Friends and family members have often asked me why I wanted to learn to fly. While there are a million reasons to take to the air, here are the top five benefits of becoming a pilot — or at least giving it a try.
Reason #1: It Boosts Confidence
Growing up, I often found myself wanting to please everyone with my words and actions. I struggled to voice my opinion and avoided confrontation. Realizing that I needed to practice my assertiveness, I began searching for ways to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to find something that would require me to make decisions and gain self confidence.
I have skied off cliffs and lived in foreign countries, and tried many other things to enhance my personal development. However, nothing makes me feel more confident than when I am landing an airplane. My mind is sharp, my movements on the controls are precise, and when the all wheels safely meet the runway I know that it was because of me, and me alone.
My path to becoming a pilot involved so much more than mastering aircraft control. There is a lot of knowledge to absorb, and some topics were easier for me to grasp than others. While the amount I had to learn never deterred me, I did wonder if I was capable of being a safe pilot when I didn’t grow up in aviation. Questions and personal doubts come with exploring new territory, but I am here to let you know that you too can become a pilot even if you know zilch about airplanes. I mean, there I was learning about carburetor intake and magnetos, when I knew very little about my own car. Learning to fly gave me the confidence I needed to pursue a career in aviation.
Reason #2: It’s A Useful Life Skill
You don’t need to fly for a living for it to be a useful skill in your life. Every student pilot must learn what it means to be Pilot in Command, or PIC. When you are PIC, you are responsible for the safe outcome of the flight. Learning to apply PIC mentality in everyday life is an incredibly powerful and beneficial tool. It allows you to analyze any situation and act accordingly to ensure the best outcome. Being PIC means remaining calm and communicating clearly during stressful situations, such as when juggling multiple projects at work. You must assume responsibility, you must make decisions, you must act. Your life will not be your own if you wait for someone else to tell you what to do, or if you are too scared to pursue what you want.
Learning how to fly also furthered my education in mechanics, information I honestly should’ve known by my age. During my private pilot practical test, I shared with the examiner how I knew more about the plane’s engine than my own car’s. He laughed, and asked me how many cylinders I thought were in my car’s engine. I thought about it logically, assuming that a plane would have a more powerful engine than my car, so I reasoned that if my plane has four cylinders, then my car must have less, so my answer was two. After he stopped laughing, I learned that my car in fact has a four-cylinder engine like my plane, and typically motorcycles or older cars use two-cylinder engines. I of course reminded him that this was a Private Pilot exam and not a Private Driving exam so he couldn’t fail me for that embarrassing mishap.
It was that interaction which led me to apply my PIC mentality and learn some basics about the vehicle I drive everyday. I’ve still got a long way to go, but now I know how to change the oil in my car, jump start it and change a tire. These skills I guarantee will save me money and time in my future. Even if you already are mechanically inclined, knowing how a plane works will only make you more capable in other areas and expose you to more of what you find interesting.
Reason #3: Pilots Share An Awesome Community
I knew going into training that I would be exposed to areas I didn’t have much experience in, but what I didn’t anticipate was the phenomenal community of people I would meet. Perhaps it is Holladay Aviation specifically, but without this community of people I honestly wouldn’t have any friends in Jacksonville. I moved here about a year ago, and now some of my closest friends are pilots. Prior to joining the team at Holladay Aviation, I worked as a customer service representative at the Craig Air Center. The majority of pilots I met there were extremely friendly and encouraging when they found out I was learning to fly. It was the advice they provided me that solidified my goal of working for the airlines. I also picked up plenty of helpful tidbits to avoid making the same mistakes they made during their training.
Working at the airport was ideal for me because I wanted to immerse myself in aviation. I was able to look inside jets of all kinds, and even fly some amazing airplanes I could only dream of thanks to pilots who were willing to share their love of flying with me. The highlight was when I got to fly a Cessna Cardinal, a Bonanza, a Baron, a King Air 350 and a Phenom 300 all in one day! People enjoy sharing what they are passionate about, and people don’t stick around in aviation if they don’t have a passion for it. Flying is an expensive hobby. It feels healthy and natural for me to be around pilots, as I find them to be a community of people who are driven, interesting and have an adventurous side that I can relate to.
Reason #4: Flying Sharpens Your Mind
To those who are glad the days of homework and tests are over, I ask you, don’t you miss learning something that actually challenges your mind? Success in aviation may require dedication, but it can be done at whichever pace works best for the individual. I know people who earned their private pilot certificate in five months and others who took two years. Everything worth anything in this life requires effort. I found the topics I had to study for flying fascinating: how thunderstorms are formed; how to plan a cross country flight; and now, working on my instrument rating, how to read approach plates and enter holds. Learning sharpens my mind and leaves me feeling better about myself, more accomplished, and fulfilled with how I spent my time.
The opportunities for learning in aviation are endless. There are airplanes, helicopters, and gliders to fly. I might even try flying aerobatics one day! Technology keeps updating and the communication, navigation, and capabilities of aircraft will only get better.
Reason #5: Flying Gives You More Travel Options
With everything that aviation offers, perhaps its most seductive trait is the ability to travel. Our time on Earth is limited, and I have an almost unbearable desire to explore this planet. I think of the variety of people I could meet, the incredible landscapes I could see, the food I could eat, the activities I could enjoy. I was drawn to aviation primarily because I want to travel. I’m an explorer by nature and I was searching for a career that would let me do so.
Given the strange year we have all had, I’m sure most of us are itching for some variety. All around us there are places to explore. Florida contains three national parks — the Everglades, Dry Tortuga and Biscayne Bay — and a plethora of state parks, rivers, campsites, and beaches. Florida also happens to be one of the most popular locations for flying in the entire world! That means tons of airports nearby all those awesome destinations.
Think of all the wonders in our country which are available to explore. Take your friends or family along for the adventure, create moments and memories. This is your life. If you don’t take the yoke, nobody else will.
About the Author
Makenna is a private pilot who is working toward earning her instrument rating here at Holladay Aviation. She is a regular contributor to this website and serves as the company’s administrative assistant.