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General Aviation – includes flight training, flight school, flying club, aviation, aircraft, aviation education, educational articles on how to become a pilot, learn how to fly, flying training

5 Ways to Financially Plan for Flight Training

Guest Post by Cassy Parker

If you’re an aspiring pilot getting ready for flight training, you’re spending all your spare time dreaming of the sky. But before you literally get your head in the clouds, you need to come down to earth to think about the costs of flight training and how to prepare financially for the process.

1. Research instructors first

Your flight instructor will have a huge impact on the cost and time involved in training. Unfortunately, many instructors are just waiting for a job at an airline, which can mean they’re checked out and likely to fly away before you finish training. Plus, if you simply don’t mesh well with a particular instructor, you may end up needing more time in the air to get basic concepts down before you get your certificate.

According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, you can expect to spend between $5,000 and $9,000 to learn to fly and get a pilot certificate. But the better you work with your particular instructor, the fewer hours of in-air training you’re likely to need.

2. Understand you may need more or less hours

While you’re researching flight schools and instructors, you’ll get lots of numbers thrown at you. Most schools will tell you that their programs will cost a certain amount from start to finish. But the fact is that students differ in their needs. If you learn more quickly, you may need fewer hours, getting through flight school at a lower cost. If you’re training slowly, you may need more review time in the air, resulting in higher costs.

Instead of looking at a school or instructor’s base price that the average student pays, look at hourly costs. On average, you’ll pay $135 to $155 an hour to fly something like the Cessna 172. So be sure to work the per-hour flight costs into your training costs as well.

3. Be prepared to study

One of the best ways to make flight school more affordable is to study as much as you can. Reviewing procedures, scanning techniques, and other flight information all the time will mean you’re picking up those concepts faster – which means you need less flight and review time before you test for your certificate.

No matter how much you study, you’ll still need to put in a certain number of hours in a plane before you can get your certificate. But studying hard can help you make the most of those hours, so that you don’t need much more than the minimum to get your certificate.

4. Have some extra in savings

Since you’re going to be spending lots of time studying and in the air, it’s best if you can go into flight school with nothing else on your agenda – especially if your goal is to become a commercial pilot. If you’re just a hobbyist, of course, this won’t matter to you so much.

But if you plan to become a commercial pilot and aim for a job as a pilot, you’ll definitely want to get through school as quickly as you can. And that means having some money in savings to live off of so that you don’t have to work while studying and flying.

5. Consider the pros and cons of credit

If you need to get into flight school now but don’t have cash or savings, consider the pros and cons of credit. If you can get a low-interest loan or put your school-related expenses on a credit card with a long 0% APR introductory period, it may be worth starting now. The key is to make a comparison of your options, and to choose the one that works best for your particular needs.

If you do choose to take on debt to get through flight school, remember to have a plan to pay it off quickly, especially if you’re taking advantage of a limited-time introductory rate on a credit card.

Using these tips, you can plan financially to get through flight school, so you’ll be ready for life as a flight instructor or pilot later on.

Examining the A and P Licensing Test

aircraft mechanic

All aircraft mechanics must pass the Airframe and Powerplant (A and P) Licensing exam prior to being certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This doesn’t mean anyone who wants to be a aircraft mechanic can freely complete the test, receive a 70 percent or higher (the minimum mark to pass), and begin dogfighting with enemy fighter planes. This is far, far from the case. Prior to even touching the examination, aircraft mechanics are required to complete hours of flight training, even more hours at “ground school,” a few hours of takeoff and landing training at an airport, training for the practical test itself, and other odds and ends here and there. If that weren’t enough, certification applicants must also possess a student or sport pilot certificate. Point is getting to being an aircraft mechanic isn’t easy, and once you get there it isn’t much easier. Here is a brief guide of the A and P licensing test. Some of the best A and P aircraft maintenance schools can be found here: http://www.aviationschoolsonline.com/school-listings/aircraft-maintenance-schools/2.php.

On the first page of the FAA’s Knowledge Test Guide available on www.faa.gov it reads, “Federal Aviation Administration airman knowledge tests are effective instruments for aviation safety and regulation measurement. However, these tests can only sample the vast amount of knowledge every aviation maintenance technician needs.” The A and P test is to establish a baseline of knowledge necessary to enter the workforce as a certified A and P technician. Consider the A and P 

like you’d consider the core curriculum of an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree like in many “traditional” areas of study. You need the core not only to become a certified technician, but also as a prerequisite for other areas of study, like if you wanted to get your Associate or Bachelor of Science in Aviation Maintenance Science.

Materials you need to bring to the Oral and Practice Exam:

  • Identification, generally in the form of a valid drivers’ license.
  • FAA Form 8610-2, Rating Application, or Airman certificate. Two copies.
  • Graduation certificate from a Part 147 school.
  • Written test results.
  • Proper payment amount for test administration.

So you know what the A and P is and you know what to bring to the testing center. What kind of questions are you likely to see? To start, it’ll depend. This is because there are three different tests you will need to take to receive an A and P certificate: general, airframe, and powerplant.

The questions you will answer are taken from a pool of hundreds of potential test questions. The test is of the multiple choice variety. Here are a couple examples taken straight from the FAA test guide:

  • Which of the following drill bit types work best when drilling an aramid fiber composite laminate?
    • Tool steel with standard grind.
    • Diamond dust coated.
    • Carbide W-Point.
    • Aluminum propeller blade failure at the site of an unrepaired nick or scratch is usually the result of
      • Material defect.
      • Intergranular corrosion.
      • Stress concentration.

As you can likely infer from the above, the test cannot be completed by just anybody, yet the questions certainly aren’t difficult if you’ve done your homework and studied. You can find test guides across the web or can speak with other aircraft mechanics for similar questions.

Kyle Garrett is the founder of Aviation Schools Online, has over 20 years of experience in the marketing and vocational school industry, and is an experienced instrument-rated private pilot

 

The Garmin 796 – A Pilot’s Best Friend

The Garmin 796 – A Pilot’s Best Friend

The Garmin 796 – A Pilot’s Best Friend

Chris Oquist is a private pilot and web developer at Banyan Pilot Shop in South Florida. He is an avid blogger and article writer whose expertise includes the Garmin 796. As an aviation enthusiast, Chris is passionate about sharing his knowledge on all-things-aviation.

When it was first released in late 2011, they gave users no compelling reason to upgrade over the 696 or even the earlier Garmin 496. Complete with software bugs, unexpected device shutdowns, and forced restarts, the 796 was on a crash course for failure. More than two years after its initial release, the Garmin 796 is not the same troubled machine it once was. Instead, the company has retooled and improved the device to be one of the best and most complete aviation navigators out there.

Pictured to the right is an example of the device’s 3D view. It offers the ability to map the terrain as you travel through it real-time. It offers color coded elevation information relative to the aircraft’s height and position. For example, hills and buttes may be colored yellow or green, while mountains and skyscrapers will appear orange or red. Using the touchscreen interface, users are able to pan around the plane 360 degrees and observe the physical landscape. Imagine playing a videogame, 3D Vision takes your flying and turns it into a digital creation. It is an extremely helpful feature of the product.

The paperless cockpit? The digital age is clearly upon us. As newspapers, magazines, and documents are increasingly being administered electronically and without physical form, the 796 brings this trend into the cockpit of an aircraft. In IFR mode, pilots can view victor airways, jet routes, minimum en route altitudes, and leg distances all without the hassle of rustling through stacks of flight documents and disorganized paperwork. Notice an abrupt weather reading change? The 796 also provides updated weather updates in the form of NEXRAD, METARs, TAFs, TFRs, and PIREPs.

Regardless of your skill with technology, the 796 is both user-friendly and offers more advanced functions for interested pilots. The amount of information stored on the device as well as every detail available at the simple touch of the screen is honestly astounding. I can remember back in ’79 while I was making a simple pass over the Rockies and I’d just hit a rough airstream predicted pre-flight to have passed by the time I had made it that far. It hadn’t. While turbulence is not usually noteworthy, in a dinky 2-passenger, it’s a pretty big deal. Luckily I averted the storm ever so slightly, but I can just imagine how much easier the situation would have been with the 796.

So whether you’re a private pilot like me or flying commercials for Southwest or some other big-shot company, the Garmin 796 is truly a piece of technology that can save you and other pilots a significant degree of stress and hassle while piloting your aircraft.

James – working on getting his CFI for FREE!

Free Flight Training

Free Flight Training

I have written posts here about how to pay for your flight training in the absence of student loans and government grants. James is a commercial pilot and has been trying to get a student loan to pay for his CFI, CFII and MEI. He picked his school – CFI Academy in Sacramento. He has exhausted all the venues of getting some bank or the government to help him pay for his flight instructor training, but with no success. He read this blog, contacted me, and he has been with us since a month now.

I decided I should post about his journey with us – earning money to pay for flight training. So far he is doing good. He has completed the job training and since last week he is on the job, earning and saving. His goal is to make and save $12,000 so he can pay for all 3 flight instructor ratings and multi-engine add on on his commercial pilot.I’ll keep posting here, about his success story. Maybe on a bi-weekly basis.

How to pay for your flight training?

Ever since the US economy went haywire in mid 2008, it has been almost impossible for most us here in the US to obtain a student loan to pay for the flight training. It used to be much easier before. There were various options available to most; like the Sallie Mae, US Bank, Bank of America. Most banks would finance professional pilot training against the applicant’s credit.

Flight Training Loan

Flight Training Funding

Since 2008, things have changed a lot. Now one may walk in with an excellent credit, but still no student loans. Banks look at the borrower’s ability to repay the loan back in a new light. Not only credit, but job availability and potential future income are considered as well.

No bank loan means no chance at being able to afford flight training? It should not be like this. And really, its not. Back in the days, in 80’s when we trained, there were really no bank loans around. We would simply save up money by working various jobs and then go and spend it at a flight school. In my case, it took me 4 years to go from student pilot to Flight Instructor. This was the downside. The upside was that I walked away as a CFI with no student loan to pay off over the next 15 years.

During my career as a flight instructor, I have trained many others in my shoes. Most are airline pilots now. And many had odd jobs to earn the money for their training.

What if I show you how you can earn the money and pay for your flight training cash, and be a Commercial Pilot within a year’s time? And no student loan needed. Would this get your interest?

Louis Zamperini: The Airman Who Could Not Be Broken

Unbroken is the story of Louis Zamperini, a World War II airman whose B-24 bomber was shot down in the Pacific Ocean. Laura Hillenbrand, who also authord Seabiscuit, goes to great lengths to paint an incredible portrait of this pilot’s courage and resilience.

Zamperini was an avid runner before joining the Air Force. In college he broke numerous collegiate records and qualified for the 1936 Games in Berlin. He carried his team to 8th place in the 5000 meters, finishing with an incredible 56-second final lap.

Zamperini was deployed to the Pacific Theatre where his B-24 was shot down and he and one other crew member survived by eating raw fish and birds for 47 days before drifting onto Japanese-occupied land. The two become prisoners of war and are subjected to a harrowing ordeal that at various times nearly costs them both their lives.

Unbroken is an inspiring tale of courage in the face of impossible odds and redemption. Hillenbrand takes great care in telling her subject’s story and, using interviews with family members along with tireless research of Zamperini’s fellow POWs, is able to piece together this tale.

Aside from Zamperini’s incredible story, the book provides a lot of gristle for aviation enthusiasts. The story begins with a young Zamperini who sits up in bed after hearing a loud “whooshing” sound outside his bedroom in the California night sky. He runs out onto the lawn and looks up, only to see the German dirigible Graf Zeppelin floating through the night sky. Hillenbrand also details many of the planes and bombers the U.S. and Japanese militaries employed. Especially interesting are the times when Hillenbrand delves into the rudimentary technology the early U.S. bombers used. Her description of the bomb sights those crafts utilized give a new appreciation for the skill and precision that went into operating them.

Whether you consider yourself an aviation fanatic or you can’t tell the difference between a B-24 and a B-52, Unbroken is a book worth picking up. It’s inspiring subject matter and super-fine detail can be appreciated by everyone.

Logan is a guest blogger who writes about the aviation industry and jet charter services. He takes off from Teterboro airport on a regular basis.

Why should you chose aviation industry?

When the aviation industry first took off a few decades ago, it was considered one of the most prestigious and glamorous industries to work in. The pilots took pride in flying powerful machines at staggering heights of 30,000 feet while air stewards took pleasure in serving passengers. Most of these practices remain the same even today, except with the addition of bigger and better aircrafts.

The aviation industry is a fast paced one and is a lifelong dream from many. Whether you want to show off your badges as a pilot or visit new cities everyday, you can achieve everything in the aviation industry.

Dynamic and ever changing environment

While most look for a steady career with fixed work timings and steady flow of income, others aim higher, literally! Regardless of which part of the aviation industry you join, you will hardly be working a 9 to 5 shift. If a sense of adventure is what you are looking for, the aviation industry is perfect for you.

With changing work timings, visiting new places and meeting interesting people, you can be assured that your career will not be just a desk job. Interestingly, this also means that your working hours and holiday schedules are flexible. Enjoying unexpected vacations and working hard on a stretch are both part of the aviation industry, making it a worthwhile career. You will also quickly make friends with your crew members, who keep changing with every flight. If change is your motto, aviation is your life!

Attractive pay packages and perks

The aviation industry is not just glamorous on the surface; it also provides the perks. Along with impressive pay packages that increase over the years, you will also benefit from other perks like life insurance, yearly bonuses, travel pay and vacation pay. Many aviation companies offer these bonuses on certain pre-conditions like working for a fixed time or completion of the contract. If you choose the right airline, you can enjoy these perks and more.

See the world on the job

Traveling the world is a dream many have but only few accomplish it. By working in the aviation industry, you can see the world and get paid for it! Working with an airline is a great opportunity to travel to many corners of the world without spending a bomb on tickets. Some airline companies also offer exotic vacations for employees. If seeing the world is on your bucket list, consider a career in aviation and visit a new country every week.

The pure pleasure of flying

The quiet roar of the propellers, the powerful engines and the sheer magnificence of an aircraft is an overwhelming sight. The thrill of taking off on a new journey and getting people to new cities is something that cannot be achieved outside the aviation industry. Pilots have enjoyed the unbridled pleasure of handling machines worth millions and visiting different corners of the world, and so could you.

Grace is an expert associated with CV Insight, a trustworthy UK based company offering employee screening services. If you are looking to screen job candidates, CV Insight offers reliable and thorough background checks on potential employees.

Airline Pilot Jobs scenario

Pilot Jobs – The Ever Changing Market
Guest Post by Matthew Keegan

If you are from India, and looking for Pilot Jobs in India, then you should read the other post. If you want to work as an airline pilot, and looking for airline pilot jobs, then continue reading on. If you are considering aviation as a career, and want to learn more about how to become an airline pilot, read this 8 Steps to an Airline Pilot Career. To become an airline pilot you would need to get your Commercial Pilot certificate, or license, then accumulate or build flight time to qualify for an Airline Pilot job opening. And lastly, if you are a non-US individual, you should read about how to become a pilot in the United States as well.

So you are looking for work as an airline pilot, you can’t help but notice that the news is constantly filled with information [mostly negative] about the job situation for the industry as a whole. Unfortunately, news-media only get part of the story right as the airline industry is always in a state of flux. Pilot jobs are available, but you must broaden your horizons beyond the conventional ways in which most pilots go about finding work. Let’s take a look at some of the options available to you.

Independence Air’s recent demise has thrown hundreds of Airbus pilots out of work in the US. Press reports have been painting a gloomy picture of this event, which was not unexpected by airline experts. Still, the future isn’t completely gloomy for these very same pilots, as Virgin America is expected to take flight in about one year. They plan on operating a fleet consisting of as many as 105 Airbus aircraft.

The legacy carriers have been presenting some of the most challenges for potential pilots as few, if any, are hiring. Most are in the process or have nearly completed the process of extracting “give backs” in the form of wages and benefits from their current pilot ranks. In addition, as pilots retire, available pilot jobs are filled from their lengthy lists of furloughed crew members. Certainly, the legacy carriers – American, Continental, United, Delta, Northwest, and USAirways – are currently not worth exploring as a place to look for pilot jobs.

Pilot jobs are available through many of the regional carriers. Some of these carriers include Chautauqua, Republic, Comair, Big Sky, American Eagle, Air Wisconsin, Great Lakes, and others. Pilot pay is very low, but the opportunity to fly can be very good with the regional carriers. These carriers typically fly Embraer ERJs, Canadair CRJs, or British Aerospace regional jets carrying passenger loads ranging from 50 to 100 seats.

Charter carriers have typically been a fairly good source for pilot jobs. These Part 121 operators consist of a bevy of airlines including World Airways, North American, Miami Air, Sun Country, and Ryan International. From time to time pilot job opportunities are posted directly on each airline’s web site. Check in often for the latest hiring news.

Then there is the assortment of start up airlines that have recently hired or are in the process of hiring. As you know, the failure rate for start ups is very high, but for many crew members a seat is a seat especially one that allows you to accumulate valuable and needed flight time. Two recent start ups that have taken flight include EOS Airlines and Maxjet Airways. As mentioned previously, Virgin America Airlines is in the process of passing through all of its regulatory hurdles and Primaris Airlines will be expanding its fleet over the next few years in its quest to become a full fledged airline flying scheduled routes. Other start up carriers worth watching for future pilot jobs include: Fly First Class, Baltia, and Mexus.

Discount carriers typically offer the best chance for finding pilots jobs. Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways lead the pack, but Mesa, Spirit, Alaska, Horizon, Midwest, and USA3000 have all listed pilot jobs within the past year or are planning to do so in the coming months. Pay is an issue, much lower than the legacy carriers, but you can find work.

Beyond contacting the companies directly, there are helpful web sites filled with pilot job opportunities or, at the very least, interview gouges and banter. The internet has a myriad of sites available, so I will start from the top: Aviation Employment Board, Climbto350, Flight International, Fliteinfo, Jet Movements, Landings, Parc Aviation, PPrune, Student Pilot, Thirty Thousand Feet, U.S. Aviation, and Will Fly For Food.

Finally, for the pilot who is willing to look well beyond the U.S., opportunities can exist with carriers based in the Emirates, India, China, Vietnam, and other destinations. If it is flight time you want, many have exactly what you need.

Pilot jobs are available and with a little digging and some sleuthing you can uncover for yourself a good list of companies that are worth a look. As mentioned, the industry is in a constant state of flux but the savvy pilot can work that to his or her advantage by staying on top of industry trends.

Matthew Keegan is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. You can preview samples from his high performing site at The Article Writer.

Flight Training loans, grants and scholarships are available to those who qualify, and you should definitely ask yourself these 5 questions before you begin your flight training. and here is an explanation of the pilot certificates and licenses available, both as a career pilot or as a recreational or hobby pilot.

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