Ask any pilot why they learned to fly, and you’ll get nearly the same answer every time. Flying is freedom. It is freedom from the chaos of the world. It’s just you, the airplane and the open expanse of the sky.
At 3,000 feet AGL, the world makes sense. The houses, trees and fields are organized. It’s a bird’s eye view of the world, and there is nothing like it. Suddenly, it feels as though you can go anywhere. All you have to do is point the airplane’s nose in the direction of your destination.
I still remember my first flight. It was a 30 minute intro-flight. The instructor and I performed the preflight on the Cessna 152, checked the fuel and the tires, got inside, taxied to the runway and took off. The airplane left the runway, and I looked out my window and down. We were flying. My excitement and exhilaration were beyond words. I was hooked from that moment on.
Of course, there are practical reasons to learn how to fly as well, and there’s no military training required.
No Military Required
You can learn to fly without going into the military and many pilots do. There are several small airports throughout the U.S. and the U.K. that employ flight instructors. Civilian flight instructors like military flight instructors are specifically trained to teach people how to fly in a safe and effective manner.
Vacations and Trips
Once you attain your Private Pilot’s Licence you can rent a plane and fly anywhere. You can also buy a plane and fly it anywhere. Of course, you have to stop and refuel depending on the length of the trip, but there’s no waiting in airport lines to go on vacation. All you have to pay for is the hourly rental of the airplane and the fuel.
Fly For Hire
With enough training, you can fly for hire. Private pilots and instrument pilots cannot fly for hire, but commercial pilot’s can. Once you attain Commercial Pilot’s Licence you can fly for hire. While it’s not likely that a company will hire you, you are free to work for yourself. You can take people up on sightseeing flights and photography flights and charge them. You can also transport limited cargo and people from one place to another.
Certified Flight Instructor
After the Commercial Pilot’s Certificate, there’s the Certified Flight Instructor Certificate. With a Certified Flight Instructor’s Certificate, you can teach people like yourself how to fly and get paid for it. The hourly rate depends on the skill of the flight instructor, the number of students at the airport and the flight instructor’s schedule. Busier flight instructors have the liberty of charging more for their time.
There’s also the added bonus of building flight time. Certified flight instructors log training flights as flight time in their logbooks, so not only do they get paid to fly, they are also building their own flight time and flying skill.
Airline Transport Pilot
The final certificate any pilot can earn is the Airline Transport Certificate (ATPL in the UK). This certificate allows pilots to fly for commercial airlines such as U.S. Airways, British Airways, FedEx and Delta as well as the airlines that provide the feeder flights for the major airlines.
For a pilot, this is where the steady income is at and the best scenery. Airline pilots fly all over the world. They essentially get paid to travel. Imagine flying 200 people from Chicago to Hawaii and having a 24 hour layover in Hawaii, or flying 300 people from the U.K. to New York and receiving a 48 hour layover before your next flight. Those are, in essence, mini-vacations.
There are lots of reasons to learn how to fly. The most basic reason is simply to enjoy the world from the perspective of a bird. The other reasons include being able to buy and fly your own airplane for your own enjoyment and for vacations, flying for hire and getting paid to travel. Whatever your reason for learning to fly or wanting to learn to fly, you can be assured that it is an experience like nothing else.