Friday, December 26, 2014

Learning To Fly

The demand for airline pilots is about to "exponentially increase" over the next 20 years. That's according to one of the biggest names in the flight business: Boeing. In fact, Boeing officials predict they'll need more than 530,000 more airline pilots to meet the global need. Plus, the number of private pilots has declined 17% since 2003. So what does it take to start getting your pilot's license? To simply start learning!

Take it from Victor Gelking: you can fly at any age! In his 80's, Gelking is an area aviation legend with more than 30,000 hours in the skies and hundreds of student pilots who he's taught how to soar. But this humble instructor makes it clear: flying isn't as hard as it looks.

"Well it's kind of the fear of the unknown." He says, "People say, 'I could never do that!' Actually, flying is easier to do than driving. Just a little more skill involved."


"The most dangerous part of my job is driving from my home to the airport!" Gelking says with a hearty laugh. "Flying is a lot safer than driving."

And he proved that. What may surprise most people is the extensive work that has to be done on the ground before anything can happen in the sky. It's called the preflight check. You check everything on the aircraft to make sure it's running properly. Everything from the hinges, to flaps, the wings, rudder, gasoline, propeller and much more.

Gelking says, "This is why flying is safer than driving because we check everything before we fly."

As you start to get comfortable around the plane and inside of it, Vic is right - it's not nearly as foreign of a concept as it may seem. This is just the beginning for people like me, looking to fly the skies for recreation. And it's something that's more attainable than you think.

"When I solo someone, I enjoy the smile on their face! They're really proud of themselves when they solo. And it's not that hard, it really isn't. it's just the fear of the unknown," says Gelking.

To get your private pilot's license, you must have at least 40 hours, pass various solo flight tests, a written knowledge test and practical test. Through more hours in the sky, you work your way up getting different aircraft-type ratings. The bare minimum number of hours for a commercial license is 250, but major airline pilots have many more hours than that.

You can get your license through Vic's Aviation and Flight Instruction -- which is located at 1631 19th Avenue North, Fargo, ND 58102 - it's the building to the west of the Fargo Air Museum. You can call Vic to schedule a lesson at (701) 293-8362.

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