Thoughts on my Private Pilot Training

I am going to split this training wrap up into two parts in the interest of brevity. First, some thoughts about flight training in general and about training for the late bloomer. The second post will be more about where I plan to go from here. Your comments on both topics are encouraged and welcome.

From that first lesson back on December 21, 2005, to passing my private pilot checkride yesterday has been a much longer journey than I ever expected. If I had known that it was going to take almost two years and cost as much as it did, I probably wouldn’t have even started. Flying would have been just another dream that never became reality. But, now that I have realized that dream, I am both pleased and proud that I stuck with it.

I’m pleased that I am now a pilot and aviation is going to be a big part of my life from now on. I have many new things to learn about it and many new challenges ahead.

I’m proud that I persevered at something that, while I love it, has not turned out to be easy for me. There were times when I could have decided it was just too much and given up. I didn’t do that though. I overcame the obstacles and worked through the hard stuff to achieve a major goal. At the risk of sounding boastful, I think that really is something to be proud of.

To those of you who have already gotten your certificates, congratulations. I understand how big an achievement it is and I hope you are proud of what you have accomplished. You have done something that very few people will ever even attempt.

For those still training, stick with it. There will be days when it seems like you are going backwards. Those times when every landing feels like it will jar your teeth out and those days when you are sure someone moved the airport after you took off, can be frustrating. But, you will find that those lessons are the ones that teach you the most. I hope you are proud of each new skill you add.

For those of you who are still thinking about starting your training, go for it. If you have the passion for flying, you owe it to yourself to at least give it a try. Too many of our dreams never see the light of day. This one can be a reality. Visit your local flight school, take a discovery flight and investigate your training options. I hope you will decide to join us in the sky. But, whether you pursue it further or not, you should be proud that you took your interest beyond dreaming about it.

All of us who instinctively look up to the sky instead of down at the ground have a pilot within us. Follow your passion and you will never have to say; “I wish I had tried.”

I was 55 years old when I started my lessons. I can’t say how getting a late start affects everyone but, I did notice some way that it effected my training. Maybe what I saw will be of interest to other late bloomers because, the first thing I would say is don’t let age hold you back. It is never to late to learn to fly.

Health is the one factor that all of us who have attained some “maturity” have to pay special attention to. I recommend that you visit your regular doctor, not an FAA medical examiner, to make sure you can pass the physical. AOPA has some great resources online that will help you know what health issues you should be on the lookout for. Also, learn about your options. You can get a special issuance for many otherwise disqualifying conditions or, you might be able to pursue a sport pilot certificate which doesn’t require a medical.

I also encountered a couple health problems that delayed my training. The worst was a prostate infection that set me back over two months. Those kinds of things can happen to anyone but, they are more frequent among those of us who are older.

The other age related factor I saw in my own training was that I just don’t have the hand/eye coordination I had when I was in my twenties. While the stick and rudder skills come easy to most younger students I see, I had to work hard to gain them. I still have to think more about my co-ordination than do those for whom it comes more naturally.

On the other hand, I have seen that the older students at my school are, generally, much better at planning and at the book work than the younger ones. I think we have better discipline about our studying. I also think we are less likely to try pushing our developing skills to the limit so, we are more likely to stay out of situations where we would need those quick reflexes of our youth.

In general, I believe that, while being older may add time to our training, it also gives us the advantage of mature judgment and that makes us safe pilots.

So, if you are thinking about pilot training, at any age, please pursue it. We will welcome you into our community. If you are already a pilot, thank you for allowing me into your ranks.

  • Perry says:

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the words of encouragement! I’m 40 years old myself, down in Tampa, Florida, and I’ve just started training to get my certificate. This is something I’ve wanted to do my entire life and I’m very happy to finally get the chance.

    I’ve got a few medical issues to clear up before I go get my medical certificate (diabetes and hypertension), so this is serving as some extra incentive to get healthier.

    So far I’ve had my discovery flight and two lessons. I intend to blog about my training as I go and I’m just finishing up setting up my blog.

    Congratulations on getting your certificate!

  • Tom says:

    Great going Perry, I’m happy to hear you have taken the plunge. Please send me the address for your blog. I will be happy to add it to the front page of mine.

  • Zach says:

    Great words Perry – I’m hopefully starting my training pretty soon for for a Private certificate here in Athens, GA. I will always reference your page throughout the process. Keep blogging of course because your words of encouragement are inspiring. Once again, congratulations. Here is my blog if your interested: Behind the Yoke. Take care and happy flying!

  • Anonymous says:

    CONGRATS TOM–I’ve been following your blog! I’m 43 and have been taking lessons for almost two months now. I’m up to 27 hours and 2 solos and will be doing my first dual-cross country this week (weather permitting of course.)


  • Tom says:

    Good going Walter, I hope your CFI takes you someplace interesting for your first cross country. Cross country was my favorite phase of training.


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