Aviation is an industry that people get excited about. For many people flying is a passion. There is a reason that hobbyists spend thousands of dollars building RC airplanes or that the military can specify almost any requirement for flight school and never come up short of candidates. Those limited flying spots are coveted, and motivated applicants will go to great lengths to secure a seat in the class. I'm talking discipline: 4.0 GPAs and the willingness to persist through intense college programs followed by commitments of up to 10 years to fly. My wife's cousin spent 4 years at Georgia Tech in an aerospace engineering program all while putting most of his flight training on hold in hopes of securing an Air Force flying position. Today he flies a Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk, but getting there took a lot of work. Aviation is diverse, some people really like the big jets while others are fascinated by the aerobatic aircraft or more nostalgic models like the WWI open cockpit bi-wings or the P-51 Mustang. How many young boys and girls dream of becoming an airline pilot one day? My grandfather wanted to fly for the Navy but could not pass all of the eye exams and so they trained him to work on WWII era coding and decipher machines. My dad was passionate about aviation and received his private pilot's license in the late 1970s. In 1989 he took me up with his instructor - I rode in the baggage area in the back of a C-150, and when we landed, I told him that I wanted to fly full time when I grew up. There is something about the viewpoint you get from up in the air. The perspective of flying over your house, your town, a friends farm or a nearby lake. The most beautiful sunsets and sunrises I've ever seen have been from the air. The ability to blast off and go clear across the state taking a trip that should take all day in a couple of hours is amazing. The airplane itself is amazing. There is something about operating a machine that is special. I remember learning how to drive my granddad's lawnmower and eventually the tractors around his farm. Learning to operate something feels good but mastering that operation feels amazing. There are few things that feel better than getting behind the wheel and knowing that you know vehicle better than anyone else and are 100% confident and comfortable with its operation. Getting to that point in an airplane is even more amazing and rewarding. To climb in and shut the door and know that I can fly this machine to where my passengers want to go and I can even do it smoothly and make it look good is what we are all striving for - and getting it right feels great. So whether it is the freedom of flying or the perspective of the altitude or the relationship with the machine itself there are some people who are just geared toward aviation. Usually, this passion is discovered quickly once someone is exposed to aviation. Sometimes it is the first flight or sometimes - like in my case I knew I wanted to fly before I ever had the chance. I remember begging my dad to take me up and I remember thinking, "I am 5 years old and have never flown my life is passing me by!"
Passion for aviation is natural for many people. This is similar to the passion that some people have for animals or the water or motorcycles. Some people are just geared toward certain types of activities. While the passion comes naturally - actually getting involved in aviation does not. Aviation is special in that some of the barriers to entry are quite high. Flying is a safety critical operation. Great trust is extended to every pilot who operates within the airspace over our cities, schools, and homes. This even applies to unmanned platforms which often times are operated in specific locations so as not to pose a threat. Unmanned is up and coming so stay tuned. I'm currently completing my minor in unmanned and the stuff we have coming our way is simply amazing! Aviation is also expense - very expensive. Renting a general aviation aircraft can cost from $80-$200 dollars per hour depending on the model and region - and those are entry level aircraft. For those wanting to fly the entry level pilot licenses available in the US are the Sports Pilot's License which can run from $6000 to $10,000 for training or the Private Pilot's License which runs from $10,000 and up for training. In 2001 when I visited a 4-year university for a professional flight training program the anticipated expenditures for the entire program and housing was just over $100,000. Today rates for the same program are over $200,000. I've been flying professionally in the industry since 2003 and many of my peers and even professional pilots who are further along than I am in their careers still continue to carry large amounts of student loan debt. I took a different path and I can say that at no time did I ever carry a debt load in excess of $15,000. If you are someone who is passionate about aviation but lacks the experience or knowledge then this website is for you. For starters, though I want you to understand that getting involved in aviation is not easy. It is fun and awesome and satisfying and rewarding and fulfilling but it is not easy. It takes serious amounts of time, money, thought, and dedication.
I don't want to overwhelm you either though. Anything you would like to do is most likely within your reach. Do you want to own an airplane or fly professionally? You can probably accomplish anything you want to do but you need to understand exactly what will be required of you and then you will need to commit the hard work and resources necessary to get you to where you want to be. I want to talk about the difference between a goal and a project for a minute. Most accomplishments in aviation are not the achievement of goals rather they are the successful completion of a project. You could make a goal to schedule your first flight lesson but getting a license is a project that will involve many goals to set and meet along the way. Projects involve multiple steps so if you are thinking about flight training, I would encourage you to think of the process as a big project. Simply training for the written exam for the private pilot course is like taking a college course. This is not to say that it needs to take a long time. Big projects can be completed quickly. I used to work as a project manager for a steel erection company. Our crews could install the structural steel for a Publix or Kroger in about 6 weeks. These guys were good because they had done the project many times. They knew how to operate as a team and they worked efficiently. They had their communication dialed and everyone knew their role. One of the challenges with flight training is that new students go in with great passion but very little knowledge. Not only do they not know about flying, they don't understand the process of the transformation that must happen for someone to go from no knowledge of aviation to competent private pilot. This is not like building the 30th grocery store with the same construction crew. You only learn to fly once. This project is fairly complex and pretty expensive and you only get to do it once. The lessons you learn about how to train effectively can be carried on to other programs if you choose to pursue an instrument rating or a commercial certificate, but you will only go through the PPL course 1 time. The good news is that every year over 10,000 people complete this project successfully and you can do it too! There is more good news - certified flight instructors and professionals like me want you to succeed! By in large, the aviation industry is a great community. So many customer service reps in this industry are happy and friendly. I've heard several of them remark that there are, "so many wonderful people in this business." Of course, there are exceptions and there are jerks out there too, but I'm here to tell you that for the most part, you will meet friendly helpful people who want to encourage you toward success as you pursue your aviation related projects.
If you are interested in becoming a pilot either for your own personal satisfaction or with the hopes of one day flying professionally, I want to be a resource for you. That is what this website is all about. I started it in 2015 to be a resource and to help people who are interested in taking a path that is similar to the path that I took. I have flown small corporate aircraft for my whole career up until 2015. In addition to this, I worked in the factory automation field and as a manager in the construction industry. Since 2015 I've been flying the Hawker 800, a mid sized corporate jet that flies private charter trips. My experience has given me some expertise not only in aviation but also in the area of systems, communication, business, and management. My path has not been perfect - I made lots of mistakes and I continue to learn every single day but I can tell you that I am so thankful to have made it to this point in my career with such a small debt load. When I changed jobs in 2015, developing this website went on hold. Over the past two years, I uprooted my family from Georgia and moved them to Wisconsin. I transitioned from corporate props to corporate jets all while attending online college courses to finally finish my Bachelor's of Science in Aeronautics from Embry Riddle Worldwide. Today, I'm sitting in a hotel in Teterboro, NJ on a corporate trip with 15 weeks remaining before I will graduate with my 4-year degree. Several weeks ago I had a youtube viewer contact me about the training course I offer and at the time I had honestly not finished the course. He was really interested and so I agreed that if he paid me I would complete the course and deliver it to him. That work is done, and completing it ignited a spark in me to update the website and once again resume publishing material regularly to help aspiring aviators. So many people have helped me along the way and I really take satisfaction when I am able to help someone else along.
That subject is what this blog will be about. We will discuss aviation and business and success and systems and education and industry trends. When it makes sense I will share my personal experience and stories and I will answer your questions to the best of my ability. Are you passionate about flying but don't know where to start? Before you are signed off you will need to develop some level of expertise in the following:
medical certificate classes and durations
required documentation and inspections
This is a list to start. Again not to overwhelm - there is a finite amount of information here and it can be mastered if it is digested systematically. I've been going through the process of working on aviation related projects for the past 16 years. Success in these projects amounts to understanding where you want to go, determining what tools you need, and then putting in the work necessary to gain the appropriate knowledge and proficiency. I hope this website will be a valuable tool in your bag along the way.
So where do you want to go?