Thursday, July 28, 2011

Setting Aside Piloting, Not Giving Up

Back at the beginning of the year, I took a ground school class in preparation for getting my pilot's license. I want to learn to fly, and I was planning to do the class portion of the work in the spring, and the flying part with an instructor in the summer.

And as it turns out, this spring semester the World's Best School Flying Club also got a donation. An alum of the Aerospace school just up and gave his small Cessna 150 plane to the club, as he was too old to fly it anymore himself. "Ah, perfect timing!" I thought. The biggest expense of getting a pilot's license is hiring the plane and the instructor. The Flying Club was planning to make this plane available to club members at a discounted price, along with Flying Club instructors. As in, $80 an hour instead of $130. That makes a big difference when you are talking about a minimum of 50-60 hours...

But, as with many projects, the devil is in the details. It turns out that the plane had significant damage (it's been parked next to the ocean and has been barely used in ten years). The club doesn't have the kind of cash up front to pay for such repairs - so instead of just accepting the donation, they are on holding on until they can raise the money to make the repairs.

By the time this was discovered, we were into June (I was waiting to start training until the plane had been acquired). So I couldn't get the cheap option - but hey, I had saved up the money for this at full price already (being an RA with free rent does have its perks). But then, I started calculating the time cost as well as the financial cost.

You can't fly as a student out of Boston Logan (quite logical, really). The most common airport for student pilots is not accessible on the subway - you have to take a bus. The bus takes an hour to an hour and a half, and only runs at certain times. If I was to rent a car, it takes 45 minutes to drive there. Now, a typical flight lesson will be an hour in the air, but figure a half hour before and after for briefing with the instructor, getting set up, and properly securing the airplane after the flight. So two hours. Add in the two 45 minute commute legs, and we're at 3.5-4 hours I would need to rent a car for. ZipCars are minimum $7 an hour, so $28 per lesson, times 50-60 lessons (at an hour per lesson). Yeesh.

And if I take the bus, then it's more like 5 hours per lesson, depending on when the bus runs. Now the best way to do the training is to fly often, so you keep your skills fresh. So I'd ideally like to fly two or three times a week.

I found that I didn't have 10-15 extra hours per week. Not EVEN counting the significant prep time required the day before, in order to get the most out of the lesson (and you want to be efficient - refer back to $130 per hour...). And even if I could squeeze out that time, I'd have to be coordinating with the weather and the availability of the instructor - so try working a bus schedule or ZipCar rental around all THAT.

Yeesh again.

So reluctantly, I have decide to shelve the project. Have to know when to fold 'em, right? I'm hoping to come back around to this one, though - maybe someday when I have the right combination of money, time, and proximity to an airport. I'm hanging on to my little pilot kit, to remind me I'm not giving up yet.

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