description. - Photo: Aleksander Markin, Flickr CC.

Unlocking a childhood dream – Photo: Aleksander Markin / CC-BY-SA

“When were you bit by the aviation bug?” This question or some derivative of it comes up frequently when aviation-inclined folks find themselves engaged in chit-chat. It’s a question I have answered many times, but never with much regularity in my response. The truth is, it is hard to nail down any particular moment. After years of pondering the question, I now have my final answer.

Some of my earliest memories revolve around playing in my grandmother’s back yard near Phoenix, Arizona. I distinctly recall that one day I looked up at the clear blue sky to see a white line slowly being etched above. At the end of the line was something I could barely see. It fascinated me. Around age five, this was the first time I had seen such a thing. I had to know what this phenomenon was.

I ran inside and demanded attention from the whole family until finally, they joined me on the back deck. This was when I learned what a contrail was. People were on an airplane I could barely see. They were flying overhead leaving a long arrow across my sky. At that moment, I decided that I too wanted to fly.

And so it began…

Tools I'll learn how to use in ground school. Note: Already proficient in coffee. - Photo: Robert Allen / CC-BY-NC-ND

Tools I’ll learn how to use in ground school. Note: Already proficient in the use of coffee. – Photo: Robert Allen / CC-BY-NC-ND

Teaching myself to fly.

Shortly after learning about contrails and deciding that I, too, would fly, I tried to teach myself. This is another early memory which has stuck with me all of these years. I recall running up and down the hallway flapping my arms for hours. Eventually, my mother broke down and asked what exactly I thought I was doing. Teaching myself to fly, obviously! The disappointment that came with my mother explaining that humans can’t fly remains with me to this day.

Compromise: Let others fly me around.

My dream of flying never went away, but commercial flight seemed to appease it. I have been fortunate to have semi-frequent business and personal travel as an adult. Looking out the window, it turns out, never gets old. In this regard, I unlocked my childhood vision of being one of the people on a plane painting a contrail across the sky. Perhaps one of my contrails was the catalyst for the next generation of young enthusiasts?

BONUS: What’s outside your window?

The L-39 Albatros. Yes, totally unrealistic, but a guy can dream, can't he? - Photo: Daniel Mennerich / CC-BY-NC-ND

The L-39 Albatros. Yes, totally unrealistic. But a guy can dream, can’t he? – Photo: Daniel Mennerich / CC-BY-NC-ND

Going to ground school:

My #AvGeekToDoList is a mile long, but learning to fly is one of just a few items that share a spot on my formal bucket list as well. While I may not be capable of human-powered flight, piloting a plane has always seemed like a great backup plan. To that end, my AvGeek wife and I have enrolled in an eight-week ground school program at a local community college. Together we will unlock our shared goal.

For the moment, I have no major questions or expectations. But I wonder: Do you? If you too want to learn to fly but haven’t found the time to get around to it, what questions do you have?

Many of our readers (and writers, hi Manu!) are already licensed pilots. What sage words of wisdom would you share with two AvGeeks turned aspiring private pilots?

Where appropriate, I look forward to providing insights and follow-ups to AirlineReporter readers here and on Twitter via hashtag #JnJtoGroundSchool. Until then, happy flying!

Managing Correspondent - Lee's Summit, MO. JL joined AirlineReporter in 2012 and has since become one of our most tenured and prolific writers. He enjoys catalyzing AvGeek excitement in others, and semi-frequent travel. While he's always looking for the next big adventure, home is with his growing AvGeek family in Lee's Summit, MO, a suburb of Kansas City. Find JL on MastodonEmail:
Flying Like A King In Finnair’s A330 Business Class Throne Seat
Elias Suiza

Ohh that sweet moment…I remember mime very clearly…it was my first commercial flight on the now extinguished Viasa from CCS to MIA back at 1992.. i was born in the ’87 but that moment absolutely marked me deeply.
Currently trying to enlist in the first course and begin this all-time wish to be true, the thing is the cost…
Any recommendations ? Ty

The cost of ground school isn”t bad. But yes, flight hours are crazy expensive. We are unlikely to go all the way to getting our licenses for that very reason. I wish I had a solution, but I don”t ☹️.

Doug Whitfield

I was bit at age 5 when at Hays, KS airport where my father was station manager. No daycare then so I had all-day run of the airport, and consequently frequent visits to Frontier Airlines Convair 580 flight decks during turn-around.
I’m a private pilot and one piece of advice…don’t feel married or obligated to your first flight school. If it just does not feel like a good fit or learning environment (for whatever the reason) then try another. Initial training is crucial for future safety and enjoyment!

Rick Carlberg

I recommend you take a discovery flight at your local flight school. For probably just more than $100 you will get to sit in the front left seat, with a flight instructor at your right. You get to take off and land under the careful guidance of your flight instructor (or at least you are made to feel that you did all of the work).

It is a good investment. I knew someone who thought he wanted to be a pilot, but after the discovery flight changed his mind. For most people, there is nothing quite like seeing the 6 pack gauges change as you turn, climb, etc.

If you do pursue getting a Private Pilot Single Engine Land: on the day you are scheduled to solo have a close friend or loved one at the airport with a good camera. It is worth recording you in the air (my photos hang in my home office) and the look on your face when you exit the aircraft are worth recording: you are a changed person. You will never be the same person after you solo… just something very hard to describe.

Also, when you take your check ride and earn the certificate from the FAA examiner: have a close friend or loved one with a good camera document that too. “Joy” is too conservative a word to describe that feeling.

Welcome to the journey, treat it like a marathon (not a sprint).

Chris Miller

You will appreciate the aviation even more with Ground School. Please take the test and pass. It is a must more meaningful thing if you actually learn it well enough to pass the test and not just sit in a class.

I agree, take a discovery flight early in the ground school class. It will help so much with vocabulary. You can always schedule a discovery flight at every different flight school you can find within two hours drive and find one that you can really partner with to enjoy your avgeekness.

wow, I am very much proud of your post because It is great news for everyone.
thanks for everything

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