Making the choice – Finance, Mental State, Family, Self-Awareness, Support, Flight School Choice, Instructor Choice
The decision to learn to fly is not something you just decide overnight. There are many factors that affect your decision; the most important is that you would want to fly. Learning to fly is an expensive exercise that is not only financially, but also mentally but it can be very much rewarding.
My personal journey learning how to fly started in 2014 when I took my introductory flight at Cape Town Flying Club, from then I was faced with a few challenges in my life which I would go into briefly and share my experience with you.
Although flight training is expensive, it can be achieved and there are institutions that provide some financial assistance. At most flight schools, they do offer you an option to pay as you fly, meaning that you pay before you start the next flight. That can help you to save and not break your bank account. I flew initially twice a month, which helped me cope financially and I have done it part-time.
Learning anything can be very challenging when you start, your mental state and being in the right frame of mind is important. For me, about a year into training, my mom had a heart attack and I started a new job, both requiring a lot from me. I decided to take six months off from my training but that became a year. This was not really by choice. However, I needed to take care of my ageing mom and maintain my current career to pay for my flight training. I did have one of my best lessons the weekend after her heart attack. You should be aware of your mental state and it extremely important to be self-aware. I once went on a lesson after working almost the entire week through the night. I assumed that I could have enough sleep and what a bad lesson it was. I learnt that getting enough sleep before a lesson or flight is important.
Ensure that you when you are training, that you can focus on it, that you have the minimum distractions and can get the most support from your family. Also, speak and build a relationship with your instructor, this is important as you both need to be familiar with each other’s personality and can read each other’s body language and tones.
Your choice of flight school is another important decision to make. Some schools are clubs and some are like factories. You want to make sure you feel comfortable the moment you walk in the door or when you make contact with them. When you do visit, pay attention to instructors and students, they are the people you will be flying with and possibly also flying with throughout your career. If you are shy like me, use that to your advantage. If the school you are interviewing offers an “introductory flight”, it would be a good time to evaluate the instructors and hang around the flight school to see how other instructors are training their students. Trust your gut when it comes to choosing your flight school and instructor, there needs to be a pleasant relationship and your training should be fun.
I made the mistake of not having fun when I started to learn to fly and put unnecessary pressure and stress on myself. If at any time you feel you are not enjoying it, tell your instructor and take a “fun flight”. Those hours are still accredited to you, and if you have a good instructor, it would become another lesson indirectly. Have a journal of your adventure, document it in photos and recording, as they are the memories that you can share.
That is my little advice from a student pilot to future student pilots.