Read accident case studies and aviation stories to help you stay sharp.
By Dan Sobczak
Editor's note: this article was also published on AirFactsJournal.com in May 2018. This content does not constitute flight instruction. Consult a certified flight instructor in your area for proper flight instruction.
"It's clear that we're on the front end of something much larger than any of us can imagine, travels and adventures far greater than anything we can now picture."
While astronaut Ed Gibson of Skylab 4 was speaking of space flight when he made that statement, his quote could be applicable to any new endeavor in life. Learning to fly is no exception.
Learning to fly takes time, dedication and commitment. But the reward can serve you in life far beyond flying an airplane. You probably know the benefits of flight -- speed, saving time, maximizing productivity -- but have you considered the benefits of learning to fly?
Ben Franklin once wrote that "an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest."
When you learn to fly, you're not only learning how to move the controls of an aircraft. You're also learning more about the world around you.
When I was learning to fly, I learned how an airplane's engine and electrical systems work. I quickly realized this also taught me how my car operates. This serendipitous knowledge allowed me to become more self-reliant when it came to resolving car troubles.
I also learned about our planet's weather patterns. This foundation of weather knowledge gave me an advantage years later in my non-aviation career.
Just as important, I learned I was becoming part of something unique. The uniqueness wasn't the ability to fly, although that is pretty cool. Rather it was the people in aviation. They are a unique group: friendly, willing to help, and often share common interests beyond aviation. Learning to fly has produced lifelong friends I can trust for advice.
It's been said that life isn't about the destination. Rather, it's the journey that matters. When learning to fly, the destination is your private pilot certificate. While it can cost a considerable amount of time and money to learn to fly, what you're really paying for is an investment to create new experiences.
When you fly, you're not just logging flight time. You're also logging memories that will last a lifetime. Along the way, you'll likely discover and visit some new places of which you've never heard.
The remains of the Gila River War Relocation Center southeast of Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Dan Sobczak.
Once as a student pilot, my flight instructor and I took to the sky on a routine mission to practice aircraft maneuvers southeast of Phoenix, Arizona. He told me to look down at the ground where I could see what remained of the Gila River War Relocation Center, an unfortunate injustice committed against Japanese Americans during World War II. I never knew that part of Arizona's history until that flight.
On another flight, I discovered the site of the westernmost battle of the American Civil War: the Battle of Picacho Pass, 50 miles northwest of Tucson, Arizona. It was fought between a Union cavalry patrol from California and a party of Confederate pickets from Tucson in 1862.
The site of the westernmost battle of the American Civil War: the Battle of Picacho Pass northwest of Tucson, Arizona. Photo by Dan Sobczak.
Had it not been for aviation, I might never have learned about these nearly forgotten stories in American history.
In addition to learning more about the world around you and creating memories along the journey, learning to fly builds character. The process gives the student a sense of self and develops confidence.
A colleague once asked me why I fly. I fly for the sense of accomplishment. The ability to guide an airplane through the sky and return it safely to earth offers a sense of achievement that nothing else can match.
I discovered that whatever problems were bothering me on the ground, I knew I could leave them all behind when I made a flight. I could commit my mind 100% to flying the airplane.
I fly for the opportunity to learn. By setting and accomplishing the goal of becoming a pilot, I've learned more about myself.
While there are only about 300 destinations travelers can buy an airline ticket to in the United States, there are over 5,000 public use airports you have access to as a private pilot. Learning to fly makes it much easier than flying by airline, or driving by car, to get to nearly any destination in the United States.
The Chino Mine in southwestern New Mexico. Photo by Dan Sobczak.
A friend and I once made a flight from Phoenix to Las Cruces, New Mexico to attend a car show. What would have been a nearly 6-hour one-way drive was actually a 1.5 hour flight by light airplane. We were airborne by 8 AM and returned home in time for an early dinner.
If you've been curious about those magnificent people in their flying machines, learning to fly could be your ticket to a whole new world. If you're wondering what it takes to learn to fly, visit the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association's Learn to Fly page, where you can learn about your options and find a flight school in your area.
The Flight Chain App team
Dan Sobczak is the founder of www.FlightChainApp.com, a mobile app that helps pilots learn from accident chains by making NTSB reports more convenient and easier to digest. Dan received his private pilot certificate in 2003.
Flight Chain App and its companion blog www.AheadOfThePowerCurve.com are committed to reducing general aviation accidents, helping improve aviation safety, and growing the pilot population.
The only NTSB aviation accident app in the App Store that helps you see and understand the accident chain.
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Flight Chain App and its blog Ahead of the Power Curve are committed to reducing general aviation accidents, helping improve aviation safety, and growing the pilot population.