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"Earning wings? Have fun and hit the books"

Monday, June 17, 2002

Earning wings? Have fun and hit the books
By Ken Kaye
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

If you are thinking about learning to fly, be forewarned: Piloting a
plane is so much fun it's addictive. Once you start, you're hooked.

But don't make it fleeting fancy.

Student pilots quickly discover that flying the likes of a Cessna or a
demands much more than mastering the controls.

They must learn navigational skills, flight planning, air traffic
procedures, federal regulations, weather patterns, radio communications,
aerodynamics and emergency procedures.

In fact, there is so much book work that most students enroll in a
school. Which is the smart thing to do, considering they must pass a
exam as part of the testing process to achieve a private pilot's

But the challenge is what makes learning how to fly so satisfying.

"There's really nothing more complicated about learning to fly than a
math," said Warren Morningstar, spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and
Association, a trade group that promotes general aviation.

Here are the basics of earning that license:

It costs about $5,000 to $7,000. Before you mutter, "forget it,"
it's a pay-as-you-learn system. Meaning, you pay for an hour of flight
instruction here and an hour there. Some flight schools offer package
wherein you pay up front, and the price may be lower.

Most student pilots require 70 or more flight hours to gain the needed
proficiency, and it usually takes more than a year to amass this
The Federal Aviation Administration requires a minimum of 40 hours.

The most popular trainers are the two-seat Cessna 152, the four-seat
172 or a small Piper. Pelican Airways at North Perry Airport in Pembroke
Pines offers the Katana, which is cool because it has a bubble canopy
and a
joystick -- like a fighter.

In general, trainers cost $70 to $100 per hour to rent and the
fee is another $25 to $30 per hour on top of that.

Where should you learn to fly? That depends on your personal goals. If
you're in it for fun, look for a flight school close to home.

If you want to become a professional pilot, select a school targeted for
serious student, such as American Flyers College at Pompano Beach Air
or Lynn University's School of Aeronautics at Boca Raton Airport.

Broward Community College and Miami-Dade Community College also have
comprehensive programs for building an aviation career.

The best flight schools offer ground school classes, have flight
and up-to-date video courses. In any case, ask for an introductory
which lasts about a half-hour and costs about $50. It also should give
some insight on how a school is run.

You also can go to a couple of Web sites: www.aopa.org (click on Learn
Fly), www.beapilot.com or www.apfts.org.

After you have settled on a school, one of the first requirements is to
a physical exam given by a FAA-designated doctor. This exam doubles as
student pilot's license.

Be advised that because of Sept. 11, some flight schools take your
information, such as driver's license number, address and next of kin --
fax it to the FBI.

"We do this voluntarily," said Terry Fensome, owner of Pelican Airways.
"It's up to individual flight schools.''

Once lessons start, your flight instructor teaches you how to fly
and level, climb and descend. All the while, you learn the relationships
between power, airspeed and altitude.

Then you practice takeoffs and landings and perform stalls, wherein the
of the airplane is pulled up until the wings stop producing lift. Those
be kind of scary, but not once you get used to them.

Most students solo in 10 to 15 hours, but some take longer. That is a
wonderful moment and a major step toward more advanced training. From
you learn the skills to navigate to distant airports, or what's known as
"cross-country" flying.

When your instructor feels you are ready, you meet with a FAA-designated
flight examiner, who tests your proficiency in the airplane and checks
basic knowledge. If you pass, you're a private pilot.

Then, flying can be a weekend hobby, a serious means of transportation
even a tool for your business. Cruising around Florida, what with the
Bahamas and the Keys nearby, is really a treat.

While about half of new students ultimately drop out -- usually for a
of motivation -- many go on to seek higher ratings, such as an
rating or a multi-engine rating.

It all depends on how far you want to take it.


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