One of the most important elements of my flight training was inspiration. Now, back in 2013, when I went for my initial flight training I was pretty inspired. I had been flying in airplanes since age four, as both my grandfather and father were private pilots. I grew up knowing I wanted to fly but I didn’t really have the resources to do it until I was in my mid 40s. It was after both of the pilots in the family had passed, and right after a very fun flight on a Delta flight from MSP to SYR (we did two go-arounds due to windy conditions), that I made the call to the local flight school to start my flight training. I had my Private Pilot’s Certificate at the year mark with just over 62 hours of flight time.
A main element in keeping focused and committed to that goal was my flight instructor. From the initial discovery flight with Chuck in the Cherokee 140 I knew that I would be comfortable learning how to fly with this guy. He kept me on my toes, challenged me, learned my pacing, and quickly figured out my idiosyncrasies. Plus, he put up with the GoPro in the cockpit.
Chuck and I continued to fly as friends and safety pilots for one another after I passed my check ride and we worked on my instrument training together. We also the round-trip to Oshkosh two years in a row. Since moving to Chicago back in 2017, I have to admit that one of the biggest things I miss about Upstate New York is flying with Chuck and my other flying buddies at KRME.
Being a private pilot while living in the city of Chicago comes with some other challenges. First of all, it’s not like I can rent an airplane at O’Hare and take off amongst the 747s, A380s, MD-80s, and the like. I need to get out of the city limits and up to either KPWK Chicago Executive or KUGN Waukegan National. For either airports it can be anywhere from 45 to 105 minutes, depending on the time of day, and the traffic on the expressways. If the gapers are slowing down for no reason on the Kennedy or Edens, the drive in itself can be exhausting. But after a too-long hiatus at the end of last year, I have been making the regular drive to KUGN to work on getting checked out in the DA-40, and knocking rust off my aviator skills along the way.
One of there resources that I need to remember to use is flight videos available online. I also attend as many safety seminars and other flying club presentations as my schedule allows. Balancing a software developer career, expressway traffic, family obligations, and flight time can be tricky. Sometimes I wonder if it’s all worth it. But then I do “aviation things” for a few days in a row and I feel like I’m back in the groove.
This evening I attended a safety seminar hosted by the Chicago Executive Pilots Association out near Chicago Executive Airport. I’m a member of CEPA and I appreciate the organizations like this are available. Tonight the presentation was given by Jason Schappert, the pilot behind MZeroA.com. Jason has an infectious way of presenting aviation and tonight’s seminar was no exception. He has a solid 21st century approach to his presentational style that still feels very comfortable, even to the older pilots in the audience. I had the opportunity to meet him in person at Oshkosh last year.
Tonight we answered questions around various aviation scenarios using a web browser on our mobile devices. He could see answers from the crowd in real time up on a big screen. The marrying of technology to decades old aviation scenarios was engaging and inspiring. I’m thinking of attending one of his aviation seminars later this year.
The most important element of my aviation career is education. I never want to become complacent. I want to keep learning, try new airplanes, and earn more certifications.
And nights like tonight certainly keep me inspired.