Becoming a Pilot. Questions Answered by a Professional Pilot.

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1 Becoming a Pilot. Questions Answered by a Professional Pilot. By Mario Sabogal Introduction My name is Mario Sabogal, and I am a professional pilot. I have worked as a pilot in various corners of the aviation industry. I currently work as a contracted flight instructor for the Canadian Air Force and founder of Pilot Effect (PilotEffect.com). Lets get to the point. This article consists of questions and answers that most should or might be asking before their first step into the pilot aviation industry. I will keep my answers short and to the point. 1) Am I too young or too old? You can generally start flight training at any age, however there are minimum ages in place for certain milestones like solo flight (flying by yourself) or being certified (getting your pilot license). These minimum ages are in the range, the specifics are country dependent. As for being too old, keep it under 65. 2) I get motion sickness, can I still be a Pilot? I have had students get sick during straight and level flight (basic flight), and most adapt overtime and overcome motion sickness. However, that being said, some students don't. Typically you can build a tolerance to motion sickness with exposure. 3) Is being a pilot dangerous? I have been in a plane crash. I knew 2 people that were in plane crashes and they didn't survive. Yes, it can be dangerous but I find the highway drive to work during a winter snowfall to be a lot more dangerous. Perspective is important with this question. 4) I stink at driving cars, does that mean I'll be a terrible pilot too? No. I have had students that didn't have their driver s license and learnt to fly well. 5) I'm a hands on learner... is that good or bad? It is not good or bad, but do not limit yourself to one learning style. There is a lot of academics (book learning) and hands on stuff in becoming a pilot. 1

2 6) Do I need to be a math and science rock star in high school? No. I would say basic math knowledge is required. My mental math skills are terrible since I am from the calculator generation, and I made it as a pilot. As for science, I would say it is even less important than math. Just basic math is required. 7) I have health issues... what will that mean for me? I know operational pilots that have had: heart attacks, vertigo, eye surgery (not just laser corrective surgery), missing fingers, prosthetic devices, partial color blindness... and a few more disabilities. So do not write yourself off if you have medical issues. Consult an Aviation Medical Examiner, and they will give you specific guidance on your medical background and condition. 8) I've never been in a small airplane before... is that an issue? In my opinion, yes, this is a huge issue. Go to any flying club and sign up for a short half hour flight, typically less than $150. An instructor will fly you around and you can judge if it's for you or not. 9) My parent is a pilot, should I be a pilot too? Maybe. If being a pilot is what you really want to do, then yes, go for it. However, I know a few people that only become pilots due to their parent(s). Some of these second generation pilots are miserable because they did it for the wrong reasons. Be very careful with this. 10) Can I just fly for fun? Yes, many pilots fly for recreational purposes only. Every few months they rent an airplane and just fly for fun. Just because you are going for flight training doesn't mean it s going to be your career. 11) I've heard becoming a Pilot is very expensive, can I even afford it? Yes. It is expensive, however, it is an investment in yourself, which is generally positive. I had student loans and worked two jobs to get myself through flight school. You typically only pay for your flights as they happen, so you aren't handing over ten thousand dollars in one day. WARNING! Watch your money carefully. If you run out of money and can t fly for months, you will end up paying more in the end. Flight training requires consistency- if you don't fly at least once a week, you will get rusty and will require more review flights. Review flights aren't free. 2

3 12) Should I be shopping around for flight training? Yes, A thousand times, yes. Visit various flight schools. Ask to speak to an instructor, and see the facilities and airplanes. Be aware, most instructors are commission based. They may say whatever you want to hear to get you to sign up. If there are students around, talk to them. They are current customers and are probably your best source of information regarding the highs and lows of that specific company. If you don't like what you see, walk away. 13) Do I need a College or University Degree to be a pilot? No. This is a very old school train of thought and is outdated. There are plenty of airline pilots that have never stepped foot in a college or university. 14) Flying Club vs. College Program, which should I choose? Flying clubs have this stigma of being casual or lower quality, however this is not true. Flying clubs can be just as good or better than college programs. The main difference is college programs: have more structure, stricter flying schedules, require you to take classes not directly associated to being a pilot, and require money up front. After completing a college program you will receive a diploma or degree along with your pilot license. You will spend more money overall in a college program. I graduated from a university program with a degree when I was 21. I finished paying off my student loans when I was 29. I think it was the right decision for me, because of the course structure and extra classes offered on avoiding aviation environment overload. 15) What is ground school? I just want to take flight lessons. Ground school is the academic portion (book learning) of becoming a pilot. You will learn about: air law, navigation, aircraft systems, weather, aerodynamics and human factors. Ground school can be one on one (Instructor to one student, however this could be expensive) or in a classroom setting (typically cheaper). Without attending ground school you will not be issued a pilot license. 16) Why are some of the flight instructors so old or so young? Older instructors may be retirees or late career changers who decided to instruct. Young instructors are typically new pilots and are using instructing to build flight hours. 3

4 17) I have a small bladder and those trainer airplanes don't have bathrooms... should I be concerned? A typical training flight is just over an hour, if you can hold it for that long you should be fine. 18) They told me it would cost a specific number of dollars to become a pilot... is this number true? Probably not. This is most likely an estimate based on minimum flight hours required for a license. Add a buffer (5% - 10%) to judge what it'll actually cost. 19) No really, how am I supposed to afford that? I understand the feeling, however there is always a way. Save up your money, you don't need to enroll right away. Apply for grants or scholarships. Ask for a loan from a bank. Again, there are student loans as well. If you really want it, you will find away. 20) The Military does flight training... right? Yes. They will pay you to train to become a pilot. However, it is selective, strict, and fast paced at times. After completing your pilot training, you will be required to work in the military for a certain number of years. I work closely with the military, and from what I've seen I don't think I could have done my training through the military. You probably won t be close to your family during training and there are a lot of higher ranking people that can tell you want to do. 21) I have food allergies, am I out of luck? For the military, yes it s probably an issue. For a non military pilot, not an issue. 22) Can I fail? What are my chances of successfully becoming a pilot? Yes you can fail. Your chances of success is dependent on your effort. Like I've said nobody is born a pilot. You have to put in the study time, practice, and hard work. Some steps will be harder than others. 23) Is it all about who you know in the business? No. When I first started I didn't know anybody in the industry and I still made it. That being said, if you have connections you may have an easier time getting a job with certain companies. 4

5 24) When I finish all my training will I be ready to fly a Jumbo Jet Airplane? No. Larger airplanes require further company initiated training. Most major airlines won t hire newly licensed pilots either, you will need to gain industry experience and flight hours. Typical first flying jobs will be small regional airline or flight instructor. Conclusion I hope I didn't scare you off from being a pilot. My intention is to help people make an informed decision regarding their choice to pursue being a pilot and what first steps to take in that pursuit. Good luck! I hope only the best for you. Mario Sabogal. Founder of Pilot Effect (PilotEffect.com). 5

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