Isn’t it almost mandatory when you’re a child to be fascinated by things, especially airplanes? I am pretty sure everyone as a child must have been at one point. I was one of those kids, but an obsessed one. It was not one of those typical desires to go to the airport and experience a flight. It was more of a ‘I want to be the person flying that machine’ kind. So much so I ended up obtaining an undergraduate in aerospace engineering, and here is an insight into my experience.
Many many moons ago (actually like 4 years) I went on an educational experience to the land of opportunities aka United States of America. I was still at university finishing off my engineering degree and one of my modules was pilot studies. There was a requirement in the module that I should have flown 20 hours in order to get my full credits. I had two options. One was to simply do the 20 hours in UK in a flying school or to go to US and do it. Option 1 was not feasible as it costs a lot of money to fly for an hour over in the UK. It’s the same as paying for your driving lessons but just multiply an hour of a driving lesson by 8 or more and that’s how much you would be paying for one hour of flying.
Option 2 then became a reality. Rather than doing the basic 20 hours I decided to obtain my private pilot license , PPL for short. I realised that if I was going to obtain my licence in the UK it would have cost me 3 times than what it would cost me in the US. I spoke to my parents and they supported me on this endeavour.
“Working for an hourly salary in a grocery store and they didn’t even hesitate to say no to it or to the costs of it. I may wish to have different things at times in life, but i always feel blessed to have my family. If you can relate to this then you are blessed like I am, and if you cannot you will soon enough”
So eventually summer 2013 I took off to an unknown town called Traverse City, Michigan. NMC (Northwestern Michigan College) had a partnership with my university and I attended their flight school. I had to take 2 flights to get to Michigan with a little stop over in Chicago. Traverse city was one of the most beautiful quaint little American town I’ve ever stayed in. It is on the bay of Lake Michigan.
The first 30 hours of my lessons was with an instructor of course. I was a little bit nervous on my first lesson and they told me it was normal to be nervous and some students were even sick during their first flight (what a way to put me at comfort). The first lesson I did was an observation lesson where I sat in the back of a Cessna and monitored how flying was done. I was actually enjoying the view outside of the plane more than anything. The next day was my first lesson with my instructor and my nervousness was still there. However i kept focus on the objective and I eventually grew out of it. Everyday my schedule was simply to wake up, fly, attend theory lessons and explore.
Eventually I learnt more manoeuvres such as emergency landing, stalls, altitude correction. For example the emergency landing manoeuvre would be where my instructor would cut the engine and tell me to do an emergency landing within a few minutes. Yes its scary but more fun than anything, once you’re comfortable. One of the most exhilarating experiences was that I was taking off and landing on a domestic airport where jetliners were landing everyday. It couldn’t get more real than that.
One of the important parts in the journey to become a private pilot or even an airline pilot is the first day you go solo. I was doing a routine take off and landing with my instructor and he suddenly tells me ‘You’re good to go now, land once more and I will get off the aircraft and sign you off to go solo straightaway’. I was so excited, happy and basically thought to myself ‘this is it’. Then I really took off to the skies all by myself flying over ‘Lake Michigan’ and its surrounding. From that day onwards till my final examination where I became an official private pilot the solo journey was the most exhilarating time.
In life there are some experiences and learning that stick with you forever. This is one of those experiences that will forever be in my heart and something that I will be proud of.