I'm a recent joiner of EAA, although I have a decades-long love of flying. I've been reading Kitplanes for almost as long as it has been publishing. I'm 57 and have finally reached the stage in my life where it's possible to fulfill my pilot dream. What follows is a brief description of my experience as a student pilot.
I asked for a Discovery Flight for my birthday last November and my wife was so sweet to get it for me. I live in Manhattan and did the flight out at Republic at Long Island. In the following two months, I managed to accrue a total of 3.1 hours in my log book. Between trying to find time on weekends and crummy weather, it was very frustrating.
Then a miracle/disaster happened. The very large bank laid me off. I found myself with time on my hands. I decided that the right thing to do was to go down to Florida and train intensively. I located a school I liked and made the arrangements. My wife and I drove down to Florida, we went to visit her mom, I dropped her off at the airport and, for the next week, it was me, my instructor and the airplane. Well, at least until my job hunt got in the way.
In about a week, I managed to add 22 hours in a 172. This got me to the point where I was getting started on landings. I also mastered VOR navigation and got much of my hood time as well as about half my dual cross-country. I also learned the other maneuvers (stalls, slow flight, steep turns, ground reference). I flew out of both towered and non-towered airports. Then I headed back up to New York to get back to the job hunt.
About three weeks later, I got a job offer. So I arranged to start in two weeks and booked a flight back to Florida. I had nine days booked. I wanted to try out the school 152 and, after seeing if I fit (barely), I got my chance. I fell in love with the little Cessna and we resumed where we left off, mostly working on a mix of everything, with an emphasis on pattern work. About four days in, I was reliably landing the airplane. That's not to say they were great landings. Some were pretty good and they were all safe, but my instructor wanted me to be smoother and more consistent. This and the weather delayed my solo until the next-to-last day. On that day, conditions weren't great, so we stayed at the towered airport (KFPR) where the school is based. KFPR has both 10L and 10R runways. 10L has no taxiways connecting it to the rest of the airport, so we departed on 10R and entered the pattern for 10L where we practiced. Then my instructor told me it was time. I dropped him off, and soloed! I only got one time around as it was actually beginning to rain on final. I made my best landing yet, picked up my instructor and we headed back to 10R and the FBO where I got my shirt cut.
It was just as satisfying as everyone told me it would be. And something else happened. I'm still a student, but I'm at a different level, no longer in doubt of my basic abilities. The next day we had scheduled a pre-dawn start to get in some night flying, but the weather had other plans. So I reluctantly headed back up to New York. I have almost 50 hours in my log.
This past weekend, I got an hour in a 152 out on Long Island and it felt great. I did three crosswind landings. I'm back to work, so I'm limited to weekends. That's terribly frustrating. If one has the time, training intensively is enormously rewarding. Without distractions and with the time to really work on things, you can accomplish a lot in a short amount of calendar time.
I still need to do my night flying, some more hood work and do my solo cross-country. I really want to complete this by the end of June. We'll see.
By the way, I did my studying on my iPad. I used Sporty's iPad app and I bought an e-book copy of the Jeppesen course. I also read Say Again (which I highly recommend). I got the written test endorsement via the Sporty's app, so I can take the written at any time.
Now let's talk cost. All told, I'm about $10K into it. I expect to spend about another $2K exclusive of the checkride, which, it turns out matches what I've been told. One word of advice I have for students when shopping schools is to enquire whether there is a fuel surcharge. The school in Florida was very upfront about this. The one out on Long Island didn't mention it and I found out about it when I got the bill for the day. Also, I have about $500 in other expenses (books, charts, kneeboard, E6B, headset, checklists, POHs, etc.).
I'm really looking forward to completing my training. After that, I might look for a share in an airplane so that I can build time. To be honest, my biggest handicap is where I live. Getting to any airport with training or rental aircraft is a pain given the traffic. This will persist so long as I continue to live here. Florida really spoiled me. There are airports *everywhere*. I'd also like to pursue an instrument rating as soon as possible.
Well, that's my story so far.