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How I learned to fly

Posted by on April 7, 2009 2 Comments Category : Flight Instructor Blog Tags : ,

(This was originally published for AOPA’s Let’s Go Flying Blog)

One of the enjoyable things about being a corporate pilot is the relationship and conversations I enjoy with my passengers.  Inevitably the question usually comes up in conversation, “So, how did you learn to fly?”  Here is my answer:

I was one of those boys obsessed with airplanes. I loved drawing airplanes, tracing airplane photographs, and building model airplanes. My dad took pilot lessons before I was born and I loved reading through his old pilot manuals and looking at his aluminum E6B wondering what kind of amazing things pilots must calculate with this contraption.

As I got older I pestered my parents for lessons but to little avail. Simply put, we all thought it would be too expensive. I did go on the occasional discovery flight with family friends at our local airport but never seriously pursued lessons.

College came and like most freshman, I was an “undecided” major. I simply couldn’t find anything in the course catalog that appealed to me (no aviation courses). I couldn’t stand the thought of sitting at a desk my whole life and really struggled with what I was going to do with myself.

Pilot Steve Saint flying overhead

Pilot Steve Saint flying overhead

Spring break of my freshman year came and I went on a mission trip to Ecuador. I was the college chaperon for a group of high school students from Mansfield, Ohio. We traveled deep, deep, deep into the Amazon rainforest where a group of Huaorani Indians had invited us along with our leader, Steve Saint (whose father had been speared to death by the Huaorani). The purpose of our trip was to help raise support for the Huaorani so that they could purchase their own airplane and bring light to the Huaorani’s incredible story. To travel to their village we had to utilize airplanes (piloted by Mission Aviation Fellowship) and then take rudimentary canoes several hours downstream to their village. The journey and the visit with the Huaorani was amazing. It was a life changing experience.

On the flight out of the jungle, I sat in the right seat of the airplane thinking to myself, “This is very cool. This is is real flying! This guy (the pilot) gets to fly airplanes, work outdoors, and make a difference in people lives. Wow. ”  I was sold. I had to become a pilot.

As soon as I got back to the U.S., I started investigating flight schools full time. I made a simple determination that nothing was going to stop me from becoming a pilot. As I Iearned more about aviation and flying, I discovered that there were many ways to become a pilot with many different career choices once you got your license (which I learned later were called “certificates”).

To sum it up, I ended up picking a flight school in central Florida and through the generosity of my Grandparents I got my private pilot, instrument and multi-engine ratings. I then went back to my home town in Ohio and worked on my flight instructor certificates.  After becoming an instructor, I worked part-time fight instructing while I finished my undergraduate degree .

The point of my story is this: You should create your own story. You have always wanted to fly right? So make that same commitment to yourself that I did while in Ecuador and then do whatever it takes to reach your goal.

To learn more about Mission Aviation Fellowship and their mission, I would encourage you to visit their website at http://www.maf.org.


  1. Vincent, from PlasticPilot.net on Apr 08, 2009

    Great story, thanks a lot for sharing. I’ll have to post about how I started, but it is 1000 times less exotic or spectacular.

  2. Jesse J Watters on Mar 21, 2013

    I loved this. I started in 09′ and was sidelined for medical. I am now coming off medical (long time right?) and will continue for sure.

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