COME FLY WITH ME, INTO THE WILD BLUE!
By MARSHALL SWANSON
APOPKA, FL - Our eyes steadily fixated on the heat-scorched runway ahead as we gradually accelerated down the runway. The plane lifted off the pavement inch by inch and aloft we flew! As the aircraft zoomed swiftly toward the wild blue, the splendor the moment did not for a millisecond disguise its significance. I reminisced that just a few moments prior our plane remained anchored to the ground - the same ground upon which millions throughout history fantasized of flight. What the onlookers of Icarus and Daedalus dreamt of, we had accomplished in a fractional spin of our plane's prop.
No, we didn't fly on Icarus' wings of wax- nor those of a mighty jet, but rather the humblest of birds: a 1968 Piper Cherokee. Though modest in appearance, the aircraft possesses a certain magnetic charm bewitching even the most amateur of aviation connoisseurs. And for my family, a long history of love for Pipers solidified my intrigue for the plane. Following his discharge from the Army Air Force in WWII, my grandfather served as Travel Editor for the Kansas City Star, sweeping across the globe with his family on a similar aircraft, the Piper Arrow (among a few select others).
As a child, this love for flight permeated my being as well, when on many a day we'd ride down to the executive airport for a "flight lesson." Now at 24 years old, the flames that burnt then continue in my heart. When I began my training at First Landings Flight School in Apopka, I didn't quite know what to expect. After all, I'd taken a sabbatical from flying in smaller aircraft for fourteen years since the days of my childhood. An avid traveler on jumbo-jets, I'd grown accustomed to a less intimate form of flight, but the thrill of this new adventure only propelled me further toward fascination with the prospect of being a private pilot.
As I arrived at the Apopka Airport, my flight instructor, Cody, greeted me with warmth and friendliness. At the time he seemed rather young to be a pilot, (but of course so was I), though the 20-year-old soon proved his mettle. With over 4,000 hours of flying, Cody's encyclopedic knowledge of the subject and his calm demeanor quickly assured me that my training was in highly capable and talented hands.
From pre-flight proceedures to radio communications to landing and take-off, from the onset, the task of flying seemed at best a challenge and at the worst daunting. However, Cody's clear instruction and my months of training in the simulator prepared me well.
With hours to go before solo, I am reminded of the words my grandfather's flight instructor spoke to him and on many occasions he recited: "Most people have the wrong idea about flying. Almost anybody can do it if he really wants to. Like anything else it just takes practice. But once you earn your license you have one of the world's most prized possessions- a ticket to go anywhere as high, as fast, as far as you want."
Typically, 40 hours of flight training are required to attain a private pilots license. Depending on the frequency of your flights, training may take longer or shorter than expected but of course every case is individual.
The setting at First Landings Flight School in Apopka is ideal for conducting flight training. All instructors enjoy hundreds or thousands of hours in flying before being hired as instructors. In Cody's case, his uncle inspired him to fly after spending many hours of his childhood as his "co-pilot" in Massachusetts. Earning his pilot's license in January of 2017, Cody trained on the simulator for years prior since age 10. In high school, I participated in Air Force JROTC where a brief "boot camp" introduced me as well to simulators at MacDill AFB.
Though I only practiced on my home simulator for a year or two in high school, I picked it up again in 2019 anticipating my upcoming time in flight school. For anyone learning to fly in Central Florida, I recommend two steps beforehand: practice in the simulator, and most importantly, choose a great flight school like First Landings to receive the highest quality instruction from great aviators like Cody.
I'll be sure to update our readers with a new article in the coming months. Until then, see you in the wild blue!