In the Beginning

January 1, 2012

Learning to fly has to be a decision based on a burning desire and passion to be a pilot. If the allure of a $400k+ Captains’ salary is your only motivation, you’re destined to be among those 20+ hour student pilots that never make it!

I’m not sure why I wanted to be a pilot or how the passion started. Maybe from those early days of sitting with my family at the far fence of the Betty Diamond Sports Field, at the northern end of the Coolangatta Airport runway, watching the B737’s and A320’s roar over head on their final approach, arms waving in the hope of attracting the attention of the pilot and waiting for the dip of the wings that never came.

Whatever the reason, I caught the aviation bug very early on in life and never lost it.

For as long as I can remember, I would tell people that I’m starting flying this year, only to be disappointed when another year would roll by without getting aloft.

In the beginning, I researched every method for learning to fly, and started the process of deciphering the entangled confusing world that is Aviation. If you read too much into it or talk to too many people in the industry, you will soon be of the belief that the only way to become a pilot is to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth. The $100k+ price tag is enough to turn anyone away.

So, like me, you start looking at alternate methods of attaining your Pilot’s Licence. The Royal Australian Air force offers to pay for your training, what they don’t tell you is that you then owe 8 years of service at a minimum wage. Next is University, Griffith University offer a fantastic program that allows you to do your flight training and University work all under the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS), again, what you’re not told is that HECS only covers up to $80k, the program costs around $120k. Hmm.. Options are getting slimmer and slimmer.

Ask any ‘sausage factory’ flight school and they will all tell you the same thing; You MUST train full-time in their Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) program and a University degree is the only way to secure your first airline job. After speaking to ‘real’ airline pilots, a similar theme started to immerge. They all trained only 2 days a week while holding down a full-time Monday to Friday job, and very few of them have degrees in Aviation.

Only after speaking to James, an Airline Pilot working for Virgin Australia International, at an Aviation Careers Expo in Brisbane, did it all start to make sense. James told me, all the degrees in the world don’t mean anything without the time in your log book. He said “start flying, just do it”. There’ll be plenty of time for study later. He advised me to “find a reputable flying school close to home and just start flying. Once a week is a good start! See how your finances are going, and if possible, up the training. If not, that’s cool too. At least you’re flying and getting closer to that first flying job”.

My research returned 3 real options: Royal Queensland Aero Club, Sunland Aviation and Gil Layt’s Flying School. All 3 are at Archerfield Airport and all 3 come highly recommended.

I spoke to Sunland Aviation first. Mr Gary Young was a wealth of knowledge and was more than happy to show me around the school and detail what is involved. Gary couldn’t give me a per week figure and advised that 2 lessons a week is the absolute minimum in order to proceed through the program, at a cost of up to $500 a lesson (plane hire + instructor hire + briefings + landing fees). My hopes were again smashed. There is no way I can afford $1000/week.

I then spoke to the Royal Queensland Aero Club (RQAC), who advised that one lesson a week is fine and the cost will be more around $300/week. Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel! While they were very nice, their main interest lies in International Students – I’m after a more personal experience.

This left Gil Layt’s Flying School. I spoke to Robert who explained the whole process to me in plain English – he told me exactly what I’m up for and what to expect. Success! I’ve found my new flying school!

08:00 Saturday 7th January 2012 – First Step

I enter the doors of Gil Layt’s Flying School to be greeted by Gil himself. The Flying School was founded in 1975 and I think the only thing that has changed is Gil. The décor is stained mustard with a ‘timber-look’ finish. The aircraft were all purchased new in the 70’s and haven’t been updated. First thought after leaving…. This place is perfect!

And so, the journey begins…

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