Archive for the ‘Learn to Fly’ Category

What is your airplane saying to you?

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Cessna 172 SkyhawkFlying is a sensual experience. Sight, of course, rules the senses, whether in IFR or VFR conditions. Touch and feel play a role as well, but less of one once in cruise and everything is in equilibrium. That’s not to say that they don’t play an important role—I was once alerted that a major hydraulic failure was about to occur by what I felt in the way of vibration through my feet. But behind sight, I believe that sound is critical when it comes to flying. Specifically, the ability to identify certain sounds.

Reference the above hydraulic situation. It started with a vibration we could feel in the floor, but it soon escalated to a sound similar to that of an idling chainsaw. Within a few minutes, we had been alerted via an engine indicating and crew alerting system (EICAS) message what was going on, and the idling sound turned into a high-pitched whine. It was the pump tearing itself apart.

Every airplane has a certain “sound footprint” in each phase of flight. I’ve always been partial to the way an airplane sounds during the takeoff roll. It’s a good time. After all, you’re getting ready to go fly! The engine or engines are at full power, the wheels are spinning up, and the airflow is generating wind noise. There is a certain comfort level that you feel when you know it all sounds the way it should.

When I was a full-time flight instructor, I spent the majority of time in a fleet of Cessna 172s. The Skyhawk has a definite sound that it makes in all phases of flight: takeoff, cruise, descent, slow flight, landing. It makes a certain sound when you allow it to get away from you in a descent. The sound, with practice, will often alert you to a change in your condition—a disturbance in your equilibrium—before your eyes register what the panel says.

To this day, I think I can fly a 172 without even looking at the panel, because the sound talks to you and tells you what you need to know. Given that I have yet to fly a glass-panel Skyhawk, I’m going to need all the help I can get!

In so many ways, your airplane is talking to you. Often, that voice is the sound or sounds you hear. Learn them. Associate each phase of flight with the change in the pitch of that voice. Spend more time looking outside (which is why you probably wanted to learn to fly in the first place).
Take that information, and use it. If all else fails, it may be all you have.—Chip Wright

 

The old guy on a windy day

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Jean Moule last wrote for the Flight Training blog about a flight lesson in which she invited along her college professor. She is an emerita faculty member of Oregon State University, and a published
writer and artist. Visit her website.—Ed.

When and where will I fly? What kind of airplane and with whom? I have not found a regular airplane, CFI, flight school, or field since my one-year favorite shop closed. But it is March, and I am determined to fly at least once a month. I schedule with Lee in Independence. Great instructor and cool airplane.

In the cold wind coming cross-wise onto the airfield, we sit in the cockpit

flight training blog grumman

The Grumman

going over the instrument panel of a Grumman Tiger AA5B owned by Jeanne’s Flight School. We look at the checklist and Lee answers questions, even before we go into the building to grab headsets and begin to check the checklist. Ah, I see. One removes one’s hearing aids before putting on the headsets. Got it.

Except for a glider, this is my first time in a low-wing airplane with a sliding canopy.  Feels sort of like a luxury convertible car, tufted fabric seats and all. I told my CFI—my OLD CFI, ’cause that is what his car license plate says—that it reminded me of the time I drove my father’s Maserati. Fits and feels a bit like a glove.

After I made my first radio call at a field without a tower, we were soon

flight training blog jean moule

Jean and Lee

airborne. I enjoyed the handling of the Grumman very much. I hadn’t done any maneuvers in the air in a while. Mostly I just wanted to fly at the controls over the landscape. Lee encouraged me. Play with it, he said. I did a few steep turns and practiced power-off and power-on stalls. A nice review of some basics and I learned much because the airplane was new to me. Just a smooth little airplane with a great view.

We tootled over the Willamette River between Amity to the north and Camp Adair to the south. We stayed between the West Salem hills and the beginnings of the coast range. The cumulus clouds at about 5,000 feet and the late afternoon light toward 5 p.m. gave wonderful definition to the sky and the patterned fields, trees, and standing water. OK, got that needed dose of airtime.

It was a high-wind day, so I turned the ailerons into the wind for taxiing and did a crab on final before landing sideslip to align to the runway.

I smiled as Lee backed the airplane into the hangar of a house on the large Grumman at duskairpark residential grid of runways and roads. I remember laughing the first time I saw homes with hangars. Here there are 200. What a community.

My only frown for the day was noting that Lee, like some, charged for ground school, while many instructors base their fee on the Hobbs time on the airplane. My lesson here: It is good to ask before you begin. Then the ending conversation is serious fun too.

I happily headed home, an hour drive away. I had just finished one story on CD and popped a new one into the player. The story opens with a man preflighting a Cessna. Cool, I think. I just flew and now I get a story about flying! Only, in the story, the airplane crashes. It is more ironic than a downer for me. I know it is a story, and I also remember the wise advice of my first flight instructor: Rather than get rattled by news of any crash or airplane incident, try to dig and find out what happened. This has led me to understand that most accidents in small airplanes are caused by pilot error. And two of them are at the top of my list to simply avoid.

First check, and if necessary, double-check that fuel. I remember checking the fuel with a CFI in California. There was plenty for the flight, however the company wanted the airplane full and sent the truck over to fill it. After the top-off, at the CFI’s instruction, we checked the fuel again for water and actual amount. I appreciated the reminder that the pilot in command is ultimately responsible. I will also remember to check that fuel cap and think carefully about the distance and wind direction I plan to fly.

The other caution I have firmly in my mind is to stay away from sketchy weather—which is what did in the pilot in the story I listened to. He was in just too much of a hurry and flew into weather, instrument rating aside, that his airplane could not handle.

While I have much to learn, that advice to check out incident details keeps me ready to take to the air, air sorrows for others in story or for real, not keeping me away.

And of course, having really old CFIs who are solid pilots still in one piece, helps.—Jean Moule

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Back to basics with Nancy Narco

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Nancy Narco.No matter how many advances we make in aviation, many things remain the same. The avionics we used today could be utterly foreign to someone who flew in the 1950s—but the troubleshooting tips still apply.

I was paging through a bound volume of back issues of AOPA Pilot, looking for a specific article, when I came across Nancy Narco. Quick history lesson: Narco Avionics used to be one of the names in aviation communications and navigation equipment, much as Bendix/King and Garmin are today. Your trainer might sport a Narco radio. You’ll likely see advertisements for Narco units on eBay and Barnstormers. The company went out of business in 2011.

Nancy Narco seems as though she might have been the Betty Crocker of avionics. She appeared in Narco advertisements in the 1950s and 1960s, running a sort of advice column (“Nancy Narco says”) alongside the main ad copy enticing readers to purchase transmitters, receivers, automatic direction finders, and whatever else was then state of the art.

My eye fell on this one from February 1959, titled “FAT.” Nancy wasn’t giving out weight management advice–she was sharing a memory tip on how to troubleshoot radio issues.

  • F for frequency: Check proper channel and transmitter selector switch. (Nancy notes that “more and more aircraft” are equipped with two or more transmitters, so then—as now—it was a good idea to make sure you weren’t transmitting on Comm 2 instead of Comm 1.)
  • A for audio. Check receiver volume and audio function switch to be sure you can hear OK.
  • T for tuning. Be sure you’ve tuned the proper frequency—I think we’ve all done that at least once or twice.

Nancy is no more, but I like her common-sense approach. I’ll share some of her other words of wisdom in upcoming blogs.—-Jill W. Tallman

P.S. Here’s a really good breakdown of whether avionics have risen in cost as dramatically as aircraft, presented by Bruce Williams on his blog Bruceair.com.

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

Cross-marketing flying

Monday, March 10th, 2014

scuba divingI recently touched on the topic of marketing yourself as a CFI. I say “touched” because a 900- word blog simply cannot do the topic justice. Books have been written about it—books geared toward the CFI, no less, and they had far more than 900 words.

But I do want to touch on the concept of cross-marketing. As I mentioned previously, general aviation has not historically done well with marketing efforts, especially flight schools. They tend to rely on walk-ins, word-of-mouth, and website hits. Not many take advantage of cross-marketing with other activities that attract the same demographic as pilots.

The most obvious market is scuba diving. Diving tends to attract relatively well-to-do individuals looking to fulfill “bucket list” goals, or those who are interested in living life from a different perspective. Flying and diving have much in common: Both are three-dimensional activities; both require analysis and planning; both require some specialized equipment; both require a disciplined approach toward safety; and both are best when shared with others. In fact, diving is a highly social activity, much more so than flying is.

Research has shown that as many as 70 percent of pilots are also scuba divers. Note that I did not say that 70 percent of divers are pilots. However, the immediate use of that information is obvious: Divers are a market just waiting to be exploited by you, the instructor-to-be of a bunch of future pilots.

Unlike flying, diving is an industry that is unregulated by the government. It’s largely self-regulated, and there are numerous dive training agencies. The heavy hitter, though, is the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI). Chances are that your local shop is a PADI facility, and if it isn’t, it probably has at least one PADI-certified instructor. PADI is a marketing machine.

As a CFI, you can—and should—try to establish a relationship with your local dive shop. Talk about forming a partnership that might consist of promoting each other’s businesses via brochures or sharing links on each other’s websites. Establish a referral system that provides an incentive for old customers to bring in new customers to either business. If you are not a certified diver, consider becoming one. Even if you are not interested, learn what is required to become a diver, and learn the basics of the training system in use at your local dive shop, be it PADI, NAUI, SSI, et cetera. Understanding the lingo and the training platforms will help you when it comes to talking to potential diving pilots.

Flying and diving are both travel activities. One way to promote both at the same time would be to establish a “flying diving vacation,” such as a trip to a beach that is also a diving hot-spot. Locations like the Gulf Shores, the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, Catalina Island, or even Mexico offer much for divers, non-divers, and pilots. A GA pilot can’t fly for pay, but the divers in the airplane can contribute to the cost of the flight by paying for some of the fuel. For divers who have not been exposed to general aviation, it may be a great way to introduce them to the fun and flexibility offered by general aviation airplanes. You and your new dive-shop partner can heavily promote a trip like this. The dive shop can also promote various diving events that will take place once you actually hit the water (with your scuba gear, that is).

This is just one avenue of cross-promotional marketing. There are others, and some will be local to where you live. So, “dive right in,” and start tapping into revenue “pools” that already exist.—Chip Wright

The perfect CFI

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

what makes a good flight instructor?We asked the Flight Training Facebook friends to tell us one thing they love about their flight instructors. Judging from their comments, we think we could cook up the perfect CFI using these ingredients. Flight instructors, do you see yourself in these comments?

Two parts great teacher:

“Dana Holliday, because he LOVES his job and flies for the fun of it. Not because he needs to stay current or earn more hours.”—Phillip J. Maschke

“Scott McManus at Wings of Eagles Everything Aviation at Huntsville International Airpor; he inspires confidence, cheerfully adapts his teaching style to my learning style…”—Andrea Atwood

“Harold Price @GGP he loves to teach and talk aviation.”—John Peters

 Two parts experience

“His skills, both as pilot and instructor and obvious love of flying make him a joy to work with!”–Andrea Atwood, talking about Scott McManus

“Thessa at Universal Flight Training, professional and very patient. Demands precision and provides the student the tools to be precise.”—Mark Gatz

“David Hersman at Eagles’ Wings Flight Training, been there for years with 8,000+ hours in his C150. Really knows his stuff!”—Joel Thomas

A side of safety

“Capt Bundock, plants the discipline of flying from scratch. ‘Never change your attitude with the trimmer’”—Martin Asare

The patience of Job

“Terry Anderson at Flyboys, 6A2……he’s an awesome teacher and is very patient with his students…really glad I found him!”—Scott Beard

“Stuart Cook at Skyward Aviation, Santa Monica, CA. Smart, patient, great at explaining and teaching, calm and a great person!”—Renee Engel

“My instructor was an older woman named Rose. She flew for the Army Air Corps and taught her son who became a commercial pilot. Great gal and patient with a then young woman with more bravery than brains. :)—Suzanne Day
 
 “Ben Chapman and Kendall Young! I’m taking more time than usual to get my private pilot’s license and they have been very patient with me!”—Chris Nolen
“Allan C. Burke a great Christian man with patience and a great friend.”—Nick Reed

A bit of fun, just for good measure

“Jonathan Bishop from Cal Airways flight school Hayward, CA. Very passionate about aviation I’ve learned so much plus he makes ground school and flying fun.”—Anthony Hayes

“Paul Jacob, patient , smart. And fun to fly with him.”—Michael McShane

“Tristan Wright @ Skywings Okotoks, flexible schedule and doesn’t mind repeating briefs or flights to ensure I got it. We even did a ‘let’s just fly for fun’ day instead of a lesson.”—Robert Manahan

If you missed the original Facebook post and would like to salute your flight instructor, please do so in the Comments. Or, add your own thoughts about what makes the perfect flight instructor!—Jill W. Tallman
 
Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

Take me flying

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Sammy in Miss JDogs that enjoy riding in cars generally enjoy flying in airplanes. That’s the conventional wisdom, and it holds up for the most part (although dogs that ride in cars without an issue can become airsick, so many pilots don’t feed dogs before taking them up).

My dog Sammy enjoyed riding in cars. She would sit up in the back and look out (or stick her nose out the open window, weather permitting) with a serenity that our other dogs lacked. No crying or barking, no bouncing back and forth between windows. She would simply take in all that there was to see.

I wanted to take her flying, so I finally did. She was 13 years old and 56 pounds, so it wasn’t easy to load her into the back of my Cherokee. She didn’t understand that she was to head into the open door, and she tried to walk out onto the right wing. Once in the backseat, however, she realized that she had simply been helped into another kind of vehicle, and she sat up just as she had always done in our cars, ready to take in the view. She didn’t lie down or move around; she simply gazed out the rear window and watched the Earth below, much as she’d watched cars and people and landscapes while traveling on the ground.

When we were finished with our flight, I went to the nearest drive-through and bought her a $100 hamburger.

That was our one flight. For me, it was enough. For Sammy, who knows? Dogs just like to be with their people, and while she enjoyed her hamburger, she probably wouldn’t have cared whether we went for a walk, or a drive, or a flight. Still, I’m glad I took her flying. This picture is from November 2012, before arthritis and the tumor that eventually took their toll.

Take your dog flying. You’ll both have a great time.—Jill W. Tallman

Images in the air

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Jean Moule last wrote for the Flight Training blog about making the best of a change in her flight training plans. She is an emerita faculty member of Oregon State University, and a published writer and artist. Visit her website.—Ed.

Piper Clipper

Bob Hartmann flying his Piper PA-16 Clipper.

In 1970 my art instructor bought a Piper PA-16 Clipper. His art changed from many other media to photographs taken from the airplane. To get a clear view of the ground directly under the airplane, as he wished, he had to turn it pretty much on its side (someone more knowledgeable feel free to tell me a better name for that maneuver and tell us more about that airplane). Earlier, when I had Robert Hartmann as a professor at Berkeley in the mid 1960s, his work was mostly two-dimensional images of airplanes in or under clouds.

In the last year, as you may know from my earlier blogs, I have been taking flying lessons. My flight school closed and my quest for a solo has been on hold. I have not shared here that in the last three years I have reentered a world of art—mostly watercolors, mostly clouds. It was Bob Hartmann who inspired me to change my undergraduate major at Berkeley to art.

One of Bob Hartmann's aerial images.

One of Bob Hartmann’s aerial images.

Last year I wondered if Bob was still alive and where he was located. A bit of searching, as he does not own a computer, turned up a number. With hesitation I called him. We exchanged a few letters, and this week I was honored and touched to meet with him in his home of 50 years in the Oakland, Calif., hills. It was there that I learned of his flying history and spent  time looking at his incredible earthscapes taken from his airplane.

Two days later, I had an extra day in the Bay Area. None of my other connections worked out, no phone messages returned, no beckoning activities. But, wait. There must be a flight school near here. With my recent decision to get up in the air in as many places with as many CFIs as possible before settling down and training for that solo, I decided to fly. I begged my way into a flight lesson for the afternoon. Giddy, I think of the joy of flying over my old campus, seeing the bell tower from the air, and circling Mount Diablo.

 An hour before my flight I think. Would Bob, now 87, be available to go up? As we all know you can put another person in that airplane when you take a lesson. [So long as weight and balance work.---Ed.]

 I call. He comes. A circle is complete.

Jean and BobIt was a pleasure to preflight and go up in a Cessna 172 so similar to the one I flew for a year. Details escaped me and I left the radio work to Joe, the flight instructor. Often I asked him to take the yoke so I could take the photos. I timed our one-hour flight perfectly and learned a few new pieces of information to connect to my knowledge base. Beautiful blue sky, San Francisco in the distance, and Mount Diablo up close. Best of all, we flew over the land that Bob had photographed as art over the years.

 As I pay and get a log of the flight, Bob talks with Joe about his years of flying from Buchanan Field in Concord in his Piper Clipper.

aviation art, aviation photographyAfter our flight we go to lunch and, at his home, I marvel at more of his images. I spend too much time and miss my commercial flight home, but I don’t care. I will treasure his gallery book that he signs and gives me. It is called Solo Flights.—Jean Moule

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.

Sad to glad

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Jean Moule last wrote about flying in the Caymans for the Flight Training blog. She is an emerita faculty member of Oregon State University, and a published writer and artist. Visit her website.—Ed.

Fog Clearing at Home“Jean, we sure have had fog this year. Forecast today is fog all day. In two months we have flown 765 no more than two hours. Not good for the airplane to sit. If the forecast is wrong I am available to fly.“

 While the fog makes for good photos and painting, my flying needs were not being met. Occasionally we even had sun at our house at 800 feet and could see the fog bank below us, and I enjoyed it. A friend asked, “Can’t you just fly through the fog and above it?” “Yes,” I replied, “but one must be able to see the ground to get back down on a visual flight!” And the fog can close in very quickly.

While I had had eight recent commercial flights, it had been six weeks since I had flown an airplane myself. This is the longest break since I began lessons a year ago. Fog I could deal with, as I could look forward to sunnier days to come…after all, this is Oregon. What I could not deal with was the next email from my instructor.

 “Jean, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the 172 is being sold and we are closing the office…In aviation there will always be changes and change is good, even though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.”

 My afternoon flight now canceled, I struggled to get some balance, beginning to realize how much flying had become part of my life, even if it takes me my projected 57 hours to solo! The fog settling in my brain from no flying was worse than the real fog we had been living with for weeks. While my instructor had suggested future lesson options at other airports, I wanted to fly now. I went so far as to ask a flying neighbor if he was going up that day (he was not), as I know sunny Oregon days are limited in the winter. I felt so sad. What to do? I finished my preparations for a conference at OSU in Corvallis the next day that included a chart that illustrated my changing use of time. I had added flying for 2013 and had it projected for 2014. Would it happen?

 The day after my yearlong instructor and airplane vanished from my future, I wrote this to my former instructor.

 “Hi Steve, After looking into the bright blue skies for a day and wanting to be in it, and after a conference in Corvallis I stopped by the airport in Lebanon on my way home. Whew, what a scene!…I flew (in a really, really old 172). In my conference-going clothes. Had my logbook with me only because it was an artifact in my presentation at the conference. Sold some copies of my book to other pilots/student pilots/Lebanair Aviation owner. Change can be interesting… Jean”

New friends JeanPaul (left) and John at Lebanon State Airport.

New friends JeanPaul (left) and John at Lebanon State Airport.

Wow, I felt like I had stepped into some kind of movie set at Lebanon State Airport that certainly lived up to its motto, “The friendliest little Airport in Oregon.” Because of the sunny day, small airplanes were in and out, and I met many people. I visited, stayed, and eventually took a short flight. The flight was paid for by the sales of my book, Ask Nana Jean, because the owner of LebanAir kept asking anyone who came in if they had $10! One went to a fellow who had happened to read my Flight Training blogs! Small world—or maybe not in general aviation.

 What an unexpected find. What unexpected support and new acquaintances. And I got to fly as the sun was setting on a clear sky day!—Jean Moule

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.

Flight school flyouts: We’re outta here

Friday, January 31st, 2014

If your flight school could shake up your training routine by offering you a chance to join other pilots on an organized fly-out, would you go? Most of us would love it. Getting out of the pattern, going places? Getting a taste of what it will be like when we can be pilots in command and go where we want? Where do we sign up?

Many flight schools try to organize these types of events—but they’re not easy to pull off. There’s the weather, availability of airplanes, flight instructors, and a host of other details to consider above and beyond the normal flight scheduling routine. So if your flight school offers you the chance to join a fly-out—whether it’s to the next airport for a pancake breakfast, or to Niagara Falls—don’t wait. Reserve an airplane, get a CFI if you need one, and go. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot and have a great time.

In 2002, as a low-time private pilot, I flew from Maryland to Maine, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and back during a four-day fly-out organized by Frederick Flight Center. There were several student pilots in our group, and everybody gained a great deal of confidence (see “Destination: Experience,” March 2003 Flight Training).

When you read this I’ll be on my way to Florida with a group of airplanes and pilots out of Virginia. The 12 aircraft are leaving this wretched Mid-Atlantic winter behind, temporarily. But we’re not staying in Florida. We’re headed to the Bahamas, accompanied by Bob Hepp, owner of Aviation Adventures. (Aviation Adventures’ Conor Dancy is our 2013 Flight Instructor of the Year, and the school itself has won recognition for high-quality training at its Manassas, Leesburg, and Winchester locations. Some of the airplanes going on this fly-out are on the flight line at Aviation Adventures.)

This will be Aviation Adventures’ third fly-out to the Bahamas. The school also organizes trips to Oshkosh, Wis., for EAA AirVenture, and most recently shepherded a group on a frigid December morning to tour the Hudson River corridor in New York.

A student pilot can’t fly solo outside the United States, of course. He or she can fly accompanied by a certificated pilot who is qualified to act as PIC. But crossing the border in a small airplane is a great adventure and a personal goal for many pilots. And if you have any qualms about Customs procedures, the paperwork, the navigation, and/or the safety equipment needed, a group fly-out is a great way to give it a try. (If you want to get going on the research, see AOPA’s Bahamas resources page. We’ve got info for Alaska, Canada, and Mexico, too.)

I’ll share some of these considerations on the Flight Training blog as we travel, and you’ll see a complete write-up in a future issue of Flight Training magazine. In the meantime, you folks where it’s cold, try to stay warm, and I’ll do the same.—Jill W. Tallman

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.

A flight training inspiration

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Social Media Editor and student pilot Benét Wilson last blogged about moving ahead with training even when the weather is bad.—Ed.

One of the best parts of my job as the editor of the eFlightTraining newsletter and AOPA’s social media editor is that I get to read and report on great stories of how AOPA members got their private pilot certificates.

I learned about Brenda Nelson’s unique story via our Facebook fan page, when I was soliciting photos for #ThrowbackThursday. Here’s what she posted:

“Three years ago, my boyfriend was diagnosed with multiple myeloma bone cancer. I had always wanted to achieve getting a pilot’s license. He lives six hours away in Chicago. He was so sick he couldn’t make the trip to Southwest Iowa [where Nelson lives] anymore. So I drove there every three weeks. I [also] started lessons and studied late into the evenings. I kept my full-time job and worked my 3 1/2 acres and achieved my dream. My boyfriend is now in remission and I took him flying. It was because of his illness and willingness to live that gave me the inspiration to fly!!!!”Brenda Nelson

Who wouldn’t be inspired by that story? Nelson said she’s wanted to learn to fly since she was in eighth grade. Her oldest brother went to the Spartan School of Aviation and was a few hours away from getting his pilot certificate. “He got married and never pursued it. My parents were farmers and there was never extra money to do anything like this, which can be cost prohibitive if you don’t have the financial backing,” said Nelson.

Nelson said that after her boyfriend was diagnosed with cancer, she decided if he could make it through the treatments, she could get her private pilot certificate. “So I called my local FBO, Atlantic, and told the owner I wanted to get my certificate. He gave me a book and I started in October 2011,” she said. “I took a few lessons and I was hooked. I knew I had time at home and at the hospital to study for ground school.”

For the next year when the time and money allowed, Nelson “picked away” at her flight lessons. “I put aside $285 every two weeks to pay for my training,” she said.

“I soloed in the spring of 2012 and got my certificate in October 2013.  After that, my boyfriend got better and he’s now in remission,” said Nelson. “I took him for a flight in November, and he couldn’t believe it. It was really cool.”

Nelson credits help from family and friends in helping achieve her dream of becoming a pilot. “My parents, who are in their late seventies, came and helped by watching my house and dog when I was making the regular six-hour drive to Chicago. There were also three people in my office who helped out so I could be gone,” she said. 

The biggest challenges are time and money, said Nelson. “I see people who don’t have anything to push them to get their certificate,” she said.  “If you don’t have that, it’s tough. I’d get AOPA magazines and seeing those articles inspired me.”—Benét Wilson

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.