Greetings - I am high-time student working towards a private pilot license. Like many people, I have had to endure many obstacles and have had to postpone or delay my training numerous times. Mostly I have trained in Cessna 172 aircraft, spent some time in Piper Cherokee and Archer aircraft, and even flew Schweizer sailplanes as part of my primary training.
My obstacles were many: Lots of travel time for work, building a new home, adoption of children, financial issues, working abroad, weather, even a plane incident that destroyed my primary trainer. Presently, I fly with a flying club based in Poughkeepsie, NY.
Here is my story.
I completed my first solo in Fall of 2010, after studying on and off for years, and even spending time in gliders at a soaring club. I always expected I would fly solo in a glider - but it turned out that I first flew solo in a good-old Cessna 172. Not that there is anything wrong with the other aircraft - however, years of halting and restarting my training and moving around to different training platforms compounded my challenges to achieving solo status. Though it was good to get a perspective for flying different kinds of aircraft - high-wing vs. low-wing, powered vs. non-powered, if I had it all to do again, and my recommendation to anyone else is to find the ONE platform that works best and master it first. Only after earning your ticket should you spend significant time in another type or category of aircraft. If you have to suspend your training, always return to the same type you previously trained in. It saves MANY hours, although having the "holistic" experience may offer its benefits in the long run.
When I completed my solo, I was wearing the t-shirt given to me by the AOPA’s MyFlightTraining program (www.myft.org), meant to encourage student retention in flight training. The shirt came in handy, as it featured dotted "cut" lines on the tail of the shirt, and my instructor cheerfully cut off the tail (following the orange lines!) and it has since been framed in a case with a model of a 172.
Well, it was winter in the Northeast, and although I managed to schedule some longer flights with my instructor and then some solo flying, after January 1st, 2011 I did little flying.
At first it was that the weather did not cooperate. After all, it was winter in the Northeast and challenges like snow, icing, low ceilings accompanied by wind howling over terrain tend to be counter-indicative of flight training.
During the same winter of 2011, I lost my job and encountered financial issues. Recovery was quick, but the job I had found was in Singapore. This definitely put a hiatus to my flight-training. Not that flight-training was non-existent in Singapore - but hard to accomplish. I could write a book about user fees and their consequences after looking into flight training in Singapore. In a nutshell, every flight is treated like a commercial flight, you pay user fees, and it is very expensive. Then again, everything is expensive in Singapore. Clearly, not every nation offers the freedom and accessibility of flight as we enjoy here in the states!
Finally in June 2011 I returned stateside.
I re-learned how to land my trusty Cessna 172M and proceeded with a dual cross country trip. That trip turned out to be the last x-c trip and the last successful landing for that aircraft - two days later there was an accident and the airplane was totaled. I was very upset, and even cried, but two weeks later I was flying in a Piper Archer. Soon after, I was doing air work in the Archer, more dual x-c work, and preparing to solo.
I found the transition from a high-wing Cessna 172 to a low-wing Piper Archer to be challenging, and with money tight, I decided to look for something else.
Eventually, I joined a flight club. I belong to Grasshoppers Flying Club in Poughkeepsie, and I fly out of KPOU. I was lucky to find a flight club that trains student pilots. I also belong to the Poughkeepsie Pilots Association, and once served as a board member.
I finally re-soloed again on August 30, 2012. I was delighted!!
Since then, I've been flying for about ten hours - at first just around a 25 mile radius, and later during solo x-c work. I have also begun an introduction to night flying, and hope to brush up my air work to prepare for the private pilot check ride. Question is: Can I realistically complete it by year's end?? That has been my question for the longest time - and I have since decided that like the rest of my training, I will move to the next level when I am ready. I take each step and each mission with careful consideration, and put the emphasis on quality - not on quantity of hours or on meeting an arbitrary deadline. This has proven to be effective for me - it removes "pressure" to achieve the next level, it affords me the opportunity to be flexible, and it allows me to begin to think of my checkride and the day I finally "earn my ticket."
Why I choose to train with a flying club.
Belonging to a flight club, and completing my primary training as a club member has worked well for me, and has certain advantages. It gave me the opportunity to do some dual cross country work (the type that I probably would miss the opportunity at a formal flight school). One day this past summer, the Cessna Pilot's Society was hosting their annual meeting at our airport (Poughkeepsie). They organized a "fly out" to Montauk, New York.
I flew over water to the event at Montauk Point, New York State's eastern-most airport (MTP). It was a beautiful beach-side landing. It was quite the thrill, and reminded me of landing in the Caribbean!
Later that summer, I flew on another dual x-c trip to Cape May, NJ. I had the company of my 11-year son in the backseat, and we met up with family in Cape May to enjoy a weekend on the Jersey Shore and a half-marathon race. (There is a trend here - cross-country flying to beach destinations - I wonder where the next "exotic" destination will be??) The Cape May trip took me through Class-B airspace in the New York City area, and cruising at 6,500 feet; I was impressed the by the sight of large commercial airliners passing BELOW me!!
We have had a lot of interesting aviation experiences here at Poughkeepsie. From the unfortunate crash in June 2011, to a dramatic engine-out landing in a Piper Arrow on the way back from an Angel Flight in Martha's Vineyard (which resulted in no damage, no injuries!), to our first airport open-house in 2012, to hosting the annual convention of the Cessna Pilot's Society.
Words of wisdom.
I think I can honestly say that I have had virtually every obstacle in my training - financial, family, work/travel, destruction of aircraft...
... yet somehow I keep trying.
I am a high time student with about 145 hours (including solo and x-c time, and 19 hours in a glider), but I hope to complete my check ride early in 2013, or even possibly in late December 2012. But more importantly, I aim to complete my check-ride when I am READY...
...and then, perhaps I will move onto my glider rating, earn an instrument (IFR) rating, and finally master the elusive art of driving a low-wing aircraft.
One day, I hope to fly search-and-rescue missions for CAP, and participate in the Pilots-n-Paws, PALS, and Angel Flight programs. Maybe one day I will even be an instructor? One day, one day...
About David Gianna
David works in the field of Information Security. He is a Senior Manager at Protiviti. David is also an adjunct professor and teaches information security in the online Graduate Cyber Security program at University of Maryland University College. David is married and has a son and a daughter, is a Senior Member of Civil Air Patrol, serves as Avionics Officer on the board of the Grasshopper Flying Club in Poughkeepsie, NY, and has been trying to earn his private pilot license in both powered aircraft and in sailplanes (gliders). David holds an MBA and an MS in Computer Science from Marist College, and a BS in Electrical Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology. David was born in New York City and currently lives in the Hudson Valley region of New York State.