The A’s and B’s of becoming a pilot

The “A’s” and “B’s” of becoming a pilot.

There are two lists of reasons why people learn to fly. The “A” list and the “B” list. The “A” stands for the “announced” reasons for taking flying lessons. The “B” list has the “real” reasons. The two lists are different. “A” contains what pilots really believe are their reasons for taking wing. The “B” reasons are the ones not publicized. Both lists are valid. Each gets us airborne.


Every aviation enthusiast who watched the movie “Top Gun” got excited. When the movie debuted, flying schools were bombarded with requests for familiarization lessons. The hotdog hiding in all of us sees flying as an outlet. A Cessna 152 is no F-14 Tomcat, but to some people just being in the air is exciting.


Pilots may not admit it, but they like the public to think that flying is special and that pilots are unique. It is and they are. Ask any seven year old who has just been up - flying is special. And pilots are unique, not for their intelligence or skill, but their perseverance. Student pilots endure bad weather, balky airplanes and cranky instructors just to spend more time and money learning to fly then they ever dreamed. But it’s worth it. Mention you’re a pilot at a cocktail party and it’ll generate more interest that telling people you carve the heads of Prime Ministers into walnut shells. (if it doesn’t, you’re at the wrong party.)


“I’m taking flying lessons,” sounds more cerebral than, “I play golf,” or “I carve walnut shells.” There’s lots of mind-expanding stuff to absorb on the pilot courses. The oldsters who learned to fly before electronic calculators, loran and pass-the-exam-in-a weekend ground schools will say it’s not as hard as before, but don’t believe them.

Get Away

Taking flying lessons is the greatest excuse for escaping work and family for a couple of hours. It’s the same reason people play golf or carve. And it’s a valid excuse. A little time of “doing your own thing” is good for anyone. But pilots won’t admit it. They’re not going to call home and say, “Hi Honey. I’m going to the airport to spend $100 on a flying lesson after work because I need a break. Please entertain the kids and hold supper until I get home.”

For the Family

Prospective pilots believe they’re learning to fly so they can take their families to exciting destinations on quick holidays. This is the aircraft sales-man’s dream reason. But there aren’t many new pilots with the money to buy a de-iced Piper Mirage who have a spouse with a Class I Instrument Rating and barf-proof kids. The rest rent a Cessna 172 ever Easter to fly the family to Morgantown, West Virginia where they spend the weekend explaining to the kids why the arcade doesn’t take Canadian quarters.

Meeting Ground

Pilots are birds of a feather who flock together Learning to fly is chance to meet people with a common interest, The hundreds of large and small flying clubs and schools strung across this country are proof of what a time-honoured Canadian pastime going out to the airport really is.


There was a pilot who learned to fly and bought a floatplane because he loved to fish. He hated flying and was a lousy pilot. He and his buddies would come back from a trip with their eyes popped from fright after white-knuckling their way out of an impossibly small, inaccessible lake up north. But they were smiling if they got fish. Another pilot liked flying over his house and checking out what his neighbours were doing. Whenever he went up, the other pilots avoided that area because they knew his eyes would be glued to the ground instead of looking around. There was a guy who started lessons because he was afraid of flying. Someone told him that lessons were the cure. He spent five hours and $500 with his eyes closed and his hands clamped on the glareshield learning that it wasn’t. And then there are the career-oriented student pilots eulogized by a grade schooler who wrote that he hoped to grow up to be pilot so he wouldn’t have to work.

For Ourselves

Our best reason for learning how to fly is the fun. Never mind justifying it any other way. Flying an airplane is a special human triumph that most people only dream about. With generous help from the aircraft designers, builders and maintainers, our flying instructors, and all the people who work the aviation infrastructure, we can apply our skill to defy gravity and take a bird’s-eye ride over our world. It’s a rush. And if the landing isn’t too bad, the flight brings a nice, packaged sense of accomplishment. The time to learn to fly couldn’t be better. The recession-battered flying schools are lean and eager for your business. A next generation crop of ultralight, homebuilts and light aircraft are ready to fill your dream..

Whatever your reasons for flying, there are few negative excuses. Forget the carving - fly.

By Garth Wallace. Used with permission.

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