Considering pursuing your pilot licence?
As an active instructor at a busy airport, I’ve had the opportunity to transform lives, help people achieve their dreams and lift their spirits amongst other things. Instructing, being such a fulfilling and rewarding experience, gives me a front seat to watch a pupil’s transformation from their 1st flight to the first time they take to the air solo a few lessons later and eventually the achievement of their pilot license .
Having gone through the process as a student and now as an instructor, I’ve tapered down the process of flight training through a series of questions which in my opinion will help structure your flight training, and help to it efficient and a fun learning experience.
Know Your Goal Before You Begin
I usually go about asking candidates why they want to fly, and what is it that they hope to achieve (be it a private pilot certificate as a weekend hobby or a commercial pilot license to eventually make a career out of it)
Its always a good idea to go up and take a short familiarization flight to get a feel for what you are getting into, before you go out and spend a good fortune only to discover you don’t actually like flying.
Consider the Cost
Sit down with the instructor and get a breakdown of the course, the costs, the price points of various aircraft, and any “hidden” charges (fuel surcharge, briefings, equipment and so on).
Most flight schools operate from a business stand point, and will advertise the most competitive rates to bring in the crowd (it’s a common business practice we all know be it selling hot dogs or satellites). So, what typically gets advertised are the regulatory minimums that the aviation regulators impose (Transport Canada, the FAA or CAA).
Calculate Real Time
In Canada the legal minimum time is 45 hours of flight time and 40 hours of ground school (I like to refer to these as “ideal numbers”), then there is something more realistic, closer to the 60 -70 flight hours which is referred to as the national average.
From my experience as a student pilot and as an instructor, most folks with some decent commitment, consistency, and effort are able to achieve their licenses in this time bracket (60-70 hours). I‘ve had people take less than this number as well as over 200 flight hours to pursue their licenses.
How Committed Are You?
This is perhaps the most important of all; asking yourself how much time you could put into the flight training dream.
I’ve often heard folks say an hour every day to read/study is totally do-able… until life catches up and then that hour becomes impossible to find most days.
How Often Can You Fly?
The number of flight lessons you could take on a weekly basis, be it 3 times a week or even once every 2 weeks, this is a question only you could answer (taking your resources, finances and time constraints into consideration).
The key factor here is “CONSISTENCY”; Being consistent could be the game changer to a successful flight training experience. A lot of candidates bite off more than they can chew to start with (could be the excitement of flying, bad organisational skills, improper direction and plan from the instructor’s side amongst other things). This gets them to fly more/less than what they can handle, which leads to inefficient flight training.
Take into consideration time spent at home with the books reading over the theory, the next lesson and reading out of personal interest .Once you have this figured out, plan out your schedule with your instructors availability and take it from there.
Get The Medical Done
Get a medical done as soon as practical; there could be an acute possibility of a medical issue which could throw some speed breakers, but most of the issues can be corrected and dealt with.
The Canadian aviation medical examiners (CAME) and the FAA Aviation Medical Examiners (AME) are generally pilots themselves, and are very motivated to see new people taking up flying. Most will do everything to find a solution within their means and resources.
Know About Circumstances Beyond Your Control
There are a few hiccups we’ll all face which we have no control over: weather, mechanical breakdowns, airport issues, and so on, which frustrates the best of us. But here’s where
patience plays an important role, and learning this lesson early on could take you a long way through your flying experience.
Stick With It!
High numbers of flight students drop out of their flight training at various stages.
In addition to consistent training, and real and ongoing student motivation, a lot comes down to lack of planning, resources and time. Balancing these factors will take you through your flight training in an efficient and rewarding manner.
Know What You Are Getting Into…
Often when pilots complain (pilots always do no matter what they fly), I ask them if they did their research before taking up flying as a career, (highly recommended if you wish to do something for a large part of your life be it selling peanuts or design rockets). If the answer is no, I ask them why not?
If the answer is “Yes”, then I ask them why they complain so much about it, if they knew what they were getting into!
Yes, aviation is a tough industry; one has to put in blood, sweat and tears to see any reforming results, but I don’t know of any profession you could get into doing what you love that doesn’t require you to do the same.
In my opinion, the industry has evolved over the years, and, for better or worse, I’m very optimistic about the future it holds… the excitement the opportunities and the adventures that lie ahead!
Like any other field, it has its moments, starting from the bottom and moving up the ranks, but like I’ve always said, if you look at it like work, then it’s still the office with the best view, be it in a cramped up 2 seater @ 3000ft or from the flight deck of a 400 passenger jumbo jet@35000 ft conquering the skies.
Kevin Asirvatham is a Class 2 Flight Instructor in Toronto, Canada. Contact Kevin here.