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Is Money Really the Reason People Don’t Learn to Fly?

Money was always the reason I said I didn’t learn to fly, and I know that is the reason most other people give. Some say time and that is a valid reason because it does take a significant time commitment to get your ratings.

The more I think about it, and the more I hear other people talk about it, money should never be the reason someone doesn’t learn to fly.  If someone says money is the reason they can’t learn to fly, I think the real reason is lack of education or understanding, which I think is the only real reason people don’t learn to fly.

That may seem abrupt or too short sighted, but at the heart of most reasons is a lack of understanding.  Let’s look at money first since that is the most common reason.

Money can certainly be a stumbling block, and make it take longer to earn a rating, but there is no reason it should stop anyone.  Most of us could find things to eliminate from our lives and save money.  We could not go to Starbucks as often, or not eat out everyday for lunch.  We could even sell our car and ride a bike where we needed to go or take the bus.  All of these things can be done if someone wants it bad enough, and if you don’t, that’s fine, it just means you would rather have your coffee than fly, as long as you understand it is a choice.

Beyond that there are a lot of different scholarships out there designed to help people get their ratings.  You may not get the first one you apply for, but if you keep trying then you will eventually find a way.  Like many things it is not just a matter of trying one time if you truly want it.  You have to keep trying and you WILL find a way.

While I don’t recommend it unless you intend to make flying a career, there are even loans you can take out if you decide that is right for you.  Take great caution though because you don’t want to end up with more debt than you can handle.  This was originally my plan, but after more than $3,000 I had only logged 7.5 hours and I knew that wasn’t sustainable.  So just make sure you are staying very aware of what you are spending and what you are actually getting if you decide to take out loans.

Now what about time?

I have very quickly learned that the older I get the less free time I have.  Between work and family I have to be much more selective of how I spend the other time I have.  But, when I am honest with myself, I waste a ridiculous amount of time watching TV and playing video games.  I enjoy doing those things, and have come to realize that it is a choice I am making, that I am trying to change within myself.

Not everyone wastes their time away on meaningless entertainment, and some people genuinely do not have any extra time to pursue a license.  The question there is if they could afford to work a little less and possibly live a less extravagant lifestyle?  Could they sacrifice a huge vacation and instead get their license?  This is not always the case as some people genuinely have to work that much just to survive.  But the vast majority of people could find something to sacrifice if they really wanted to fly.

I guess what I am getting at is that there are opportunities out there if only people knew what reality was.  Some people think that the military is the only way to become a pilot.  This may seem ridiculous for someone in the industry, but for someone who doesn’t actually know someone who is a pilot they may not realize the opportunities that exist. 

They may not realize that sometimes you can trade labor like plane washing for flight lessons.  There are also jobs to be had at the airport fueling planes and moving them around.  I for one thought there was some experience to be had to get a job like that.  Come to realize most of those people are in their late teens and early twenties with no experience whatsoever when they start.  It can be a great way to meet pilots and find opportunities to fly that you can only find through meeting people.  Not to mention making some money to spend on flying.

There are programs like EAA’s Young Eagle where you can get into a small plane for a flight to see what it’s like.  There is Civil Air Patrol if you want to learn more about aviation and maybe get some flying in as well.

Honestly, when you are young is the best time to learn to fly if you can be disciplined about it.  You don’t have a lot of bills to worry about other than maybe a cell phone and some sort of transportation.  You also don’t have a lot of other responsibilities to take up your time.  You just have to decide if being on five basketball teams is more important than learning to fly, and if it is for you then awesome!  Just don’t complain about not becoming a pilot.  You can make it happen if you choose to, but you have to be disciplined and really want it.  Otherwise, you may put off your dream for 20 years like I did. 

I know it’s a cliche phrase, but it really is true that “where there’s a will there’s a way”.  It likely will not come easy, and will take significant time and effort, but it can be done.  You can find a way if you have the guts to do it.  You will likely have to ask for help from others, but don’t be afraid to ask, and just do it.  So many people are willing to help in aviation that if you don’t ask, you have only yourself to blame.  That doesn’t mean to just ask people for money, but they may be able to give you advice or point you in the direction of a scholarship or job opportunity. 

I’m not writing this to judge people for their choices as much as I want people to realize it is possible, something I didn’t realize until I was in my mid 30s.  There are opportunities all over the place.  If you are in the industry you can help by talking to people about it.  You can tell them your story, which was likely just as full of sacrifice along a winding path as most other pilots.  You can help someone get into the military if that is what you know.  We can all do more to help people follow their dreams, and I know almost all of us are willing to do so.

If we can only educate people of all ages about the options they have we can grow the community which will only help all of us.  Then we will have more people to share this thing that we love.

If there is anything I can do to help please let me know and I will do all I can.  Helping other people learn and grow is one of my favorite things to do.

January 9, 2021 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Musings After Completing Air Force Pilot Training

Do you ever feel like months or years at a time go by and you know that a lot of things have happened, but when you stop and think about it, or sit down to write about some of the cool things you have done, you really just don’t know what to say?  That’s kind of where I am at right now.

As you are likely aware, I attended Air Force Pilot Training over the last year or so, which I completed back in September, earning my wings, and furthering my lifelong dream of being a pilot.  I still count finishing my private certificate back in 2008 as when I became a pilot, but this was a big deal and an even bigger step on my career path, wherever that may lead.

There is no reason to give a play by play of everything that happened at pilot training, especially since I am sure someone else already has, and they probably did it better, but I figured I would put some of my own thoughts and experiences down for my own benefit, and maybe it will help someone else in the at the same time.

One of the things a lot of people ask is how they can best prepare for pilot training.  The reality is that every single person is different and would benefit from different preparation.  The one thing that I feel is universal is getting as much aviation experience as you possibly can.  Ideally that means spending as much time in any flying aircraft you possibly can.  There is simply no substitute for time in the seat and in the air hearing and seeing and smelling and feeling all of those different inputs.  That may not be feasible in many cases, but beg, borrow, or steal your way onto any flight in a cockpit you can get.  It doesn’t have to be formal training.  It could be bumming a ride for a $100 hamburger, or just beating up the pattern, but any time you can get in the air will help you.

All of my experience in the Air Force flying was a definite advantage in many aspects of the training.  If nothing else I was familiar with many of the terms and expressions that made me feel more comfortable in the environment as a whole.  I am not saying you should spend 8 years as a Navigator before going to pilot training, though honestly it is not a bad way to go, but

Right before I took the T-6 solo in formation. What a ride!

I am saying that every little bit of comfort you can gain from experience is worth it to help you get through what will inevitably be an uncomfortable year.

In the theme of the Thanksgiving season, I am incredibly grateful for the chance I had to fly such a dynamic plane as the T-6.  I realize what a special opportunity it was to fly an fully aerobatic, complex, turbine, bad-A airplane.  I even got to fly it by myself, which is even more cool when I look back on it.  The one part I was really not looking forward to was the formation phase because frankly it is uncomfortable being that close to another plane doing the maneuvers we do.  By the time we finished the phase and I had the opportunity to solo in formation I had a little idea what I was doing and I actually really enjoyed it.  It was a huge confidence builder for me, and just a great time in the air.

All of that being said, I am perfectly content never flying the T-6 again.  That probably sounds a little contradictory, but it is just not my type of flying.  Sure it would be fun to go out with a buddy and range around for an hour in the mountains with such a high performance aircraft, but having to fly with an instructor with syllabus items to accomplish would not be as fun.  I’m also old and grumpy and having to wear all of that extra gear is not my style anymore.

View from the backseat of the T-1 enjoying my time with a crew.

Moving onto the T-1 after the T-6 brought me back to my type of flying.

I LOVE flying with a crew.

I love being able to interact with other crewmembers.  I love that we are there to back each other up and keep each other safe.  I love the more laid back environment where we get the mission done, but we can also have a good time doing it.

The T-1 is a massive pig compared to the T-6, but it was still a lot of fun to fly.  I had to keep reminding the people in my class how lucky we all were to get this training.  Not many people in this world get the opportunity to fly a business jet with less than 100 hours of experience, but that’s what we were doing.  It is not the flashiest plane, and like I said, it flies like a pig, but it was still a great time learning a more complex aircraft and adding to my skillset.

It is worth mentioning the importance of the people you go to pilot training with.  I had the unfortunate experience of being at pilot training not only during Covid, but during massive class shifts at UPT.  Shortly after starting pilot training my class was split up into multiple classes with me personally rolling back three classes.  Over the next year or many of those people changed classes again both backward and forward.  As it turned out I ended up graduating with only 2 of the 22 people that I originally started with.  No one graduates with the exact class they started with for any number of reasons, but it was a real bummer having the whole thing blown up like that.

One of my last flights at pilot training. Enjoyed getting back into the low-level environment.

At the same time, all of the people I had the chance to interact with were exceptional people.  We had great laughs, and worked hard, and got through to the end together.  It was truly a pleasure to work with such exceptional people, and I look forward to following them all through the rest of their careers.

UPT was also a unique experience for me because of my own personal circumstances.  I have mentioned it previously, but being 38 when most of your classmates are in the early 20s made for a slightly different dynamic.  I also was married with three kids, one of whom is almost a teenager, added to the dynamic.  I am also a winged navigator with a fair amount of experience.  Not to mention that I am also a Major which meant I outranked almost all of my IPs.

Some of these things people said were a disadvantage, and others an advantage, and they are probably right.  There is no such thing as a normal UPT experience, and everybody has their weaknesses and areas that require special effort.  At the end of the day, getting through UPT is all about your attitude and your effort.  Anybody can be taught to fly, and anybody can be taught to fly the Air Force way, if they are willing to put in the time and the effort.  It was amazing to watch the effort that some of my classmates put in to become pilots.  Like anything in life it was easier for some people than for others, but at the end of the day we all walked away with our wings, and we all get to have one of the coolest jobs in the world: pilot.

Hello again beautiful!

This last week I got to start my C-130 specific training back in Little Rock.  It felt a lot like coming home since I was stationed here about five years ago.  We still have some friends that never left, and others that we got to know during our time in Japan that have since moved here.  It is so awesome going somewhere that you already have friends.  On the first day of class we went out to walk around the plane, and it was a beautiful reunion to be back with my beloved C-130.

I will spare you the love story which you can read about in previous articles I have written (here, here, and here), but suffice it to say I am thrilled to be back here on the plane I love.  There is still a lot of work to be done to learn a new job on the same plane, but I already feel so at home in so many ways.  I think it is one way of knowing you are where you are supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing, when it feels like coming home after far too long apart.

Hopefully, I can do a better job putting my thoughts down because I know it is good for me, and I hope that others can benefit from it too.  I have said it before and I will say it every time I write.  If there is ever any question I can answer, or anything I can do to help you in your aviation journey please don’t hesitate to ask.  We are all a part of the best community in the world, and it is the people that make it that way.

I hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving, and get the chance to get out and fly as much as possible.

November 22, 2020 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Creating Change in Aviation

Recently I have been reading a lot of books and listening to a lot of podcasts about business and personal development. There are some incredibly inspiring stories out there that I just sit in awe of as I hear them play out.

All of these people do amazing things to make the world a better place and to pursue their passions. Many of them make ridiculous amounts of money, but the part that always strikes a chord with me is how happy and fulfilled they all seem, and how that only inspires them to help more.

The person who is quickly inspiring me the most is Gary Vaynerchuk. If you haven’t heard the name you really should look him up on Twitter or Instagram or on his blog or podcast. The man has made his whole life around helping other people succeed and find happiness, and in turn, he has found unbelievable success. He also just released his fifth book, which is what inspired me to write this post.

The book is entitled Crushing It! and I have been enjoying it thoroughly since I got it. I will spare you the review for the time being and simply share the thoughts that it inspired in me as I read. Forgive me if they seem a little disjointed, but I wanted to share them now while they were fresh in my mind and heart.

He talks a lot about having a passion, which I honestly do have for aviation, as well as teaching, but he also talks a lot about providing value to customers, or as I see it, the people you care about, whether they be customers, or people you want to inspire, or people you want to help. Only when you provide value can you possibly have any real, lasting impact on the world.

I feel like this is an area I struggle with.

I want to provide value, but I often feel like there are people in aviation who simply know more than me, or that have more to offer than me so I will just keep quiet and let them do it. While there are tons of people who know more than me, I still have value to provide to the community, I just need to figure out what my niche is. Maybe it is the lesser known parts of the industry, seeing as how I am a navigator who has a very small, and shrinking, footprint in the industry. However, it is often some of the smallest footprints that can have the biggest impact when the time is right.

The area that I would like to create an impact in, is in the creation of pilots. I intentionally didn’t use the term flight training because I think we need to change the conversation and stop just looking at the problem or else we will never see the solution (one of my favorite scenes in the movie Patch Adams if you recognize the concept). I could be wrong, but not a whole lot has changed in the realm of pilot training in decades. Sure sims are becoming more common, and there are some cool advances in VR that may bear some fruit, but at its heart, it is still the same process.

Change for the sake of change is never a good idea, but it seems apparent to me that the creation of pilots could use an overhaul. I don’t know what exactly that looks like, but I find I learn more and create when I vocalize and discuss, so that is what I am trying to do here. I would love to hear your ideas and thoughts on the matter.

One idea I had was to create a system where students are able to get their early ratings, or maybe even all the way to an ATP, on a sort of scholarship fund that funds itself on a portion of the pilot’s salary from their dream airline job for maybe 10 years or something, just to throw out a number. It would obviously need a starting seed fund, and would take some time to bear real fruits, but I have learned that the best organizations are built around a community that cares about each other, and that is something I don’t think the aviation community takes advantage of nearly enough. Sure we are friendly with each other, for the most part, and we are happy to share a $100 hamburger run together, but I think there is a lot more we could do to truly foster and mentor the younger generation. Interest in aviation as a whole has waned as air travel has become more commonplace, and only the effort and passion of those of us that love it will ever re-excite this generation.

Another area that intrigues me is in fostering the growth of aviation in developing countries. Admittedly, flying a plane is a bit of a stretch for people who hardly have food and water, but if we can educate and inspire these people they will inevitably be the tide that raises all of the other boats around them. This doesn’t even necessarily have as much to do with flying as it does with teaching skills to these people in line with an education that will help them truly change the world. This train of thought definitely stems from having recently read the incredibly inspiring The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun, who has built hundreds of schools in some of the most poor parts of the world to allow kids to pursue their dreams of an education. Another must read if you enjoy learning about the greatness of people and the good going on in the world. They want to learn so bad that we are missing a great opportunity by not teaching them the skills that would dramatically change their lives forever. These thoughts may be straying from my message a little, but I wanted to share all of the insights I had today.

Originally I had one more thought, but decided it should have its own post so you can see that later, along with a sweet video I filmed on my flight today.

As you see, I don’t have some grand design to solve the pilot shortage, but I wanted to share my thoughts in a forum where maybe we can have some discussion. I just love this industry so much, and I hate the idea that anyone who truly loves it should not be able to be a part of it for something as trivial as money. There is plenty of that out there if we can just direct it properly.

Thank you for humoring me, assuming you made it this far, and I look forward to having some dialogue on the subject.

February 1, 2018 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

The Many Faces of a Flying Career

Weather can affect your flying in unexpected ways so learn how to deal with it.

Weather can affect your flying in unexpected ways so learn how to deal with it.

I think most of us grow up dreaming about flying fighter jets or jumbo jets high in the sky, or fast through the mountains.  That is exactly the way it works out for some people, and for other people it works out for them flying smaller planes in remote destinations that they love more than they ever expected.

I know my aviation career hasn’t followed the path that I thought it would, and I’m okay with that.  In fact, it wasn’t until about a year ago that I realized how much I actually loved aviation.

I’ve worked in aviation for about 7 years now in a number of different roles, and there has been good and bad in all of them.  Working at an FBO provided an opportunity to see some incredible planes, meet some famous people, and becoming friends with people who changed my life.

In my four years in the Air Force I have met some incredible people, visited some incredible locations, and experienced some incredible struggles.  That is the part of a career in aviation that most people don’t tell you about.

Before I go any further let me be totally clear that I feel it is completely worth it, but there are some aspects that I had never anticipated.

I have spent far more time in a classroom than I have a cockpit.  Now maybe that is more of a factor in the military flying community, but either way you have to be ready to do a lot of learning.  That learning also never really stops.  Whether you are a weekend flyer, or a 747 pilot, if you want to be good at what you do then you can’t ever stop learning about flying.

There is also a lot more to learn about than just stick and rudder skills.  In fact, there is more to learn about flying than just flying.  There are all kinds of other areas that you can learn about to make you a true aviator rather than just a pilot.

Safety is one of the biggest topics you need to spend time learning about.  Read accident reports and learn as much as you can from others’ mistakes.  I know some pilots are intimidated by those types of things, but it can only make you better.

The reason this is on my mind right now is I am currently attending a two-week power point fest that makes me fall asleep just thinking about it.  However, it is an essential part of my career that will open doors that would otherwise be inaccessible.

It is entirely possible that something I learn during this training could save my crew’s lives someday.  Hopefully, I will never have to use any of it and we will remain safe anyways, but it is reassuring to me to know that the knowledge will be there in case I ever need it.

I guess what I am trying to say is to not be afraid of the many aspects of becoming an aviator, but to embrace those opportunities to learn.  With any luck you will never have to use it, but just ask Capt Sullenberger’s passengers if they are glad he took some extra training.

July 15, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.