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One flight gets you hooked

While the snow may have been discouraging planes from landing in Breslau Wednesday night, it didn’t discourage a few adventurous souls from braving the roads to learn how to fly.  The Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre held a learn-to-fly open house and seminar Mar. 23 to give potential students a primer on what kind of commitment it would take to obtain a pilot’s license.
Cpt. John Picard, one of the flight centre’s 23 instructors, hosted the two-hour lecture and tour of the facility. Like many at the centre, Picard’s love of flying started early and stayed with him.

He began flying before he entered university and continued his passion for the aeronautics as he taught elementary and high school for 12 years, an endeavor that helped him to finance his commercial pilot’s license and allowed him to become an instructor.

Possible students Joel Harding and daughter Lisa get a feel for the inside of a plane.

Those wanting to follow in his footsteps, train to fly commercially, or just take a spin in a plane on nice weekends, all begin their training in the same place: with an introductory flight.

The first flight a student takes is a demonstration flight at a reduced rental rate.

“You will fly the plane on your very first lesson,” Picard told the potential students. He added that he had only once had a student who wasn’t addicted to flying after the first flight.

One of those flying addicts was on hand to help answer questions. Dylan Collins, an 18-year-old student at the flight centre, is working towards his recreational pilot’s license and will be enrolling in a college program aiming him towards commercial operation in September.

“It was birthday gift from my mom,” Collins said of his first flight. “I just kept coming back.”

Collins works part-time at a grocery store while attending high school in order to pay for the lessons.

“You have to work at least 20 hours a week to do it,” he said. Every cent he earns goes into flying. “I have no money,” he laughed. When his friends invite him out he turns them down, calculating how much time an evening out would allow him to spend in the air.

Learning to fly can be expensive, Picard admitted. For a recreational license it can take an average of six to 12 months, and a minimum of $6,000. For a private pilot’s license, the most common kind the centre licenses for, it is a minimum of $9,500.

After the introduction flight, ground school is the next step. Conducted in a classroom two evenings a week, the school teaches students what they need to know before spending long hours in the cockpit. The next ground school begins Apr. 5.

“Our students are expected to do a lot of flying over the summer,” said Picard, who is eagerly awaiting better flying weather. “If I go four days without flying, I get grumpy.”

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