In the traffic pattern at Boeing Field. The view doesn’t suck – that’s Mount Rainier on the horizon, and the airfield is on the lower-right side of the image.
This is a continuation of my multi-part series on learning to fly. You can read the whole Fly With Francis series here.
After six weeks, which went past in a seeming eyeblink, I’ve completed ground school. Drinking from a fire hose is an appropriate analogy. Still, I passed all three written stage tests, and just passed the written comprehensive finals, which consisted of two separate tests over two class sessions. Next up will be scheduling and taking the proper FAA written exam before all this hard-earned info leaks out of my brain.
I’ve also been flying quite a lot with my CFI (aka my instructor) – two or three hours a week on average. I’m learning new skills like crazy, but am also burning through money like a Silicon Valley startup. In contrast with most of my stories, I don’t have very many photos to share for this series, not at least so far. Learning how to fly is hard, and if I’m on the controls the whole flight, there’s no time for taking photos. I’m considering finding a way to mount a GoPro either inside or outside the plane so there’s at least some video to share.
Anyway, we started doing pattern work a week or so ago; that means pretty much flying in the airport’s prescribed traffic pattern, doing a touch-and-go, then re-entering the pattern. Lather, rinse, repeat. At Boeing Field (BFI), you can get about six laps around the pattern into a one-hour lesson.
The first time we did this, it was utterly demoralizing. I’m flying a plane, which is amazing and fun, but landing is *hard*. Especially when dealing with BFI’s notoriously squirrelly crosswinds.
The business end of a Cessna 172, the type of plane I’ll be training in
Yep. I’m finally doing it.
After close to a decade of talking about taking flying lessons, and after a couple of false starts, I’ve plunked down my money and started ground school last month with Galvin Flying at King County International Airport, aka Boeing Field, aka BFI, in Seattle.
Flying is both a spendy and time-intensive process. I’ve taken a number of introductory flight lessons, and at one point I actually started flight training with a private instructor and self-guided ground school (that’s the experience that made me realize a formal program would be better for me). I’ve also ridden along with several friends and their instructors on their own training flights.
Of course I needed a model C172 to help with training
Anyway, here I am, about halfway through ground school. Now, as JL has already told you, formal ground school is optional, as there are many legit self-study options available that will prepare you for the FAA written exam. Key to any learning endeavor – especially one for folks for whom school of any kind is a couple of decades in the past – is knowing your learning style preferences.
From experience, I know that my most effective learning style is a combination of books and a human instructor, hence my choice of classroom-style ground school. Other folks might prefer videos, still others might choose a self-paced pre-packaged program; all those options are available.
Student pilot requirements get their own chapter in the FAR/AIM, which is the combined set of Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) and the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM). It’s the bible for flying in the U.S. I’m here to tell you that it definitely contains lots more rules and regulations than the real Bible.
TAM Airlines’ flight training area – with pool
By now, I have been to a few airline flight attendant training facilities and I am always in awe with what is similar and what is different. What I liked most about TAM’s training facility was they let us get really hands-on with the experience. Not just learn about what their different training devices can do, but we got to experience them first-hand.
The outside of TAM’s training facility, located in Sao Paulo
Although visiting an airline’s training facility can be quite fun for a visitor, there is no question that the facility is designed to train flight attendants on how to save lives.
Everytime I go to one of these facilities, I am reminded how flight attendants have complex jobs. Many see them as glorified waiters and waitresses, but they are anything but.
My only regret for this trip — I didn’t bring my bathing suit for the pool!
Attention to detail with the premium meals is important
The airline business is a complicated machine, where when one little aspect has a minor hiccup, it can affect thousands of people. What better way to see how complicated an airline is than to take a behind-the-scenes look at their catering operation? Recently, during a trip to Istanbul, Turkey, I was invited by Turkish Airlines to tour their catering arm, which is called Do & Co.
Some of the things I found were quite wonderful and surprising.