Learning to Fly: What you really need to know

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Learning to Fly: Learning to fly is one of the most rewarding things you can do. This article will outline some of the things you should consider when getting your wings. Disclaimer: this is not a complete treatise on the subject, but it might point out some things you haven’t considered.

Flight Schools
The first step in learning to fly is to seek out a good flight school. I should qualify the term ‘flight school’. This could be a full-blown flight academy that stamps out dozens of pilots a month or a small airport fixed based operator (FBO) that provides rental and instruction.

In either case you’ll want to go and visit the facility to get a feel for what they are about. More formal is generally better, but not always – some of the best instructors work at really small unimpressive facilities.  I have found that small towns offer some of the best training and as a bonus it’s generally cheaper than in the large metropolitan areas.

Flight Instructors
To that point, the instructor is the most important part of the equation. A good instructor will mesh well with your ability to learn and also make it fun. Keep in mind a good pilot does not always make a good instructor and vice versa  – they need the aptitude to transmit that superior skill. If you get an instructor and it’s not going well you should consider changing instructors, even if it means going to another school.

Specialized Flight Training
Also if you are looking for specialized training, like a helicopter license you should obviously seek out a helicopter pilot school. Same for float plane, glider, hot air balloon, etc.

There are literally hundreds of great free resources on the internet to help you. I’ll publish a list of links at the end of this article.
Always engage the locals in your immediate area. Aviation is small community and you can learn a lot about a school and an instructor through local knowledge.

You will certainly want to invest in reading material commensurate with the license you are pursuing along with a written test preparation book.  I also recommend you obtain a copy of the pilot operating manual for your training aircraft.

Student Pilot’s Flight Manual: From First Flight to Private Certificate (The Flight Manuals Series)

Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3A) (Second Edition)

Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying

Private Pilot Test Prep 2013: Study & Prepare for Recreational and Private: Airplane, Helicopter, Gyroplane, Glider, Balloon, Airship, Powered … FAA Knowledge Exams (Test Prep series)

It is very true with flight lessons that the more you put in, the more you get out. If you do your homework between lessons, you’ll spend less time paying the instructor to spoon-feed you. This will make everything go smoother and save you money and time.

Another consideration is how often can you take lessons. More often is generally better. I recommend at least one lesson a week. Any less than this and you will end up repeating previous lessons to get back up to speed. If you live somewhere that has a lot of inclement weather you should factor that in too. Professional pilot schools fly their students daily for a reason.

Aircraft Rental
Since you’ll be training you’ll most likely be renting their airplanes. You should consider purchasing renters insurance if you have room in your budget. I wouldn’t consider it mandatory though.

Cost is a big concern around learning to fly. It can effect your level of enjoyment and certainly the cadence of how often you fly. If you have something like G.I. benefits you may be able to defer some of the costs. Also you may be able to finance your training costs – many recommend against this, but at least you’ll be flying. A better plan is to make some slight lifestyle adjustments to offset the expense. Current dollars it costs roughly $5000-$7000 dollars spread out over roughly a year if you fly once a week.

Flight Simulators
Another often under-utlized asset is computer based flight simulators. This market has exploded and there are enter publications devoted to this. I believe it helps students to learn and keep at least some of the skills sharp when you aren’t able to be in the cockpit. One draw-back is it can cause primary students to rely too heavily on instruments when you need to be using the outside visual cues to control the airplane. Beyond that there are few cons.

I hope you found this short article helpful. If you did please comment below. Or if you have questions, put them into the comments and I’ll be sure to reply.


Helpful links:

AOPA Learn To Fly
EAA Learn To Fly
Sporty’s Learn to Fly Here

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