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Part II: Did You Ever Want to Learn How to Fly?


The spectacular view from the cockpit of Diamond Aircraft’s DA20-A1. Courtesy of Diamond Aircraft Industries.You are a prime candidate for flight school if, like me, you have never understood why National Geographic doesn’t forget the rest of the world and do one long forever feature on exploring the North American wilderness through a cockpit windshield.

 

Recreational Permit

Regulations can be good – more control, less to fear. The Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S. (FAA), and Transport Canada (an arm of Canada’s federal government), regulate all types of manned flights in their respective countries. There are more than a few different categories of licensing and you can choose to be licensed for anything from flying a glider (soaring) to a helicopter. Helicopter training will cost you about double what learning how to fly a single-engine airplane will. Learning on a glider will be less.

Here's the deal on putting yourself in the pilot's seat of a single-engine airplane. The simplest method is a Recreational Pilot Permit: Aeroplane Category. This license allows the holder fewer privileges than a private pilot license, but it is less costly and less time consuming. To be eligible for this permit, only 25 hours of training are required to take a flight test. You must be at least 16 years of age and submit a self-declared medical record co-signed by your personal physician. The self-declared medical record is less expensive than the physical required for a private pilot's license.

One of the major drawbacks of this permit is that you will be flying lonely – you are not licensed to carry passengers. This permit will suit the very casual flyer. The hours and experience gained can later be transferred for credit when training for the private pilot license. The Recreational Pilot Permit: Aeroplane Category will set you back upwards of Cdn. $2,500.

Private Pilot License

The ice breakup over Lake Huron makes for a dramatic flight setting. Courtesy of Diamond Aircraft Industries.The next step up, and probably a better idea in the long run, is the private pilot license, with its minimum age requirement of 17 and a Canadian Aviation Medical examination by a Transport Canada approved practitioner. Although the medical is not required at the time you begin your flight training, most flying schools ask that you take the medical before you begin. They say it will save you time and money. For the private pilot license you will need a minimum of 45 hours training, broken down to a minimum of 17 hours with an instructor (dual) and 12 hours solo (flying by yourself). A ground school course of at least 40 hours is also required. When you are deemed proficient, you will write an exam and take a flight test. The flight test must be in daylight on a single engine aircraft and in visual conditions where you can see the ground at all times. These are the conditions you are licensed to fly under. You cannot fly seaplanes, gliders or jets until you get the required additional add-on ratings. The private pilot license allows you to literally take your friends for a ride in your single engine plane, and you can suggest that they share expenses. Though you are not allowed to fly for hire or compensation, you can take your Canadian aircraft across borders and your license is recognized anywhere in the world.Add-on ratings that you can qualify for with additional training include VFR-Over the Top (for flying over and between cloud layers), night flying endorsement, instrument flying endorsement (bad weather flying), ski and floatplane endorsements (for operations on snow or water), multi-engine endorsement (for aircraft with more than one engine) and instructor rating (in case you want to teach others how to fly).

Private Pilots Get Physical

Don't worry about this one unless you're as blind as a bat during daylight or you turn into a no brain sex maniac at night. Less than one percent of all applicants have been turned down. You must have reasonably corrected vision and under some circumstances an absence of color blindness. Additionally, you must be in good enough health that you don't pose a risk to the safe operation of the aircraft. If you can pass the test for your driver's license you're a shoo (fly) in. If you're under 40, the medical is valid for 24 months. If you're over 40, you're valid for 12 months. After those time periods you must revalidate by taking another medical.

Take off at Private Pilot School

Canadians take to the sky as easily as ducks to water. Canada has the second biggest civilian pilot population in the world with 60,000 Canadians licensed to fly, and the second biggest population of flyers (civilian, commercial and military) in the world. There are more than 250 flight training schools and clubs located in airports and flying fields across Canada. Your choices are wide, so try to pick a school that's convenient for you to get to. And make sure they are willing to rent you that plane once you have your license. Individual flight lessons last between one and one-and-a-half hours. You'll also spend about 45 minutes with your instructor before and after each flight. This time includes pre- and post-flight briefings, a weather briefing and a pre-flight inspection of your aircraft. When you're in the air, you'll be flying at a speed of around 212 kilometers per hour (KPH) – no cop is going to pull you over and give you a ticket.

A student gets walked through a pre-flight check by an instructor. Courtesy of Diamond Aircraft Industries.The minimum hours for your private license that you'll be laying your cash on the runway for go like this: 45 hours of flight training that include 17 hours of dual instruction flight time. The 17 hours of dual include three hours cross-country and five hours instrument flight training. The 12 hours of solo include five hours solo cross-country, with a flight of not less than 150 nautical miles, and must include two full stop landings at points other than departure. You'll also get three hours of flight test preparation.

Keep your feet on the ground and grab your books because you'll also be attending 40 hours minimum of ground school. At ground school you will learn about navigation, meteorology, air regulations, aerodynamics, flight instruments, and theory of flight and human factors including pilot decision making.

The Cost of Flying

Experts say that learning to fly that single-engine aircraft competently is a skill that differs with each individual. Like anything else, people catch on at different speeds. The consensus is that although only 45 hours of flight training is needed to complete the flight training for the private pilot license requirements, most people need more. Different schools require between 45 and 60 hours of flight time. Costs vary, depending on natural ability and how much effort you put into studying and training. A rule of thumb is that the more frequent your training schedule, the less time and money you'll have to spend to get that license. Taking your schedule into consideration, you can count on your bank account being Cdn. $4,500 to $7000 lighter – to make the sky your personal flying freeway and tuck your private pilot license into your wallet. Most schools try to make it easy for you and don't make you pay up front – you can pay as you go. Also remember that after you've got that license to the sky you'll be itching to rent a plane to go on those adventures so budget some loonies for that too. The Time & Money Factor

The amount of time this will cost you is totally up to you, but most flight schools recommend flight lessons twice a week, without interruption, allowing completion of flight training for the private license in about six months (45 hours of flight training). If you go twice a week, you'll probably be flying solo after six weeks of training. If you can only make it once a week, you'll be hanging around the hangars for up to 10 months. If you're on holidays, or between jobs and can manage your flight training and ground school full time, you can get your wings, including taking the written and flight tests, in a short six weeks. When a flying school gives you its ballpark figure (usually around Cdn. $4,500 and up) for getting you that private pilot license, it is basing the fee on the individual completing the course in the minimum required time, approximately 45 hours. Keep in mind that the national average for completion to flight test standards is approximately 77 hours. So if you are taking longer to become proficient, don't think you're a dummy or that the flight school is trying to rip you off. Costs can be broken down like this: dual instruction with your instructor is approximately Cdn.$39 to $41 per hour for your teacher and $105 per hour for dual flight in the aircraft. Solo rate for the aircraft alone (Cessna C-152) is about $66 to $76 per hour for a Cessna C-172. This includes fuel.

Seaplane – Fly It

A float plane primed for takeoff on a glassy Yukon lake. Courtesy of Tincup Wilderness Resort, Yukon.A Seaplane is the ultimate adventure vehicle. With one of these you can almost walk on water. Amphibious floats allow you access to water, deserted beaches and uninhabited coastlines. Your choice of destinations increases dramatically with this option. If you already have your private pilot's license all you need to do is to add an additional single-engine sea rating to your license. Formal requirements for the sea rating are demonstrated in a practical test. These include maneuvers unique to water operations such as takeoffs and landings in different water conditions; approaching and leaving beaches, docks and ramps; maneuvering on the water at different speeds; and of course learning the rules of boating.

Tip: Canada is a flyer's deal. It has the cheapest prices for learning how to fly in North America and the Canadian loony's downward spiral has made it even more attractive. But if you need to stick closer to home, the same rules and basics apply.

When You Go:

For information on flying schools and clubs, visit your local airport and ask any flight school or certified flight instructor for an introductory flight, check your Yellow Pages and don't forget to surf the net (Aviation) – then get your old black leather flying jacket out. But keep your mind on the skyway. You can also find flight school information for the United States at www.aero.com.

If you want to learn on a state-of-the-art aircraft, or if you have your license and want to look at purchasing your own single-engine beauty, try Diamond Aircraft Industries and their sleek Canadian-built planes. For more information, visit www.diamondair.com or call 1-888-FLY-DA20 or 519-457-4000.

For information on visiting the Canadian wilderness, call Yukon tourism at 867-667-5340 or North West Territories Tourism at 800-661-0788.

A Diamond Aircraft DA20-C1 near Toronto Island. Courtesy of Diamond Aircraft Industries.

If you don't want to fly your own plane or get a license, call a PR firm specializing in adventure travel, like Spectacular Adventures in beautiful British Columbia. Visit www.spectacularadventures.com, call them at 604-925-8187, or email them at info@spectacularadventures.com.

The Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis) are best seen on clear nights from September through January. Eagle Nest Tours (Tel. or Fax: 867-874-6055) offers boat tours, canoe adventures and Northern Lights viewing.

For those who prefer cruising, Cruise West ships promise lots of nature sightings. The ships are small (the largest vessel carries 102 passengers) and the focus is the locale and destination rather than onboard amenities and activities. For more information, visit www.cruisewest.com or call 1-800-888-9378.

Add-on ratings that you can qualify for with additional training include VFR-Over the Top (for flying over and between cloud layers), night flying endorsement, instrument flying endorsement (bad weather flying), ski and floatplane endorsements (for operations on snow or water), multi-engine endorsement (for aircraft with more than one engine) and instructor rating (in case you want to teach others how to fly).

Private Pilots Get Physical

Don't worry about this one unless you're as blind as a bat during daylight or you turn into a no brain sex maniac at night. Less than one percent of all applicants have been turned down. You must have reasonably corrected vision and under some circumstances an absence of color blindness. Additionally, you must be in good enough health that you don't pose a risk to the safe operation of the aircraft. If you can pass the test for your driver's license you're a shoo (fly) in. If you're under 40, the medical is valid for 24 months. If you're over 40, you're valid for 12 months. After those time periods you must revalidate by taking another medical.

Take off at Private Pilot School

Canadians take to the sky as easily as ducks to water. Canada has the second biggest civilian pilot population in the world with 60,000 Canadians licensed to fly, and the second biggest population of flyers (civilian, commercial and military) in the world. There are more than 250 flight training schools and clubs located in airports and flying fields across Canada. Your choices are wide, so try to pick a school that's convenient for you to get to. And make sure they are willing to rent you that plane once you have your license. Individual flight lessons last between one and one-and-a-half hours. You'll also spend about 45 minutes with your instructor before and after each flight. This time includes pre- and post-flight briefings, a weather briefing and a pre-flight inspection of your aircraft. When you're in the air, you'll be flying at a speed of around 212 kilometers per hour (KPH) – no cop is going to pull you over and give you a ticket.

A student gets walked through a pre-flight check by an instructor. Courtesy of Diamond Aircraft Industries.The minimum hours for your private license that you'll be laying your cash on the runway for go like this: 45 hours of flight training that include 17 hours of dual instruction flight time. The 17 hours of dual include three hours cross-country and five hours instrument flight training. The 12 hours of solo include five hours solo cross-country, with a flight of not less than 150 nautical miles, and must include two full stop landings at points other than departure. You'll also get three hours of flight test preparation.

Keep your feet on the ground and grab your books because you'll also be attending 40 hours minimum of ground school. At ground school you will learn about navigation, meteorology, air regulations, aerodynamics, flight instruments, and theory of flight and human factors including pilot decision making.

The Cost of Flying

Experts say that learning to fly that single-engine aircraft competently is a skill that differs with each individual. Like anything else, people catch on at different speeds. The consensus is that although only 45 hours of flight training is needed to complete the flight training for the private pilot license requirements, most people need more. Different schools require between 45 and 60 hours of flight time. Costs vary, depending on natural ability and how much effort you put into studying and training. A rule of thumb is that the more frequent your training schedule, the less time and money you'll have to spend to get that license. Taking your schedule into consideration, you can count on your bank account being Cdn. $4,500 to $7000 lighter – to make the sky your personal flying freeway and tuck your private pilot license into your wallet. Most schools try to make it easy for you and don't make you pay up front – you can pay as you go. Also remember that after you've got that license to the sky you'll be itching to rent a plane to go on those adventures so budget some loonies for that too. The Time & Money Factor

The amount of time this will cost you is totally up to you, but most flight schools recommend flight lessons twice a week, without interruption, allowing completion of flight training for the private license in about six months (45 hours of flight training). If you go twice a week, you'll probably be flying solo after six weeks of training. If you can only make it once a week, you'll be hanging around the hangars for up to 10 months. If you're on holidays, or between jobs and can manage your flight training and ground school full time, you can get your wings, including taking the written and flight tests, in a short six weeks. When a flying school gives you its ballpark figure (usually around Cdn. $4,500 and up) for getting you that private pilot license, it is basing the fee on the individual completing the course in the minimum required time, approximately 45 hours. Keep in mind that the national average for completion to flight test standards is approximately 77 hours. So if you are taking longer to become proficient, don't think you're a dummy or that the flight school is trying to rip you off. Costs can be broken down like this: dual instruction with your instructor is approximately Cdn.$39 to $41 per hour for your teacher and $105 per hour for dual flight in the aircraft. Solo rate for the aircraft alone (Cessna C-152) is about $66 to $76 per hour for a Cessna C-172. This includes fuel.

Seaplane – Fly It

A float plane primed for takeoff on a glassy Yukon lake. Courtesy of Tincup Wilderness Resort, Yukon.A Seaplane is the ultimate adventure vehicle. With one of these you can almost walk on water. Amphibious floats allow you access to water, deserted beaches and uninhabited coastlines. Your choice of destinations increases dramatically with this option. If you already have your private pilot's license all you need to do is to add an additional single-engine sea rating to your license. Formal requirements for the sea rating are demonstrated in a practical test. These include maneuvers unique to water operations such as takeoffs and landings in different water conditions; approaching and leaving beaches, docks and ramps; maneuvering on the water at different speeds; and of course learning the rules of boating.

Tip: Canada is a flyer's deal. It has the cheapest prices for learning how to fly in North America and the Canadian loony's downward spiral has made it even more attractive. But if you need to stick closer to home, the same rules and basics apply.

When You Go:

For information on flying schools and clubs, visit your local airport and ask any flight school or certified flight instructor for an introductory flight, check your Yellow Pages and don't forget to surf the net (Aviation) – then get your old black leather flying jacket out. But keep your mind on the skyway. You can also find flight school information for the United States at www.aero.com.

If you want to learn on a state-of-the-art aircraft, or if you have your license and want to look at purchasing your own single-engine beauty, try Diamond Aircraft Industries and their sleek Canadian-built planes. For more information, visit www.diamondair.com or call 1-888-FLY-DA20 or 519-457-4000.

For information on visiting the Canadian wilderness, call Yukon tourism at 867-667-5340 or North West Territories Tourism at 800-661-0788.

A Diamond Aircraft DA20-C1 near Toronto Island. Courtesy of Diamond Aircraft Industries.

If you don't want to fly your own plane or get a license, call a PR firm specializing in adventure travel, like Spectacular Adventures in beautiful British Columbia. Visit www.spectacularadventures.com, call them at 604-925-8187, or email them at info@spectacularadventures.com.

The Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis) are best seen on clear nights from September through January. Eagle Nest Tours (Tel. or Fax: 867-874-6055) offers boat tours, canoe adventures and Northern Lights viewing.

For those who prefer cruising, Cruise West ships promise lots of nature sightings. The ships are small (the largest vessel carries 102 passengers) and the focus is the locale and destination rather than onboard amenities and activities. For more information, visit www.cruisewest.com or call 1-800-888-9378.