Someone who is new to learning how to fly or has no background in aviation may think that getting pilot’s license is as simple as training and passing a test. But that’s far from the truth. In fact, being a pilot will put you in the mode of student for as long as you wish to fly.
There are many ways to start learning how to fly. In Orange County, California, Fun Outside Aviation teaches students to initially earn their private pilot’s license. Each student learns at their own pace and process typically takes anywhere from six months to a year. Students are encouraged not to compare their timeline to any other students because everyone learns at different speeds.
But what happens when you reach that goal? What happens after you pass your checkride and your examiner tells you that they were officially your first legal passenger? Odds are you’ll have half a dozen friends or family members saying they’ll fly with you but maybe not right away. And why is that? They want you to gain more experience which is the same as them saying, “go ahead and keep learning.”
So now, you’ve flown your friends around and you’ve gone for that $100 hamburger a few times. You’ve even had a bunch of cross country trips under your belt. Well, this is part of the learning process as well. Talking to different controllers from different regions teaches you better communication skills and to be flexible in a changing environment. The further you fly, the more encounters with different weather patterns you’ll need to address. I’d even argue that most likely, you never learned how to fuel up your plane if you’ve only rented from your school “wet”.
If you’ve done what you can to learn to fly on a tight budget, there’s as good chance you’ve rented only airplanes with steam gauges. This means you’ve learned on traditional primary flight instruments that are mechanical in nature. The next step in your learning could be jumping in to the world of digital aviation. Many pilots at this point start using an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB). Once you’ve had a chance to start flying other planes or with other pilots, you’ll get exposed to other versions of panels. Digital or “glass” panels vary widely and are rarely the same. The learning curve is about buttonology and hopefully realizing how much of a distraction all this could be and focusing on what’s important…flying the plane. But once you have the hang of it, the value of the panel upgrades are well worth it.
Ok, so what else can you learn at this point? There are so many paths and options for you now. Let’s look at a few ratings you can obtain:
As a private pilot, you can now pursue your instrument rating. This is a challenging and rewarding way to dive further into mastery of the airplane and how to deal with adverse weather conditions.
Or you can go after your commercial rating. This is where you must start if you ever want to get to the point of getting paid to fly.
Now how about you look at getting your tail wheel endorsement? You’ve seen the taildraggers all over the airport, now go out and learn to fly one. To me, those are the stick shift versions of airplanes. Not everyone has the training to fly one but anyone could learn it. And after you get signed off, you’ll really have an appreciation of the rudder pedals.
What about learning to fly a seaplane? Floats are a must in Alaska and other parts of the world. A great experience and another way to expand your flying knowledge.
Another area you can never really get enough knowledge in is weather. Pilots live their life in mother nature’s good graces. So, keep getting acquainted with all there is to know about meteorology and how it impacts our flying safety.
There are so many ways to expand your knowledge as a pilot. Immersing yourself in aviation will make you a better pilot and help keep you safe. Don’t let those skills atrophy. Continue to expand your exposure and learning in aviation.