Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Flying — for fun, freedom: Obtaining private pilot's license can lead to lifelong hobby or career - American Wings Aviation at Bishop International Airport (KFNT), Flint, Michigan


Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 8:50 am 
by Tim Jagielo

Flint Twp. — The tail of the Cessna 150 bobs slightly under the power of the roaring propeller.

Anthony Atkinson, 26, of Waterford, formerly of Linden, sits with flight instructor Brian Kinney, preparing to take Atkinson’s last flight before his test on Tuesday. He’s only a few steps from obtaining his private pilot’s license.

The private pilot’s license is the first step to eventually obtaining a commercial license for some, or a gateway to a unique hobby.

A private pilot’s license holder cannot fly passengers for a fare, and they are limited to smaller single engine planes. They cannot fly through a cloud without their instrument endorsement, which allows them to fly without being able to see through the clouds.

American Wings Aviation owner and Brian’s father, Tim Kinney said for some, the license is practical, for others it’s for fun. “It’s a sense of motion, it’s little bit of a sense of freedom,” said Tim. “You’re flying down above U.S. 23, and you’re looking at all these poor guys trying to get to Toledo and they’re experiencing road rage.” Tim said when you fly, it’s just a smooth straight line.

“Once you get in the air, everything kind of slows down a little bit, so you get a wide range of speeds that you sense,” said Brian. “You’re kind of up there in the weather. If there’s any turbulence, you have to deal with the turbulence.”

For Atkinson and his flight, it’s clear for February, perfect for the trip to New Lothrop and Owosso. The trip will include short takeoff and landings, steep turns, simulated emergencies, slow flight, and flying by instrument using vision distorting glasses for part of the trip.

“This is just extra proof for him,” said Brian Atkinson already has 57 flight hours. Forty is the minimum and the Monday flight was just to hammer on his upcoming test one more time. It’s been a long trip for him — life and school have stretched what could be a few month process to six years. But he casually checks the plane before Brian arrives, and before leaving the classroom, he answers several scenario questions exactly.

This is the freedom of obtaining a license — some finish the course in as a little as a few months, other take longer.

To enter the private pilot’s license program, the applicant must take a medical exam through a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved physician. The applicant’s eyes must be correctable to around 20/20 vision, and they must be able to physically handle flight. Anyone with diabetes or taking blood thinners will have their records checked at the FAA Medical Center.

To take a solo flight, the student must be 16, and 17 to receive their license. A person over 18 can earn a commercial pilot’s license.

A minimum of 38 hours are required depending on the program, and it will cost at least $7,500, depending on the plane that is rented. The smaller Cessna costs $75 an hour to rent, and the larger plane costs $125. The instructor always costs $51 an hour.

Tim said most students pay as they go, and his school works with online colleges like Utah Valley University to give students credit toward a degree.

Flight school is comprised of a web-based component where students learn the basics, and they will immediately take that knowledge to the cockpit for a flight. Tim prefers that students work through the program steadily to retain their knowledge. Throughout the program, paperwork and documentation is kept up.

Assuming the student is old enough, has passed a written and oral exam, has reached the minimum hours, and has demonstrated they can successfully, consistently land the plane, they can take their final Check Flight.

This is comprised of two parts. The first includes the instructor flying along with the student. They take several maneuvers, which include many that Atkinson did on Monday. Then they land, drop off the instructor, and take their fist solo flight.

Atkinson has jumped through all these hoops because flying is a hobby he can keep up into his later years. His favorite thing is “the ability to travel and look at places with a different perspective.”

As expected, Atkinson passed his Check Ride, despite some choppy winds at higher altitudes. Now, he’ll use his license as a hobby, or way to get away from daily life. “It’s definitely something you should have on the bucket list, it’s seeing life from a different perspective, especially in a smaller aircraft,” said Atkinson.

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