Flying is a common sport in Montana. It provides an exhilarating feeling you have to experience to describe. Yet, it can be extremely dangerous if safety precautions are not strictly followed.
Bryan Feigum, 17, began his aviation training in June. He had trouble describing the sensation of flying, but he says, “I'm on top of the world” comes close.
Feigum grew up in a military family where planes and air shows were common. Watching pilots and planes show off for the crowds he says, “cinched it for me. Planes are pretty big part of my life now”.
He is very confident in the FAA guidelines to keep him safe. He believes, “I put myself in more danger driving to the airport than flying”.
Feigum is the pilot during lessons. He says his instructor, Vince Bakke, is there to make sure he doesn't screw up. It doesn't feel like work to Bakke. He loves the freedom and empowerment sensation. He says, “as soon as I’m up in the air I’m in my own environment. It’s a freedom not a lot of people get to experience”.
Flying helps a lot of people get from place to place in rural areas. Montana’s wide open spaces make flying a quick and efficient choice of transportation. Some of his students need their flying license just for business because driving takes too long.
Bakke advises looking for an aviation school like you are shopping for a car. He says be sure to check out the airplane, kick the tires, check for dips, and other things. If the airplane is not in good condition, for example it has duct tape on the wings, lots of dents, drippings, or anything like that, then walk away.
A plane used for instruction must be inspected once for every 100 hours of flying. Plus the student and instructor do a very thorough preflight inspection checklist before taking off. Bakke says, “if anything doesn't look right, you don't go flying”.
Plane accidents are rare. One reason is all the care taken to ensure instructors are properly qualified and the planes are in top condition. Bakke’s flight school, Cloud Catcher Aviation, LLC, is a certified 141 school which means they follow a syllabus with refined training above standard requirements. Bakke has the highest certification level of a flight instructor, Airline Transport Pilot. He has been flying since he was 17. He flew F-16s in the Air Force for 20 years. He also was an airline pilot off and on since 1999. Bakke says, “most accidents are caused by pilot errors”. In other words, the pilot isn’t taking proper care of his plane or checking everything prior to flight.
Preparing to fly a plane requires much more than putting your key in to start a car. Getting a flying license alone requires a one to two hour written test and five to six hour practical test.