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"I've slipped the surly bonds of earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings".
(J.G. Magee) So you want to be a pilot.

Being a pilot can either be a career goal or a hobby; but you can become a highly-paid professional, and that's hard to turn down unless you already make buckets of money. Job opportunities are opening every day, and as technology progresses, flight becomes more and more common.

Of course, after the September 11th fiasco airlines started laying people off, but it's just a matter of time before the industry rebounds. Companies like WestJet in Canada are buying (not leasing) 10 new 737s per year... and that's not something you could shake a stick at. Another thing to note is that 70% of the pilots out there are over 45 years old. That means that within the next 5-15 years, there will be massive amounts of retirees and there will be a large shortage of pilots.

I once read a magazine article in MacLeans that said "If every flight school in North America pushes out new pilots at full capacity with a zero percent failure rate, there will still be a shortage of pilots in 2010." Once again, this prediction was made before 9/11 so it is now something mor like 2013 or 2015 or so.

Learning to fly is like driving a car, and is mainly memorization. In some ways it is actually easier than driving a car. There's a lot more switches and buttons in a plane than a car, and there's a lot more "rules of the road" to remember... Having good spatial awareness is also a bonus, as you will now be driving your vehicle... in 3D! That's right, the extra dimension of up and down makes flying just a tad different than driving a car.

Operating an airplane is a lot more expensive than operating a car. You can drive your car with a half-flat tire and a rusted-through door, but an airplane with even the slightest problem can mean death to you and your passengers. Helicopters are also know as one of the most expensive vehicles to operate, minute by minute. Because of this, your flight training is going to be expensive. To get a full training and all the little add-ons such as a Night Endorsement, Jet Rating, Multi-Engine rating, Mountain endorsement, etc. etc. it will cost you about $30,000CA for a fixed wing aircraft and about $60,000CA for helicopters. You can get a student loan, however, and banks loooove loaning pilots money! If you don't want to make a career for yourself, you can just get a Private license (for recreational use) and that runs about $7,000CA for fixed-wing aircraft and about $10,000 for a helicopter. There is an excellent writeup done on the costs of flying.

One of the biggest excuses for not flying (as a hobby) is that it will "get boring after a while," much like many other hobbies in our lives. When I first started at my flight school, they handed me a little scrap of paper when I brought up the same concern. It was a photocopy of a letter, recipients and writers unknown, and then photocopied umpteen times.

"I am delighted and honored that you wrote me with your question about the thrill of flight dying down over time. Over the years I've flown extensively both on pleasure and in the course of business.

With family and friends I've piloted light airplanes to the out-islands of the Bahamas for snorkeling, and to Gimli, Manitoba to witness a total solar eclipse. I've flown to Nantucket Island off Cape Cod, Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California, and to Mackinac Island at the confluence of the Great Lakes.

I've flown with my family over the Grand Canyon and through Monument Valley, gone sight-seeing over Manhattan, and viewed the U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument from above while landing at Washington National Airport.

Several years ago I flew my family to Alamosa, Colorado to ride the Cumbres and Toltec steam railroad over the Continental Divide. We've been to Tombstone, to Santa Fe, to San Deigo. This spring my wife and I visited friends at a remote ranch in the beautiful mountains near Nogales, Arizona.

For years while living in Central Indiana we flew every holiday to Northern Illinois and Wisconsin to visit relatives. Bundled up with our holiday gifts in a Piper Cherokee or Cessna 172 we cruised right over Chicago and all the holiday traffic below.

I haven't yet mentioned the flying I've done for business, like from Indiana to Washington, DC in three hours. Columbus was an hour and a half, Buffalo and Kansas City, two and a half.

I also haven't mentioned the beautiful sights I've seen from the air, like the glow of snow-covered fields at night, the glory of sunset over city lights, and circular rainbows atop layers of stark white clouds.

By now I suspect that you're either impressed as heck or laughing hysterically. But I have to tell you, after all those years of flying, I still get the same big thrill with every takeoff.

Flying is great adventure, yet very safe if you use good judgement. I've grown immeasurably through the experience, and have had the joy of introducing flight to innumerable friends and associates over the years. And among the greatest pleasures has been meeting the caliber of people who participate in this activity. Those who fly for pleasure and personal business are an independant and successful lot. I've made my training money back many times over through business contacts made through general aviation.

There are indeed people who fly for a few years and stop. Usually it's because they either don't experience the joy, or they don't perceive that they have enough travel destinations. But if you talk to such folks you'll find that even
they rarely have any regrets about having done it.

Incidentally, despite all my enthusiasm I must predict one disappointment you will experience once you've learned to fly. No kidding, you'll be sorry that you didn't start flying years sooner!"

Though a bit cheesy, it convinced me. Let it convince you too.

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