5 flight training myths

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Your instructor is part coach, mentor and friend

Learning to fly is one of the most fun and rewarding experiences you can have. From day one, you’ll be filled with excitement, curiosity and a sense of adventure. Your new partner, coach, mentor, counselor and friend will be your flight instructor – the person to pick you up when you’re down and pat you on the back after a good day’s work.  And yes, it’s normal and healthy to be talking aviation ten times the amount you will actually spend in the airplane.

It’s also easy to get lost in the mountains of information related to flying an airplane.  There are handbooks, manuals, regulations, videos and maybe even a tall tale to offer an easy distraction.  Know that stories exist and many have been stretched, bent, twisted, broken and otherwise embellished along the way.  As a wise man once told me, only believe half of what you read and none of what you hear…especially when it comes to these classic myths.

  1. You have to be really smart to learn how to fly.

While an understanding basic physics and trigonometry will help, you don’t need an advanced degree to enjoy flying airplanes.  Anyone with the passion and drive can learn to fly. While some topics are more complex than others and may cause a stumble, there plenty of resources to help and plenty of people to guide you in the right direction.  You can do this.

2. It takes years of training to learn to fly.

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Training should take months not years with the right commitment

Flight training may take months, but shouldn’t take years.  Your calendar time investment all depends on the amount of effort you’re willing to dedicate.  If you can commit two hours a day, three times per week, you can knock it out in a few months.  If you are only flying twice per month, then you’re likely in for a long hall.  If your looking to save some money, continuity and consistency are key elements.  Also be sure to ask the flight school or instructor what frequency the cost and time estimates are based.

3. Commercial Pilots make a ton of money.

Let’s just say if you are doing it for the money, you may be disappointed.  While a pilot with 25 years of experience flying international, long-haul routes for a legacy airline earns a sizable income, it may take 25 years to reach that seat and it’s not without some sacrifice along the way including a unique schedule and lifestyle.  There are many quality, well-paying jobs as a commercial pilot, but do it for your love of aviation.

4. Your instructor knows everything.

Sorry instructors.  Your instructor knows a lot and you may think he knows it all, but all pilots are always learning.  Like any profession, the background and experience level of flight instructors can go from one extreme to the other.  You’ll want a relationship in which you’re comfortable asking questions and free to voice an opinion.  And don’t shy away from flying with multiple instructors until you find the right fit.

5. You will get your license in the minimum amount of time.

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Base your estimates on averages, not FAA minimums

40 hours of flying to earn your license is an exception to the rule. Be cautious in that some flight schools may base estimates on FAA minimum requirements so they may lure customers.  In reality, very few people get their license anywhere close to that number.  Flight training is a proficiency based system and not a race to a magic number.  On average, expect 55-80 hours of flight time for your private license.  And remember there’s no one passing judgement based on your total hours and it all builds in your logbook the same way.

Concerned whether something you’ve heard is fact or fiction?  Let me know and I’ll do my best to investigate.

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Doug grew up off the end of a runway and has wanted to fly before he could ride a bike. As the catalog manager for Sporty's Pilot Shop, he takes pride in developing products that make flying easier for pilots. After spending a short time in the military including a year in Iraq, his standards are abnormally high for pilot products. A private pilot with an instrument rating, he enjoys small prop planes more than any jet. You'll normally find him in a Cessna 172 or Skycatcher while on a mission to find the finest biscuits and gravy at an airport cafe.