So, You Wanna Be a Pilot…

Welcome to the start of a life changing journey.  The scope of this mission for which you are about to embark, is without question greater than what you are anticipating.  Don’t despair, you can rise to the occasion, you can develop the skills to be a pilot, if you work hard and follow your passion, never give up and never stop learning.

Becoming a pilot is not like getting a drivers licence…it’s more like learning to ride a unicycle…on a tight rope…across a canyon…blindfolded.  Ok it’s actually not that hard, but there is a lot more to it than just hopping in the plane and flying.  Aside from the learned hands and feet skills of physically flying the airplane in 3-dimensional space, a pilot must understand the fundamentals of what is going on behind the scenes, in order to stay a few steps ahead of the airplane at all times.

The intelligent pilot understands how the wind beneath the wings creates lift, as well as the air above, the downwash behind and the relative airflow ahead.  A capable pilot must become an amateur aircraft mechanic, be in tune with the aircraft engine, understand how complex mechanical systems work to generate power and be able to troubleshoot problems in the air.

The adaptive pilot is a meteorologist, with the ability to read weather trends and predict how the elements will affect the safety and efficiency of the flight, where the winds are most in their favour and when the clouds are building against them.  The skilful pilot is an expert navigator, capable of tracking their exact position day and night using dead reckoning, visual landmarks and aeronautical charts and tools to determine their arrival time accurate to the minute.

The humble pilot understands the limitations of human physiology, anticipates mistakes before they are made and mitigates risk by knowing when it’s better to be on the ground wishing they were in the air, than in the air wishing they were on the ground.  The wise pilot is always learning, knows that they will never know all there is to learn, but strives to reach that point regardless on an endless path to reach their potential in proficiency.

Becoming a pilot is a shift in the way you live your life.  You walk out to your car and look at the sky and you wonder how high the clouds are, what type are they, how fast is the wind blowing them, how much more moisture can they hold before the reach their saturation point and begin to rain down…you no longer see the day as “sunny” or “cloudy”, it’s much more specific now, your questions go much deeper.

The skills you learn as a pilot are all encompassing and are far beyond the scope of getting a drivers licence.  Sure you must understand the law in aviation, just as you studied the rules of the road in driver training, but it goes far beyond Air Law to topics such as Meteorology, Navigation, Aero Engines, Theory of Flight, Aircraft Performance, and Human Factors to name a few.  Each of those topics can be broken down into sub topics and sub-sub topics and you could spend hours just learning about one small corner of that subject.  Aviation knowledge is a vast expanse of potential that you can tap into, it’s never ending and always changing, it’s mind blowing, it’s frustrating, it’s rewarding and it’s humbling all at the same time.

The journey to becoming a pilot does not start today and it does not end when you get your pilot licence.  Your journey started the first time you saw an airplane and it inspired you, and filled you with awe.  Many more crucial moments in your life lead you to this day where you begin your formal pilot training, and the days, weeks and years ahead will shape who you are as a pilot.  Your experiences, the people you meet, the skills you learn will all determine who you are as a pilot at any given moment.  There is no end to this journey, only the pilot you are right now, and the pilot you want to become tomorrow, and that journey will take you from one horizon to the next, always learning, always growing, always moving forward in life…as a pilot.

Welcome to the start of something amazing.  Be patient, be humble, pay attention and ask questions.  You will only get out of this what you put into it, that’s up to you to decide, what kind of pilot do you want to be?

Dave Kalistchuk
Chief Flight Instructor
Owen Sound Flight Services