Thinking about about becoming a pilot – or want to try flying?
First, take a Familiarization (Fam) or Discovery Flight
Every flight school offers a Fam or Discovery flight, a deeply discounted first flight designed to introduce you to the basics of flying. The instructor will do a walk around the aircraft with you, explain what does what, and then take you up for a short flight, which usually lasts 30 minutes but depends on the school. I took a Fam flight from Edmonton Flying Club, which cost me only $70, and one from the Pacific Flying Club at the Boundary Bay Airport in Delta, BC, cost roughly the same. The one from Centennial Flight Centre in Edmonton cost me $170 and lasts an hour, and I believe Springbank Air Training College charges the same.
Regardless of whether you think you want to pursue a license or not, taking a fam flight is a great idea to introduce you to the basics of flying and flight. Even if you are just curious about flying, it is highly recommended.
On the fam flight, one of the first things you should note is what type of aircraft the school uses, and what condition they are in. The most important things you should look at are the exterior or flying surfaces of the aircraft, such as the propeller, brakes, what is the tire wear, and so on. You may also want to take a look inside the aircraft to see what condition the interior is in. Are the seats worn out? Are the radios old? Certain items that are cosmetic will not make a huge difference. If you have questions about the safety or condition of the fleet, you should ask the instructor. You should also keep in mind what plane you want to fly after you complete your license. Are you planning on purchasing a plane, or renting, or are you pursuing aviation as a career? If it’s just for recreational purposes, is this the plane you want to rent after you have your license? After you have your license, if you would like to rent a different aircraft, you first must go up with an instructor and learn how to operate or get a type rating on that aircraft, learn it’s particular flight characteristics to satisfy the flight school that you are able to fly it safely before they would l allow you rent it on your own. This may take lots of flying time, (which can get expensive!) so it is important to chose the plane that you plan on flying after you are finished your license.
My first flight was in a stunning Diamond Eclipse C1 two-seater plane pictured above, which was new and very nice inside and out! I had no idea what I wanted to fly, or what the most popular training aircraft was – that is, by the way, the Cessna 172. The Edmonton Flying club (EFC) had a fleet of Diamond and Cessna aircraft. The instructor I was booked with recommended that we go up in a Diamond for my first flight. It was a great experience, I was scared out of my mind, but hooked right away.
There is also the deeper issue of what you want with the license. Do you want to fly for fun, or do you wan to do it as a career? I have always been in love with aviation and airplanes. From the first time I flew in an airplane, which was in a LOT Airlines Boeing 767, at 6 years old, my parents took me and my brother up to view the cockpit and I knew there was something about this that would change my life. I didn’t try flying for decades after that when I was finishing up my Master’s degree. Once I finish my private license, I am strongly considering a commercial license and making flying a big part of my life.
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