From the time you were little you knew you wanted to fly. You were enthralled by all sorts of aircraft—airplanes, helicopters, balloons and airships, and anything else that slipped the surly bonds of Earth. Only your imagination limited your possibilities.
Childhood dreams are a vital inspiration. But now you're grown up and asking yourself some tough questions. What does it take to become a pilot? Can I really do this?
Learning to fly is a serious undertaking. There are many questions to ask before that first lesson. Let's start with the most basic issues—the ones that often deter would-be pilots from even considering flight training.
1. I'm too young, too old, too short, too _____ [you fill in the blank].
You can take flying lessons at any virtually age. As long as you pass the medical, you can fly as an older person. Some certificates even let you substitute a current driver's license. If your hands and feet reach the controls, you're the right size. You can fly if your corrected vision is adequate. You can fly with various medical conditions if they're treated. When in doubt, ask AOPA. They will help you get answers to questions about physical limitations.
2. I don't have enough money.
Learning to fly is not cheap. However, the total cost depends on the way you approach it. A lot has to do with picking the right school and instructor, finding the right training aircraft, and creating a workable schedule. If you know how to manage your training progress, you will spend less. If money gets tight, get creative. More than one trainee has washed a few airplanes to earn flight time. Show up and show an interest, and see what happens.
3. I don't have enough time.
Even under ideal circumstances, learning to fly is never going to be easy or convenient. If you don't follow a regular routine, your progress will be slower. Don't start when major transitions are going on in your life. Once you've started, try to fly every weekend, or the same nights or mornings during the week. Schedule homework so you're prepared for every lesson. Manage the rest of your life to bring your best game to flight training. The key is to pace yourself and be consistent.
4. I'm not sure I have the "right stuff."
Hang out at your nearest general aviation airport. Talk with all the different kinds of pilots: school teachers, plumbers, doctors, students, business people, a retired couple. They earned their wings one lesson at a time. It's more about attitude and commitment than innate ability. And guess what? They all want you to succeed and are ready to help you every step of the way.
Flying is not for everyone. But you've made a great start by coming to this website and getting information. That alone is an excellent predictor of your success in flight training.
Ted Seastrom is a writer. He recently earned his private pilot certificate. To inspire would-be pilots and encourage students in training, he wrote "Learning to Fly an Airplane: Insider information from a student perspective." This book is available to download or read online for free at Ted's website: tedseastrom.com/fly.