High flyers - UPWARD CURVE


High flyers - UPWARD CURVE




High flyers

Flying lessons are increasingly popular, with many

celebrities and business leaders taking to the sky alone.

Nick Wall looks at who is doing it, how long it takes

to learn and the costs involved

As you sit back high in the

sky, lost in the clouds out

of the cabin window, the

chances are you’ve day-dreamed

about being upfront at the

controls, in charge of your destiny

as well as your destination. You’ve

probably chatted to the pilots

about it from time to time, but

perhaps thought no more.

But the fact is an increasing

number of high-profile people

are finding that gaining a pilot’s

licence has numerous rewards as

well as being a great experience.

No wonder, then, that people

such as Brad Pitt and Angelina

Jolie, Tom Cruise, John Travolta,

Arnold Palmer, Phil Mickelson,

Morgan Freeman, Jimmy Buffet,

Michael Bloomberg, Apple

co-founder Steve Wozniak and

supermodel Gisele Bündchen all

have a pilot’s licence.

Indeed, in many companies

there’s a good chance that

among the top executives there

will be a pilot or two. In a way

that’s not surprising because

pilots are an elite group, and

high-achievers tend to have

the characteristics that make a

good pilot – courage, discipline,

clear thinking, responsibility and

the ability to react well under


While flying is an important

time-saving part of international

travel, many pilots also use their

licences for recreation. There’s

a wonderful sense of freedom,

pleasure and release to be found

in flying yourself around the sky.

So what does becoming a

pilot actually involve? No, you

don’t have to be Superman

to fly; in reality it’s pretty

straightforward (whatever other

pilots might have you believe…).

You do need a medical, but that’s

not too onerous and generally

most healthy people ➤

Above: The Cessna Citation

Mustang is a six-seater jet

popular with pilots

July-September 2012 Upward Curve 75




pass; wearing glasses or contact

lenses, for example, isn’t a bar to

getting your licence.

While there are many licences

worldwide, unless you want to

fly in your home country simply

for fun, the most important

is factor is that a licence is

‘compliant’ with (recognised by)

the International Civil Aviation

Organisation (ICAO), which

enables you to fly internationally.

The most common of these is

the alphabet soup that’s known

as the JAA/EASA (Joint Aviation

Authorities/European Aviation

Safety Agency) licence and the

American FAA (Federal Aviation

Authority) licence. Fortunately

you don’t have to train for these

in Europe or America – there are,

for example, a number of flying

schools offering JAR training in

the Middle East.

Generally, you need a

minimum of around 45 hours

flying training (the average is

about 50-60 hours) to get a

pilot’s licence. Around a third

of this is dual with an instructor

while learning the basics, the

remainder is solo or dual while

honing your skills. Going solo for

the first time is one of life’s great


Sadly there’s no getting away

from exams which cover subjects

such as navigation, meteorology,

air law, principles of flight,

aircraft performance and RT

(radio telephony), but many

find the studying an enjoyable

challenge and a release from

day-today business life. Most

pass without undue difficulty.

Finally, with all the training

done and exams passed there’s

the last hurdle of the flying ‘Skills

Test’, rather like an extended car

driving test.

From top: the Citation Mustang;

the Socata TBM850; and Wei

Chen ready to fly

How long all this takes is up

to you and how dedicated you

are. With good weather, a bit of

luck and flying regularly, you can

reckon on getting your licence

within three to six months. If you

prefer, and can spare the time, it

can be done full-time in a month,

usually in America.

Once you join the elite band,

your licence entitles you to fly

single-engined aircraft under

what are called Visual Flight

Rules, essentially in sight of the

ground in fairly clear weather.

Many pilots then go on to get an

Instrument Rating, perhaps with

a multi-engine rating, opening up

the skies for travel higher, further

and faster.

Costs vary depending on the

country in which you learn, but

you can expect to pay around

$13,000 (¤10,000) for a basic

Private Pilot’s Licence. If you

want to fly helicopters so that

you can drop in on your favourite

hotel, the training is similar, but

will cost a good bit more, quite

possibly another $2,000.

Once you have you licence,

what could you fly? A simple,

but luxurious four-seat singleengined

aircraft with a range

of around 400-500 miles such

as the Cirrus SR range starts at

$289,000 new, or if your prefer

two engines, Piper’s Seneca

V will set your back a fraction

under $1m.

A popular choice for those

with long distances in mind, and

who might want to carry more,

is a turboprop such as Piper’s

Meridian or Socata’s TBM series

at $2m to $3m. If you want

to join the jet set, Cessna’s

neat little twin jet, the Citation

Mustang, will seat six and costs

just over $2.6m. Or you could go

on to get type-rated (get an extra

level on your licence) for your

own business jet – which beats

day-dreaming anytime. n

76 Upward Curve July-September 2012

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