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Learning To Fly: Choosing An Instructor

When it comes down to choosing an instructor for your primary flight training, you need to take this decision very seriously. This will be the only person able to get you out of trouble when you're in the air.

I had some other criteria as well. First, I checked around at all the local airports and FBO's for rental prices and instructors. I had a good freind who'd taken his lessons at Peter O' Knight, and I eventually settled on Peter O' too. They had 3 Piper Tomohawks, 3 Cessna 172N's and one 172SP and one Cessna 150, as well as a Piper Warrior and a Piper Arrow.

I wanted to learn in the 150 and I weigh about 200 pounds, so my instructor would need to be kind of small. I wanted to be able to carry full fuel, and the 150 is about as big inside as an MG Midget, so I started checking out my options. There were two instructors at Peter O' who fit the bill and had the credentials, so I flew with each of them. There was one woman and one man, and both were very good. However, I found out that the male instructor had owned and restored a 150 with his father. He knew every nut and bolt on that plane and was an expert pilot in it and could make it do pretty much whatever he wanted, and more importantly, could make it STOP doing something whenever he wanted to, and my choice was made.

I always tried to get to the field at least a half hour early and do my pre-flight at my own pace. Sometimes weather kept us from flying, so I would just practice my pre-flight.Sounds hokey, but on my check ride, my FAA Examiner commented that he was really impressed with my pre-flight procedures.

My first Flight Instructor's name was Tim White, and he had a way of making everything seem easy that made those early hours go a lot better than they may have otherwise. Flying a plane is harder than it looks, at least if you're flying it right. He also believed in flying instead of running up the clock on the ground, and I really appreciated it.

Some instructors run up the clock on the student by stopping to talk about unimportant matters while the plane is running. This is because they are payed based on the Hobbs metter that only runs while the master switch is on. Scarriest thing in a rental plane is a runaway Hobbs meter! Other tricks are requiring you to sit down in a classroom or office before every single flight. Make sure that you tell them when you start that you've already taken Ground School. If you've already taken the Written, so much the better.

Have a plan for each lesson. You can download a syllabus from the internet. Plan on about an hour a week. Also plan on taking about 14 or 15 hours to solo. I was ready at about 12, but weather forced me to wait until I had nearly 17 hours before I finally got it out of the way.

After I had soloed and done my first cross country, my first instructor got a job for a commuter up in Nantuckett, so I had to get a new one. I asked around at Peter O' and got the name of a CFII with a personality that coincides with mine. I also stepped up from the 150 to a 172. The 150 had cost $48.00 an hour and the instructor time was $30.00 an hour. The 172 rented for $75.00 to $80.00 per hour. Although the cost went up, the 172 is a safer plane, and Robert is taller than Tim was. I finished in a 172, and after I had gotten my ticket, I got checked out in the 172SP, which costs $114.00 per hour to rent.


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