Dylan Garrison: Learning to Fly

This past summer, I took on the challenge of earning my private pilot’s license through an online flight school and with the help of a certified flight instructor. Over the course of the semester, I went from knowing basically nothing about aviation to being able to fly completely on my own. Every bit of the experience was incredible, and from it I’ve gained a lifelong skill that I’ll be able to use for fun or maybe even a career with a little more training!

I had initially planned on focusing the first half of my semester (roughly five to six weeks) on ground school training, which consisted of roughly twenty to thirty hours of video instruction, and then spending the rest of my semester doing practical flight training. My goals for the course were to graduate from my ground school and complete my ground school test, log twenty or more hours of flight time (including solo flights and cross country flights), and finally to cap off the course by taking my practical flight test and earning my private pilot’s license. Of these goals, I was able to completely and successfully complete the first two, but time constraints and unforeseen circumstances prevented me from achieving my final goal of obtaining my private pilot’s license. I was, however, able to earn a student pilot’s license, and I plan on following up with my instructor to finish the last bit of my flight training intermittently throughout the fall semester, with hopes to earn my private license by the end of the year.

In terms of what was realistically achievable, I don’t believe that my original plans for the course were unrealistic by any means. I consulted with my flight instructor ahead of time to make sure that what I planned to do was feasible in the timeframe that I set out to do it. I likely would have met my goals on schedule had things run perfectly, so I guess that my biggest shortcoming in this course was failing to plan for the unknown and the unexpected and allotting myself enough time to recover should something major happen. Most notably, I got appendicitis the second week of the course and had to undergo emergency surgery that put me out of commission for a few weeks, but I put in some extra work once I started to recover in order to catch up on some of the time that I had lost. However, the surgery did prevent me from being able to get my flight physical done and take my practical flight test, which requires a physical for administration, at the end of the semester as I had hoped to do.

In hindsight, I wish that I had begun the practical flight training a little sooner. I expected the ground school work to almost act as a prerequisite for the actual flight training, but after doing each, I think it would have been more beneficial to me if I had begun both at around the same time (perhaps begin actual flight training in week three or four as opposed to after finishing the ground school work). Beginning the practical flight training sooner would likely have helped me to understand how to apply the material that I was learning in ground school to real situations a little better because the learning would be occurring simultaneously.

The coursework and in-flight training themselves were rather challenging, and no part of the learning process was easy by any means. Every bit of the course required my full attentiveness and effort.