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"Be A Pilot program brings aviation to the masses"



Tuesday, September 3, 2002     

Be A Pilot program brings aviation to the masses 
By Shanti Hahler 
The Everett (WA) Herald


EVERETT -- There's no graceful way to get into a small, four-seat
airplane. 

In all his years as a flight instructor, Dave Wheeler said he hasn't
seen anyone get into his single engine Piper Cherokee without simply
stepping on the wing and crawling into the seat. 

"There really is no elegant way to do this," Wheeler said. 

Dave Wheeler, owner of Northwest School of Aviation in Everett, is one
of many flight schools across the United States and Canada that is
working with the nonprofit Be A Pilot program to get people interested
in learning to fly up in the air. He says that about 90 percent of his
students come to him through Be A Pilot. 

By filling out an information sheet and printing a certificate from the
program's Web site, a one-hour introductory flight lesson costs $49,
almost half of what many other schools charge. 

At that price, students can try out their wings with little to lose. 

Drew Stekete, president of Be A Pilot, said that the idea of the program
is to bring aviation to the public. 

"It's such a beautiful experience...and it's better if you can
experience it yourself," Stekete said. 

Stekete himself has logged almost 3,000 hours of flight and holds a
commercial pilots certificate. 

An affordable start makes it even more appealing to continue taking
lessons. 

However, it's not cheap either. 

According to the Be A Pilot Web site, it costs anywhere between $4,500
and $6,500 to get a private pilot certificate, depending on where you
live and the amount of time you can spend flying. 

Aside from financial cost, it also takes dedication and time. 

The minimum number of hours the FFA requires private pilots to fly is 40
hours, 20 with an instructor and 20 solo. However, most students take
about 70 hours to complete their training, depending on how often they
fly and how fast they pick up the skills, Wheeler said. 

A typical first lesson lasts about two hours. The first hour is spent on
a pre-flight check, making sure the plane is safe to take up in the air.
This includes checking the quality and quantity of fuel, making sure all
the nuts and bolts are fastened and that the parts of the plane are all
functioning. The second hour is spent in the air, learning to make
turns, read the controls and get more comfortable. 

Wheeler said this is usually the selling point for the student. 

"Most everyone who takes the first lesson says, 'Wow, this is really
neat. How can I keep doing this?'" 

Once you receive your certificate, you will be able to fly with
passengers in a single engine land plane, wherever and whenever you want
as long as the weather is OK. 

"And, you can take your friends and family to dinner in the San Juan
Islands and make them buy," Wheeler said. 

Though flying a small airplane is fun, how safe is it? 

"It's very safe," Wheeler said. 

"The most dangerous part of flying is the drive to the airport." 

For more information 

For more information about the Be A Pilot program, check out its Web
site at www.beapilot.com or call 1-888-BE-A-PILOT.


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