How I learned to fly airplanes

My logbook says I took my discovery flight on March 19, 2019. It was a short flight with Eric, one of the CFIs at Skywalker flight school at the time. I believe I sat right seat (but I don’t remember) and did some basic maneuvers. It was a bit bumpy that day. When I landed and saw Jo (the owner) back at the office I immediately told her I’m in.

Basic requirements

  • 40 hours total minimum flight time
  • 20 hours flight time with an instructor
  • Ground instruction
  • Pass the FAA written exam
  • Pass the FAA practical exam (At least 1 hour on the ground, 1 hour in the air)

Skywalker is a small, family-owned flight school

Jo treats her students like family. She is always working to get you to the next level as quickly and economically as possible, without compromising safety. But you definitely don’t move on until you’re ready. Before your checkride you’ll have to go up with Jo and she’ll be tough on you so be ready. I’ve always felt great about my decision for choosing Skywalker. You never feel like you are being ripped off. If you somehow have your own plane and only have to pay the hourly rate for the instructor you’ll save a lot of money on your training. Plane rental is the biggest expense.

It is hard to get your pilots license

It the business it’s not really called a license, it’s your Airmen Certificate. The FAA just doesn’t give out licenses to anyone. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. If you’re not self motivated you’ll end up part of the 80% that never complete their training and pass the checkride.

How much does it cost?

I never worried too much about the cost. I knew ballmark what it would take but I knew I would be spreading training over a year so it wasn’t going to be a huge up hit to our checking acccount. You also just pay for when you fly at Skywalker which is so great. You can buy blocks of time and save a bit on the hourly rate also. Jo likes to start students in the Cessna 172 because it’s very easy to handle. It’s heavy so it handles bumps well and has large wings so it glides really well. Once you are proficient she’ll move you over to the Cessna 150 which is slightly more challenging to fly. The 150 does not glide as well so on final if you chop the power it will drop faster. It also has much less power, so if you get into a pickle and need to climb out fast, be prepared to need much more room to gain altitude (ask me how I know). The 150 is also a two seater and quite a bit smaller in the cabin so its less comfortable, but it is about $40 less per hour to rent! So as you build solo hours and practice checkride prep you can save quite a bit of money by flying the 150. I’ll probably end up with about 55 hours of training to get my license so times that by the plane rental cost ($100-$140) and instructor hourly rate of $45 and you have the cost. Many hours of that time are solo so you get a break by not being charged for instructor time. It’s not cheap to learn to fly but if you look up to the sky and dream about airplanes, it’s so worth it.

I have grown to love the little 150

I spent so much time (close to 20 hours) in the 172 that I didn’t really want to switch. I reluctantly gave the 150 a try. At first I hated it. It got tossed around by the smallest amount of wind, it dropped out of the sky if you reduced power, it was more sensitive on the pitch, it was cramped and it had more limitations than the 172 like no forward slips with full flaps. But after logging a few hours I grew to love it. Now I like flying it more than the 172. The 172 is a pickup truck, and the 150 feels like that Escort you can whip around corners and have a ton of fun in. I still miss not getting tossed around so much by the smallest amount of wind but that’s about it. It’s also good preparation for flying my homebuilt which will closer to the weight of the 150 than the 172.