Wings and A Prayer
My sophomore year of college I decided to look into how much it would cost and what was required. Looking through the phone book, I found an ad for Pegasus Air in Bremerton, Wash. and thought it looked good.
As I walked into the Pegasus Air office, I met Dave Marsh, a flight instructor. He was eager to teach me how to fly, and said that I could take an introductory flight for $25 to see what I thought.
I jumped at this opportunity. The desire to fly was overpowering, and without any further questions I agreed. Marsh led me through a tinted-glass door to where all the planes were parked.
We walked around the exterior of the plane and Marsh showed me how to check things like oil and gas--and if the wings
would stay attached during flight. He then pulled the door open, and I realized how small the plane really was. A VW Bug had more space--not to mention a bigger engine.
In my excitement, I did not realize that I would be flying, but as I squeezed into the cockpit, the fact started to dawn on me.
"Am I going to be flying?" I questioned.
"You bet," he said tritely. "You're the pilot. I'm just instructing."
I thought that driver's training instructors were risk-takers, but now I knew who the biggest daredevils were.
Marsh handed me a headset, which were giant earphones with a mic on a boom positioned in front of my mouth. He explained that the headset would protect my ears and allow him to communicate with me.
He then made sure my seat belt was fastened and went over a checklist with me before firing up the engine. After taxiing to the runway and preparing to take off, he turned the controls over to me.
"Give it full power, and keep us in the middle of the runway. When we hit about 55 knots pull back on the yoke."
Brian Landburg, head flight instructor at Pegasus Air, has been a flight instructor for almost three years. Wearing khaki pants and a collared shirt, Landburg looks like he should still be in college. He's small and somewhat soft-spoken, but becomes animated when talking about his passion--flying.
"Pretty much everybody can learn how to fly," Landburg said. "It's just like teaching someone how to drive a car, but you are at 4,000 feet."
Landburg, a graduate of Central Washington University, said learning to fly was something that he always wanted to do. Central's flight program started him off.
Brent Love, who is also a flight instructor at Pegasus Air, has been instructing for three years. Love, unlike Landburg, got started flying in Alaska. He did not go to college to learn to fly
"I was working in Alaska during the summer, and I made some good money. I then had the means to get started in the industry," Love said.
The requirements to become a flight instructor are a private pilot's license, commercial pilot's license, instrument license and certified flight instructor (CFI) license.
Instructors most frequently teach students who are trying to get their private pilot's license. The minimum requirements include the following: the completion of a ground school class, passage of a written exam, 20 hours of dual flight time and 20 hours of solo flight time, (which must include 10 hours of cross-country flight and passage of a flight test and oral examination). This process usually takes about a year, but can vary depending on the student.
The costs can be prohibitive. Flight time will cost anywhere from $40 to $75 an hour for use of the plane and $20 to $40 an hour for instruction. Ground school costs $100 to $300. The test costs are also expensive: the written portion costs $60 and flight portion $175.
The flight test is similar to a driving test. An examiner rides along in the plane as the student demonstrates different maneuvers. The maneuvers are designed to test both skill and safety of a pilot.