Aug 302014

Did anyone ever tell you, “Be careful what you ask for…”.

I am once again working as a corporate pilot flying Challengers CL-605 and for the past month I’ve been traveling like crazy!  I finally have a few days off ahead of me and wanted to share a video I found on YouTube with all of you.

I love this video…I couldn’t have explained why becoming a pilot is so worth it better than this.  Check it out!

May 312014

While some may disagree with me, I have to give a resounding “YES”. Unfortunately, there are many times when I hear pilots touting their “thousands of hours” to less experienced pilots or the public. Even the media tends to inadvertently imply that thousands of flight hours is equivalent to superior skills and experience.

Take some of the latest aviation stories in the news, one of which had 3 fatalities and happened on a clear day in a perfectly good airplane. News reports state that the captain had over 12,000 hrs of flight time and the first officer over 9,000 hours of flight experience – and that is the extent to which a pilot’s ability and skills are determined.

To an outsider, it must seem that surely, someone with that many THOUSANDS of hours of experience couldn’t possibly make rookie mistakes. But, consider the type of flying most airline pilots do: The takeoff, initial climb, approach, and landing phases of flight are considered the most risky.

This is also, not coincidently, where most accidents occur – 80%, in fact. Yet these phases of flight make up only a small percentage of the entire flight. The rest of the time, the pilots are simply making sure the autopilot does its job (or they should be).

Sure, they go through simulator training at least every six months, in which they practice emergency procedures, but it has been my experience, that much of these recurrent courses have become very standard, with the pilots and instructors knowing exactly what’s going to happen, at what airport, which approach they are going to shoot and how. There is very little surprise in these courses, a luxury that is simply not available in the real world.

One can only hope that these pilots who are gaining thousands upon thousands of hours flying A to B in reliable, state of the art aircraft, obtained their first thousand or two thousand hours building up their skills and experience by flying in less predictable conditions.

Most pilots in the United States build up flight time slowly, by flight instructing, flying for small cargo operations, and by renting or taking airplanes on their own adventures cross country. This is typically done in small, general aviation aircraft that, many times, have no autopilot or the latest gadgets – airplanes that break down much more often than airliners.

It is this type of flying that sharpens your skills and abilities as a pilot and is the foundation for your future ability to deal with unforeseen circumstances during the rest of your career.

If you’re in that phase of building flight time before you can apply to your dream job, such as airline pilot, make sure you step outside your comfort zone a little. Seek out opportunities that will stretch your boundaries – go to places you’ve never been to, fly aircraft you’ve never flown before, take on primary students as well as advanced students if you’re a CFI, participate in an air race, etc.

Don’t let you skills get stagnant and while I know you want to put as many hours in your logbook as possible, make sure they are quality hours in which you are learning and gaining valuable experience.

May 032013
Are you a low-time pilot trying to build up your flight time?

Try these tips and get those hours in your logbook!
It’s the age-old question – how to get experience when no one is willing to give you a chance in order to build your experience.

When I was struggling to put hours in my logbook, I had to really get creative since I already had a full time, non-flying job.

The trick was to be willing to do a little bit of leg work – getting out there and putting myself in front of opportunities.

Be prepared to see the cheesy setting of my hotel room as I talk about how I, and other pilots I know, got those first 1000 or so hours under our belts.

Free PPL Prep Kit


Mar 122013

I had a student once who had to face a mortal fear of flying in order to get his Private Pilot License.  In his own words, he described that experience in an earlier post (Click Here to read it).  Now, his story is inspiring others to do the same thing:

Private Pilot Bill

Here is a comment left by one such person, Lucas, who is currently undergoing the same process.  Lucas says,


Hi Bill,

I cannot get over how this story is the life I am currently living down to a tee always expecting the statistical near impossible. Currently on my 5th our of flying lessons hopefully I can get through it with some courage.

Great read.


Although, most pilots do not look at flying as “dangerous”, we are all aware that things could go wrong.  By gaining confidence (through training and practice) that we can handle most emergencies, we can feel more free to enjoy flying without “FEAR”.  But for some people, this is obviously easier said than done.  I really admire and commend those who conquer their fears by facing them head on. 

Bill has graciously taken the time to answer Lucas and expand on his experience.  Bill says,


Hello Lucas:

I notice you mention COURAGE…  So, let me offer this follow-up to my original story above:

Let’s call it like it is shall we; all this flying stuff comes down to facing DEATH (in big capital letters).   A death that we (you and I) would have no control over.    A flying death would “not” be of natural causes and as you aptly put it, it has a “statistical probability”.   Problem is, FEAR tends to skew the statistics, doesn’t it?   Crashing suddenly becomes a 1 in 10 probability even though much closer to one in a million. 

During my training, I wondered why it seemed to come down to relying on machinery that other people service and maintain (yikes), and why I worried so deeply about their unknown, unobserved efforts.   I even wondered about metallurgy (metal molecules) construction; you know, all the tiny nuts and bolts, wires and cords.   Surely one would snap while I was up in the air, well maybe my 1 in 10 wouldn’t happen this particular day (I hoped).    Flying seems like an inescapable flip of the coin of fate, a roll of the dice.  That’s the inescapable paradigm of flying, and it cannot be changed, only just accepted with some invisible aplomb.    Odd nutty people like my CFI, Ruth Morlas would casually repeat: ” If your time is up, it’s up” …  Hmmm, well, sorry but I can’t dangle over a pool of alligators by a thread with the thread on fire and wonder if my time is up in that way, nope… not me…

But, alas… You will come to realize when considering quitting that you really have no choice, not really.   Because if you haven’t already, you will soon realize that you must persevere and conquer this fear since the alternative is somehow even worse than this flying fear.   Yes, it will all come down to a FEAR of FAILURE vs. the FEAR of FLYING, at least it did for me.  The former must and will eventually trump the latter.   My fear of failure:  fueled, shoved, pushed and tugged me headlong into the oncoming traffic of fate, where I would either end up dead or end up as a pilot.   In the final analysis, there are only these two forks in the road, fail or fly. 

Let me briefly define what the potential FAILURE meant to me, and therefore why this FEAR superseded even the mortal fear of flying:  If I were to fail again to conquer my flying fear, I would never fly commercial, hence never see the world, and hardly ever see my far away family.  Those fears simply became larger than even the fear of potential death in an airplane.   


I was shocked to find that in this internal BATTLE with both FAILURE and with FLYING, the lesser of two giant evils was the FLYING one.   FAILURE was suddenly no longer an option when it always was up until now.  Somehow, I came to this fork in the road and the choice was clear, I simply cannot allow myself to FAIL at this any longer, period.     Luckily this odd NEW ingredient within my cowardice grew, it was my COURAGE (that you mentioned, Lucas).   I didn’t even know I had COURAGE until it was tested and revealed on this odd field of battle just as you are realizing.   My courage made me proud of myself and I liked feeling proud of me (are you like me.!!).    Yes, this internal war will teach you all about you.   In essence, you are grabbing the yoke of you.

How could I quit and just stay home, a failure again, no way, time’s up on that stuff.  ”Fear of Failure” is somehow greater somewhere along everybody’s road even than the “fear of flying”.  I think instinctively, you realize you are at this same crossroads.  I won this battle and so shall you.  It will yield a sense of great accomplishment and it develops first in steps, then in stages.   Yes, I still do have some fear when off the ground floating with only the hand of fate holding me up.   But somehow it is manageable.  I am a warrior on a battlefield of FEAR and I am a conqueror; who would have ever known.  I defeated both Fear of FAILURE and Fear of FLYING in one kamikaze swoop as they are inextricably intertwined.  You are my twin brother in arms, Lucas who will also conquer.   I hope you smile at these words.    

Kindest regards,



Thanks to Bill and Lucas for sharing their stories!

Mar 032013

When I decided I wanted to fly for a living, I had no idea what I needed to do.  I knew there was a flight school out there called Embry-Riddle that supposedly trained pilots.  So, after applying and getting accepted, I traveled down to Daytona Beach to get my wings.

I figured, a few more years of college and I would have my flying job.  Little did I know…that is simply not the way it works.  There’s a lot more you need before landing that dream job of airline pilot, corporate pilot, or some other pilot job flying those beautiful twin jets.

Find out exactly what you need to become a pilot by watching this video.


Click Here for more information about the FAA Medical Certificate

Click Here to learn How To Choose A Flight School

Click Here to learn How To Choose A Flight Instructor

Click Here for examples of How To Build More Flight Time


If you like this post…please share with your friends!

Oct 112012

Just Google “Cost of Private Pilot License” and you’ll be presented with a several flight schools estimates enticing you to choose them for your flight training needs.

Their prices will vary from $4,000 to around $8,000 for the cost of a Private Pilot Certificate.  They will even tabulate all the different costs that will look something like this:

Exam for FAA medical (student pilot certificate) $65
Supplies (charts, books, flight computer, plotter, etc.) 120
Written test fee (computerized) 80
Ground School (to complete written test – based on self study) 0
Airplane (C-172 @$113/hr for 40 hours) 4,520
Flight Instruction (30 hours @ $35/hr) 1,050
Ground instruction for flight lessons (10 hours @ $35/hr) 350
Flight test (examiner $250, airplane $170 based on 1.5 hours) 420


You should think of this as getting an estimate for a complete remodel of a house.  The contractor will quote you all the minimum costs based on everything going perfectly during the remodeling of your home.  No delays, no problems that require re-work, no surprise hidden charges.

But, what they don’t want you to know about is that flight training almost never goes as planned – just like the remodeling of a house.



Flight schools know that the minimum number of hours required to obtain a pilot certificate is 40hrs, as required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  However, the national average is around 65hrs.  At $130/hr, that’s a difference of almost $2,000 if you’re “average”.

You should keep these two things in mind:

  1. Just like construction work, there are always delays and the longer your training takes, the more you will pay.
    1. weather delays
    2. delays due to illness (you or your instructor)
    3. airplane maintenance delays
    4. scheduling delays (instructor unavailability or your unavailability, etc.
  2. The national average time it takes is based on large numbers of students going to dedicated flight academies and flight training universities.  These students eat, breath, and sleep aviation, and they still take longer than 40hrs, but they don’t go much more over this minimum.  What this does is that it pulls the “national average” number down.  If you could separate these numbers into two different averages, they would look more like this:
  • 55hrs – average time it takes for a student of a flight academy or dedicated flight university to obtain their pilot certificate
  • 75hrs – average time it takes for someone who is flight training part time to obtain a pilot certificate

I would even go as far as estimating 80hrs to obtain your certificate, especially if you’re flying 2 times per week or less.

With this in mind, you can easily look at more than $10,000 to obtain your pilot certificate. 

What can you do to keep your costs down?

As much GROUND PREPARATION as possible.  The more you learn on the ground, the less you’ll have to learn while in the air.  Here are the top 3 ways you can get your flight training done faster and cheaper:

  1. Chair fly before each lesson
  2. Take notes on what you did right and what you can do better after each flight lesson
  3. Schedule yourself 4-5 times per week so that you can end up flying at least 3 times per week (leaves room for cancellations and delays)

I’ve also put together a FREE Private Pilot Prep Kit to get you going in the right direction:

learn to fly kit

Oct 052012

Hi everyone!

One of the most common topics I’m asked about is the FAA medical.  So, if you’re a bit confused about this topic, here is some information that will help you figure it all out!

  1. What is an FAA Medical
  2. What type of FAA Medical do I need
  3. What do I need to pass an FAA medical
  4. How often do I need to get an FAA Medical exam
  5. Where do I get an FAA Medical
  6. How much does an FAA Medical cost

Let’s get started….

What is an FAA Medical

Under the Federal Aviation Regulations, pilots are required to meet certain medical requirements.  Depending on what type of pilot you are, you will need to pass a certain type of medical exam.

What type of FAA Medical do I need

There are three types of medical certificates:

  • First Class – for airline captains
  • Second Class – for pilots who get paid for flying, but are not airline captains
  • Third Class – for private pilots

From the FAA’s website (, here is how you can determine which type of FAA medical to get:

  • A first-class airman medical certificate is required to exercise the privileges of an airline transport pilot certificate.
    A first class medical certificate is valid for the remainder of the month of issue; plus
    • 6 calendar months for operations requiring a first class medical certificate if the airman is age 40 or over on or before the date of the examination, or
    • 12-calendar months for operations requiring a first-class medical certificate if the airman has not reached age 40 on or before the date of examination, or
    • 12 calendar months for operations requiring a second class medical certificate, or
    • 24 calendar months for operations requiring a third class medical certificate if the airman is age 40 or over on or before the date of the examination, or
    • 60 calendar months for operations requiring a third class medical certificate if the airman has not reached age 40 on or before the date of examination. *


  • A second-class airman medical certificate is required for commercial, non-airline duties (e.g., for crop dusters, corporate pilots) and is valid for 1 year plus the remainder of the days in the month of examination. Those exercising the privileges of a flight engineer certificate, a flight navigator certificate, or acting as air traffic control tower operator must hold a second-class airman medical certificate.
    A second class medical certificate is valid for the remainder of the month of issue; plus
    • 12 calendar months for operations requiring a second class medical certificate, or
    • 24 calendar months for operations requiring a third class medical certificate, if the airman is age 40 or over on or before the date of the examination, or
    • 60 calendar months for operations requiring a third class medical certificate if the airman has not reached age 40 on or before the date of examination. *


  • A third-class airman medical certificate is required to exercise the privileges of a private pilot certificate, recreational pilot certificate, a flight instructor certificate, or a student pilot certificate.
    A third-class medical certificate is valid for the remainder of the month of issue; plus
    • 24 calendar months for operations requiring a third class medical certificate, if the airman is age 40 or over on or before the date of the examination, or
    • 60 calendar months for operations requiring a third class medical certificate if the airman has not reached age 40 on or before the date of examination. *


What do I need to pass an FAA medical

The FAR’s (Federal Aviation Regulations) list the requirements for each type of Medical Certificate.

You can find these here:

Here is a summary of what you need depending on the type of medical you need:

NOTE: this is just a quick overview, you should read the full FARs for more detailed information

Medical Requirements overview

Eye – With or without corrective lenses, distant Vision 20/20 for First & Second Class, distant vision 20/40 for Third Class, near vision 20/40

Ear, Nose, Throat, Equilibrium – demonstrate acceptable hearing, no disease that affects equilibrium

Mental – no personality disorders, psychosis, delusions, bipolar disorders, or substance abuse

Neurologic – no epilepsy, disturbance of consciousness, transient loss of control of nervous system, seizures

Cardiovascular – no heart attacks, heart disease, angina pectoris, or pacemakers

General – no diabetes, or anything else the examiner thinks will make you an unsafe pilot


So what happens if you are denied a medical certificate???

If you have reason to believe that your application should not have been denied, you can appeal.  The process is lengthy and may take several months (as does anything with the FAA).  FAR 67.409 talks about the appeal process.

What if you have reason to believe that you won’t pass an FAA medical???  Are you doomed to be a ground dweller forever?

Not exactly.  If you have never been denied an FAA medical certificate, you can become a Sport Pilot.  The Sport Pilot Certificate allows you to fly small aircraft that are classified as LSA’s or Light Sport Aircraft.  These airplanes have several restrictions, but for the most part, these are:

Cannot weigh more than 1,320lbs

Cannot have the ability to fly faster than 120 knots (about 139 mph)

Cannon carry more than one passenger

To find out more about LSA’s and Sport Pilot Certificates, Click Here (

Medically, you still have to be fit to fly, however, you only need a current driver’s license to prove this.

How often do I need to get an FAA Medical exam

Because the rules the duration of FAA Medicals have gotten so complex, the FAA has come up with this table (  to help you figure out how long your medical will be valid:

Where do I get an FAA Medical

To search for a nearby medical examiner, you can search for one on the FAA website:

However, since every AME (Aviation Medical Examiner) is different they have some latitude in determining whether you meet the requirements or not, be sure to ask some local pilots who they recommend.

How much does an FAA Medical cost

Each medical examiner will set his/her own price for each type of medical certificate.

My experience has been that they cost in the range of $95 – $140.

Are you ready to find a Flight School? Check out this info:
find flight instructorflight school hidden fees
Feb 152012
Glacier Flying in Alaska

Hello fellow Flyers!

I just got back from a flight with my instrument student and I wanted to share with you a topic that came up right before the flight.  The weather was kind of dicey with broken clouds and the surface temperature 10deg C above freezing.  Rob (my student) debated whether to cancel the flight or take a risk in spending money on a flight in which we migh have to turn right back if we started to pick up any ice. 

We ended up going for about an hour long flight, popping in and out of clouds.  He learned some good lessons , but it started me thinking:

With the soaring costs of flying today, how can you plan your budget if you decide you want to become a pilot?

The short answer is: It depends.

Do you just want to get your private pilot certificate OR do you want to eventually have a career as a pilot?

If you want to become a pilot for recreational purposes, you can get your pilot’s license for anywhere from $4,000 – $10,000.  This figure varies, but it mostly depends on you.  Some people take 2-3 months, others take 2-3 years.  Obviously the longer you take, the more it’s going to cost.

If you want a career as a pilot, however, you’re going to need to spend a tad more than that.  I’m talking between $40,000 – $200,000.  That’s almost a quarter of a million dollars to become a professional pilot!

“Why such a huge range”, you ask? 

Three reasons:

1. Initial Cost of Flight training (~ $30K – $80K):  The  very, very minimum you need in order to be allowed to get paid to fly is about 250hrs of flight time.  Even if you use an average cost of $120/hr, that amounts to $30,000!  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because with only 250 hours, no one is going to hire you as a pilot.  Would you hire a pilot with only 250 hours of flight time to fly your loved ones around?  I didn’t think so.

2. Need of a College Degree (~$20K – $80K):  In today’s competative industries, no one hires without a college degree.  I know of great pilot with thousands of hours of flight time, including time in Boeing 737′s, that is working as a non-pilot because no one will hire him without a college degree.

3. Time-building Phase of a pilot’s career ($0 – $50K): No one will hire you with only 250hrs of flight time, which is what you end up with after getting all your certificates that allow you to work as a pilot.  To get those coveted pilot jobs (airline pilot, corporate pilot, cargo pilot), you will need THOUSANDS of hours of flight time.  While you don’t have to pay for these hours if you work at entry-level pilot jobs, you will be making very close to minimum wage while you build up your flight time.  These 2-10 years can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars since you will probably be taking out debt (credit cards, loans, etc.) just to make ends meet.  Additionally, unless you paid for your flight training out of pocket, you will be making payments on your student loans with thousands of dollars in interest.

So, really, the only way it makes sense to pursue a pilot career is if you don’t give up until you are making enough money to have your flight training be worth the cost.  This requires a lot of determination, passion, discipline, and a little bit of luck!

For more information on how to become a pilot, check back often for weekly posts and don’t forget to read some of my articles to the right.

Tell me what you think by leaving a comment below!

I want to know what type of pilot YOU want to be?  What are YOUR plans for financing your flight training?

Feb 092012
Sunset Flying Photo

Did you know that more than 80% of people who start taking flight lessons never receive their pilot certificate? 

It’s not particularly difficult to learn to fly, so why such a high drop out rate?

The reason is because most people who want to learn to fly go into it blindfolded.  They don’t know all the requirements, don’t know what to expect, and fail to ask the right questions because they don’t know what questions to ask.  A private pilot course is NOT like a typical class where you show up, study some material, and then get your certificate.  Most classes have very structured programs to train you in whatever you want training in.  Most flight schools, however, are not structured that way.  It is up to your flight instructor to decide what to teach you, when to teach you,  and how to teach you.  Instructors with little experience in teaching, often as young as 18-20 years old, are technically qualified to teach you to fly, but, while they are excellent pilots, lack the experience of actually transferring their knowledge onto you.

The PilotTrick of the day is:
One of the first things someone should take a look at when they want to become a pilot is the Practical Test Standards.  This is a document, published by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), delineating everything you will be tested on during your practical test for a pilot’s certificate.  Most student pilots, however, don’t even know this exists until about a week before their test.  The PTS’s can be found online on the FAA website.

If you want to pursue your dream of flying, stay tuned for weekly posts and future articles on how to become a pilot.  Whether you want to feel like an eagle in the sky, crave to operate the world’s most cutting-edge technology, or just want to get somewhere fast, becoming a pilot is not as difficult as it may seem.

If you’re a student pilot right now, tell me what is the most difficult thing about learning to fly for you?  I would love to hear from you and perhaps you can share some of YOUR PilotTricks!

Feb 032012
Flying in Piper Senca

People want to learn to fly for one of three reasons (or a combination):

  1. To become a commercial / professional pilot
  2. To become a recreational pilot
  3. For transportation purposes that are incidental to a business

Some people love aircraft so much, they want to figure out a way to get paid to fly.  So, they work hard and pursue life as a professional pilot.  Whether it’s working for an airline, being a crop-duster pilot, flying fighter jets, or taking people on scenic flights, some of us just want to get paid to do what we love to do.

Other people are just in love with the beauty of flight and the freedom they experience up above the clouds.  Maybe they never got the opportunities to pursue a career in flying, but it’s always been one of their dreams.  Others are in love with the technology that makes flight possible, but consider it a hobby and don’t want to turn a hobby into a “job”.  These are recreational flyers.

There is also a third group of pilots that exhibit a little of both of the above traits.  They are business owners, entrepreneurs, or successful professionals with little patience of ground highway traffic.  They know they’re smart enough to operate and airplane and would rather fly to a meeting or conference in a fraction of the time than it would take to drive there.  These smarty pants also know that an expensive hobby, such as flying, can easily be used as a business expense if they use it for business-related purposes.

In any case, all pilots share a common trait – when we get back on the ground from a flight, it doesn’t take long for us to start thinking of the next time we’ll get to go up again.

Your PilotTrick of the day is:
If you’re thinking of becoming a pilot, it’s imperative that you know which of these three categories you fall into.  Knowing this little tidbit could save you thousands of dollars because which flight school and/or flight instructor you choose depends on which of these type of pilots you want to be.

Now, I want to hear from you awesome flyers and flyer-wana-be’s out there!  Please leave a comment below and tell me what type of pilot do YOU want to be?