The Ab Initio Flaw

For decades, Japan Airlines ran an ab initio flight school in Napa, CA using Beech Bonanzas

Ecclesiastes tells us there’s nothing new under the sun. Where the pilot shortage debate is concerned, that’s definitely true. More than one industry veteran has wryly noted the “impending pilot shortages” of every decade since the Second World War. And considering the number of pilots trained during that conflict, you could say the shortage history goes back a lot further. How about to the very dawn of powered flight? I mean, Wilbur and Orville could have saved themselves tremendous time and money if only they’d had an experienced instructor to guide them!

Every “pilot shortage” article, blog post, and discussion I’ve seen centers around short-term hiring trends and possible improvements in salary and benefits for aviators. Nobody asked my opinion, but for what it’s worth, it seems both clear and logical that the regional airlines are hurting for pilots. The pay and working conditions at those companies are horrific. Major airlines will probably never have trouble attracting people, however. I don’t know if that qualifies as a pilot shortage. I tend to think it does not. It’s more of a shortage of people who are willing to participate like lab rats in a Part 121 industry cost-cutting experiment.

What the pilot shortage mishegas really has me thinking about is the long-term possibility of ab-initio schemes migrating to the United States and what a profoundly bad thing that would be for aviation at every level.

According to Wikipedia, “ab initio is a Latin term meaning ‘from the beginning’ and is derived from the Latin ab (‘from’) + initio, ablative singular of initium (‘beginning’)”. In aviation, it refers to a method of training pilots. In fact, it’s the de facto technique in use for the majority of airlines around the world. Essentially, foreign airlines will hire people off the street who have no flight time or experience. They are shepherded through the various ratings and certificates necessary to fly an Boeing or Airbus while on the airline’s payroll.

This might sound like a brilliant idea — and to an airline, it probably is. Imagine, no bad habits or “we did it this way at my last job” issues, just well-trained worker bees who have been indoctrinated from day one as multi-pilot airline crew members.

I don’t know if the airlines love ab initio or not. What I do know is that non-U.S. airlines use it because there’s no other choice. The fertile, Mesopotamian breeding ground of flying experience we call general aviation simply does not exist in those countries. Without GA’s infrastructure, there are no light aircraft, flight schools, mechanics, or small airports where aspiring pilots can learn to fly. Those who do manage to get such experience more often than not get it here in the United States.

To put it another way, the “pilot shortage” has been going on in foreign countries since the dawn of aviation, and ab initio is the way they’ve solved the problem in most places.

So what’s my beef with this method of training? To put it simply, in an era of atrophying pilot skills, ab-initio is going to make a bad problem worse. While it’s a proven way of ensuring a steady supply of labor, ab initio also produces a relatively narrow pilot who is trained from day one to do a single thing: fly an airliner. These airline programs don’t expose trainees to high Gs, aerobatics, gliders, sea planes, banner towing, tailwheels, instructing, or any of the other stuff that helps create a well-rounded aviator.

If airlines in the U.S. adopt the ab initio system, the pilots they hire will only experience things that are a) legally required, and b) directly applicable to flying a modern, automated airliner. Nothing else. After all, an airline will only invest what’s necessary to do the job. It’s a business decision. And in an era of cutthroat competition and razor thin profit margins, who could blame them?

The problem is, all those crap jobs young fliers complain about (and veterans seem to look back on with a degree of fondness) are vital seasoning for a pilot. He or she is learning to make command decisions, interact with employers and customers, and generally figure out the art of flying. It’s developing that spidey sense, taking a few hard knocks in the industry, and learning to distinguish between safe and legal.

These years don’t pay well where one’s bank account is concerned, but they are create a different type of wealth, one that’s often invisible and can prove vital when equipment stops working, weather is worse than forecast, or the holes in your Swiss cheese model start to line up.

Thus far, airline ab initio programs haven’t been a major part of the landscape here in the U.S. because our aviation sector is fairly robust. We are blessed with flying jobs which build the experience, skill, and time necessary for larger, more complex aircraft. But it’s easy to see why it might become an attractive option for airlines. For one thing, that darn pilot shortage. The cost of flying has risen dramatically over the past decade while the benefits (read: money) remain too low for too long. Airlines can cure the shortage by training pilots from zero hours… but at what cost?

Coming up through the ranks used to mean you were almost certain to be exposed to some of those elements. That’s why I believe ab initio would be just one more nail in the coffin of U.S. aviation, one more brick in the road of turning us into Europe. While I like visiting The Continent, I do not envy the size or scope of their aviation sector and sincerely hope we don’t go down that path.


Apparently I’m not the only one with ab initio on my mind. The day before the deadline for this post, AVweb reported on a major announcement from Boeing:

Now, with its subsidiary company Jeppesen, [Boeing] will undertake ab initio airline pilot training to provide a supply of pilots with an “Airline Transport Pilot License” (certificate in the U.S.) and a Boeing type rating who “will be ready to move into the first officer’s seat,” according to Sherry Carbary, vice president of flight services.

Boeing’s ab initio training program is divided into two parts. The first, run by Jeppesen, will take an applicant—referred to as a cadet—who must hold a first-class medical at the time of application, and put her or him through a screening process. Those who pass will go through 12-18 months of flight training, resulting in, according to David Wright, director of general aviation training, an Airline Transport Pilot License. The second phase involves the cadet going to a Boeing facility for another two months of training where she or he gets a first exposure to a full-motion jet simulator, and that will result in a type rating in a Boeing jet. Wright said that cadets will come out of the $100,000-$150,000 program with 200-250 hours of flying time and will be ready to go into the right seat of an airliner.

Boeing jets are operated by major airlines, not regionals. An American pilot would typically sport several thousand of hours of flight experience before being hired there. Now Boeing is proposing to put 200 hour pilots into their airplanes on a worldwide basis. That won’t fly (yet) in the U.S., where 1,500 hours is currently required for an Airline Transport Pilot certificate. But I believe the ab inito trend bodes ill for airlines and general aviation alike.

This article first appeared on the AOPA Opinion Leaders blog.

To Pull or Not to Pull

Garmin G1000 panel

It’s hard to believe a full decade has elapsed since the launch of the GA glass panel revolution. But as I recall, the first relatively high-volume GA aircraft with a fully integrated glass cockpit was the 2003 edition of the Cirrus SR22. That was the same year that Diamond brought the Garmin G1000 suite to their DA-40. The race was on, and we haven’t looked back since.

While this technology is a blessing, it’s also more complex than traditional analog gauges. Each product line has it’s own failure modes and redundancies, it’s pluses and minuses. Those are the things which dictate how partial panel scenarios should be simulated. It ought to be based on the way failures are expected to occur in real life, right?

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Flying is Not Driving


Is there anything as classic as the Mid-Century Modern ethos? From architecture to graphic design, there’s a sleek, organic elegance to it, with classically simple lines which avoid the period styling, superfluous components, and useless ornamentation often found in other trends. It flows logically, and centers on astute use of individual elements.

Best of all, Mid-Century is an inseparable component of my beloved Southern California. Perhaps that’s why I feel such an affinity for it. Oh, it may have incubated at the Staatliches Bauhaus, but SoCal is where the connection between Modern design and Mother Nature bloomed. You’ll find examples of Mid-Century design all over SoCal, from homes to restaurants to signage to furniture and even urban planning.

Modernism is also about the intangibles: casual lifestyle, the quality of light and shadow, and the easygoing nature of people in the West. Modernism is the perfect style for Southern California living because it is compatible with our way of life. Its horizontality and openness promote harmony between shelter and nature, while its aesthetic offers an environment that is at once relaxed and sophisticated. It is a style and it is a lifestyle. And like Southern California, modern is relaxed, it is dramatic, and it is beautiful.

The mid-century era was a seminal time for general aviation as well. By the end of World War II, the Army Air Forces Training Command had graduated 250,000 pilots from its schools. With war in the rear-view mirror, these highly experienced and well-trained military pilots were back in the civilian sector with the world at their feet. For those who were not yet aviators, scores of surplus aircraft were left over from the war and the G.I. Bill provided funding for flight training.

The future looked bright, indeed. Unfortunately, it was at this moment that Something Bad happened when Cessna’s marketing department got the brilliant idea to equate flying with driving.

The top of the slippery slope: a late 50's advertising campaign based on the concept that flying = driving.  Every time I see this, all I can think is "no, No, NO!"

The top of the slippery slope: a late 50’s advertising campaign based on the concept that flying = driving. Every time I see this, all I can think is “no, No, NO!”

Airscape’s David Foxx sent this to me after reading my Year of the Tailwheel post, calling the advertisement “about as heretical as anything a hands-and-feet aviator could ever read. You may want to wash your eyes after!”. Amen, brother.

It’s bad enough that they took a beautiful airplane and put a nosewheel on it; to this day, a Skyhawk still looks to me like a tailwheel C-170 that’s been converted. It may not be in the league of that “flying milk stool”, the Piper Tri-Pacer, but it’s more than enough to make me pine for the days when happiness was a point-and-go airplane and a lung-full of wholesome, unfiltered cigarette smoke.

This mid-50’s advertisement wasn’t a one-time effort; Cessna continued using the “land-o-matic” schtick well into the 1970s. You can find ads for the Cardinal — which ironically was designed as a replacement for the 172 — peddling the same dreck.

There are all sorts of annoying things about the ad. First of all, it claims the 172 will “turn on a dime”. False. The tailwheel can pull that trick, but not the nosewheel. As anyone who’s flown them will attest, a Skyhawk requires three times the turning radius of its predecessor. Then there’s the $8,700 price tag ($72,125 in 2013 dollars) for a factory-new airplane. And last but not least, the “drive it like a car” pronouncement. I’ve seen more than one person try to fly the way that ad says it can be done, only to end up with a bent firewall, broken nosewheel, and mangled propeller.

It is funny to look at though, isn’t it? I suppose in the heyday, anything seemed possible–at least, in advertising. Compared to landing the 170 and 180, the Skyhawk can feel like a cakewalk if the winds are calm. But that’s part of the problem: it’s not. But it convinces pilots they needn’t apply the same care, attention, or skill to their flying that they otherwise would have applied were the plane equipped with “conventional” landing gear. Proper control inputs during taxi? Gone. Slow taxi speeds? See ya! Precise energy and flightpath management? Sayonara. Solving a crosswind? Don’t even get me started.

Land-o-matic?  Hardly.    Just because you can get away with "driving" it on doesn't mean you should.  The technique for landing nose and tail wheel airplanes are basically the same!

Land-o-matic? Hardly. Just because you can get away with “driving” it on doesn’t mean you should. The technique for landing nose and tail wheel airplanes are basically the same!

Even worse, instructors easily fall into the same trap, allowing students in Land-O-Matics to get away with performance they never would have accepted if the third wheel was where God intended. This only reinforces the lesson in the minds of many a pilot, spreading the “new normal” until we arrive in the 21st century, where tailwheel aircraft are often eyed with a wary suspicion by those who don’t understand them or the many benefits they offer.

Some unintended consequences flow from those “so easy a caveman could do it” ads. Somewhere along the way, conventional wisdom seems to have begun opining that tailwheel aircraft require some magical, specialized landing technique. Nothing could be further from the truth.

My experience has been that if a person knows how to land a nosewheel airplane properly and does so on a consistent basis, the move into a tailwheel will be quick and smooth. If not… well, let’s just say the majority of my time with transitioning pilots is spent building the rudimentary skills they never learned as a primary student.

The only significant difference between the two is this: the conventional landing gear absolutely requires proper technique, whereas the nosegear may not. Having said that, questionable flying skill can lead to problems no matter what kind of landing gear you’ve got.

Flying is not driving. Never has been, never will be. So remember, just because you can get away with low-quality takeoff and landing skills doesn’t mean you should.

Stick & Rudder Skills Are Important

Bellanca Decathlon

AVweb’s Glenn Pew interviewed Embry-Riddle professor and former Northwest captain Jack Panosian in a podcast entitled “Avionics — Good Pilots Not Required?”. It’s an inflammatory title, no doubt to encourage people to dive for that “play” button. Obviously it worked, because I listened to the whole thing.

Panosian has an impressive resume: 20 years at Northwest, 5 years at ERAU, and he’s got a Juris Doctorate as well. Nevertheless, while I agreed with some of what he said, certain portions of his thesis seem way off base.

I’ll summarize his points:

  • automation used to monitor human pilots, but today it’s the other way around: we are monitoring the computers these days, and we’re not very good at it
  • computers are good monitors, they do it the same way every time, with the same level of diligence
  • stick & rudder skills are less important than avionics management skill and we need to teach with that in mind

The first two points may be correct (I’ll get to the third one later), but computers don’t “monitor”, they simply execute programming. There’s a big difference there. It’s true that when people monitor the same thing over and over again, we cannot maintain the same vigilance ad nauseum. But when humans monitor something, they’re capable of doing so with thoughtful and reasoned analysis. Humans can think outside the box. They can adapt and prioritize based on what’s actually happening rather than being limited by their programming.

Computers are not capable of that. Remember, system failures are not always covered by the aircraft operating procedures or training, and that’s why safe flight still requires human input and oversight. We are also capable of putting more focus on our monitoring during critical phases of flight. For example, I watch airspeed and flight path with much greater attention during approach than I typically will during cruise.

It’s also worth considering that, despite all the automation, humans still manually perform the takeoff, landing, taxi phases, as well as fly the airplane when the computers get confused or take the day off. These are the areas where most accidents happen. Air France 447 stalled up in the flight levels and remained in that state until reaching the ocean. Colgan 3407 was another stall accident. Asiana 214 was a visual approach gone wrong. Better manual flying skill might very well have made the difference in at least some of these accidents.

Tailwheels, aerobatics, gliders, and formation flying are just a few ways to improve stick-and-rudder skills.  We need more of that, not less.

Tailwheels, aerobatics, and formation flying are just a few ways to improve stick-and-rudder skills. We need more of that, not less.

Glenn Pew asked, “How much of flying the airplane is flying the avionics?”, and Panosian replied that “the greatest innovation was the moving map”, giving an example of synthetic vision showing terrain at night. In my experience, a moving map is no guarantee of situational awareness. I’ve trained many pilots to fly VFR and IFR in glass panel Cirruses, DiamondStars, experimentals, and so on. I can’t tell you how many of them had no idea where they were, even with a 10″ full color moving map directly in front of them. When asked the simple question, “Where are we right now?”, you’d be surprised how many have a tough time coming up with an answer.

Does that seem odd to you? It shouldn’t. Situational awareness is not about the map in front of your eyes, it’s about the moving map inside your head. If you want evidence of that, look at the 2007 CFIT crash of a CAP Flight 2793, a C-182T Skylane which ran into high terrain near Las Vegas. That flight was piloted by two highly experienced pilots who were familiar with the area, had a G1000 panel in front of them, and still managed to fly into Mt. Potosi.

Panosian made the point that the Airbus was designed to be flown on autopilot “all the time — it was not designed to be flown by hand. It was designed so that it’s a hassle to be flown by hand”. Some business jets have similar characteristics. Who would want to hand fly the airplane straight and level for hours on end anyway? The light GA arena has an equivalent as well, the Cirrus SR20 and SR22. I enjoy hand flying them, actually, but the airplane has a somewhat artificial feel due to the springs in the flight control system. It was purposefully designed to fly long distances on autopilot. It’s very good at that mission. It’s well equipped, and has plenty of safety equipment aboard. TAWS, traffic, CAPS, a solid autopilot, good avionics… and yet the Cirrus’s accident rate is not better than average.

I don’t believe the answer is to make the pilot a better manager of automation. This will not stop CFIT, stall/spin, weather, and takeoff or landing accidents.

“The Good news is that we have a generation of pilots that have grown up with this technology, these tablets, etc. and they grab hold of these things better than the older pilot who was trained on the round dials. That’s a good thing because now you’re just molding them into the aviation world and this is how you’ll operate the aircraft.”

I’m a big proponent of glass panels, tablets, and technology. They’re great. But they do not make one a good pilot. If you want a better pilot, start primary students off in a tailwheel airplane and ensure they know how to fly before doing anything else. Everything should flow out of that. I wouldn’t expect this to be a revolutionary idea, but perhaps it is.

“You are not going to be hired because of your stick and rudder skills. You will be hired because of your management skills.”

A good aviator needs both sets of skills. Management ability is important, but no more so than stick-and-rudder capability. If you can’t physically fly the airplane during any or all phases of flight, you don’t belong in the cockpit because any equipment issues during those phases can leave the aircraft without someone capable of safely operating it. Pilots who can’t proficiently hand-fly are passengers. Console operators. Button pushers. System monitors (dog not included). But they’re not pilots.

“In other words, can you manage all these systems, can you manages the information you’re getting and make sure that the airplane is doing what it’s supposed to do? The fact of the matter is that we’ve see this in other industries. It’s hardly unique to the airline industry. A robot can do a better job of welding than a human. An autopilot has many more sensors than a human hand does. They can be done better and safer than a human being, but they must be monitored properly. That’s where the training comes in. We have to change from the stick & rudder skills to the manager skills. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

The problem with his comparison is that flying an airplane is not like welding. Welding does not require you to manage the energy state of a large chunk of metal hurling through the air while maintaining situational awareness, staying ahead of the aircraft mentally, and adjusting for countless variables ranging from weather to traffic to equipment failures to controllers, often all at the same time and at the end of a long work day. Doing all those things does constitute “management”, but I don’t think it’s the kind Mr. Panosian is referring to.

And as far as the autopilot is concerned, it’s extraordinarily simplistic to compare a full autopilot system to a single human hand. What about the rest of the body? What about the vestibular labyrinthine system and resultant equilibrioception? There’s proprioception, thermoception, etc. (Look ‘em up — I had to!). And that’s to say nothing of our sense of sight, hearing, touch, and smell. We use those when we fly, even without direct knowledge of what our body is doing. How many times have you noticed a subtle vibration from a prop or engine, the sound of a leaking seal around a door, the sense of something just not being quite right?

Autopilots do some things better than a human. Automation is helpful and absolutely has it’s place. But it is no substitute for a flesh-and-blood pilot who knows how to fly the machine.

What say you, readers?

This article first appeared on the AOPA Opinion Leaders blog at

Reducing the Cost of Flight Training

AOPA Pilot magazine

One of the editors of AOPA Pilot magazine got in touch with me recently to ask if I had any potential article topics for the magazine. I was flattered that someone in his position would even be interested in my thoughts on the matter. I’m nobody special, just one in a long line of aviation-centric writers on the interwebs.

Anyway, I noodled on it for a while and tossed out a few pitches. Some of my suggestions were destined to fall flat — for example, the subject of computers replacing flesh-and-blood pilots in the cockpit. It goes without saying that an article on the phase-out of human pilots might be unpalatable to publications whose primary audience is those very same humans. “Hey, look how quickly you could end up on the street!”

I’ve often thought about how the progress of automation might endanger my career prospects, but I sincerely doubt it’ll make an impact until I’m ready for retirement. Military drones and automated cargo aircraft are one thing, but it’ll be a long time before high-end charter customers — not to mention the Federal Aviation Administration — will be ready to sign off on a conveyance which flies without anyone up front to mind the store.

The AOPA editor related a well-loved joke about passengers being briefed with an announcement that “this is an historic moment in aviation, the world’s first airline flight controlled completely by a computer. Worry not, dear humans, the system has been fully tested, with several layers of built-in redundancy to insure that absolutely nothing can go wrong … nothing can go wrong …. nothing can go wrong … nothing can go wrong.”

Next, I proffered the idea of an article on techniques for reducing the ridiculously high cost of flight training. I know it’s in vogue to say that cost is not a factor in the high student dropout rate, but virtually everyone I’ve spoken to who’s stopped flying (be they a student or a long-time certificated pilot) has told me that there are three reasons for their self-grounding: the cost, the cost, and the cost. It got me thinking about writing an article because many of my ideas for conserving greenbacks differ from those you’ll hear elsewhere.

First off, let me say that there’s no magical technique for reducing the cost to a pain-free level. Unless you go the military route, it’s going to be expensive. It was costly a century ago when Wilbur and Orville were signing the very first pilot certificates, and it’ll be likewise a hundred years from now. The financial investment will always be a bitter pill to swallow. In a perverse way, that makes clearing the hurdle somehow even sweeter when you finally reach the summit.

Having said that, there are some simple techniques students can employ ways to ensure you’re getting the best bang for the buck:

1. Fly frequently. That means three to four lessons per week, if not more. You see, a certain percentage of those lessons will naturally get cancelled due to illness, weather, mechanical issues, work conflicts, etc. So planning 4 lessons per week might net you an average of 3. Maybe less.

People who can only fly once a week will take two to three times as long to earn a certificate because it’s very hard to retain the skill, experience, and information gained from each lesson. Flying frequently is one of the easiest ways to economize, believe it or not. Why don’t more people do it? Ironically, it’s because of the cost. Sixteen lessons a month will eat into your wallet something fierce. By training less frequently, however, you end up spending far more money and time in the end, not to mention raising your odds of dropping out all together because the progress can be frustratingly slow. There’s a lot to be said for momentum, for seeing quick progress, and the excitement, focus, and energy which accompany it.

Can your trainer do this?

2. Fly a tailwheel. A classic airplane like a Cub, Champ, or Citabria will build the highest level of stick-and-rudder skill, and the aircraft themselves tend to be simpler. Unlike most late-model airplanes, there are fewer bells and whistles to deal with so your training time is reduced. Less complexity means less stuff to break. These charming birds also burn little fuel. They’re crazy fun to fly. They are approved for spins (and as regular readers are no doubt aware, I’m a big proponent of spin training) and aerobatics so you can take the unusual attitude training to a more realistic place. If a tailwheel’s not available, a cheap LSA is the next best alternative.

3. Pass the FAA knowledge test in advance. Take a private pilot ground school course online or at a community college where the cost is low. Flight training relies on repetition. By completing your FAA knowledge test (aka “the written”) before jumping into the airplane, you’ll spend less money on ground training from a CFI because you’re learning everything for the second time instead of the first. It also means the knowledge test is out of the way and so is one-third of the FAA testing you’ll need to obtain your certificate.

This is where I learned to fly.

4. Pick a quiet airport. I learned to fly at Orange County’s John Wayne Airport, one of the busiest airfields in the country. There are big advantages to training at a busy airport. I’m comfortable with heavily congested patterns, wake turbulence avoidance, complex airspace, flying with highly dissimilar aircraft, etc. But that sort of airport does create longer taxi times, occasional delays, and because it’s in a high-priced metropolitan area, it’s going to cost you more to train there. Getting comfortable with the busier airports can be done once the certificate is completed. If your goal is to obtain your initial pilot certificate for the minimum cost, a quieter home airport can help make that possible.

5. Learn through a club. An equivalent aircraft should be 10-15% cheaper because flying clubs are non-profits. It’s true that without the profit motive, the level of service might not be quite what you’d get at a traditional flight school, but thankfully many flying club instructors are involved in teaching because they love it rather than for the financial remuneration.

6. Lease an aircraft. I’ve had two students who’ve gone this route and it worked out well for both of them. The recent recession has left more than a few aircraft owners with a bird they want to sell, but with prices dropping, oftentimes they can’t move the plane. Meanwhile, they’re still paying for the loan, taxes, hangar, insurance, and maintenance on a depreciating asset.

The upside is that it’s possible to get a great deal on a lease these days. If you’ve taken my advice from item #1 and are ready to train intensively, with the proper terms, leasing an airplane for a couple of months will allow you sufficient time to get it done, and it will remove the need to compete with other renters for flight time in your favorite airplane.

Learn by watching.

7. Ride shotgun. When you’re not taking a lesson, see if you can ride in the back seat while another student is learning. Any instructor will attest to the eye-popping didactic experience you’ll get by simply watching someone else because it’s what they do every day.

From the back seat, you’ll watch someone else botch maneuvers, struggle with navigation, mangle radio calls, and make dozens of other common mistakes. The best part of a “ride-along” is that in some ways, you’ll learn more than the student because you’re not preoccupied with flying the airplane and can process more than he or she can. You’ll also be providing a service to the student: your extra weight will give them a chance to see how the airplane performs with extra weight and a different center-of-gravity location.

Cost? $0.00.

Learning in the 21st century

8. Get the ‘Net. Today you can access hundreds of free online courses from the FAA, AOPA, and others. Initially, web-based offerings were weak and I didn’t recommend them due to low quality, but they’ve improved dramatically in recent years as the importance and utility of the internet has led major aviation organizations to invest in their digital catalog.

Now, you can learn about weather, airspace, aerodynamics, navigation, aircraft systems, and any virtually any other topic you can think of. Totally free! This sort of learning used to require reading from a book, sometimes a very old and dry one. Modern online courses are rich multimedia experiences whose interactive nature and high production values are more likely to keep you engaged. They’re also easier to update than a physical book, so you’re less likely to be receiving out-of-date information.

9. Save up. Build up a sufficient fund to complete training before you begin. This can prevent one of the biggest problems in training: lost momentum when you have to take a long hiatus because you ran out of money. As a 6,000 hour pilot, I can take a month off and not lose much of an edge. But for someone with 60 hours, it’s a lot different.

I’d equate learning to fly with running a marathon. Distance training demands a disciplined schedule for your training. If you take a week or two off from running, once you get back out there you’re likely to find that you’ve taken such a step backward that it’s tempting to quit. The mountain just got a lot taller, if you will. It’s discouraging. Flying is much the same way, except the stumbling block is often financial in nature. You can prevent that by ensuring you have adequate resources before you begin. It’ll also allow you to fly more frequently (see tip #1).

10. Make friends. I’ve been able to fly TravelAirs, Stearmans, SR22s, Saratogas, T-6s, RVs, and many other airplanes gratis because I got to know people. There’s no way I could afford to fly any of those airplanes if I’d had to pay retail. Flying is a social activity, and those who fly like to be around others who are like-minded. So hang out at the airport and get to know people. Act as a safety pilot. Offer to buy lunch. Do some hangar flying. And make friends. You never know where that will lead.