So less than 3 years ago I bumped into a triathlon friend on a plane leaving BWI and we talked about how he had gotten his pilot certificate. It started me thinking of all the things over the years I had thought about doing, among them flying. I reflected that I wasn’t getting any younger. You know in your mid 40s you start to look back and think why didn’t I ever do this or that, I’m going to regret not taking that opportunity or risk and making this or that happen….. and so forth. I guess I had a few pretty tough years in 2013-2014 and I was coming out the back side with some fresh perspective that I was going to use to see more clearly. Things most valuable and worthwhile are hard work, involve risk, are not guaranteed, and take time. I thought about it and a few days later after my return flight, on my drive home, I stopped by the airport and inquired at the flight school about a Discovery Flight where an instructor speaks with you and takes you for an hour introductory flight. I’ll never forget the sound and smell when we fired up the airplane or the feeling as we picked up speed down the runway and the wheels left the ground! I can close my eyes and vividly relive it as if it was yesterday and I get that same kid like exhilaration every time I pull onto the runway, it never gets old. That was April 2016.
A Little Review
April 2016-Nov 2016: So with no aviation experience or knowledge I signed up for an online “ground school” that is designed to give you basic knowledge and prepare you to take your first FAA Knowledge Test covering aerodynamics, navigation, flight planning, aircraft performance, and a variety of topics. There were times I didn’t know how I would ever make it through the course or pass the tests; it had been many years since I graduated college and this was multiples harder, my brain had become lazy. As I worked towards my private pilot certificate I studied my ground school, took my tests, and took 2 or 3 flight lessons a week. Slowly I figured out all that was involved and the process for actually obtaining a pilot certificate: complete ground school, take one or more FAA Knowledge Test(s), complete all your required flight lessons, complete all your required flight tasks such as cross country flights, pass your Practical Test administered by an FAA Pilot Examiner which was a 4 hour oral exam and then a 2 1/2 hour flight exam. A Private Pilot Certificate is sort of like getting your associates degree or learners permit. It covers the basics and then you continue to use that to build experience and add additional certificates and rating; thus the sayings “Its a license to learn…. a good pilot is always learning”. My blog posts from the beginning to November 2016 cover my journey in detail. Private Pilot Certificate completed November 2016. On the right side you can navigate my blog posts by month under Archives. So for each certificate or rating you follow that same process more or less.
2017: Shortly after Christmas 2016 I started my Instrument Rating. I decided to complete my ground school and pass my required exams prior to the actual flight lessons since I had been told by many that for them this was one of the toughest rating. That turned out to be true, my blog posts from that time through October 2017 detail that agonizing period of my life! Tough but worth it. Instrument Rating achieved September 2017.
2018-March 2019: After my Instrument Rating I worked on completing some dog rescue flights, gaining some experience flying by instruments through the clouds, flying some fun non-training flights (if there is such a thing as I try and learn from each flight), going to an AOPA Fly-In Groton CT and EAA Air Venture Oshkosh WI, with the goal of working on my Commercial Pilot Certificate starting in August. Unfortunately I didn’t blog about this training since I became so busy and run down trying to keep up with my full time job requiring extensive travel. At the same time our ideas for HoundPilot.com were developing and we decided to begin the process and form the charitable LLC and have the web page professionally done and see where it goes from there. Again following the process above I passed my Commercial ground school and Knowledge Exam and then the Practical Exam obtaining my Commercial Pilot Certificate in September 2018. At the prompting and encouragement of my Chief CFI and flight school owner I continued straight into my Certified Flight Instructor training. Starting the process all over again but at a whole new and even hight level. Basically you have to fly and do everything from the right seat which is harder than it looks! You have to know EVERYTHING and be able to teach it. Yes it’s harder for me than walking and chewing gum: flying, talking, teaching, and giving the mock student (CFI training you) freedom to make mistakes and learn without killing you both. There are several very hard FAA Knowledge Exams to pass, and the Practical Exam took 14 hours over 3 days. Again I wish I had blogged about it like I did during my private certificate and instrument rating training but with my difficult work schedule, personal travels and flying, and the forming of the LLC and web page being down from July-September, it just didn’t happen. I did bore my friends with a lot of pictures and Facebook posts of my flights, studies, books, exams, etc. I did slowly develop a sizable collection of reference materials and of course now days they would fill a bookcase. Thankfully most of the FAA Books and materials are now downloaded online and loaded into your computer or iPad. What did happen is obtaining my CFI (Certified Flight Instructor Certificate) on March 27th 2019!
I’ll leave that for a separate post…… For those that are interested I’ll try to describe what the Exams are like.
So 2 years and 11 months, so many to thank:
So it’s been a few days and the accomplishment is starting to sink in. I mean for me this is really life changing, something I enjoy doing that I could potentially do for retirement. I’ve never had a job that is fulfilling in the way flying is. You know a job that’s not really a job. I want nothing more than to teach and fly, fly and teach, and fly…… and fly.
I truly could not have done this without so many great people in my life and I want to make sure I thank them.
Steve Ritcher: That triathlon friend that planted the idea to go for it and answered so many questions along the way. Oh and he lets me go on fly-in fishing trips with him!
All my coworkers and friends, yes you all on Facebook also: you read all me Facebook posts and put up with my aviation lingo, or at least you kept hitting that “LIKE” button! Thank you.
Laura Beck: Truly a special person. I mean I had some lean years when we met, a tough time in my life and she got me through it. Then after all that I come up with this crazy idea to spend $20k to get my pilot’s certificate and what does she say? “Go for it” and she never wavered. Literally keeping a roof over my head so I could use my expendable income to chase a dream. Then I catch the aviation bug and one summer, certificate turns into 4 certificates, I won’t say how many $$$$, and almost 3 years….. she never wavered and supported me in every way. The days when my self confidence was down and I felt like giving up when I would hit a hard part of the studies or flying; Laura wouldn’t let me quit and encouraged and supported me to success.
Mike Crawford: CFI at the time with Frederick Flight Center and now with Bravo Flight Training. Mike did my discovery flight and my first 20 hours of training before I had to move to a school closer to my home for logistical reasons. He didn’t know it but looking back he made a real impact on my life! He began flying and became a CFI and made that his retirement work. I would have never thought of doing that and he opened up that possibility in my mind.
Eric, Justin, and Tony from Dream Flight School: Looking back I am thankful and know that I benefitted from excellent instruction by extremely bright and talented young aviators less than half my age! Some lament about CFIs coming and going, teaching just long enough to get the hours to move onto the airlines. While that can be a hinderance if it disrupts your training, in my case it was a benefit. I received instruction form talented individuals that attended aviation college programs and were on the top of their game. They are also are really good people. Each made sure I got top notch instruction and they made sure I finished my the certificate I was working on at the time and made arrangements so that I could get it done before they transitioned to the next step in their careers. They pushed me and kept me motivated. I would not have progressed as I did without them. Each are now flying for the regional airlines.
Jeremy Etzkorn: Owner and Chief Pilot of Dream Flight School. Jeremy did my Stage Check flight evaluations during my private pilot training and all of my Commercial Pilot and CFI training. He always expressed belief in me and encouraged me. Once early on I had a really bad flight and was shaken up. He spoke with me, calmed me down, then took me back out flying to get me straight. Then he said “your fine, come back tomorrow and continue”. I could have easily been one of the many that quit early on if it weren’t for him. Then during in my advanced training he consistently provided insight and mentorship making me believe I could do this CFI thing. During my Commercial and CFI training I received so much insightful training that motivated me to continue. He has a gift for that. I would have spread it over many more years, never would have believed I could do it, and been much more likely to fail if it weren’t for his mentorship.
Dream Flight School Team: Brad, Enrico (CFI), and Mike, Mike, and Austin (aviation mechanics). They worked with me from scheduling to keeping everything running, listening to me talk and talk and answered all my questions about maintenance and aircraft systems along the way when they had much better things to be doing, you know like getting their jobs done! I thank them for their time and patience.