Who wants to learn to fly?

April 9th, 2008 by

It’s another aviation entry, so if you find this stuff boring, I guess you can go back to not being awesome.
I passed my CFI checkride on March 27, thus ending (or maybe just prolonging) the longest and most difficult period of studying and knowledge absorption of my life. The questions I am constantly answering now is “When are you going to be a commercial pilot?” and “So does this mean you can fly wherever you want now?”

I’ll do a not-so-quick super-general overview of the ratings you can get as a pilot in the most common order you will see them. If you are a pilot and I don’t get too specific with the descriptions, please don’t try to cite regulations and point out where I am technically incorrect. As of now, you probably don’t want to go toe to toe with me on Federal Aviation Regulations as I have still not gotten drunk enough to forget them and may smoke you with my voluminous knowledge. I’m making this simple so people who don’t fly can have a better understanding and can ask relevant questions to people who fly.

First, you’re a Student Pilot – this means you are being taught to fly by a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). You may be allowed to fly solo, but you can’t carry passengers and you have a bunch of other restrictions until you pass your first checkride, which is the…

Private Pilot – this means you are qualified to safely drive a single engine airplane. You can also get a multi-engine private pilot rating, which means you can fly multi-engine airplanes up to a certain weight. If you are a private pilot, you can fly wherever you want (as long as you aren’t getting paid to fly), with passengers, day or night (assuming the weather is clear and you follow all of the rules that apply to you). If you decide you want to fly in the clouds, you’ll need an…

Instrument Rating – This means you have been found competent to fly your airplane without any outside references (yes, when you are in a jet and you can’t see out the window, the pilots can’t either), and you can safely depart, navigate, and land in whatever weather you are dumb enough to fly through. The rating that (usually) comes next is the…

Commercial Pilot – This does not mean you fly a 737. You can get a commercial rating in a single engine Cessna or a twin Comanche or whatever you want. All a commercial rating really means is that you can legally be paid to fly. You have to do certain maneuvers to stricter standards and have a deeper knowledge of all relevant subjects that apply to the aircraft and type of flying you are doing. If you are a true glutton for punishment, you can decide to be a…

Certified Flight Instructor – this is the checkride I finished on the 27th, and contrary to popular belief, the bitch of it all is not the test itself, but the billion hours of study and practice that is required to prepare for the ride.

Here’s the daunting part of getting your CFI rating. You basically have all of the books and reference materials you have accumulated during your training for Private, Single engine, Multi-engine, Commercial, and Instrument ratings. This is a stack of books about 2 feet high, and you have to lug it around with you back and forth to the flight school for a month or two while you are training.

You and your instructor practice everything you need to know for your checkride (which, as far as I know is everything there is to know about General Aviation, and they throw in a couple of books about learning theory and how to teach) in the air and on the ground. You’ll go out and practice teaching your instructor how to do stalls and steep turns and whatnot. That dynamic is difficult to get used to.

You’re flying with the guy who taught you most of what you now know, and he has been instructing for six years or whatever. This translates to “You probably aren’t going to teach him much that he doesn’t already know, and if he has any feedback for you, it’s going to be about the stuff you screwed up.”

So by the time you take all of the written tests and get your endorsement to take the checkride with an FAA examiner, you have 4000 pages of reference material for aerodynamics, weather, regulations, systems, and teaching. In the interim 2 months, you have read and highlighted every page and neatly condensed it to a mere 3,761 pages of lesson plans.

The part that blew my mind was that a few days before my ride, I looked at that massive pile of books and realized that with the possible exception of certain parts of the FAR/AIM (big government publication that outlines every rule that applies to every part of flying every plane in every type of operation and airspace in the universe), someone could pick any book out of that pile, turn to any page in that book, and I could confidently teach a good 20-30 minutes on it from memory, and then I could bust out my lesson plans and teach/bore the living shit out of them for as long as they could sit there. I guess that’s when I had to admit to myself that I was as ready as I was going to get.

I’ll freely admit that when I started this process I honestly did not think that I was going to be able to get through it. I don’t know if it is a confidence thing or just the “no fricking way” feeling that came with realizing how much I had in front of me.

When it comes to self-doubt, there is no better feeling than proving yourself wrong.

After about seven hours of teaching and flying and teaching while flying, or “fleaching”, the FAA examiner assigned to me was satisfied that I could adequately give instruction in a multi-engine airplane without hurting or killing myself or anyone else. I was going to hug him, but he assured me that that was not on the checklist.

About three years ago, my dad (retired airline pilot) got his CFI rating and I went up with him the next day and my logbook was the first one he signed as a general aviation instructor. After my CFI checkride was done and I was blowing the ink dry on my temporary certificate, dad and I took off in the DA-42 and did a few maneuvers, making his logbook the first one I signed. Cheesy, but one of those things I’m very happy to have been able to do.

So now I’m going to be a flight instructor for a while and look forward to the next step in this aviation thing. I’ll be getting certified to teach instrument flying and single engine stuff, and eventually I’ll be at an airline. Don’t care which one, don’t care how much (or little) they pay, don’t care if I’m gone three weeks a month, don’t care if I get furloughed and have to go back to instructing, and I don’t care how hard it is to get wherever I’m going. I’ll be flying, bitches.

Check out my YouPube.com flying video (use your speakers, punks)-

33 Responses to “Who wants to learn to fly?”

  1. on 09 Apr 2008 at 6:49 pm cathy

    Awesome. Keep the flying posts coming.

    We have a saying at the flight center here in Stillwater, OK, “I fly planes, bitch.” It’s an excellent comeback to virtually anything. My friend tried to make a shirt out of it with some iron-on letters, but he was short an “s,” so his shirt reads “I FLY PLANE, BITCH.” He wears it like every day.

  2. on 09 Apr 2008 at 7:00 pm Claire

    Yeah, I’m adopted and I met my birth mother and she told me that on their first date my birth father took her up in his private plane and flew her over the town. From there I’ve surmised that pilots must be pretty slick with the ladies. I dunno, I’d still break a little off for a plastic surgeon first…

  3. on 09 Apr 2008 at 7:45 pm NotFlyingHole

    You make me proud in that way that still sort of cracks the shits, scuffs it’s sneaker in the playground dirt and says, “*I* could fly too if I wanted…”

    Instead of the humility of the daunting task you faced down and conquered, when are you going to turn into a real pilot and tell me that your the finest piece of meat on the rack?

    I’m holding out for that. Smooches.

  4. on 09 Apr 2008 at 8:01 pm Dave

    What you’re doing is so fundamentally awesome. That’s all I have to say.

  5. on 09 Apr 2008 at 8:12 pm Ken JP Stuczynski

    I am so happy for you. You are truly an inspiration of the ability of people to pursue their own happiness.

  6. on 09 Apr 2008 at 8:20 pm Jenny

    Great music choice. Also ‘grats on not wadding the plane or killing the instructor.

  7. on 09 Apr 2008 at 8:35 pm Megan

    Congratulations, Dusty.

  8. on 09 Apr 2008 at 8:42 pm Autumn

    Congratulations, Dusty! We’re all very proud of you.

  9. on 09 Apr 2008 at 9:43 pm Ralph Wiggum

    Good job! If it was 23 degrees, the heat was broken, and you could fly anywhere, couldn’t you have gone to some cities in Florida instead?

  10. on 09 Apr 2008 at 10:41 pm Rene

    Congratulations! I sort-of know the feeling. My father was a (airforce)flight instructor. He flew the T6 and P51 mostly. He taught me to fly when I was 10. Logged hours on Piper Cubs, Cessna 150’s, a Sud Aviation Horizon, and even 6 hours on a Piper Seneca II. Scared some passengers in the Seneca when I was left seat…

  11. on 10 Apr 2008 at 6:09 am Ross

    Way to go, Dusty! I knew you could do it.

    Now quit doing flyovers trying to catch me sunning on the back deck.

    Cheeky monkey.

  12. on 10 Apr 2008 at 7:20 am Ross

    Way to go, Dusty! I knew you could do it.

    Now quit doing flyovers trying to catch me sunning on the back deck.

    Cheeky monkey.

  13. on 10 Apr 2008 at 7:55 am Kathleen

    Congratulations. I have zero interest in flying, but find that when other people are passionate about something that it transcends my interests – which means I found this all very fascinating. Good luck!

  14. on 10 Apr 2008 at 8:23 am Phil

    Once…when I was drunk in a bar (ha…once..yah…) I was playing harmonica and the cute waitress came by to tell me I was pretty good and I yelled, spraying a little drunken spittle on her nametag, “I can WELD TOO!!”

    I think you definitely have a way better comeback with “I fly planes, bitches”

    Congrats on making it through the 7 Circles of Hell and getting your certs.

    Jax, FL

  15. on 10 Apr 2008 at 8:30 am Mikey Boy

    Sooo…..you gonna stay sober enough on your STX visit to go up with me on my commute to STT in a DA40….or are you going to stick with 222RD and Dougie Fresh?

  16. on 10 Apr 2008 at 8:39 am Damian

    The other question I get is “When will you fly the big planes?”…right…

    Congrats on the whole CFI, I’m finishing my CP exams (hopefully soon!) and want to commence my IP ground school in August 🙂

    Come fly in Africa some time!

  17. on 10 Apr 2008 at 8:47 am Seattle-Lite

    This is becoming the Dusty appreciation fanboard.

    YaYaYa, anybody can follow their dreams , quit their jobs and pursue happiness and fulfillment. Blah, Blah, Blah…

    It takes real guts to swallow that bile and return again everyday to have just a little bit more of your soul ground out of you to chase that paycheck.

    If we were supposed to be happy and free they would have mentioned it in some of this county’s incorporation documents.

    Oh yeah….

    You suck, but not because I’m jealous.

  18. on 10 Apr 2008 at 8:50 am Backwards Tulsa

    I almost freakin’ cried here at my work desk…I am so proud/happy for you! Thanks for taking the video – and your readers – on an amazing ride! CONGRATS!

  19. on 10 Apr 2008 at 10:17 am Ryan

    Nice work, Dusty!

    I thought of you on Monday when I took my first ride in a corporate Beach 1900. The pilot was pretty cool, but not as cool as you.

  20. on 10 Apr 2008 at 10:47 am Ender

    I’m proud of you bro. Not like you know me or anything, but I’ve been a faithful reader, and not just for humor and learning what not to do. You kinda sorta inspire me too. Keep your heart up in the clouds.

  21. on 10 Apr 2008 at 10:50 am jbird

    Life called, Dusty, and has issued a restraining order to keep your hands of his balls.

    Then Nike called and issued a “cease and desist” for taking their slogan too literally.

    Finally, your woman called to let me know the next time you were going to be flying for 3 hours or so. 😉

    – j

  22. on 10 Apr 2008 at 11:48 am Dave Jase

    Absolutely hilarious site. Congrats on the CFI. My double I checkride included a flock of empty- headed seagulls trying to fly thru my starboard prop on the ramp. The result was a Technicolor horror show that actually made the check pilot puke all over his brand new David Clarks. Keep your head in the clouds, brother!

  23. on 10 Apr 2008 at 3:32 pm HRT

    When I was a kid I always wanted to be a pilot. But then I decided that was entirely too much work. So now I think I really just want to be an airline passenger and leave the actual flying to the professionals.

    Kind of like what most people should do with singing. Leave it to the professionals.

  24. on 10 Apr 2008 at 4:18 pm nogooddaddy

    Man, did I need you last Friday. And not in the way that a man needs a woman or one blogger who may be curious needs one who clearly has experimented (me and then you, respectively), but more in a “Damn…I wish I had Dusty’s number” kind of way.

    Flying from POP to ATL on a 757, we diverted to AGS due to an apparent lack of fuel and abundance of bad weather over ATL. AGS has no customs and our pilot though he was timed out. My 5-year old needed to shit and I needed a drink. And you.

    I had visions of you swooping in to AGS, us kissing (one foot up, knee bent) and you taking us home to RDU.

    Yea…that was creepy, wasn’t it?

  25. on 10 Apr 2008 at 4:29 pm nogooddaddy

    However, in all seriousness, congrats. ILS impresses me a lot. As someone who passenges on planes about 4 times per month, I’m amazed by a pilot’s ability to fly (and land) in nasty weather and fog. I landed in ATL last week, and we popped out of the clouds seconds before we landed.

    Go for it. If you fly for Delta or Continental and I’m a passenger, I’ll buy you a drink or 2 when we land.

  26. on 10 Apr 2008 at 5:15 pm blackie

    Very impressive, great job man.
    I have much respect for anyone that choses to teach and does it well, then you go up and do it in a large metal tube with big metal sheets and spinny propeller to keep you magically in the air.
    You Fly That Plane, Bitch.

  27. on 11 Apr 2008 at 1:37 am Bayo

    Dusty, as one of many who have followed you through your periods of self-doubt and loathing all the way to the present day, all I can say is “well done”.

    Keep getting better and better, your capabilities are limitless.

  28. on 11 Apr 2008 at 2:44 am TLee007

    Dusty, I see that you’ve heard the usual “Congrats for this” stuff, so I’ll break the mold, just a bit.

    I wanted to say that, even though I’ve vowed never to fly again, panic like a wussy on a car-ride, and just seem anxious about everything, I’d probably ride with you in a plane. And, I want you to know that that’s saying a lot, as I can’t stand flying. It seems, for some weird reason, that you’d make it not so shitty of an experience.

    I guess there’s just a different level of bad-assedness in there that makes this accomplishment all that much sweeter for you.

    Don’t let go of this bitch until yuo’ve landed safely.

    “You may now unfasten your safety belts, and begin meandering around the cabin like lemmings.”

    God Speed man,

    Trent 🙂

  29. on 11 Apr 2008 at 9:04 am Pete

    Dood. Nice video.

    And nice job on cramming a million pages of crap into your head. It feels good, don’t it!?

  30. on 11 Apr 2008 at 9:59 am debbie


  31. on 11 Apr 2008 at 10:22 am nomatophobia

    Seeing as I crap my pants before any flight, from San Diego to Los Angeles, your Schwartz is definitely bigger than my Schwartz. You remain an inspiration. Thanks Dusty.

  32. on 11 Apr 2008 at 11:11 am Mary Ellison

    Kuuudooos to you my friend!

  33. on 12 Apr 2008 at 10:52 am fourthstooge

    very cool post Dusty… great vid, you can feel the love of flying right through the moniter.

    love life dude…