January 15, 2008
January 15, 2008
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: I meet people all the time who’ve dreamed their whole life of learning to fly. The complexity, challenges, and expense have kept them from the dream. Some have waited until their kids are though college. By then, medical problems may preclude passing an FAA medical exam. But there is hope, because while it still takes a commitment, flying isn’t reserved for the wealthy.
The FAA introduced the Light Sport category of aircraft a couple years ago. It’s making flying more affordable at the entry level and thus attracting more pilots into the fold. I’m not so sure the FAA wanted to make it less expensive but the aviation industry is pressing to rejuvenate the pilot ranks which are dwindling even to the point of a pilot shortage.
The Sport Pilot certificate is relatively simple to train for and can be accomplished within a relatively short period of time. The medical requirements are simplified too; if you can qualify to drive a car, you can qualify for a Sport Pilot certificate. I’ve heard that someone earned a Sport Pilot certificate in two weeks.
Light Sport aircraft are regular airplanes certified by the FAA under simpler rules. They are limited to two seats and a few other restrictions. They include older airplanes like the Piper J-3 Cub but also many new designs developed under the new rules. For instance, check out a Sky Cruiser online. There are a lot of different design models currently on the market to choose from. Some are so sleek looking that you’ll have heads turning at all the places you fly. Others are just plain fun to fly. All are tickets to adventure.
Linda: Speaking of adventure, I got an email from Charlie Grabein over the Thanksgiving holidays. He wrote, “Having a great vacation. Wish you were here. Visited Roswell, NM and aliens kidnapped me but I talked them into letting me fly the ship and I got back safely. They gave me a pilot license, but I told them I know someone who’s a much better pilot than I… so they said you could have one too.” Charlie reminds me a lot of my dad.
I saw Charlie the other day for the first time since the holidays, and he reached into his pocket and handed me two laminated cards. One reads “Vertical Lift Aircraft Official Pilot License, Clearance Level 4JUL-ONE 947” and says I’m now “qualified to command all vectored thrust aircraft, particle wave compression, ejecta emitting engines, captured alien spacecraft, Alpha Star Ships-Core Drive, F-117 model B Stealth fighters, and Roswell weather balloons.” The other says I’m a “Vertical Aircraft Test Pilot.” Hoo-boy!
Mike gave me a funny look when I told him what I was writing about this week. “That’s not about Light Sport Aircraft,” he said with an unsure grin. Okay, the light sport airplane could be the ticket for some folks to make their dreams being a pilot come true… provided they stay away from aliens.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com