Learning to Fly an Airplane


Getting a private pilot's license was much harder than I expected. It wasn't only what you had to learn. Just as daunting was the training process itself—and the peculiarities of the small flight schools where most students train. Overall, it took longer and cost far more than any of the "Learn to Fly" websites estimated. Those estimates were based on ideal students training full time under ideal conditions. Not surprisingly, the dropout rate among committed student pilots nationwide was close to 70%.

So given my background as a technical writer who explains how things work, I wanted to help aspiring aviators benefit from my experience. The Amazon ebook I wrote in 2012, "Learning to Fly an Airplane: Insider information from a Student Perspective" quickly gained a wide audience. It was not about how to fly but how to navigate the private pilot flight training system. Flight instructors as well as students responded favorably. Stories appeared in various aviation publications.

Eventually I offered the ebook in PDF format as a free download from my website. Within a few months there were more than 5,000 downloads. I also encouraged students and instructors to freely share copies of the PDF.


I earned my private pilot ASEL (Aircraft Single Engine Land) certificate on November 11, 2009. For me, the alignment of time and money did not arrive until age 53. My vision was already declining, and by 2013 it was no longer correctable to 20/20 (but well within safe driving limits). The FAA would still let me fly, with restrictions. But I believed—and still do—that no one should fly an airplane with less than 20/20. So I stopped flying. That was also the point at which I stopped updating the ebook. From that time forward I've provided copies of the PDF with the caveat that as each year goes by more of the ebook is out of date. However, the general outline is still valid and potentially helpful. Of course, the first and last source for aviation information is the FAA.

If you would like a PDF of my ebook, contact me. Please state in your email that you understand the ebook is out of date and you're using it only for general reference purposes.

Comments? Send to: tedkseastrom@gmail.com

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