Can anyone learn to fly?
The answer to that question is yes – mostly. To be able to learn to fly and become a licensed pilot, you need to have decent health and vision, the ability to master simple physical skills (e.g. controlling the airplane), have the intelligence to be able to learn the material and finally, have good judgement.
If you can ride a bike, you can probably master the physical aspect of flying. The math involved in learning the material is not complex and most high school graduates should be able to master the material.
If you have exceedingly poor health or vision, unfortunately, there is a point where you cannot qualify medically to fly.
The last criterion listed above is the most important attribute – good judgement. Flying is continuous decision making, much like driving a car or riding a bike. Where the comparison ends, if you get confused or need a moment to figure things out in the car, you can pull off to the side of the road and ponder your problem. You have no such luxury in an aircraft cockpit. There are frequently time pressures involved with those decisions and being wrong can be deadly.
Take the situation of the Airbus that took a dip in the Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009, after hitting geese and experiencing two engine failures in the two-engine airplane. Those engine failures effectively made that Airbus a big glider that was going down fast. When those engines went out, Captain Sullenberger and his copilot had seconds to decide where to go and what to do. The outcome was obviously a good one and the correct – or at least correct enough – decision was made.
The last thing any pilot wants is a reckless person or person with bad judgement sharing the airspace with them. Sadly, people like this are accidents waiting to happen.
How much does it cost to learn to fly?
That question is tough to answer because everyone is different in how quickly he or she learns. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sets requirements for every pilot certificate and rating.
The most common pilot’s certificate for new pilots is the Private Pilot certificate, where you are required by the FAA to have 40 hours of total flight time and 20 hours of dual flight time with an instructor.
Doing the math, if your airplane costs $100/hour and your flight instructor costs $40/hour, the cost is $4,800. There will be some supplies and incidentals, so you will likely spend more than $5,000 before you’re done. If you’re flying a bigger, more expensive airplane, the cost rises accordingly.
The sample estimate was based on a student requiring the minimum times to learn to fly. In practice, flight students hitting the minimum times usually doesn’t happen for one of two reasons that I’ve observed. Reason No. 1: The student requires more teaching and more practice to get to the point of being able to pass the check ride. Reason No. 2: The student loves flying, money isn’t too great of a challenge and lots of extra solo time results. Reason No. 2 is what happened to me. I had more than 60 hours of flight time when I went for my Private Pilot certificate check ride, which I passed easily.
So, the real answer to this question is – it depends.
When renting an airplane to a new pilot, how long will the checkout be?”
What we tell people is that for most pilots, a checkout in one of our Skycatchers will usually run in the ballpark of an hour or so. For most of our rental clients, this statement has held true. But, bear in mind that there are exceptions. The point of an aircraft checkout flight is to make sure the pilot knows the airplane well enough to fly the aircraft safely and might mean a checkout takes longer or even requires multiple flights, which we have had happen.
Bigger and more complex aircraft may require a longer checkout time or multiple checkout flights. In addition, those aircraft may require a specific minimum flight time or a minimum flight time in that type of airplane. QCBN
By Lance Leighnor
Lance Leighnor has four decades of experience in general aviation aircraft, and active management of rental aircraft since 2011. Lance is the managing member of Leighnor Aircraft. He can be reached by phone at 928-499-3080, by email at lance@LeighnorAircraft.com or via the Leighnor Aircraft website at LeighnorAircraft.com.