Learning how to fly


Photo by Mikayla Barstow

The view from a Cessna 172 during the take off of a Discovery Flight at Crabtree Aircraft Co.

Mikayla Barstow, Santa Fe Staff Writer

In the aviation industry, professional pilot positions have slowly decreased. However, college universities have limited the amount of incoming freshmen that can be admitted into flight courses. Fortunately, there are other ways to learn how to fly.

Flying is something only a few people can say they know how to do. What people don’t know is that anyone can fly, even if you don’t know how to. There are multiple resources available for anyone who wishes to learn to fly, learn about aviation in general or for someone who wants to get behind the yoke (or wheel).

If you want to check flying an airplane off your bucket list most regional airports will offer Discovery Flights. During the Discovery Flight, you will sit in the Captain’s seat and learn the basics of flying an airplane with a professional pilot. Once in the air, your teacher will give control over to you so that you can fly the airplane. Discovery Flights will range in price but typically cost around $100 for an hour.

My experience with Discovery Flights was with Sundance Airport in Yukon and another in Guthrie at Crabtree Aircraft Company before I decided to become a student pilot. The instructor from each airport walked me through what I was going to do before we walked out on the tarmac where the small, red Piper Cherokee plane was waiting for me. After a brief introduction about the airplane, we hopped in and went through the pre-flight checklist. There’s not much personal space one you sit down inside which was a slight surprise. I was even more surprised when I realized I was too short to be able to see out of the windshield. My instructor and I had a good laugh when he pulled out a booster seat for me to sit on. After that, the instructor slowly went through each step and why a pilot must complete each step.

It can be pretty nerve-wracking to see all the dials, buttons and handles for the first time but once you reach cruising altitude and your instructor says, “Your controls”, it’s an unforgettable event. One major thing I realized while flying is that it’s not like flying as a passenger on Southwest Airlines or Delta. The airplane is much smaller and louder. In order to fly a small airplane like a Cherokee, make sure that you’re not too sensitive to noise and don’t become motion sick easily. The most amazing thing I realized, however, is that the view is spectacular.

Not too long after my first flight, I decided to become a pilot. I made the decision to major in aviation in college although it’s not required to have a degree in aviation to become a pilot because of the more in-depth training offered in college. Through an aviation degree, I’m able to go through safety scenarios that I wouldn’t be able to through a regional airport. I rushed to gain my medical clearance and applied for my student pilot certificate soon after receiving it. Through family members, I multiple resources to study aviation to get a head start that is available to anyone.

If you’re interested in studying aviation you can read Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge approved by the FAA or study online through Sporty’s online training. The Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge is the book used by most students in training. The book covers everything from history of aviation to the mechanics of flying. Sporty’s online training is a great way to watch videos on your phone over short lessons about flying an airplane and all the parts of it. If you want the hands-on experience, you can take private flight lessons with an instructor at a regional airport.

Whether or not you want to become a pilot, I suggest taking one Discovery Flight at least once in your life. It’s an amazing experience that can make an interesting memory or, in my case, a career that I love. When you become a pilot, even for a day, you realize that the sky isn’t the limit.

For more information, contact Mikayla Barstow at [email protected]