anything else in aviation. Becoming a blimp pilot means finding the right company with the organization that is staffing for that job. But flying a blimp is not a fast paced job in term of the flying you will do. Most of the time a blimp travels very slowly because, obviously, a blimp is large and cumbersome and it really cannot maneuver that quickly. It is designed to hover in place and move slowly over the destination such as a ball game so the top speed you will reach in the air might be thirty five miles per hour. Another big difference when flying a blimp is that you will hover the craft fairly close to the ground compared to a faster moving airplane. Sometimes you will fly as low as 1000 to 1500 feet which means at that height, you can actually see the people on the ground and at that speed, you can wave at them. Because blimps are used almost entirely for promotional or recreational purposes, your role as the pilot of a blimp almost puts you into show business yourself. You will have a much greater interaction with people who come to see the blimp so you will enjoy far more socialization that you might as a private pilot which sometimes can be a bit of a lonely job. By the very nature of why companies keep blimps, if you land that pilots job, you are going to be traveling virtually nonstop. So be sure you really like to see the world and that this kind of travel is not going to disrupt family life. It's a great job if you are young and have not started your family yet and you just want to have some adventure. If you wish to make becoming a blimp pilot a real objective, take your existing pilot's license and become certified as a lighter than air pilot as well. It won't be that much more work and it positions you perfectly to fly a blimp. As you wait for the chance to get in the door with the few organizations that do operate blimps, you can go ahead and log some good experience using your pilots license in a charter situation so you have a solid resume of flying when you are ready to specialize flying blimps. The "big break" you will be looking for is just to get in on the ground floor with a company that owns and operates a blimp. You may have to serve your time as part of the ground crew of the blimp but that by itself is a fascinating job. Here is where you will learn the technical aspects of maintaining a blimp and the safety issues that go into keeping a big vehicle like that aloft. Your flight experience then will put you in line to apply for the pilot or co pilot position when it becomes available. And by becoming an experienced crew member, you will be in an ideal place if the company decides to add a blimp and needs a whole new crew including a pilot. While the pay of a blimp pilot is not going to make you rich, you will see the world and you will have one of the most unique jobs in aviation. And if you get to fly over the Super Bowl and have a birds eye view of the biggest game of the year, well that's just another one of the great perks of being a blimp pilot. Some Flight Training is Better than Others If you or your child wants to become a pilot, how successful they will be in reaching that goal may depend to a large extent on the pilot's license training they get at a local flight school. As with anything else, there are great schools, good schools and poor schools and you won't find that evaluation on their web page or in their yellow pages ads. So you will have to learn to evaluate the school before you put down your money for training to become a pilot. It might surprise you how many flight schools there are in your area. You can always use the yellow pages to start the search. But there is also an internet site dedicated strictly to helping you with this task. Http://www.flightschoollist.com/ has listings for every state and links to web sites where you can learn more about each school's facilities. The two clear cut qualifications that will tell if one school is better than another at teaching you to fly is their depth and knowledge of the airline industry and the technical field of study of aeronautics and how to fly an airplane and their depth and knowledge in the being able to teach others this skill. They may have wonderful pilots with hundreds of hours of flight time but if they don't know how to teach, they won't be much good to you. Similarly, they have wonderful teachers who can take you from ignorant to expert in the curriculum but if they don't have any more than a surface knowledge of what it means to be a pilot, their credibility is questionable. The flight school itself should be well equipped to provide the equipment to give you the education in how to be a pilot and to equip the teachers with everything they need. Don't be shy to inspect the classrooms, the books and the other equipment that will be needed in ground school to get you ready for the written pilot's license test you must pass to become a pilot. But also ask about the airplanes the school has for your training flights and eventually the solo flights you must have to go before the FAA and seek a pilot's license. The different kinds of airplanes you can train on, the greater your depth of knowledge will be. How old are the airplanes and how many of each kind do they have? You want to know that the airplanes are in good repair and that there are facilities so the school always has planes to take up for your training even if some are in the hangers for inspection or repair. The same criteria should be asked of the flight instructors and specifically of the instructor who will be your primary mentor for this process. That person should have a good resume of accomplishment both flying for a living and working in the airline industry. You want a seasoned pro to be sitting next to you when you take the controls of an airplane for the first time. But you also want an instructor who has the heart of a teacher. He or she should love passing information to others and taking a roomful of "civilians" and turning them into accomplished pilots. You have the right to ask a lot of questions. You should get details about costs which will include supplemental costs like books, training materials, fuel surcharges and flight time fees. By the time your evaluation is done, you should have a firm idea what the school has to offer and a solid base of knowledge to use to compare flight schools. From there you can make the right choice who will be teaching you to take to the air and fulfill your lifelong dream of becoming a pilot. So You Want to be an Airline First Officer When you are in that long process of getting your pilots license, its fun to think about the different jobs in the airline industry that this license might make possible for you. Obviously, the top echelon of being a full fledged pilot is to pilot one of those jumbo international jets. But there is a path between where you are and that job and first officer is a fine goal to start out with. Of course, one way to quickly become the head of the team on a commercial airline is to go to work for an airline where you will be piloting a smaller craft or to work for a charter airline so you are the only one flying the plane on each outing. That's not a bad option and it's a respectable job using your pilot's license. But sometimes nothing will take the place of climbing the latter in a larger airline so you can enjoy the big rewards of someday being the chief pilot on a large craft going to some exotic route. If you get to the position of first officer on a large aircraft, that is no small position. It is an "apprentice" position and you are in the position of being an assistant to the captain while you learn the ropes of operating a large and complex craft. But if you are a young pilot and you want to get a good flight log of real life cockpit experience, paying your dues as a first officer is an outstanding time in your career and one you will benefit from tremendously. It won't pay as well as when you make full pilot but look on it as your "internship" and be glad that by holding down that spot, you are on your way. Much of the excitement of piloting a major aircraft for one of the big airlines comes to you even as the first officer. And that major airline flight time on your resume is nothing short of priceless as you move forward in your career in the industry. Along with learning the nuances of the aircraft itself and how to respond to different in flight situations from a technical point of view, the time you have working as a peer with an experienced airline captain and crew can help you sort out the culture of the airline of the industry so you can not only navigate the aircraft but your career in the industry as well. By serving some good months or years in the first officer position, you are putting yourself directly under the scrutiny of the people who make the decisions about hiring for airline captain jobs and other senior positions in the airline industry. Airline captain is not a position that you can just walk off the street and do. And by doing some good time as a first officer and getting noticed for your good work in that position, you will be in great shape when the time comes for you to apply for the top job. So include a stint as first officer in your career path as you start your ascent through the positions of authority in your airline career. And when you make this first level goal and have a first officer position, don't be too hasty to rush through it. This is an outstanding time to build relationships and to demonstrate competency not only to the people who might promote you to captain but to the airline staff and your fellow crew members who may one day say "Yes Captain" to you when you sit down to command a big aircraft en route to London, Paris or Rome. Living and Breathing Your Desire to Fly When you first go to a flight school and spend some time with one of the instructors to find out if learning to fly is for you, he or she will commonly take you up on a demo flight where you get to sit in the pilots seat for take off, during the flight and landing. And while the expert is doing all the work, you get the feel for being in the pilot's seat of an airplane, maybe for the first time. For many of us, that first flight is a transformation that will take you from someone curious about flying to a true believer with that deep inner drive to learn to fly whatever it takes. If the flight instructor who took you on that first flight knows what he is doing, you will walk away from that first experience with an armload of information including the curriculum for ground school, the costs of training for your pilot's license and a layout of the time commitment involved. It might be a little overwhelming when you get home and start looking over all of that material. But if that inner drive to become a certified pilot has birthed the love of flying in you, you will then and there determine that you are going to put in the time and conquer the knowledge so you too can become part of that special society of people who can fly an airplane. You should make that moment when you are filled with determination to learn to fly and make it one of those big memories you often go back to. That is because if you really want to be a great pilot and to get there as quickly as you responsibly can, you should be prepared to make getting through flight training and learning this amazing new skill the absolute top priority in your life for the weeks ahead as you go through the learning process. For one thing, the training to learn to fly is not cheap. You are taking training from specialized experts whose time is not cheap and flight schools provide the airplanes, gas, supplies and insurance so you can take their airplanes up for learning flights. You cannot get a pilot's license without flying several times a week throughout your training period. So be prepared to pay several thousand dollars for top notch flight training. But if you can make that investment, and you put in the time to get the work done, you are virtually guaranteed that at the end of the curriculum, you will earn your pilot's license. And just as you take into account the financial investment, you should be prepared to make the time investment to learn to fly a top priority for you. Whether you are taking classroom lessons or your lesson that day is to take the aircraft up, you should be prepared to be at the flight school a couple hours for each session. And to make progress, you should plan 2-3 lessons a week. In addition there is the travel time to the school and time to study and prepare for the next time you are with the instructor. There are a lot of resources you can use to conquer all of the new terminology and areas of knowledge you will have to become expert in to truly "become" a pilot. But look on that intimidating body of knowledge ahead as the mountain you have to climb to achieve this lofty goal. Then charge into that mountain and climb diligently every day. You can conquer that information if you study and give this passion of yours plenty of time. And the more you learn at home and during times when not at the school, the faster you will progress. Before you know it you will be taking the flight test for your pilot's license. You will have put in sufficient hours in the air and your knowledge will be rock solid. And when you walk out of that testing and you conquered it all, you will look down at that pilot's license and you have every reason to feel proud. You will have not only finished a course of study, you will have changed into a completely different person. You are now and will forevermore will be -- a pilot. How to Pay for Your Dream Having a dream of becoming a pilot and getting behind the controls of an aircraft to guide it into the clouds is the start of a great life reaching for the stars. But that first step of getting your pilot's license is a big one. Not only is flight school challenging and something that will take significant effort and time, it's quite an expense as well. Flight schools are not cheap. Offering instruction in getting a pilot's license means employing highly trained and skilled instructors who are skilled pilots. In addition to the expenses of running classrooms, flight schools must be able to help you complete 40-50 hours of actual flight time which involves one on one time with that instructor. So flight schools must provide the airplanes along with the mechanics to keep those planes in good repair. All of that is expensive and that is built into the cost of your training. So to make your dream a reality, sometimes you have to get a student loan or some financial aid to get where you want to go in the airline industry. Like any other form of education, there is assistance available if you know how to get it. So you are determined not to give up on your dream, you will have to make finding financial backing as much of a project as getting through flight school and getting that pilot's license. One often untapped resource are grants from organizations or companies that benefit from a fresh supply of good pilots. You can find out at your nearest airport the types of organizations out there that have grants for students who need help with flight school. Pilot fraternal organizations as well as men's clubs like the Boy Scouts, the Lions Club or the Shriners often have scholarships for deserving students. If you have an adult relative in one of these groups or you are a member or an alumni of one of these groups, check out any grants they might have before you go to strangers. Another clever way to get financial aid is to look for colleges that offer a full degree in aviation and flying. Often these schools operate a fully funded flight school as part of that curriculum. And if you enroll in an accredited college or university, the scholarship and federal student loan program through FAFSA is always there to be of help. Another "back door" trick to get free tuition and even some funding from the school is to go to work for the school or have a parent do so. Often colleges give free schooling to employees and their kids as part of their employee benefits. But even if you are working with a school that is only about training pilots, talk to the administration because they may know of more grants or student loans you may qualify for. Before you start on this quest, make sure you have your financial documentation in order. That means have your tax documents all gathered up as well as bank records, pay stubs or anything else that document your financial status and can be used to demonstrate financial need for assistance. The school can be an important partner to you in finding the funding you need. There may be existing federal programs like the Pell Grant or the Stafford or Perkins loan programs that will work to get you the money you need to get through flight school. Again, getting logged in with the FAFSA program is essential to go after any government funding but once you are approved by FAFSA, the government will most likely guarantee any student loan you need. That means banks and credit unions will welcome you with open arms when you come to them for a student loan. You may actually be surprised how much financial aid is out there to help you realize your dream. If you must pay for your schooling with a student loan, don't despair going into debt. Once you get your pilot's license, your market value will skyrocket and you can pay the loan off from the good job you get in the aviation industry. And it's worth going through that loan process because in the end when you have realized your dream of becoming a pilot, you will be able to sour above the clouds piloting an airplane and you will be grateful for anyone who helped you along the way. How Not to Crash an Airplane When you enter flight school and start to anticipate those hands on flight lessons, that's really the exciting part of the program. We all know that the classroom learning and the technical knowledge are important. You really cannot expect to be a pilot without knowledge of aerodynamics and the technical theory about aircraft and how they work both in flight and during take off and landing. But it is when you get in the pilots seat and take the controls of an airplane that things get exciting. The FAA requires that you get 40-50 hours of airtime actually flying an airplane and getting in flight instruction from a certified pilot before you are qualified to test for a pilot's license. This makes sense. After all, flying an airplane is a mechanical and physical skill. Along with the knowledge of how to read the instruments, how the plane works and the relationship between the craft and the atmosphere, there is a certain amount of "seat of the pants" knowledge that can only come from handling an airplane up in the air, where you wanted to be all along. There are a lot of aspects to flying to cover during your time in the air with your instructor. The take off takes some getting used to and you have to learn to carry this part of the flight off safely and in cooperation with the tower and other aircraft in the area. When in the air, finding your altitude and dealing with different situations that come up while flying can really only be taught when they happen. And landing the airplane is an area of particular focus because that is where there is the biggest potential for error which can be catastrophic. One area of flying that must be part of your training that maybe wasn't part of your thoughts when you daydreamed of becoming a pilot is disaster recovery. You know that when you drive a car, there are dozens of "situations" you might get into that require that you make corrections or have the wherewithal to handle a crisis situation and get through it with as little damage and injury as possible. While flying an airplane does not put you in the same kind proximity of other aircraft as driving does, you have more dimensions to flying (up and down) as well as wind, weather and airborne hazards to be concerned with. In addition you may face equipment malfunction while in the air and you must have some knowledge and experience in how to handle this kind of crisis to get through it alive. If your flight training doesn't include crisis training, you should get it at all costs before you even consider taking other people up in your airplane and you are responsible for their lives. You should have an instructor who will intentionally cut the engines and teach you how to handle the aircraft without the aid of power and to glide it safely to the ground. You should also get what they call "spin" training which is what you will need if you suddenly find the aircraft spiraling to the ground "spinning" while you frantically try to figure out how to pull out and save your life and the airplane as well. This part of your training will be a bit frightening. But your instructor will be able to put you into the situations you need to understand and talk you through them so you have the knowledge you need to recover from disasters if they happen to you while flying. You will be glad you are prepared even if you never experience problems flying and it will give you self confidence to know that you were taught how to respond to crisis rather than having to figure it out when it happens. Helicopters to the Rescue Getting a pilot's license with the intent on learning to fly a helicopter is a very ambitious goal. But of all of the aircraft, the helicopter is probably one of the most versatile and useful kinds of flying in society. However, it might be obvious that it is more complicated to fly a helicopter than a conventional private airplane. So the training is more extensive, difficult and expensive as well. But adding the helicopter to the list of your piloting skills on your resume will make you tremendously marketable in a field that is always in need of well trained pilots. You don't have to look far to find ways that helicopter pilots are getting great jobs in all segments of society. Every local news team has at least one if not several traffic or weather helicopters to help report the news. Every day these pilots whisk a news team off to the heart of a fast breaking story, often a story that is filmed directly from the cockpit of their helicopter. The need for helicopters to assist law enforcement is easy to witness by just watching any cop or detective show on television or in the movies. But the way the pilot of the helicopter becomes a big part of many police situations is not overstated. For law enforcement, the need to get right to the heart of a crime situation is nothing short of critical. Time makes a big difference when it comes to solving a crime or stopping a dangerous situation from spiraling out of control. So many times it is the helicopter pilot who can take a team of highly skilled police or FBI officers right into the middle of a trouble situation with pinpoint accuracy. And when those heroes of the police department can save a life because you got them there fast, there is no way to estimate how great you will feel about your role in that important job. Helicopter pilots can find great employment giving rides around the city during the holidays, flying busy executives to high stakes business meetings from the top of skyscrapers, whisking rock stars away from overly adoring fans or working for hospitals getting remote patients to medical care quickly and saving lives in the process. This means that the chances are your life as a helicopter pilot will be exciting, fast paced and always doing something urgent taking you to the most interesting of places. But of the many ways that helicopter pilots find great jobs helping others in society, rescue missions may be the most meaningful. During the hurricane Katrina disaster, it was a common thing to see helicopter pilots going in and plucking people off of rooftops to take them to safety and to be reunited with their grateful families. In forest fire situations, helicopters are what are used to dump water or chemicals on the fire to try and stop the burning. And it is the helicopter that is used to get in the middle of danger and get people out or to get the injured to medical professionals quickly and save lives. Your skills in handling that complicated aircraft will never seem more crucial than when you are using them to benefit your fellow man in trouble. You should know the demands that will be put on you when you start on your course to learn to fly a helicopter and get a pilot's license that says you can be counted on to handle this important vehicle with skill. Unlike a conventional airplane, the helicopter and maneuver straight up and side to side with phenomenal flexibility. It can hover over a location virtually in one place and be landed with nothing more needed than a small plot of ground to place it down on rather than a long landing field. The skill to be able to actually do these maneuvers with this precision flying machine take time and money to gain. You will work very hard in pilot's school for helicopter pilots. And this specialization of pilot training is anywhere from 5-10 times more expensive than conventional pilots training. But if you can get the training under your belt and the experience to show you can handle a copter like pro, the employment opportunities are abundant and the money good for you to have an exciting and diversified career flying helicopters as your job and your passion.
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