The weather was grey, cloudy and thick with humidity. I could feel my clothes sticking to my body as I adjusted my shirt. I was at the building I found when looking for a flight school near me. The link took me to totalflight.com. It had the name Total Flight Solutions on the door with that distinctive airplane and helicopter circling the logo. Will I get up enough courage to open that door and go in?
I travel about 50% of the time for my job and am pretty familiar with airplane flights. A thrill of mine was when my wife and I went on a trip to Hawaii and stayed on the island of Kauai. I had always had an interest in flying in a helicopter but I am extremely afraid of heights. We got an opportunity to take one of the helicopter tours of the island and I could not pass it up. I was pretty nervous when we actually got to the landing pad. My heart started racing and I kept wondering what I could hold onto. It took quite the effort to get into the helicopter but once we lifted off I was hooked. It was like riding a in an elevator with freedom to move left and right, back and forth as well as up and down. Don’t get me wrong, I still held on for dear life but I wanted to know more. As I stood outside Total Flight Solutions door, I figured I have made it this far I can at least get up the courage to open the door and ask a few questions.
It is harder than it seems for us introverts to get up the courage to chase a dream when it comes to having to communicate to a stranger. Give me a keyboard and email address and I can go to town. What is the worst that could happen? I could not make up my mind on how I was going to start the conversation.
Do I want to take the intro flight or just dive right in and start my first lesson?
When becoming a pilot do I need to fly an airplane before I can take helicopter lessons?
How much is it to become a private pilot?
How long will it take to get my helicopter license?
Do I need to complete ground school before I can start flying?
I have a full-time job will the instructor be able to work around my schedule?
So many questions, no decisions, let’s just go in and see what pops into my head.
I was greeted by the front desk person after going to the second-floor office. We were in there all alone and it was like the front desk person was just waiting for me. I introduced myself and found myself asking all the questions at once. I wanted to make sure I did not miss getting any details. I was told they would take my information and I would be called by one of the CFI helicopter instructors but that the weather was so bad that no one would be flying today.
I went home and began my waiting. Just then my wife comes home and I could hardly contain myself.
"I went to the airport today. I took the first step on how to become a pilot!" I said.
She laughed at me and said I looked like a kid that was waiting for their first video game to arrive so I could start to play. I kept thinking of all the questions I had asked and tried to write them all down so I could mention all them to the instructor, who could call me at any minute.
Finally got my CFI helicopter instructors call. His name was Erik. I just unloaded on him as I had with the front desk person earlier that day. He was happy to answer my questions.
"You are not required to get an airplane license before starting a helicopter private pilot license."
"Yes, you can start right into helicopter lessons, you do not need to take the intro flight."
"Your pilot license cost ranges from $12k-$15k, it all depends on how you pick up on the pilot training."
“In your first lesson you will have a 30-minute ground class followed by you taking controls and flying for last 30 minutes.”
“All of our instructors are very flexible with their hours.”
“Remember you flight training is a new skill and you need to fly as often as you can to not build up rusty moves that will cost you flight time to correct.”
We were about to end the call with me picking a date to come out for my first lesson when, Erik mentioned I should come out early so I can get all remaining paperwork filled out. Then he asked me the question.
“How much do you weigh?” he asked.
I was not ready for that and was a little taken aback. Then I thought about it and went to a scale. I am a little on the larger side and started to worry how my weight was a factor. I told Erik I was about 220.
“Good thing I asked,” said Erik.
He described to get the best performance out of the helicopters we need to stay within a certain weight and balance. It ended up that together we were over the limit but that there was another instructor at the helicopter flight school also named Eric that could take me up and would call me and meet me at our scheduled appointment. I was so excited I almost forgot to ask what I needed to bring with me.
Erik described there are two different times we will need to collect information. He explained that for the first set of flying lessons I would learn under his pilot license until I got to my first solo flight. For the beginning lessons I will need to bring a credit card, driver’s license and passport. When we get to the solo stage I would need to get renters insurance and 3rd class medical license. For right now just worry about the beginning lessons to get started.
And so it began…
Please follow the Intro Flight to being your journey.