Thursday, November 5, 2009

Living The Dream

I've started doing something that I've wanted to do since I was 9-years old, to learn to fly. When I was growing up I dreamed of being an Air Force fighter pilot. My adolescent career path had me attending the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, which in my opinion was the most efficient way of getting me into the cockpit of an F-16. When it came time to start getting my ducks in order and to apply for a Congressional nomination, I did not. I chose to listen to people around me stating that it was almost impossible to get in, that my grades were not up to par, that I wasn't doing enough extracurricular "stuff", or that the odds were too long. In the end I walked away from my dreams of being a pilot.

Oddly enough, years later when I was a Green Beret officer I met several Air Force and Naval aviators, only to discover that they were no different than me; not any smarter, no less motivated, and often less skilled. I painfully realized my error of youth, I let someone talk me out of something that I desperately wanted, and since that time I've counseled countless young adults to never let it happen to them. "Never, ever let someone talk you out of your dreams".

So here I am thirty years later making amends and finally living the dream.


Eric A. Gravel said...

It's a bit of a similar story on my end. I wanted to be an airline pilot or air force pilot but was told by a pilot that you needed perfect vision. Come to find out a few years after that you can stil fly if you have 20/20 with corrective lense. Argh.

Anyway, I was wondering if you could share with me your school selection process? And the given question, how much does it cost these days? When I had looked at the private pilot license about 10 years ago it was ~7K.

Eric said...


Michelle says, "Hi" BTW.

To answer your question, there are a plethora of aviation schools in the ATL area, as you can imagine. ATL has the worlds busiest airport and is the home to several airlines to include Delta, so it's quite an aviation mecca.

I looked for schools that had the following:

- One that flew out of a towered field but could access a non-towered field quite quickly.
- Good selection of aircraft, some with glass cockpits.
- One that would design a program that fit my needs, goals, and time constraints.
- One that could take me from zero to MEL, and instruments if I wanted to go that far.
- Proximity to the house.
- An instructor that fit my personality, maybe ex-military pilot.

As far as cost, most are saying between $5-$8K to get your Private Pilot's Certificate. It all depends on how quickly you progress and can retain/absorb the material. Some guys will get checked off in 50 hours, others it takes 80 or more. So at roughly $100 and hour you can see the cost variance.

There are cheap things that you can do to flatten the learning curve so that you can get checked off closer to 50 hours and not 80. One of which was a $200 investment into Sporty's Pilot Training DVDs, which once you completed the course you can actually go take your written test. Watching the DVDs puts the knowledge in your head and also refreshes what was once there so that you're maximizing the time you're paying for with an instructor. Another strategy is to fly more often, 2-4 times a week, versus only once a week. You retain more information that way and you're not spending time refreshing what you should already know.

Anyway, I hope that helps a bit. YMMV.


Eric A. Gravel said...

Hi Michelle as well! :D

And thank for the information. I hope you have a great time. I know after having attended the airshow, this past weekend, at the Homestead Air Force Reserve Base (, I am more then ever interested in getting mine.

I got to see upclose KC-135, B-52, A-10, C17- C-5, F16 (Mako from Homestead AFB 93rd squad), F-15. And the icing on the cake was to see the Thunderbirds. I'm really glad to have brought with me my binoculars... got to see the ceremony like military pre-flight process between pilots, support crew and planes. It was quite motivational!

Btw, I agree with you on reducing the cost. That's what I've been doing for a few years now. I've been training in Microsoft Flight Sim with settings to max so it doesn't do auto-rudder and such. I got myself a yoke, rudder peddals with toe brakes and throttle quadrant. I also got the Jeppsen training materials that they were selling at Miami-Dade College for the aviation program. So I'm trying to learn as much as I can on my own.

Well, good luck with your endeavour and keep us posted. I know I'm really interested in seeing how it goes :)

Hope said...

Just a quick "fly by" to say thank you, Eric. Thank you for your service and committment and for continuing to blog. You're still a favorite of mine.

Happy Veteran's Day

Hope said...

Merry Christmas, E. I hope you are having a lovely holiday. Hope