Tag Archives: Flight Lessons

Flight Training for Free? How?

Learn to be a pilot for free, no student loan required

Flight Training for Free

The other day I wrote a post about how you can pay for your flight training in case you are not able to obtain student loans. Getting a student loan for professional pilot training used to be much easier until about a few years ago. Well, they were never easy, but still they were much easier and much more abundant than what they are today. Most aspiring pilots were able to qualify, either on their own, and some others with co-signors etc. Now, it’s hard to even get a secured real estate loan to buy a house, so there aren’t many who qualify for an unsecured student loan for flight training.

Flight Training for FREE

FREE Flight Training?

But surely that doesn’t mean that one can not achieve the dream of becoming a pilot in the absence of a student loan or a federal aid or scholarship. I know a lot of people who have become pilots, many are even captains now with airlines around the world, and they never had a student loan, federal aid, scholarship, or even a rich parent paying on their behalf. So how did these aviators do it? Well, I’d say they found a way to complete the flight training for FREE!

Free? What’s Free? Nothing in life is ever free. Always there’s a catch. And in this case Free means – you come in with nothing out of your pocket, no student loan, federal aid or scholarship, or cash, just bring in yourself, get your training from Private to Commercial pilot, and pay with your work. There are jobs around which allow you to make lots of money, and if you can live frugally during this time, you can easily save up enough to pay for the entire training and become a Commercial Pilot within one years time.

There is nothing wrong about working hard to pay for your flight training; provided you want to become and airline pilot bad enough. I said airline pilot as that’s what most pilots want to be, even though there are many other professional pilot careers.

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?

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

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.

The 5-Ts of IFR Flying

Like I mentioned in one of my earlier articles, we pilots like to use a lot of acronyms and memory aids to help us remember things in an easy and organized manner. Not that we are low on RAM or something, it’s just a way of filing and organizing information in our brains so it is easily accessible, and gets carried out as a well rehearsed orchestra with no chance of forgetting anything. Planned actions is another way of describing the usage of these acronyms.

One of the most commonly used acronym in IFR, or instrument flying, if called the 5 Ts:

  1. Turn – Turn to the Course Heading
  2. Time – Start the Time
  3. Twist – Tune the Radio (VOR etc) and/or Twist the CDI
  4. Throttle – Reduce the throttle; Go Down (descent) or Slow Down
  5. Talk – Talk to the ATC

The 5 Ts are to be carried out in the order or preference noted above. Note, that Talk is all the way down the list. In other words, if you remember the Aviate, Navigate, Communicate, Manage checklist, talking comes after we have the aircraft under proper control and it is going where it is supposed to go. A lot of novice pilots in training initially have the tendency to prioritize the talking part. No need to buddy. Talking is at the bottom of our list.

With practice, you’ll be able to carry out all these procedures as a second nature. And the key word here is practice. And this is where the chair flying or dry flying comes in very handy. We will talk about the chair flying in one of our future articles. Here, watch this video and see if this makes any sense. If not, watch it again, and again until it does. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments section below.

Don’t forget the Step – Seaplane Lessons

de Havilland Beaver lost – pilot error

A few years ago I went to Norcal Aviation to get my seaplane rating. At that time I could only afford to get a single engine add-on rating. So, I chose to get a Commercial add-on rating, training in the only Piper super-cub in the world on floats. Terry, the owner of the Norcal Aviation, and an FAA DPE (examiner) was very kind, and arranged for an accelerated course for me so I don’t lose too much time away from work and family. Within 3 days I was ready, and get my commercial add-on seaplane rating on my ATP certificate. The only reason why I could not do the add-on at the ATP level was because the Piper super-cub did not have any Navigation instruments, so no instrument approaches, so no ATP.

Then about a couple years later, I went back to Norcal Aviation again, and this time I did my ATP add-on on the only Piper Apache on floats. Excellent experience again. And what a beautiful airplane!

During my seaplane ratings, one thing among many others that I learnt was, get on the step. This is when the seaplane gets moving on the water for the purpose of take-off, you move the control yoke forward to get the trailing edge of the float out of the water and the entire float ride the top layer of the water. This reduces the drag many times, and help the aircraft accelerate to the normal take-off speed as quickly as possible. If you do not get the aircraft on the step (i.e. ride the water) the aircraft will never be able to accelerate fast enough for a take-off.

In the example video here, this de Havilland Beaver pilot was never able to, or for whatever reason, never got the aircraft on the step. If you notice, the trailing edge of the floats never got out of the water. So the aircraft never had enough speed for a normal and safe take-off. I can’t say enjoy the video this time, but please watch it and learn.

Whiskey Compass

In one of my previous posts I talked about an ol’ pilot rule-of-thumb (we also call them memory aid) called “Whiskey Compass”. This was in relation to Alcohol and Aviation. Most of the newer generation pilots know this rule as “Bottle to Throttle”. Well the rule is 8 hours from bottle to throttle, and you can read more about it by clicking here to go to my other post.

This post is to explain a bit more about why the rule back then was known as“Whiskey Compass”.

One theory is that back then the compass, unlike nowadays, did not have kerosene in it, but was filled up with alcohol for the magnet to float around freely and to provide lubrication for the pivoting point. Also, compass was the only, or at least primary means of navigation. There were no VORs, or NDBs. So, if there would be alcohol in the compass, it would not work. And this was our memory aid – Whiskey Compass!

You consume whiskey, then stay away from the compass, i.e. don’t fly!

The second theory has got nothing to do with flying drunk, but still explains the origin of “Whiskey Compass”. As the compass had kerosene fluid in it; it was called, and as a matter of fact, it still is called a Wet Compass. As in aviation Phonetics, Whiskey is for W, so that explains Whiskey Compass, or W-Compass.

Maybe in the next article we will talk about the Whiskey Compass (wet compass in this case) a bit more.

Alcohol and Aviation

I was reading an article about when do you have to report a DUI or DWI related action (in a motor vehicle) to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)? You can read it here. It is true that any arrest, and/or conviction has to be reported to the FAA within 60 days, as required by FAR 61.15 . Some pilots have a misunderstanding that they only need to report the conviction and not the arrest, and, the others think that they have to report only when they go back for their Pilot Medical Certificate renewal. Both these are far from the truth.

Another thing we need to understand is that honesty here is always the best policy. FAA does occasionally check the National Driver Register against pilot, mechanic and other FAA certificate holder names. And if you have failed to report your incident within the applicable time frame, which is 60 days, and FAA comes across your name during it’s driver record search, you will definitely have something much bigger to worry about.

It is common for the FAA to not take any action against the offending pilot on the first instance of a driving DUI/DWI. Subsequent ones, I don’t know. I have not come across such a  pilot or a mechanic yet! If someone out there knows of such a dare-devil, please drop me a comment there with a contact information so I can enhance my knowledge from his/her experiences.

8 hours bottle to throttle is the minimum, as per FAR 91.17 .  That’s right, no matter how small the sip, you stay away from that ramp until at least 8 hours has elapsed. And that’s not all. 04% alcohol concentration in the blood or breath is enough to get you in trouble with the FAA as well. Perhaps it takes less that that .04% concentration for you to be affected. Or have you considered how badly you’re likely to perform while hung over? Quite a few studies have documented the loss of performance, judgment, and reaction time you can anticipate even after your blood alcohol content has dropped back down to acceptable levels.

So, remember, alcohol and aviation, for that matter just about anything physical, ;-), yes that too, is not a good combination and should be avoided at all times. Alcohol is to be consumed and enjoyed very responsibly.

Oh by the way, the ol’ pilot rule of the thumb to remember this (in case you are a forgetful person) is called Whiskey Compass rule. We’ll talk about it some other day.