May 22, 2005
Anytime is a great time to start learning to fly. Magazines and newspapers tend to think the spring is best as they run more articles about learning to fly in the spring. The current issue of Private Pilot Magazine features a cover story about learning to fly. Today, the Chicago Tribune's Transportation section featured a nice article by Chuck Green titled "Taking a flier" that explained what it takes to earn a pilots license.
The article features a few student pilots that are working towards becoming private pilots. Some students are flying once or twice per month while others are trying to get out two to three times per week. In my experience flying 2-3 hours per week keeps you from forgetting what you learned and helps you progress to earning your license more efficiently. By flying 2-3 times per week I was able to pass the flight exam in just 7.2 hours over the minimum required by the FAA. One should not pass on learning to fly if they cannot dedicate the time or money to fly 2-3 per week but should realize it may end up taking more flight hours and instructor time because they forget some of what they learned between lessons. Therefore there overall costs may be higher in the end if training is more spread out.
Speaking of the costs it takes to become a Private Pilot, the article quoted the national average of $5,000 to $8,000. I think the average cost estimated by BeAPilot.com of $4,500 to $6,000 is more accurate if you can dedicate enough time and money to fly at least once a week. It cost me $4536.74 to earn my license.
One of the pilots featured in the article, Jerry Hermes, is quoted saying "I don't think there ever is a right time to earn a license. Even now, I'm getting married in June and we're going to buy a home so obviously, economically, this is probably isn't the greatest time to do it. But, is there ever a right time to do something like this?" He is right, if you truly have your heart set on learning to fly get out there and take an introductory flight to see if it is right for you. BeAPilot.com offers a discounted rate for an introductory flight. Print of the certificate and get out there!
On a beautiful and clear Friday evening I met Aaron an instructor with Windy City Flyers at their Palwaukee Airport offices.
We briefly reviewed my Chicago sectional and my newly purchased Chicago VFR terminal area chart. On the sectional Aaron showed me all the best airports in the Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin area. He was sure to point out the best airport based restaurants as well. After that we looked at the terminal area chart for Chicago which shows the Chicago area in greater detail.
On the terminal area chart we looked closely at the Chicago O'Hare Airspace. We decided we would fly down the Chicago skyline so we looked at how we could accomplish this flight while staying below O'Hare airspace.
Next we went out to the Cessna 172 Skyhawk SP. This was the nicest plan I have flown to date. It was relatively new, well maintained and even had some nice equipment including GPS navigation.
Shortly after completing the preflight of the plane we departed on runway 34, Palwaukees longest runway. Of course flying the Skyhawk we were airborne shortly after starting our takeoff run. As we turned east towards Lake Michigan we had a great view of the Chicago skyline to our south. We climbed up to 2,500 feet which gave us 500 feet above us before we would cross through the floor of the O'Hare airspace. After a few minutes we were over the lake and I turned us south towards the city.
It was great flying over Northwestern University, Wrigley Field, and Navy Pier on our way to the city. The view of the city from a small plane at 2,500 feet was beautiful. I loved looking out the window to see the Chicago River winding through the city. Next we flew over what used to be Meigs field. You can still clearly make out where the runway used to be. I wish Meigs was still active.
We then decided to head down to the Gary International Airport for a touch and go. With a stiff cross wind I was blown outside of the optimal flight path through the pattern but ended up making a decent landing. Though you could tell it had been a few weeks since I had flown last.
After a touch and go we headed north past Chicago and back to Palwaukee airport. I logged a very memorable 1.4 hours that night. I am excited to get back up soon to explore more of the Chicago area from the skies.
May 19, 2005
"Last week one pilot made headlines, the other 588,656 did not" is the headline of an advertisement the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) ran in Wednesday's USA Today and Roll Call, the primary newspaper on Capitol Hill. This ad of course refers to last weeks Washington D.C. airspace violation by two general aviation pilots in a Cessna 150.
The rest of the ad which can be viewed on the AOPA website goes on to talk about all the organization has done to ensure pilots safely navigate the complex airspace restrictions established aften September 11, 2001. The article talks about the temporary airspace flight restrictions (TFRs) e-mails that are sent out to AOPA to members within range of the TFRs. They sent almost 5 million of those messages last year alerting pilots of restricted airspace. Safety is very important to AOPA so much so that it connected with 327,222 pilots and flight instructors last year through its online and live seminars.
If you have not read the advertisement yet download the PDF now from the the AOPA site.
I have scheduled my first flight time in Chicago. Based on some great feedback from a variety of my readers about great places to rent planes from and get continuing education I have chosen to fly with the Windy City Flyers out of Palwaukee Airport this Friday.
I am going to spend some time with the instructor reviewing the airspace around Chicago as it is much busier than what I am used to. I also plan on reviewing my procedures for a controlled field as it has been a while since I have flown out of a field with an active control tower. I think tonight I might pull out some of my trusted Sporty's Private Pilot DVDs.
In addition to some suggestions to check out the Windy City Flyers I received some great tips on flying out of Midway. I am definitely going to have to evaluate some Midway operations as well before I chose a home base airport. There is plenty of time to choose my new home airport. For now I am just excited to get back up in the air.
May 12, 2005
Mayor Daley irked many General Aviation pilots when he closed Meigs Field in the dead of night a little over two years ago. The Mayor stated the lakeshore airport was closed for post 9/11 security concerns. His story fell apart shortly thereafter when Tom Ridge, then Homeland Security Secretary, said that his agency had never been consulted about Meigs Field airport and that he was personally disappointed that the airport had been destroyed. Additionally, the Transportation Security Administration has stated that it doesn't consider general aviation airplanes and airports like Meigs to be security threats in and of themselves.
I am sad to say the mayor is at it again. Thanks to my fellow aviation enthusiast Matt at "It Came From Black Background" for the tip on this article. A recent CBS Chicago Online article quoted Daley "We need the same protection as Washington, D.C.�, referring to the general aviation flight restrictions over the nation's capitol.
Luckily I don't believe the mayor can pull off implementing such stringent restrictions. Unlike closing an airport in the middle of the night which he was able to covertly pull off on his own he will need support of government agencies if he wishes to impose stiffer flight restrictions for Chicago airspace. I feel confident that the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and its many members can block such changes.
May 11, 2005
A General Aviation aircraft that flew into restricted airspace today was the cause of an evacuation of the U.S. Capitol and White House. Military F-16 fighter aircraft intercepted the Cessna 150 and fired four warning flares. That surely got the pilots attention and will likely require them to make a dry cleaning run. From there Cessna was escorted to Fredrick Municipal Airport were the two pilots were taken into custody.
One of the two pilots was a student pilot. According to the Chicago tribune the Student Pilots wife stated "Troy was discussing with me last night after they made their flight plans all about the no-fly zones and how they were going to avoid them. He said they were going to fly between two different restricted areas."
I would imagine that these pilots may be grounded for a long time if not permanently.
May 9, 2005
I recently moved to Chicago to Chicago. As a pilot I was sad that I was moving to Chicago too late to take advantage of the great Meigs Field that was closed over a year ago by Mayor Daley. You can read all about Meigs Field and efforts to re-open Meigs at FriendsofMeigs.com. I was curious what the good general aviation airports in Chicago would be and whether there were preferred Fixed Based Operators to rent from.
I received some great feedback from some of my readers via posts and e-mails. I have also received several offers to go flying with some chicago based pilots. I have consistently said that there is a neat bond between pilots and in relocating to Chicago I have experienced that phenomenon once again with the generous offers from Chicago Pilots.
Between unpacking from the move and a busy first week at the new job I have not been able to go flying yet but look forward to getting up in the air soon. Thanks to everyone that sent in some suggestions!