Posts Tagged ‘student pilot’

What does a falling tree look like from the air?

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

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

tree cutting 1Every day away from the air means more hours in it to reach my goal. At 25 hours with the last 10 spread out over months, I am making little progress toward my solo.

A big, big milestone birthday approaches. My two-year goal to solo on or near it was dashed by family medical problems that led me to be a caregiver instead of a flight-taker. (My practical daughter suggested that perhaps I should not fly because her father needed me, and what if something happened? I suggested that, well, I could just take him up with me. “That works,” she said.) My husband came in the airplane with me a few times, but he would rather stay at home, as riding in small airplanes makes him airsick.

Weeks passed. Months passed. I have forgotten half of what I learned.

Got…to…get…up in the air…in a small airplane.

My most recent flight instructor agreed to take me up a couple of weeks ago. It was a constant speed propeller plane, one that had extra items to attend to. It had been eight months since I had flown, and it showed. He did most of the work that day. We did do go-arounds to practice landings at a nearby airfield.

Now, a week later, my birthday loomed, and I had to take to the air. Jerry agreed to take me up again.

With the review the week before, some basics had began to come back to me. I certainly feel more comfortable in the left seat of any airplane with a trusty CFI by my side.
My birthday is near Halloween, so scary stuff comes out all the time anyway. Scary it was to have to review so much when I was getting so close to solo nearly two years ago.

Taking a deep breath on a clear, blue morning at our house, I head to the airfield. Only as I get close do I see fog hanging about. Jerry calls. Farther west the fog is so thick he is sure that it is not a flyable day. He wants to know how long I am willing to wait it out for the top of the nearby butte to be visible for the needed ceiling.

It is my birthday; not only do I have all day, but I have arranged for a very special gift from my husband.

You see, we live in a clearing in a forest on a ridge. Eighteen months ago we had 17 100-foot Douglas fir trees cut down. In the winter we now have sun in some windows. Yet there was one tree at the end of a row near our pond that I thought needed to be removed to enhance our view.

“Honey, how about if you cut down that fir tree for my birthday gift while I fly over it?” He rolls his eyes. He agrees.

Earlier in the morning that I am headed to the Lebanon airport for my flight, he had already finished the undercut and started the backside cut. This tree had to come down this day on purpose before the wind came up and it came down on its own. Yes, I would wait until too dark for that fog to clear for my flight over our house.

We wait out the fog. It lifts, and no one was scheduled for that Cessna 172 anyway. We take off and head over to my property. Since it was my special day, I asked Jerry to do as little as possible and just tell me what to do. And we were flying the older, simpler (and cheaper) airplane.

As the airplane approaches our property, my husband cuts the last bit of trunk and sure enough, I see the tree fall while in the air. Certainly a unique event for a seventieth birthday.

I breathe a sigh of relief. I can see that the fallen tree missed the greenhouse and the llama. As we fly away from the property and over the fields, my smartphone lens is now put away and my hands again on the yoke. We take a look at a private grass airstrip and contemplate the steps necessary to land there. Thoughts only, but a future goal, as I already have permission to use that field. Then off through the skies toward the pattern and onto the airfield, keeping that little airplane a foot off the runway as long as possible for my training. Lesson and fun event in the same hour.—Jean Moule

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The return of the “Since You Asked” poll

Monday, September 21st, 2015

FT dig tagYou may have noticed that our much-loved columnist Rod Machado changed neighborhoods in the magazine.

Starting with the September 2015 issue, Rod discontinued his “Instructor Report” and resumed his popular “Since You Asked” column. It now resides each month in the Preflight section.

When Rod was contributing “Since You Asked” in previous years, we took advantage of new-ish technology to include a reader poll in the digital edition whenever possible. (For paper subscribers, the “Plus” icon [show above] means there’s a digital component to any given article.)

With the return of “Since You Asked,” we also are returning to digital polls. In October, we asked readers whether they used a GPS during dual cross-country flight training.

The vast majority (57 percent) of respondents said they did not use a GPS. Another 29 percent said they didn’t use one because the airplane didn’t have one. And 14 percent said they did use a GPS during dual cross-country flight training.

The poll question concerned a reader’s question to Rod: “Should student pilots be allowed to use a GPS’s moving map display during their dual cross-country flights?”

Rod said he has no problem with student pilots using a GPS moving map at any time during their cross-country training, so long as they meet a few requirements: “Technology should never be used as a substitute for the acquisition of the basic skills replaced by that technology. As long a a student learns the basic navigation skills required by the regulations first, then the use of a GPS moving map seems reasonable.”

Rod clarified his comment by adding that it’s not reasonable to expect a student to learn dead reckoning and pilotage skills while simultaneously monitoring a moving map. His responses, as always, are thoughtful and make the basis of a good discussion for you and your flight instructor. Preview the October 2015 digital issue here. (You don’t need to log in; simply push the “Preview” button on the login screen.)—Jill W. Tallman

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

The Ercoupe: a must-try for a student pilot

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
The very thin pilot's operating handbook for a 1946 Ercoupe. Photo by Chris Rose

The very thin pilot’s operating handbook for a 1946 Ercoupe. Photo by Chris Rose

Student pilot Matthew Orloff is an intern for AOPA Communications.—Ed.

At first glance, the Erco Ercoupe may appear to belong in either a vintage aircraft museum or Evel Knievel’s garage, but surprisingly, it’s a very compatible match for a student pilot, especially if you’re just starting out. As a student pilot with a mere 10 hours of flight time, I can say when I started taking flight lessons in a Cessna 172, I was overwhelmed. I wished flying an airplane was as simple as driving a car, where you just start it up, look out the window and go, as the great learning curve certainly intimidated me.

After seeing the Ercoupe for the first time, the last thing I would’ve ever expected was to praise it for how wonderful it is as a training aircraft. It may be easy to judge a book by its cover and conclude that than an airplane from 1946 is unsafe and ineffective to learn how to fly in. After all, it’s an old airplane, with old technology.

In fact, the airplane flies by the same aerodynamic principles, along with being just as smooth and responsive as a 172 minus all the more confusing bells and whistles.

Not to mention, flying with the canopy down is more fun than just about anything. I would compare it to learning how to drive in a classic convertible as opposed to your mother’s SUV. Speaking of which, the Ercoupe was originally intended to introduce people to flying, so when taxiing, instead of steering with the rudder pedals (which may throw you off if you’re very used to using the rudder pedals for taxiing), you actually steer with the yoke as if you are driving a car.

Since the airplane is so small, it is easier to visualize the aerodynamic principles that you learn about. For example, just by sticking your arm out the side of the airplane, you will see that you begin to turn to that same side. It’s the perfect lesson on how the deflection of air affects all the movements of your aircraft, and it’s also just flat-out cool.

If there is one thing I want to stress to other student pilots out there about this airplane, it is that it’s just so easy to fly. Since the cockpit of the Ercoupe is minimal, the likelihood of “cockpit juggling” is lessened. The checklist (another great source of intimidation) is easily accomplished because there are no fancy gadgets. The flight controls are simple, and daunting tasks such as landing are way easier. Landing an Ercoupe will certainly boost your confidence as a pilot, because chances are, you’ll nail it. Right now, I’m absolutely terrible at landing, but thanks to how small, simple, and visually unobstructed your view is in the Ercoupe, I had made my best landing to date.

If you are ever lucky enough to come across the opportunity to fly in an Ercoupe, by all means take it. Your flying skills are sure to improve and therefore your confidence will strengthen. Look at it as a steppingstone before pursuing more complex aircraft. With the student pilot completion rate being relatively low, the simplicity and sheer excitement of flying the Ercoupe is sure to keep your eyes on the prize. It is also worth mentioning you will probably save a bit of money since it’s such a small airplane, and of course, you will have an absolute blast!—Matthew Orloff

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




Top 10 reasons to volunteer at an AOPA fly-in

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015
Airshow pilot Michael Goulian waves to spectators at the AOPA Homecoming Fly-In on June 6.

Airshow pilot Michael Goulian waves to spectators at the AOPA Homecoming Fly-In on June 6.

Whether jumping out of bed early Saturday morning is part of your weekly routine or not, you’re sure to be thrilled to do just that if it means you’re going to be volunteering at an AOPA fly-in. For aviation fans, the thought of getting up close and personal with a variety of aircraft and the people who fly them is surly exciting, and as a volunteer, the perks of the experience can only be enhanced. Here are the top 10 reasons why:

 10. Free stuff.

It’s amazing to see what people will do for a free T-shirt. If that’s still not enough, you also get a free lunch—and it’s delicious.

9. Golf carts.

Everyone loves golf carts; they are simply a joy to drive and ride around on. Better yet, there’s free food for volunteers on the back of some of them. In fact, there’s so many golf carts running around the event that you may get to drive one.

8. You will feel good about yourself.

There is a sense of pride when you know you devoted your time to doing something good for a cause you truly believe in. It’s an empowering feeling that epitomizes the notion of “helping yourself by helping others.” On top of this, you are outdoors, and just being outdoors is enough to feel like you’ve gotten your daily dose of exercise—even if you’re just gazing at airplanes.

7. Behind-the-scenes access.

Think of it as having a backstage pass at a huge concert. You will see how fun it is to put on such a production, and this includes being up close and personal with performers, aviation toys, and important people…which leads to our next reason.

6. Incredible networking.

Is there an unusual airplane and only one person who flies it? Well, there’s a good chance that person will be at the fly-in and he’d love to tell you everything you wanted to know about his airplane! Perhaps you have an idol who happens to have your aviation dream job? There’s a good chance you’ll find that person at the fly-in too.

 5. You will be recognized.

Free T-shirts and food may be a nice way of saying thank you, but the overwhelming amount of gratitude you get from attendees can’t help but make you feel warm and welcome. The simplicity of a “thank you” can be very rewarding.

4. Eye candy everywhere.

Look up, down, left, and right. There are cool flying toys everywhere. You’ll truly be a kid in a candy shop and the best part is, as a volunteer, you get a thorough experience with them.

 3. Knowledge is power.

There’s a good chance that even if you begin your day knowing absolutely nothing about aviation, then you will walk out of there as a human encyclopedia. An AOPA fly-in is loaded with aviation information, and as a volunteer, it will be sure to rub off on you.

2. Spending time with the nicest people on the planet.

The aviation community is tight-knit, yet overwhelmingly welcoming and hospitable. An AOPA fly-in is populated with exceptional people who want nothing more to inspire you, the volunteer, to be as passionate as you already are about GA.

And finally—

1. The possibilities are infinite.

You may have noticed that there’s a common theme in many of these reasons to volunteer: You never know what might happen. You may meet your aviation idol, you may find out about a dream opportunity you never knew existed, but one thing is certain—the possibilities are endless. Whatever does happen, it’s sure to be memorable and bring a bright smile to your face around the warmest people there are.—Matthew Orloff

Student pilot Matthew Orloff is an editorial intern for AOPA Communications. Orloff volunteered for the AOPA Homecoming Fly-In on June 6.

AOPA is hosting regional fly-ins in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Aug. 22; Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Sept. 26; and Tullahoma, Tennessee, on Oct. 10. Volunteers are needed! To learn more or sign up, see the website.—Ed.

Just ahead in the August issue

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

 What does your flight instructor pound into your brain this time of year? (At least we hope your flight instructor is pounding this into your brain.) Density altitude.

We’re not going to stray from that path. Hot weather and airplanes have a long and complicated relationship, and you need only look on YouTube to see lots of evidence of what happens when you don’t calculate density altitude. (This clip, which shows in-cockpit footage from a 2012 crash, is particularly educational. The four occupants of the Stinson did walk away from the crash.)

That’s why our Technique and Weather articles this month are devoted to density altitude. You can’t learn too much about it, particularly if you are a flat-land pilot who may be tempted to assume—incorrectly—that density altitude is something you don’t have to think about.

Also in our August issue:

  • Energy management: Does throttle control altitude or airspeed? What role does the elevator play? We break down energy principles of motion control in four steps.
  • Keep yourself sharp: Now that you’re a certificated pilot, just how sharp are you? Here are some ways to keep yourself in the student mindset.
  • Buddy system: Why should you be a safety pilot? We tell you all the reasons.

Also: A marriage made in aviation heaven; an interview with Living in the Age of Airplanes and One-Six Right director Brian J. Terwilliger.

The August digital edition goes live on June 23. Learn more about how you can get the magazine delivered to your tablet, computer, or mobile device here.

In-home delivery begins July 2, and if you’re not yet a subscriber, you’ll find it on newsstands as of July 14.

We welcome your letters to the editor; email [email protected]—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.

‘The aviation community truly cares’

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Spencer Rice took his private pilot checkride at age 17. He credits a wonderfully supportive aviation community for a large part of his success.—Ed.

Spencer Rice (right) with designated pilot examiner Forest Lanning.

Spencer Rice (right) with designated pilot examiner Forest Lanning.

About six years ago, I saw a very small airport right next to my family’s beach house. Watching the airplanes fly the pattern right over our house fascinated me.

One day I just had to meet a pilot. I was 11 at the time so I asked if one of my parents would take me to the airport, and they agreed. I met the pilot, and I don’t remember the exact words he and I exchanged, but I do remember him telling me about EAA.
When I got home I looked for more info on EAA and learned about the Young Eagles program. I nagged my parents consistently till they agreed to let me contact the local coordinator.
I was set up with a flight in a small experimental called a Zenith Zodiac 601. I remember the takeoff very well, and I was hooked! The Young Eagles pilot told me after the flight that I could go with him again anytime, and of course I took up that offer! I kept flying with him and still do; we have become great friends.
I started my first flight lessons at 13. Flying in a J-5 Cub. I was able to afford 10 hours of flying before I ran out of money. The one thing I always told my parents was that if I was going to pursue my dream in aviation that it would be by my own funding. They would front money to me, but I would always pay it back. I mowed lawns to pay for my training, but that money did not come in fast enough to continue. I stopped lessons unfortunately.
I continued flying with my Young Eagle pilot and one day we were talking about Experimental aircraft. I said that I would like to build my own plane in the future. My Young Eagle pilot responded with “what if I told you, you could now?” This was the biggest opportunity of my life; he offered to help me through the process, teach, and mentor me. He understood my money issue and brought up the idea of scratch building so I could pay as I go.
Not more than three months later I bought my own pair of plans for a Zenith Zodiac 601—the same plane I took my first flight in. Thus began the building of my very own airplane.
Fast forward another two years and we flew to a small airport for breakfast. I there met the airport manager who was a very nice lady who was actually asking about this same story. I told her that I was looking for a flight school so she introduced me to the owner of a small one-plane-two instructor business on the airport.
I hit it off with this instructor and began my lessons there four months later. I was now working two part-time jobs plus my lawn business and of course going to school.
I flew once again as I could afford it, but my instructors were very helpful in this situation, allowing me to pay on a monthly basis. I soloed on my 16th birthday and as you now know got my license on my 17th.
Now this is the short version of the story really. I met many people along the way and networked with many individuals personally. I have pilots from around the country and even the world who I have never met but sacrificed their time to help me. Greg Brown, the author of the Flying Carpet, is one of those individuals. The connections I have made amaze me in that the aviation community truly cares and wants to see your success. I am happy to be a part of it.
Name: Spencer Rice
Age: 17
Event: Private pilot checkride
Where: Lenhardt Airpark (7S9), Hubbard, Oregon
Airplane: Cessna 172
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.

‘Cleared short approach’

Friday, May 29th, 2015

Tommy Condon is a student at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana. He has been sharing his Success Stories with Flight Training’s Facebook page since his very first solo in 2013. We’re proud to bring you Tommy’s latest achievement.—Ed.

Tommy Condon after his commercial certificate checkride.

Tommy Condon after his commercial certificate checkride.

Ever since I first started my ever-expanding career in aviation, I never figured myself to be sitting in a special aerobatic Bonanza E33C on my commercial checkride only two years into my training.

With that comes the special phrase from air traffic control that will frighten many. For me, that was, “Rocky 79 short approach approved, cleared to land Runway 10L.”

At this point we had already completed the maneuvers and precision landings. I made it this far with no complaints and now all that is left is the dreaded, heart-pounding power-off 180.

This is when my examiner said, “Alright, let’s see the money maker.” (Pun intended.) As we came abeam the intended landing point, the power went to idle. Did I mention the Bonanza is no Cessna when it comes to gliding?

I pushed the nose over, watching the VSI near -1,000 fpm! As I turned onto my final approach, I noticed I was low. I thought, This is it, I’ll see if I can get in ground effect and burn this drag off.

We were in ground effect at the beginning of the runway. As I aimed for the 1,000′ footers, my back-pressure was gradually increasing almost nearing full aft! It was time, the airplane wanted to be on the ground.

Chirp, chirp! Right on the mark! That day, I truly realized how much of a pal ground effect is!

Every day I am thankful to be in this industry and the challenges it offers, which are well worth the effort to accomplish. It is important to remember that some may burn out of the industry, but those who stay will truly understand the emotion and fulfillment behind to see the sights we see, the satisfaction, and the connections we build among each other.

Name: Tommy Condon

Age: 20

Event: Commercial pilot checkride

Where: Rocky Mountain College, Billings Logan International (BIL), Billings, Montana

Airplane: Beechcraft E33C Bonanza
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.

What kind of training does your CFI get?

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Senior StudentAs a student pilot—as a student anything, really—you may not think much of what goes into becoming a teacher of a particular…well, anything. How often as a child did you think about the training it takes to become the teacher that was standing at the front of the classroom? Chances are, not much. I’m married to a teacher, and in the last 18 years I’ve gained new respect for what a school teacher has to know and do.

Your CFI is no different. Becoming a flight instructor is a lot of work. Of all the checkrides I’ve taken over the years—including 10 or so different ratings or certificates—the CFI ride was by far the most stressful, and for many people, it’s the hardest. Aside from the private pilot checkride, it’s the one ride where you are not just responsible for everything you know about flying, but you may get asked about anything you’ve ever learned. Worse, you have to be able to explain everything with equal confidence and mastery, from the workings of a wet compass to the nuances of a lazy eight.

Like most instructors who are certified by any kind of agency, be it government or private industry, CFIs are required to go through regular recurrent training. In the case of CFIs, that training is required every 24 calendar months. In order to remain an active CFI, the FAA has several avenues that can be used, but the most common one is for the CFI to enroll in a Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic (FIRC).

Back in the day (the older I get, the more I say that), FIRCs required in-person attendance and took up a whole weekend, as the requirement is 16 hours of training. An alternative was to use home study with VHS video tapes as part of a package supplied by companies such as the former Jeppesen-Sanderson, now known as Jeppesen. Today, the FIRCs can be done online, including through the AOPA Air Safety Institute.

Actual flight time is not required in the refresher training, because the purpose is to use the time to emphasize overall training, including new material that has become prevalent (such as happened with GPS), new regulations, policies, and concepts.

In addition, there is some review on topics based on trends that the FAA sees. Some of these are areas in which the pilot population as a whole has had trouble, and others are general review. For example, several years ago, there was a realization that pilots were involved in far more runway incursions than they should have been. In this case, while general aviation pilots were the worst offenders, airlines were having issues as well. As a result, everyone—and I do mean everyone—had to go through some training to prevent runway incursions. CFIs were at the head of the pack, because of their ability to spread the message to a large number of pilots.

The post-September 11 world also brought some changes. CFIs now have to take special security training that is mandated by the Transportation Security Administration, and all pilots are more aware than ever before of temporary flight restrictions. Those on the East Coast also have to be especially knowledgeable of the Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) around Washington, D.C.

Other training emphasizes the actual act of teaching. There are various laws of learning that we are all subjected to, and the training often includes a review of those laws. With all of the new avionics that have flooded the market in the last 10 years, it’s important to emphasize that we can’t teach the way we used to, and we certainly can’t be effective—let alone safe—teachers in a cramped airplane on a hot day.

I don’t mind the biennial training that CFIs are required to get. I don’t get to fly GA as much as I would like, let alone teach it, so the review is good for me. One of the things that I like about both GA training and my refresher training that I receive as an airline pilot is that neither wastes a lot of time on stuff we do every day. It instead hits the areas we might be weak on, and it covers a broad array of things we may have forgotten or don’t use often. In my case, both training events make me a better pilot.

Don’t take what your CFI does for granted. It’s a lot of hard work to get that certificate, and it takes a certain dedication to keep the certificate active. And the learning never stops.—Chip Wright

Videos of traffic patterns? Yes, please

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Flying to a new airport is great fun, but it poses its own set of challenges. You can study the sectional chart, the airport diagram, and the Airport/Facility Directory for an hour, but when you’re up in the air 10 miles out, searching for that strip of asphalt, sometimes it’s tough to put those pieces together and pick out your destination. (Ask any student pilot in the Northeast who’s had to spy an airport in an urban area, seemingly buried in a maze of buildings and highways.)

Short final to Metropolitan Oakland International Airport.

Short final to Metropolitan Oakland International Airport.

A new website aims to help you. was created by California pilot Tony Arbini, who says he was assigned an airport he had never flown to for his long solo cross-country. He went online to try to look up the airport and learn as much as he could about its airspace, but he didn’t find much. He created in a quest to “find a better way to communicate” airspace and traffic patterns for a given airport, according to the website.

The airspace around OAK is depicted graphically.

The airspace around OAK is depicted graphically.

Arbini and his team visit airports and videotape the flight, but the site’s collection of videos is much more polished than what you’ll typically find on YouTube. Each video introduces the airport by showing you its location on a sectional chart, with traffic patterns, airspace, and nearby navigation aids highlighted. Static photos display pertinent landmarks to help you spy the runway before you’re directly over top of it. There’s also info on traffic pattern altitudes, noise abatement procedures, terrain obstacles, and other good-to-know stuff.

Traffic patterns at OAK are highlighted. (

Traffic patterns at OAK are highlighted. (

All of this can be found in traditional sources, of course, but I like the way presents it in a neat and graphically attractive package. Note that the use of the website should enhance—not replace—your due diligence when digging up “all available information” about your destination.

Right now the website covers airports in California (plus one lone airport in Alaska). But that’s where you come in. The website urges you to “fly it—film it—share it.” You can upload your own footage to the site. Arbini provides tips on how best to present it, and he even includes a tutorial on how to use his preferred action cam—a Garmin Virb—to get that great footage.—Jill W. Tallman

‘It was worth it’

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Branden Blackford recently shared his solo photo from September 2013 on our Facebook page. He’s looking forward to finishing up very soon. Here’s his story.—Ed.

Branden Blackford soloed in September 2013. He's coming to the end of a six-year flight training journey.

Branden Blackford soloed in September 2013. He’s coming to the end of a six-year flight training journey.

It all started before I was even 1 year old. My family use to take me to airshows every year growing up in Indiana before I could walk or talk. My dad was a crew chief mechanic on KC-135 Stratotankers so he was the one who introduced me to aviation and taught me a lot about airplanes and their control surfaces and how they worked.

By the age of 5 I could point to almost every military airplane at an airshow and identify it. As I grew older my interest for airplanes grew, and I would read books to educate myself about airplanes and all the different types of planes while I was in school. I knew before I entered the third grade I wanted to be a pilot.

It wasn’t until the age of 10 I took my first flight with the EAA Young Eagles program. I was nervous and worried I’d get airsick since I’d never flown before, but I did it. A 20-minute flight and I was hooked! I knew I’d do whatever it takes to be a pilot from then on.

For the next seven years my dad and I were chasing Young Eagles events all over the state just so I could go flying and learn more about airplanes each time I went up. At the age of 17 I took my first flight lesson when I got my first job working at a fast food restaurant.

From 2009 to 2013 it was a struggle financially to get to my first solo as I would literally take my minimum wage check of two weeks and spend it all on one hour of flight instruction and wait about another three weeks to get enough money for another hour of flight instruction. But it was worth it to me.

In the the meantime I overcame a spontaneous collapsed lung, passed the FAA medical and on September 26, 2013, I soloed. I got a better-paying job working as an aircraft cleaner just to be around airplanes and could better afford my flight lessons.

I’ve completed my solo cross-country requirements in March 2015, got my 40 hours, and now I’m preparing for the practical and my final hours of being a student pilot. As of June 2015, it will mark exactly six years of flight training. I’m not happy it took me so long, but it’s now 2015 and this year I’m finally going to get my wings!

And this summer I plan on going to a fly-in with my father to celebrate my success. The point is never give up on your dreams no matter how long it may take to succeed. I did this mostly off of minimum wage checks but my passion and love to fly got me through the tough times. Don’t give up! And keep on flying. And remember… your hours in your logbook never expire.

Name: Branden Blackford
Age 23
Event: Solo (September 2013); private pilot certificate forthcoming
Where: Hendricks County Airport Gordon Graham Field, Danville, Indiana
Airplane: Cessna 172

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 resources for student pilots. Click here for more information.