I want to be That Guy

This blog is about General Aviation and Flight Training. So far I have been writing about flying lessons in an airplane, as this is what I have been involved in as a professional pilot and flight instructor. Even though before I got into airplanes, I used to fly gliders. And during my own flight training I got me an opportunity to sky dive, which was a total blast!

As a matter of fact, a few weeks ago I decided to drive down to the Lodi, CA airport, which is right off highway 99, and got some information on taking some professional sky diving lessons. I was hoping to be able to do this before I get back to working full time again. And today, a friend and a former student Christophe (from France) sent me a link to this cool Hang Glider pilot’s video on YouTube, and now I am thinking….:-)

I want to be that Guy – Nicholas Cage

The Flight Instructor Who Gave Selflessly

Guest Post: By Stephen Hopson

Today I was going to write about the success of the “Flight to Hartford” project with my church (you can find it listed under my name) and tie it into the universal laws of attraction and giving. But something else came up, taking priority.

I just learned that a man who helped me make my dreams of becoming a pilot seven years ago recently passed away. While I understand most of you didn’t know him, I want to share the story of how we met and the incredible impact he had on my life. I believe and hope you’ll be touched even if you’re not a pilot yourself.

We could all learn how to give selflessly like he did. I don’t know whether or not he was aware of the universal laws of attraction and giving but he was sure a good model for someone who did.

Here’s the story.

Right around the turn of the 21st century, I was still in the process of building my speaking and writing career so I was looking for a part-time job to pay the bills in between professional speaking engagements.

It was also at this time when I was already a month or two into flight training but my original instructor was offered a new job in Colorado so I was forced to find a replacement elsewhere.

One day, I had an inspiration to visit other airports to see if I could get a job at a place where they taught people how to fly. I thought, “Why not? Might as well shoot two birds with one stone.”

After visiting one or two and being told nothing was available, I decided to venture a little further out and try Oakland Troy airport, a 30 minute drive from my home.

It was nestled among a fast growing metropolitan area (Troy, Michigan, USA) complete with a new strip mall, new apartments, a giant Wal-Mart and an assortment of other industrial buildings. The only area with open space was a small golf course nearby. The airport was big enough to accommodate corporate jets yet small enough not to require an air traffic control tower.

Pulling onto the newly repaved airport parking lot, I noticed a small circular white terminal building up ahead.

“That must be where I can find the personnel department,” I thought.

Upon setting foot inside, I was surprised to see only a couple of people milling about, drinking coffee and reading the paper. A jovial looking man with rosy cheeks was pouring himself a steaming hot cup of coffee.

Seeing that I was a new face in the place, he set his coffee down and came barreling toward me at 800 mph with an outstretched hand. It startled the heck out of me.

After regaining my composure, I made the mistake of accepting his bone-crushing handshake, causing me to wince in pain.

Trying to hide my pained expression, I said, “Hi, my name is Stephen Hopson and I’m looking for the personnel department.”

“And I’m Don Solms,” he boomed. He was still pumping my now lifeless hand.

Finally releasing his grip, he said, “Oh, you want a job here?” His face brightened even more, if that were possible.

“Yes, do you know of any openings?” I was massaging my fatally injured hand, opening and closing it repeatedly.

“I think they might be looking for someone. HEY, let me take you over to the other building to Susan’s office. She’s the personnel director. COME ON!”

Just before going in her office, Don thrust his business card in my hand and said cheerfully, “Good luck. Shoot me an email later. You’ll have to come over to my hangar where I keep my plane. Okay?”

Keeping both hands within the safety confines of my pockets, I said, “Thanks Don.” I could tell he wanted another hand shake. Fat chance buddy!

Susan then introduced me to two guys named Carl Barnes and Jason Zimmerman. They were both young men who were in charge running flight services. The interview went well and I ended up being hired. As a line service rep, I would be responsible for fueling and towing airplanes, among other things. It marked the beginning of an incredible 4 years at that airport.

One day, Don was hanging out at his hangar where he kept his prized Skylane. It was sunny and breezy. His hangar door was wide open, allowing cool air to swirl around inside. It was an open invitation to anyone who happened to come by. Spotting me in the fuel truck (I was motoring my way back to the terminal after fueling a customer’s plane), he waved me in and offered me a cold soda.

Ten minutes into the conversation, my dreams of becoming a pilot somehow surfaced. I told him that I was actually looking for a new instructor and was trying to save up some money to resume flight training.

Before he could respond, my vibrating pager distracted me with a new text message. There was another fuel order and I had to get going.

“Don, I’ve gotta go – they are telling me to fuel another airplane. See ya later!”

As I got up to leave, he grabbed my arm and gave it a powerful squeeze. My mind did a quick flashback to that day in the terminal. This time his eyes were sparkling like stars. And he was grinning stupidly.

I was in no way prepared for what he was about to say next.

“I would be honored to be your flight instructor and I won’t charge you for my time. All you’d be responsible for is the cost of renting an airplane.”

My God, an angel was in my midst and I knew it.

Absentmindedly rubbing my arms to stem the tide of goose bumps that was spreading like wildfire all over my body, I said, “Wow, really? Thanks man!”

Then he turned serious for a moment and said, “When are you free for your first lesson?”

Thrown off balance since I didn’t expect it to happen so soon, I said, “Well, how about tomorrow?”

“Okay, you got it! ” he thundered. Then he winked as if he were saying, “our secret.”

The rest was history. He was true to his word. Months of flight training with this man proved to be quite an adventure.

He was best known as a jokester, even in the cockpit. Now you have to picture this in your mind. There we were, me, a deaf student pilot and him, a 250 pound flight instructor with a large football frame who liked to poke his elbow at me every time he made a joke. And get this…he thought everything he said was funny!

Ouch!

Aside from his wry sense humor, he was one of the most patient flight instructors I would ever have. Every time we got ready for a lesson, he’d explain in the classroom what we were going to do and then we’d go up and fly.

If he wanted to explain something while we were flying, he’d take control of the airplane while I read his lips and then we’d resume the lesson. Don was one of those rare flight instructors who did not care about building flight time for a future career with the airlines. He was in it for the long haul. In fact, it wasn’t until after 50 plus years of flying and instructing that he finally hung up his wings last year.

He truly enjoyed the fine art of teaching and it showed. He never yelled at his students like some flight instructors who think they are drill sergeants with big egos. His students were his prized possessions and he treated all of them with the respect they deserved.

On December 3, 2000 Don had one big surprise up his sleeve. It was a calm, sunny day. We were scheduled to do some practice takeoffs and landings. After doing three of them, he instructed me to taxi over to the ramp by the white terminal building where I first met him months earlier.

Trying to hide his delight, he said, “Let me see your logbook for a sec.”

Arching my right arm as far back as I could behind the front seats, I snatched the logbook out of my bulging black flight bag and gave it to him.

Suddenly it dawned on me that today was “the day.” He was going to sign me off for my first solo flight!

I felt an involuntary shudder.

After scribbling his signature, he turned and looked at me. His brown eyes were sparkling again. The smile was even bigger than before. He was absolutely giddy, like a child on Christmas morning.

“So Mr. Hopson, are you ready?” he thundered.

“Yes, Don, get the hell out!” I thundered back, half joking.

Roaring like a lion, Don heaved his 250 pound football frame out of the airplane, closed and locked the door with a loud click. Then he did something that forever burned in my mind.

Like a five-star general sending his young fighter pilots off to war, he gave me a smart salute!

I almost burst to tears. It was deeply touching. No one ever did that to me before. Despite being more than ready to solo, I still felt a touch of trepidation so I returned the favor with a slightly shaky hand. Thank God he was too far away to see that.

Taxiing into position on the runway, I took a deep breath and firewalled the throttle causing the airplane to literally leap into the air. I remember thinking, “so this is what everyone means when they say the plane will bounce into the air without your instructor!”

Within seconds after takeoff, all the training kicked in and it was just another exercise around the airport pattern. The only difference was…well, I was alone.

After three takeoffs and landings, the venerable flight instructor waved me over and gave the signal to cut the engine. He stood there like a proud papa and motioned for me to go over to where he was standing. Instead of shaking my hand, he wrapped his huge arms around me and gave me a bone crushing hug. But, hey, I didn’t mind.

Five months later, one day short of my birthday, he finally signed me off to take my pilot certification flight test (i.e. “checkride”) with Mary Carpenter, one of the toughest but fairest FAA examiners from the area. He and Terry Ryan (his airplane co-owner at the time), both accompanied me on the flight to Pontiac airport, a mere 10 minutes away where the examiner’s office was located. He wanted to be there when Mrs. Carpenter and I were done with the checkride.

Two hours later, the examiner walked briskly into the waiting area, smiled and said, “Congratulations, Stephen passed with flying colors!”

Don roared his approval.

We all went out to have our pictures taken by the airplane and that’s when he said to me, “I’ll sit in the back seat on the return flight. Congratulations Mr. Pilot in Command!”

It was the greatest, grandest gesture another human being could ever have bestowed upon me. I’ll never forget it. He was that kind of man. Don believed in me so much that he was literally the only person at that airport who believed I would one day become the world’s first deaf instrument rated pilot.

Six years later, I did it, defying every naysayer in the aviation business. In February 06, I became the world’s first deaf instrument rated pilot. For that I salute Don Solms for believing in me.

Here’s to you Don!

Food for thought: Have you considered the power of the law of giving and helped make someone else’s dream come true this week?

Profoundly deaf since birth, Stephen Hopson is a former award-winning stockbroker turned motivational speaker, author and pilot. He works with organizations that are ready to explore and overcome adversity because no one is immune from it – adversity does not discriminate. His professional speaking services, Obstacle Illusions, include fun and passionate presentations, especially the story of how his fifth grade teacher forever changed his young life with THAT’S RIGHT STEPHEN!

You can view his newly re-designed website at http://www.sjhopson.com.

Stephen also maintains a blog called “Adversity University

How to Become a Pilot in the United States

Guest Post by Thomas F. Sullivan

There are many reasons to gain a Private Pilot License, also called a Private Pilot Certificate. The three main reasons are for recreation, business, or a stepping stone to the Commercial Pilot License. While many pilots in the United States get their flight training through the military, here we provide the steps needed to become a pilot by training at one of the many flight schools in America. Lets take a look at the steps which are needed in order to become a certified Private Pilot.

  1. The first step is a psychological step. You need to make sure you are in the proper mind set and have the proper attitude to learn how to fly. This means you should have a very good reason, at least for yourself, in terms of why you want to become a pilot. And a perfunctory reason will not work. The reason for this is because it takes unadulterated commitment on your part in order to gain a Private Pilot License.
  2. Along the lines of commitment, you will need to set aside a large chunk of time weekly for learning how to fly. You could just train on the weekend, but the draw back to this method is that learning to fly could take a long time, a very long time. Therefore, if possible, try to fly every good weather day, and therefore set aside time daily for flight training. It is very important you understand that the closer your lessons are to each other, the less money you will spend in the end. The national average in terms of the flying hours needed to obtain the Private Pilot License is 65 – 70 hours.
  3. Plan on spending around $8,000.00 USD to obtain the Private Pilot License. This includes instructor fee, cost to rent airplane, exams, books, and equipment. Some sources put the cost at about $7,000.00 USD. Again, the more frequently you fly, the lower the end cost will be. Assuming you are average in terms of number of flying hours needed (65 – 70 hours), plan on spending $7,000.00 to $8,000.00 USD.
  4. After you have decided that you truly want to gain a Private Pilot License, you understand the time needed, and you have worked out the financial aspect, you then can start to think about selecting the right flight school. When selecting a flight school, visit every flight school that is within a reasonable driving distance to where you live. The following two steps will help in your selection of a flight school.
  5. You need to decide if you want to become a tri-gear or conventional gear (tail wheel) pilot, or both. Do you want to take your check ride in a conventional gear airplane, or a tri-gear airplane. Today, most pilots take their check ride in a tri-gear airplane. But it should be noted that you will be a more proficient and a safer pilot if you are able to fly more then one type of airplane. This diversity includes being able to fly both tri-gear and conventional gear aircraft.Today, most pilots prefer to stick with a tri-gear airplane from start to finish, when getting their Private Pilot License. Select a flight school which provides both tri-gear and conventional gear aircraft for you to rent, so that you are able to fly both of these types of airplanes.You can train and take your check ride in a tri gear airplane, and later after you obtain your Private Pilot License, get a tail wheel endorsement. No matter how you slice it, the more different types of airplanes you can get checked out in and fly well, the safer you will be as a pilot.
  6. Also, in terms of flight school selection, you need to decide if you want to learn to fly at a FAR Part 141 school, or a FAR Part 61 school. In the United States, flight schools are required to operate under one of these two sets of rules, as laid down by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). One is really not any better then the other. Flight schools which operate under FAR Part 141 provide a more formal curriculum, with slightly fewer hours required for certification, and flight schools which operate under FAR Part 61 are less formal, and hours needed for certification are a little bit more.But since the hours needed in order to obtain the Private Pilot License almost always is much more then the required hours for certification (65-70 hours is the national average), there is really no advantage to learning at a FAR Part 141 school. Your decision in terms of FAR Part 141, and FAR Part 61, should really be dependent on the type of learning environment you prefer. Some students do better in a more formal environment, while others prefer a more laid back, less formal environment.
  7. After selecting a flight school, you then need to select an instructor. Select an instructor you feel comfortable with, both in terms of personality and flying experience. There are basically two types of instructors in the United States. One type is trying to build flying hours and has a desire to move on beyond instruction to a commercial flying job which is more lucrative. The other type of instructor is a career instructor who prefers to instruct, and is not really flying to build hours, but enjoys teaching new students. Career instructors on average tend to be older then hour building instructors. In terms of these two types of instructors, one is really not any better then the other, and selecting an instructor you believe you are compatible with is what really is important. You need to have a professional learning situation, where personality incompatibility will not interfere with the process of becoming a pilot. Selecting the right instructor is probably the most important component in learning how to fly.
  8. Finally, for most areas of the United States, plan on starting the learning process at the beginning of the summer. You need to have plenty of good flying weather in front of you before you start. If you start in the fall, you may end up having to stop due to bad weather and may need to wait until the spring to continue, which means more time and money. Plan on getting the job done within a few months in the summer. This holds true for most areas of the country, but not all. Of course, if you are learning to fly in the Southwest or Florida, then when you start is really not a factor.

So there you have it. The steps you need to take in order to become a Private Pilot. The most important considerations are proper mind set and attitude, commitment of time and money, type of airplane you want to fly, and finally flight school and instructor selection.

To quote Leonardo da Vinci:

“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return”

If you follow these steps, you can experience what only Leonardo da Vinci could only dream of, the archetypal dream of flight.

Thomas Sullivan, the author of this article, is a web developer and publisher who resides within the Boston, MA area. He is a Private Pilot, the creator of Intellego Web Publishing, and the creator and webmaster for Pilot Portal USA and Pilot Jobs.

8 Steps to an Airline Pilot Career Job

There are a few things that you should be familiar with, if you, or someone you know, has an interest in becoming an airline pilot. Most folks assume that one can simply apply for a pilot job at United or South West, and they will provide the training to become a pilot.  Well, this is as far as it can get from the truth and reality. Becoming a pilot for a major airline takes years of hard work, dedication, sacrifice, persistence and determination. And, no there is no other way really.

Of course you can join the military and pay your dues that way, but that still is all of the above, and takes a few years to get one into an airline cockpit.

Most people follow the civilian route, simply because they don’t feel like joining the military, and there is a lot more flexibility if you do it on your own. The following pilot certificates and ratings are needed for one to succeed in this pursuit:

1. Private Pilot Certificate

If you want to become an airline pilot, you have to get a pilot’s license.  (Read more about Pilot Certificate or Licenses) The first step is getting a private pilot license.  During this training you will get 40-80 hours of flight time, and learn basic stuff about airplanes like takeoffs and landings, navigation, maneuvers, weather and basic instrument skills.  In case you are wondering about your vision, airline pilots need to have vision of correctable to 20/20. There are about 250,000 private pilots in America.

2. Instrument Rating

An instrument rating is the next step after the private pilot certificate.  During your instrument rating or IR training you will add at least another 40-50 hours of flight time. You need to have IR or instrument rating because airlines always fly in all weather, so the pilot should be able to navigate without ever looking outside, and solely by reference to the cockpit instruments.

3. Commercial Pilot Certificate

After getting the instrument rating, you’d continue on to get your commercial pilot certificate; which requires 250 hours of total flight time, along with additional training which will make you a professional, safer, and experienced pilot.  The commercial pilot certificate allows one to work for a commercial operator (for instance an airline) and get paid. Many people get their multi-engine rating at this time as well.

4. Building Flight Experience

Now that you’ve got your commercial pilot certificate with instrument rating and multi-engine rating, it’s time for you to build some flight experience.  You should read my post 10 Ways to Build Flight Time for Airline Pilot Job here. Since you probably have only about 300 hours of total time, airlines won’t typically consider you.  Airline minimums are at least 1,500 hours, along with some other experience. Yes, there are always times when the demand is more than supply, and they end up hiring low time pilots as well, but it is rare, and very unpredictable. I will write more about it later in another post.

5. Instructor Certificate

So how do you get from 300 hours to the 1500+ that you need for the airlines? The most common way is flight instructing.  By becoming a flight instructor, you are able to build hours and get paid to teach others. A good place to go get your CFI Training done is CFI Academy. There are other options besides being a flight instructor, and you can read about those here at Top 20 Career Options as a Pilot.

6. ATP certificate

Major airlines usually do not  consider hiring a pilot unless he/she has an ATP certificate; ATP or an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate is a requirement for one to be a captain on an aircraft with an airline.  Regional airlines may hire you without one, which is a good way to build experience.

7. Get a 4 year College or University Degree

At least a four year college or university degree is preferred to land a job with a major airline.  The degree does not have to be in Aviation; you can major in just about any field you want. You can always apply for airline jobs without a 4 year degree, but you’ll be competing with others who already have one.  When it comes to investing the time and resources to interview, hire, and train applicants, employers always look at the best qualified applicants.

8. Start Applying

Once you’ve got the flight time, a college degree, and an ATP, and are ready to see if you’ve got what it takes, apply to every airline you can!  This way you can be picky when you get interviews.

Flight Training Scholarships for the Physically Disabled

In the past I have posted a list of 101 General Aviation and Flight Training Scholarships, Federal Aid for Flight Training, and An Aircraft in each Household – a Dream or Reality. Now read about how a non-profit Able Flight in partnership with a top aviation university, Purdue University is making it possible for disabled individuals to earn their Sport Pilot certificate in less than a month, and that too with full aviation scholarship!

Able Flight is a non-profit which provides scholarships to handicapped people to assist them learn to fly, and Purdue University’s Department of Aviation Technology have partnered up, for a joint flight training project for summer 2010. Beginning in later part of May or early June, 2-4 Able Flight scholarship recipients will reside in “accessible” university housing and be trained by university flight instructors at the Purdue University Airport in West Lafayette, Indiana. The student pilots will have the opportunity to earn their Sport Pilot certificates in only a month.

Over the next few months, Able Flight will select scholarship winners from it’s pool of candidates, with priority given to current or incoming Purdue University students and other Indiana state residents with physical disabilities. Current Purdue students may earn course credit for the ground school portion of their training, and other student pilots may qualify for continuing education credits (CEC).

The student pilots will train in specially modified aircraft suited to their physical needs. At least one Sky Arrow LSA will be available for the project and is being provided by Sean O’Donnell of Philly Sport Pilot. Philly Sport Pilot will also provide transitional training for university flight instructors in the Sky Arrow.

“The Aviation Technology program at Purdue is devoted to access to aviation. We see the collaboration with Able Flight as a unique opportunity for a collegiate aviation program to extend the freedom of flight to individuals that might not be aware they can fly. Purdue’s aviation program is world-class and we need the best and brightest individuals. Physical barriers should not impede the opportunity to fly and we want all people to know they can fly at Purdue. Purdue is committed to pre-eminent leadership in aviation technology and Able Flight will bring to us a new cadre of people who otherwise might not consider careers in aviation.” – Dr. Brent Bowen, department head of the program

“We’re excited to work with Purdue to create this opportunity for our scholarship winners. Purdue’s Department of Aviation Technology is not only one of the premier aviation programs in the country, it is an innovative leader in the training of pilots and aeronautical engineers. During their time there, our student pilots will be immersed in flying in a demanding but supportive setting, and have the chance to explore opportunities for future undergraduate and graduate degrees in aviation.” – Charles Stites, Able Flight

If you need more information regarding this, you may visit their respective website. ableflight.org and purdue.edu

New Charter Pilot Jobs in India

A new company in India is launching the country’s first small piston engine airplane on demand air-charter service, starting with a fleet of two Cirrus SR22 aircraft. Manav Singh, the Chairman of Air Car (and Club One Air) states that the seats are expected to be priced competitively with business-class airline tickets and half the price of competition’s air-charter options. The company will fly out of Delhi and serve destinations within a 300 mile radius, including several emerging cities that lack airline service. “Air Car offers the option to travel faster to these places at reasonable rates,” said Uttam Kumar Bose, former CEO of Air Sahara, and a partner in Air Car.

Air Car has 10 SR-22s on order per Mr. U.K. Bose. The company plans to add 2-3 airplanes each quarter and expand nationwide over the next 5 years. The company is also working to offer package deals to corporate clients.

“We will fly to short distances and the price to charter a plane would be as low as an executive class ticket in a full service carrier between Delhi-Chandigarh, which is about Rs. 10,000 one way” Manav Singh, chairman Air Car said.

Managing director of the company Mr. Uttam Kumar Bose said, “In India, only 200 people can afford to charter a plane in a year. We want to change that and provide low-cost options and in the next 2 years we are looking at 20,000 passengers.

So what does all this mean to unemployed DGCA CPL holders in India? New pilot jobs! If Air Car is planning to add 2-3 aircraft per quarter over the next 5 years, that equates to 8-15 new aircraft per year or about 50 aircraft over the next 5 years. Each aircraft usually should have a crew of 4 pilots each (small aircraft, charter on demand type flight operations), and that means 200 new pilot positions over a period of 5 years.

And I don’t think Air Car is going to be strictly SR-22 either. I am sure they are going to add various other smaller piston and jet aircraft to serve India’s short distance charter on demand market. Also, others are definitely going to join in to compete for the same market.

If you are a CPL holder in India, this should be a good news for you.

10 ways to build Flight Time for Airline Pilot Job

So now that you got yourself a Commercial Pilot Certificate or CPL as it is known outside of the United States, how do you go about building that flight time or flight experience to make it to that first airline pilot job interview? Airline hiring has traditionally been a roller-coaster ride. There are times when even the pilots with a few weeks old commercial certificate get hired immediately by a Regional Airline, and then there are times like right now that it is almost impossible to even find an airline employer that is even accepting job applications. This has been the way of an airline pilot job prospective ever since the dawn of commercial aviation, and probably will `always be the same.

What do we do in the meanwhile, until that first airline job? We “build time” or flight experience, and keep doing it until we achieve our goal. Here are a few popular ways that airline pilots have traditionally used to gain that well needed flight time before they got hired:

  1. Flight Instructor: Becoming a flight instructor has been one of the top choices for time building since a long time now. And if you ask me, it is one of the best ways, as you not only build that pilot time, but you gain valuable real life aviation experience. The more you teach, the more you learn. And any employer, including the airlines value the flight experience gained as a flight instructor.
  2. Banner Tow Pilots: If you live in or close to a metropolitan like San Francisco, you can find yourself a job (mostly part time) as a banner tow pilot. These jobs are mostly seasonal and on call type, and the pay rate can vary on either side of the peak. However, it is a great experience, and lots of fun. You won’t get rich at this job, but if you end up with the right company, you can expect pretty consistent flight time.
  3. Aerial Photography: Similar to the Banner Tow pilot job, but if you can market yourself the proper way (nowadays with the internet it is not as difficult as it used to be), you can pick up quiet a few clients. And who are your clients? Well, could be the photographers, marketing companies, and a lot of others as well. And if you want to go the easy way, just find a job with an existing aerial photography company in your area.
  4. Glider Tow Pilots: Gliders can be launched up in the air by various means, like winch tow, self launch, rocket propelled etc. However one of the most commonly used method is aero-launch, where a powered aircraft “pulls” the glider with a tow and takes it up to a certain altitude before the glider pilot releases the tow hitch. Busy over the weekends, and in the summers. And they always need pilots. Pay is usually not the greatest, but hey, it is always a fun weekend, and occasional glider rides as well.
  5. Skydiver Pilots: Similar to the Glider Tow pilot job. Launch skydivers up there instead of the gliders, and again busy during the weekends and holidays, and occasional chances at skydiving yourself.
  6. Traffic Watch Pilots: The companies who provide traffic watch aircraft and pilots usually are contracted by the local news and/or law enforcement agencies. These jobs are usually pretty consistent (scheduling and pay), and normally can get you a pretty consistent flow of flight time. 4-6 hours a day, 5 days a week is the average. And you can find them in just about any metro area.
  7. Safety Pilot: This is not really a job, but can always add some flight time in your logbook. Use a blog, or a pilot forum and offer your services as a safety pilot to instrument rated, or current instrument student pilots. Use simple business cards to hand out at the local aviation safety meetings, or post them over at the local FBO bulletin boards. The trick here would be to stand out from among the crowd. Offer the advantages of why you and not the other guy, and you will see occasionally opportunities coming your way. The best thing I have always liked about this way: as most pilots contacting you would be aircraft owners, you will get to experience all kinds of makes and models, big and small aircraft.
  8. Aircraft Ferry Pilots: There are companies who can hire you as a ferry pilot. I know a few myself. But, my suggestion here is: contact as many aircraft dealers as possible, and introduce yourself. These folks are usually the first ones who know about an upcoming ferry request, and usually are the ones who recommend it to the new aircraft owners. A few relationships can turn into great cross-country time for you. And you get to stay in nice motels / hotels all over the country, and if you get lucky, even internationally. I know of pilots (former students of mine) who have delivered general aviation aircraft half way across the globe!
  9. Aircraft Sales: Working as an aircraft sales person always gets you some flight time as a result of demonstration flights. And usually pays good if you can sell aircraft as well. There are a lot of pilots who have accepted these jobs as a full time career, and are happy with it.
  10. Charter Pilots: Air Ambulance, bank checks, cargo operators, courier sub-contractors, fractional ownership management, and similar part 135 operators are available all over the country. Pick the one you think you can work with, and offer your services. Negotiations and relationships can go long ways in these kinds of jobs. Really, there is no limit, and tremendous growth potential for the right candidate here.

Federal Aid for Flight Training

You should also read my other post 101 General Aviation and Flight Training Scholarships. Besides the scholarships, there are many other financing options available for flight training courses. In this post we will review the financial aid or financial assistance available through the US Federal Government.

The U.S. Federal government provides certain programs to help students fund the cost of their education at a college, university, professional, technical, or a vocational school. There are various federal programs available for students who are enrolled at least half time in a college degree program, and maintaining satisfactory academic progress, and not in default on a previous grant or loan. Financial aid offered from the federal government is based on individual financial needs and situations.

If you desire to receive financial assistance from the federal government, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA application is utilized by the U.S. Department of Education to determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and eligibility for available federal aid programs.

The available federal programs include the following:

Federal Pell Grant

The Federal Pell Grant is a grant that does not have to be re-paid. This grant is available for undergraduate students  currently enrolled at least half time and is based on financial needs. The grant amounts range from $400 to $4,050 depending upon the estimated family contribution.

Federal Perkins Loan

The Federal Perkins loan is awarded to under-graduate and graduate students enrolled at least half time and is based on exceptional financial needs. This is a loan and must be re-paid. Students are encouraged to apply as early as possible, as this program has limited funding availability.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)

FSEOG is available for under-graduate students enrolled at least half time and is based on financial needs. Assistance offered varies in each individual case. Awards range from $100 to $4,000 per year.

Federal College Work-Study Program (CWSP)

CWSP is available for graduate or under-graduate students enrolled at least half-time and is based on needs. Students can work a maximum of 20 – 25 hours per week against at least the minimum wages.

Federal Supplemental Loan for Students (SLS)

SLS is available for graduate and independent under-graduate students enrolled at least half time. Loan amount available: $4,000 a year for the first and second years of under-graduate studies; $5,000 for the third and fourth years of studies provided the student attends a full academic year. Total funds available: $23,000 for under-graduates; $73,000 for graduate/professional students (including undergraduate amounts).

Federal Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS)

PLUS is available for parents of dependent students and allows parents to borrow money to assist their children pay for the college tuition fee. The student must be enrolled at least half time. Parent loans are not based on financial needs. The amount borrowed each year can be up to the college tuition fee less any other financial aid received. The parent(s) can obtain the application from any participating lending institution or the Financial Aid Office of the school. There is no limit on the cumulative maximum totals of the loan. However, deferred payments are not possible, and loan re-payment starts two months after the loan is fully disbursed.

Federal Stafford Loan Program (subsidized and un-subsidized)

All Federal Direct Stafford Loans are either subsidized (the government pays the interest while you’re in school) or un-subsidized (borrower pays all the interest; however, the payments can be deferred until after graduation). Stafford Loans are available to under-graduate and graduate students enrolled at least half time and in good standing and is based on financial needs. Maximum loans available are: $2,625 for freshmen, $3,500 for sophomores, $5,500 for juniors and seniors, and $8,500 for graduate or professional students, but not to exceed $23,000 for under-graduates or $65,500 for under-graduate and graduate loans combined. You can obtain an application from any participating lending institution or the Financial Aid Office of the school.

The Student Guide is the most comprehensive resource on student financial aid from the U.S. Department of Education. This guide provides the detailed information about: student eligibility, financial needs, dependency status, application, special circumstances, withdrawals, deadlines, types of Student Federal Aid, borrower responsibilities, and rights, important terms, phone numbers and web site addresses etc. This publication is updated each year. The Student Guide is available in English and Spanish, an can be downloaded from the U.S Department of Education’s web site.

5 Questions you should ask yourself before starting Flight Training

Have you been thinking about learning to fly an airplane? Or have you thought about it in the past? How about, have you ever dreamed about piloting an airplane? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then go ahead and read on.

Learning to fly an airplane is fun, easy, and a mission possible in most people’s case. Here, read the questions below that you should ask yourself if you ever considered learning to fly or getting yourself a pilot’s certificate.

1. Motivation – What do I need to learn how to fly for; pleasure, business or as a career?

2. Location –Where should I go get my flight training done?

3. Source – What type of flight training provider would be best for me?

4. Scheduling – Full time, part time, formal or informal, what type of scheduling would work the best for me?

5. Financial – How am I going to pay for my training? Would I need financial aid, student loan, personal loan, or some other type of financial assistance?

The reason you should ask these questions to yourself is because it helps you chose the right program, and also helps you understand the budgets and time / effort commitment required. I’ll give you some ballpark numbers here to think about:

If you want to learn how to fly for pleasure, you are looking at about a total of 60-70 hours of flight training time, and about 40-50 hours of ground studies, and to get the best bang for the buck, you should expect about 10-12 hours of training time per week. If it is for pleasure, then you really can simply take the training at your own convenience, or go to one of those vacation / accelerated training places with or without your family. Cost of the training will depend on many variables, like when, where and which aircraft. But for most people, you are looking at about $6000 to $10,000 price range. Of course, there are ways to make it cheaper as well as luxurious and high end as well.

For business reasons, the basic training as above is still required, but what changes is the motivating factor, and possibly some tax advantages, both for training and then actually renting / owning an aircraft and the related cost factors (operating expenses).

As a career? Well, now that is a very detailed topic, I can write a few books on it. Write me an email for any specific questions, and subscribe to this blog (RSS Feed). I write about all this here just about everyday. So read and educate yourself. Here, read these 2 posts for starters: Top 20 Career Options as a Pilot, and 101 General Aviation and Flight Training Scholarships.

Where to get your flight training? Options could be: a local flight training school, a flying club, an independent flight instructor (or CFI as we call them), a pilot flight instructor friend, a vacation / accelerated flight training gig, formal accredited flight training institutes, military academies, aviation college or university program, and so on.

Top 20 Career Options as a Pilot

When we think of pilots, most of us get an image of an airline pilot in our heads. Well, it is true that airline pilot career is one of the most glamorous and top choice career option for most professional pilots, but many chose to join one of the many other options available to them, and many do very well in those fields. Here are the few other career options as a pilot:

  1. Airline Pilots – fly for the airline industry worldwide, both major and regional airline carriers.
  2. Corporate Pilots – fly the high end, newer corporate airplanes for the rich and wealthy.
  3. Military Pilots – fly the state of the art, top of the line, military aircraft, and learn to fly for free (well, get paid0.
  4. Cargo Pilots – fly for the big and small cargo airlines, and cargo carriers, like FedEx, UPS etc.
  5. Air Taxi and Charter Pilots – fly for growing line of air taxi and charter operators worldwide.
  6. Ferry Pilots – fly as a ferry pilot for aircraft manufacturers like Boeing, Airbus, and then there are a lot of aircraft ferry companies available too, to go deliver the aircraft to it’s new owners.
  7. Patrol Pilots – fly for a news group to report traffic, police chases etc, or fly for aerial surveillance companies, like pipeline patrols, oil well patrols etc.
  8. Flight Instructor Pilots – a career option of choice for someone like me. Teach others how to fly, and get paid for it.
  9. EMR Pilots – fly for the air ambulance operators (big and small), helicopters and airplanes.
  10. Law Enforcement Pilots – most law enforcement agencies now have an aviation wing. And a lot of them hire pilots to fly their aircraft.
  11. Aerial Firefighter Pilots – this is mostly a contract and seasonal job, but you may want to combine this with some other job, like a full time firefighter job, or a military reserve pilot job, or a flight instructor job, then you can have the best of all the worlds.
  12. Aerial Crop-duster Pilots – similar line of work like #11 above, but you spray agricultural chemicals for the ag industry, and sometimes even for the local government bodies (pest control etc).
  13. Helicopter Pilots – a whole complete bag of choices, like, military, offshore oil industry, law enforcement, border patrol, DEA, Customs etc. Maybe even the mafia and drug lords. No, the last one was a joke!
  14. Astronauts – space travel in not limited to NASA guys only anymore. Civilian spacecraft are in the near future (well, they already are) going to be affordable to common people, and you can fly those cool high tech vehicles back and forth from earth to space all day long. Something to really think about.
  15. Test Pilots – fly for various aircraft manufacturers, both transport and general aviation, and thousands of other companies, training centers etc as a test pilot.
  16. Airshow Aerobatic Pilots – read my posts about Sean Tucker by clicking here and here (with videos), and you will get an idea. There are many like him who do this full time and part time.
  17. Aircraft Salesmen Pilots – many aircraft sales businesses, including general aviation aircraft manufacturers hire pilots to work as sales-people so they can go and demo the aircraft to prospective customers.
  18. Federal Government Pilots – probably one of the largest employer of pilots. In addition to all of the above, consider flying for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DEA, Customs, Border Patrol, Air National Guard, and many other agencies, even overseas deployment possibilities.
  19. Contract Pilots – fly for government contracting corporations like dyncorp etc, and you can pick and chose just about everything in your pilot career.
  20. Aviation Universities and College Pilots – many aviation educational institutes like Embry Riddle (ERAU), Daniel Websters etc hire pilots and flight instructors to teach in their aviation degree programs.

I wanted to make this list of 20 pilots today. Trust me, I can add many other pilot career options to this list right now, but it’s getting late and I need to go take care of personal stuff. When you are a pilot, sky is not the limit for you anymore!