So you want to learn to fly....
Chances are, if you've stumbled onto this page, it is because you are interested in learning to fly. Perhaps you thought that the Bald Eagle Flying Club could help, and you'd be right. The club has helped many pilots earn their Private Pilot or Recreational licenses. We have several memebers who are Certified Flight Instructors, and we love to see new pilots take to the sky.
Interested? Visit the contact page and send a message to the club. We offer a free introductory flight with one of our instructors so that you can experience flying in a small general aviation airplane and determine if it really is for you.
Learning to fly is not a simple undertaking. It is many things; challenging, fun, memorable, exciting, unique.... but simple is not one of them. Flying is a heavily regulated endeavor, and there are a number of steps and requirements involved.
I just want my pilots license.
Okay - which one? There are several certificates that a pilot may hold, each with different priviledges. The three most common are Sport Pilot, Recreational Pilot and Private Pilot. The major difference between the them is that a Sport Pilot is not allowed to carry passengers and can only fly aircraft in the "Light-sport (LSA) class", a Recreational pilot can carry one passenger and has limitations on additional certificates, and a Private Pilot can carry more than one passenger and can earn additional ratings for different classes of aircraft, such as multi-engine or floatplane or IFR (instrument) certification. Sport Pilot certificates and Recreational Pilot certificates also have less stringent requirements, such as not needing to obtain a medical certificate from the FAA (Sport). If you don't think you would qualify for a 3rd class medical certificate from the FAA, then chose Sport Pilot, and just realize that you won't be able to carry passengers until you do obtain a 3rd class medical and obtain the necessary training and pass the required tests to upgrade your certificate to that of a Recreational or Private Pilot. If you want to at any time carry more than one passenger, chose Private Pilot. This article from the AOPA has a good comparison of the available certificates. One thing to keep in mind is that none of the aircraft that the club currently owns are LSA (Light-sport) aircraft.
Not just about "Stick-and-rudder"
Learning to fly is about so much more than, well, learning to fly. Controlling the airplane is only one aspect of what it takes to be a pilot. Stick-and-rudder is a big part of flying, and possibly the most important part, but if we were "flyers" instead of "pilots" the skies would be much more disorganized and dangerous. To hold the title of pilot you will have to learn about weather, using the radios, naviagtion, interaction with Air-Traffic-Control (ATC), Airspace rules, aircraft systems, the engine powering your aircraft and how to control it, flight-planning, VFR flight, instrument flying, night flying... the list goes on, and all aspects are important to becoming a competent, and safe, pilot.
Many people have heard the "40 hour" requirement needed in order to become a pilot, and in essence this is true; you need a MINIMUM of 40 hours of training to become either a Sport Pilot, Recreational, or a Private Pilot. Those hours are split between time with your instructor and time flying solo: 20 of "dual received" time (time flying with an instructor) is needed at a MINIMUM. Most pilots in training need more than the minimum 20 instructor hours and most also need more than the minimum 10 hours flying solo. It is up to the instructor to make sure that you can safely pilot an aircraft, and that takes varying amounts of time depending on how quickly you master the different aspects of flight. It is the same with flying solo - it is up to you and your instructor to make sure that you are fully comfortable and competent before you have the check ride with the FAA inspector. And speaking of the FAA....
As a student pilot, be prepared to become familiar with the FAA - the Federal Aviation Administration. They make the rules that we pilots have to follow, and they will be deeply involved in your training. You will learn their rules and regulations, you will need their permission to perform certain aspects of your training, and it is ultimately their decision as to whether you will hold any sort of pilot certificate.
Okay... I want to get started. Now what?
First thing is first, contact the club and schedule a free ride with one of our instructors. If you've never ridden in a small general aviation airplane before, now is your chance. It can be an amazing experience, but it isn't for everyone, so this is your chance to find out. You may have ridden in a large commercial aircraft before, most of us have. Trust us when we tell you that it's not the same. Staring out the little porthole window next to your seat at thirty-thousand feet is a far cry from handling the controls of a car-sized aircraft and staring out the windscreen as you roll down the runway.
Is there anything I can do ahead of time?
Yes, in fact, there is a lot you can do ahead of time. As boring as it sounds, you can start familiarizing yourself wtih the FAA Regulations that you will be subject to. The first place to start is the Pilot's Handbook. If you are pursuing the Private Pilot certificate then you will need a 3rd class medical certification from the FAA. The certificate is good for several years (it varies depending upon your age) and so there is no harm in getting it even before you've started training. You can find information on the FAA medical requirements here. Part of your training includes theory that you will be tested on at an approved FAA testing center. Commonly known as "ground training", you can begin studying for this right away. There are many resources available, some expensive, other free. The Pilot's handbook is a good free resource, as is the Free Online Private Pilot Ground School website. Most aids do have a cost involved, such as Sporty's Pilot training, which has been popular with some of our members. In addition to all of these resources, Flight Simulators can help with familiarty of procedures and cockpit instruments and even controls. They will give you an idea of what to expect and how to control an aircraft - but they are not a true substitute for stick and rudder flying. One very good free flight simulator is Flight Gear. On top of all of the training resources, there are supplies you will need - most notably your own aviation headset. Headset choice is a highly personal endeavor - its about comfort and features and cost - so just find one that works for you. The following items are recommended in addition to the headset:
- A pilot's knee-board - it will allow you to take notes while flying
- A sectional chart - the New York sectional chart includes KPWM and is the primary one you need
- The Montreal sectional chart covers the northern half of the state and may also be a good one to have
- A set of Foggles - partial fogged glasses - these are needed for instrument training
- A log book is needed to log all of your flight time and track your hours.
- To carry all of this stuff, a flight bag.
Okay, so how much is it going to cost me to become a pilot?
Unfortunately, this varies a lot from student to student, but a best guess of total cost is listed below.
- 50 hours of plane rental in N239AM - $4000
- 40 hours of instructor time @ $40/hr - $1600
- Pilot's Headset - $300
- Kneeboard - $40
- Sectional charts - $30
- E6B flight calculator and plotter - $30
- Foggles - $25
- FAA 3rd class medical examination with AME - $80
- Study materials for Private Pilot Airplane (PAR) written test - $200
- Private Pilot Airplace (PAR) written test - $155 (each attempt)
- FAA checkride (Private Pilot Practical test) - $300 (each attempt)
Please understand that this is an estimate. It is possible to "cut-corners" a bit and not spend quite this much. Perhaps you buy a cheaper headset or spend less on study materials. Maybe you only need 45 hours, and not 50. That being said, it is also possible for it to take much longer than 50 hours - and that can substantially increase the cost. How long it takes, and how much it costs, is very much related to your ability as a student to absorb what you've learned and apply it, safely, to your experience in the air.
Still interested? Good. Visit the contact page and send a message to the club. We'll get you in contact with one of our flight instructors and they can tell you more about the process. We love welcoming new pilots into the general aviation community, and having them as members of the club!