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7 day IFR Rating
I'm currently level at FL320 over the Pacific Ocean just south of the Aleutian Island chain with an 89 knot tailwind. I've been wondering how I got here. Not literally of course, but metaphorically. I was thinking about all the hard work required to get to where I am right now. The folks from my last private pilot ground school are still in my mind. I was wondering who among them are going all the way. Every class, I get one or two that insist they will become an airline pilot. Good for them, at least they had sense enough to enter a structured training program. They had better get used to it because that's going to be their whole professional life: structured training. But will they really make it? I was thinking "NO" as the doubt settled in.
The same week I was doing all this soul searching, I got an encouraging email from one of my brightest ground school students. He attended both my Private Pilot and Instrument Rating Ground Schools. He was asking me one of the most esoteric questions about ATC. As I thought about it later, I said to myself, "Right on! What I do really matters and people accomplish stuff because of what I'm doing."
I wrote an article called Chasing the Dream, which is a very pessimistic view of the airline industry. In the article, I did my best to dissuade all comers except the most determined. The email response was phenomenal, most of which I could not publish here. But I had accomplished exactly what I set out to do... stir it up. The comments ranged from "Ok, I'll give it up" and "I know what you're up to..." and "Go to h*ll you're not going to convince me to quit" and "I'm going all the way no matter what you say." Clearly there are some pretty determined folks out there getting flight training -- from the overconfident to the timid. So here's the follow-up article for those who are going all the way and wondering if they can make it.
I guess I should set the stage a little. I'm not the brightest person in the world. In fact, I often compare myself to the intelligence of a brick. Everything I have accomplished in life came to me through brute-force persistence. Nothing in my life was easy. Aviation was the same way. That's why I know you can make it if you really want it. After all... I did it.
What you focus on becomes a successful reality
When I took my first private pilot ground school, I was lost. Meteorology. Engines. Airspace. I had to force myself through it -- nothing was making sense. After the ground school, I figured it was easier to renew my solo endorsement as a student pilot than to actually get a Private Pilot Certificate. That's how bad things were.
I pulled myself together and decided I wasn't going to continue flying as a student pilot on his 12th solo renewal. I needed to finish what I started and I needed to take another ground school. It was still kinda difficult. There were definitely things I had no interest in, things I would never be very good at. As a result, I was likely going to fail again. I needed to figure out what to do.
This is where brute-force came into play again. I forced myself to study Meteorology & Engines. I figured I didn't have to like it, just get through it so I could pass some tests. I still find those are my weakest areas to this day. But I learned enough to make it through the Private. Learned a little more to make it through the Instrument Rating. Then the Commercial, Multi, and by the time I had gotten to the CFI, I had a passing knowledge of my weakest areas.
Get Rid of the Excuses
I have written extensively on this one. Here's a sampling:
If you're going to do it, make the committment. Get the materials, supplies, and equipment required and don't skimp on quality. Becoming upset over the cost of a $500 headset pales in the comparison to the true cost of learning how to fly and keeping yourself proficient. These days, the whole rating will cost you $10,000+ and when you add an instrument rating you're up to $20,000. Add renting the aircraft each month at $250 for a couple of hours, your biennial flight review & medical checkup and you're up to another $3,500 a year to stay current. Don't whine, you chose this!
Make it Happen
Ok, my cards are on the table. I've shared the two major causes of failure for folks becoming pilot. You have no illusions about what its going to take. It's going to be hard, no doubt about it. Are you up for it?
You don't need to be exceedingly intelligent. A good dose of common sense won't hurt you. You don't need to be overly confident. That will come with time. You don't need to get it all right because time is a good instructor. You only need to do two things: focus and eliminate excuses. Your goal will be reality.
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