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Realizing the Dream

Today's new and student pilots share their passions for flight

As pilots, we have much more in common than simply the ability to safely maneuver an airplane from takeoff to landing. For the most part, we also share a passion for this avocation or vocation called flying. The details of what led us down the path to the airport are all different; and yet, if we examine the motives closely, we find certain similarities.

I have yet to meet a pilot who learned to fly only as a means of transportation or who did it strictly for the chance to collect a big paycheck for sitting in the left seat of an airliner.

Instead, we are driven by other forces to satisfy our need to master the skills of piloting and navigation, to observe the world from a perspective seen by fewer than one in every 4,000 persons here on the blue planet. Unlike others, we know what it is like to see, from 5,000 feet, a brilliant orange moon rise over a sparkling cityscape; to view, from above, a flock of white birds pirouetting and swooping in perfect formation over a gray pond on a misty morning; to hear the satisfying tink, tink, tink of a cooling engine in the liquid-golden light of sunset as we tie down our steed after the calm evening's squeaker landing. It is for these experiences that we learned to fly and for which we fly again.

Those just joining our ranks can't yet describe the experiences, but within them is a burning desire to meet the challenges of learning to fly. And while the number of student pilots has drastically decreased over the last 20 years, the number of people with the longing to pursue our craft has not diminished. Instead, these individuals have been distracted by other pursuits or put off by a general aviation industry that for too long ignored its infrastructure and potential customers. But finally, in a collective effort that would make a military commander proud, general aviation companies have put aside competitive differences in order to jump-start our ailing flight training industry. Funded by more than 100 founding organizations, GA Team 2000 was launched in 1997. The organization's mission is "to revitalize the general aviation industry by efficiently utilizing limited resources to help create new student pilots and to educate the general public as to the benefits of general aviation ...."

Since 1980, the number of pilots in the United States has dropped from 850,000 to just 620,000 last year. Meanwhile, the number of student pilots has declined from 139,000 in 1977 to just 61,375 last year. But within that small number of student pilots is a victory. Finally, after years of decline, the trend reversed, and in 1997 the number of student pilots increased by more than eight percent.

At least part of the credit for the improvement must go to GA Team 2000's efforts. 1997 was really an organizational year for the group, but it nonetheless launched a test series of advertisements on selected cable television programs. Touting the organization's slogan, "Stop dreaming, start flying," the advertisements direct viewers to call 888/Be-a-Pilot or to go to the Web site ( There, prospects can receive an introductory flight certificate that for $35 can be redeemed at one of the hundreds of participating flight schools. That effort, combined with inserts in AOPA Pilot and other aviation magazines, distributed more than one million certificates by the end of last year; some 15,000 of the coupons have been redeemed.

This year, GA Team 2000 is fine-tuning its advertising campaign and running more of the ads, and it is also focusing attention on the flight schools that participate. Another arm of the organization is concentrating on the general media in an effort to promote learn-to-fly efforts to the public.

Previous industry learn-to-fly campaigns have faltered for a lack of commitment and funding. One difference this time is the fact that GA Team 2000 was established as a charitable organization. Therefore, contributions to it are tax-deductible, reducing at least slightly the sting of donations made by the companies.

AOPA was among the very first to recognize the need to reverse the alarming drop in student pilot starts and in the pilot population as a whole. Surveys show that AOPA members believe strongly that a healthy pilot population is important to all of us. As a result, AOPA is a founding member of GA Team 2000 and a Platinum-Level donor. AOPA President Phil Boyer is also president of GA Team 2000. Ed Stimpson, former president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, is GA Team 2000's chairman. Other Platinum-Level donors include AlliedSignal, Cessna Aircraft, and Sporty's Pilot Shop. The New Piper Aircraft is a Gold-Level contributor. Other companies and organizations have come forth with lesser but still significant contributions. In all, more than $2 million will be put to work this year to revitalize the industry. The plan is to grow that war chest larger every year.

A stronger and more vibrant industry helps each of us by creating a louder unified voice in Washington. With more pilots and consumers, manufacturers can become more efficient and competitive, which can drive down costs.

But in the end, the effort is really about reaching out and sharing the experience of flight. As you can see in the following pages where we profile today's new and student pilots, everyone from megastar Harrison Ford to line attendant Kristi Cooper takes to the sky for the same reason - to realize the dream of flying.

Why We Fly

What motivates our newest pilots?

Kyle Asplund's love affair with flying began 30 years ago when, as an eight-year-old, he took a commercial flight to the Bahamas with his family - his first ride in an airplane. Over the next three decades he promised himself over and over again that he would learn to fly - conditioning for the time when he would finally do it.

That time came last December, when Asplund launched himself completely into the activity. Sprinting through the curriculum at Yingling Aircraft on Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport, he completed the task in only five months, passing his checkride on April 6 with just 48 hours in his logbook. "When I set my mind on something, I just go do it," he explains. "I would schedule five days a week before or after work, in hopes that I could actually fly two or three days, what with Wichita's winter weather and all." Blessed with an El Niño mild winter, Asplund progressed quickly, with a lot of support from friends and colleagues at Raytheon Aircraft Company. There, he works for AlliedSignal as a design engineer on the Hawker Horizon's environmental systems.

"Most everyone I work with is a pilot, and they all talked about flying," he reflects. The words finally got to him. Although he's always worked in the aerospace industry - first for Allied-Signal in Phoenix, later for Learjet in Wichita, and now AlliedSignal again - he didn't realize the amount of skill and knowledge that it takes to learn to fly. "It took me by surprise how much hard work it was. The challenge caused me to work even harder at it."

Asplund says it was that challenge and the excitement that kept him motivated. "It's fun - like a thrill ride for me. I still remember my very first takeoff with [instructor] Scott [Watson]."

He is already gearing up for his next training race: the instrument rating. "Especially since taking the checkride, I really realize that it is a license to keep learning. Every day out there is different." The instrument rating, he says, will allow him to make the most of his private certificate. If he is true to form, Kyle Asplund will have the instrument rating in his pocket only a short time after he sets out to earn it. - Thomas B. Haines

Kristi Cooper

Kristi Cooper is a 10-hour student pilot working toward her dream of a career in aviation. To get there, she is building experience by working the line for Aero-Smith at the Washington County Regional Airport in Hagerstown, Maryland.

"I was looking for something around the airport for the longest time," she said. "I just wanted to be around aircraft."

The 20-year-old is not only staying around aircraft, she is earning funds to complete her private certificate. She is also considering a career as an airframe and powerplant mechanic and is getting valuable experience towards that goal every day.

What got her started? The movie Top Gun and hearing her grandfather talk about his work at the Fairchild aircraft factory that was once located in Hagerstown. Also serving as an inspiration was a math teacher who had in the classroom a Cessna cockpit that was used to illustrate the lessons. The teacher also offered an Aviation Invasion program regionally.

Cooper joined the Civil Air Patrol and was an enthusiastic member for six years. Her first airplane flights came as a gift for her sixteenth birthday. - Alton K. Marsh

Kathy Laprade

Kathy Laprade has been fascinated by flight since her childhood. In fact, she made her first flight at about age six, when she built cardboard wings and jumped off the neighbor's garage. It was a very short flight, but she held onto the dream.

"I'd always wanted to learn to fly - as far back as I can remember," recalled the 43-year-old software saleswoman and former emergency room nurse from Easthampton, Massachusetts. A death and a serious illness among her close friends motivated her to begin flight training. "I decided that life's too short," explained Laprade.

Her first lesson was in September 1996, and she passed her checkride on April 26, 1997. "Flying through the winter in New England, that's not bad," she said with infectious enthusiasm. "Did I tell you I took my niece and nephew flying last weekend? Bobby's a natural!" Laprade said that her own two teenage children are indifferent to her flying, but her husband has been very supportive.

All of the 150-hour private pilot's flying is for fun. One of her favorite destinations is New York City, where she follows the VFR corridor along the Hudson River - looking up at Manhattan's skyscrapers and down at the Statue of Liberty. "It just amazes me every time I go," she said. "It's a little hairy the first time, but once you know the drill, it's easy."

Even her instrument instruction has been fun. One training flight, from Northampton Airport to Ocean City, New Jersey, included shopping and a walk on the boardwalk. Last winter a flight to Lake Placid, New York, led to a dogsled ride across the frozen lake. "My CFI told me he needs more students like me," she said with a laugh.

Laprade said that she really enjoys the camaraderie of the pilot community and spends a lot of time hanging out at the airport. She's landed rides in a Glasair, a Lancair, a brand-new Mooney Bravo, and a hot air balloon. "I manage to get in anything neat that comes into the airport," she said. "If you don't ask, the answer's always the same."

She's also one of the founding "Babes," a group that formed on AOPA Online's message boards when a pilot posted a politically incorrect message seeking pictures of "good-looking women with airplanes." "All the people who responded [to his message] started e-mailing each other, and we all became friends," Laprade explained. The group, which now comprises several dozen women and men, holds informal fly-ins and has even established its own Web site (

"I'm basically having a real good time flying," Laprade said. "My only regret about the whole thing is that I didn't start sooner." - Michael P. Collins

Richard Pranin

Richard Pranin, 18, does not hesitate. "How would I sell flying to someone I know?" he says, restating the query. "I would put them in an airplane and take them flying. That's usually enough ... it was for me."

Indeed, with a grandfather who instructed for the military in Stearmans and a father who flew, Pranin might be excused of the simplification; flying is just something every kid does, right? But his career took off, literally, when his father bought him some introductory lessons. "Then the flying bug really bit me," says Pranin.

That could be the end of the story, had Pranin not stumbled upon Gene Gast, a Stearman owner in Torrance, California. Pranin, as a 16-year-old who had had the bug to fly since he was three, was befriended by Gast. After showing more than a little competence and initiative, Pranin was afforded the chance to do some flying in the Stearman in return for the time-honored wash-and-wax routine around the hangar. But while most airport kids follow this path until their interest wanes or parents step in with suggestions about how useful a CPA can be to the world, Pranin locked his sights on the big yellow trainer.

It's rare today that a young pilot-to-be should get into a crowd of pilots who count among them a couple of Wacos, a Stearman, and a Travel Air (the one with two wings, not two engines). But Pranin did, grateful for it: "I love these classic airplanes. Flying the Stearman is great."

Pranin should know. Rather than solo in something so mundane as a Cessna 150 or Piper Cherokee, Pranin got his shot in the Stearman. "On the day of the solo, Gene and I flew, and I was all over the place ... really bouncing the landings. We stopped, and I asked him if he was sure I was ready to solo. He said, 'Yes, of course.' The next three landings were perfect," says Pranin, with understandable pride.

Now 18, Pranin has big plans. After graduating from high school, he's planning to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for the training required to take him into the airlines. Moreover, Pranin intends to get his A&P written tests out of the way this summer. It's clear, though, that while his long-term career goals hang on air carriers, "I can't imagine not flying airplanes like this," he says, gesturing to the Stearman. - Marc E. Cook

James Hubbell

Like so many pilots, James Hubbell was drawn to aviation by a family influence. His father was a pilot in the U.S. Navy who flew Hellcats and TBMs. Likewise, living across the bay from the busy Pensacola Naval Air Station certainly didn't dull Hubbell's interest. One of his fondest memories was of watching the Navy's Blue Angels practice as he peered skyward from the family's dock on the bay. One day, as Hubbell watched his private airshow, the pilot of one of the team's F-4 Phantoms made a low-and-slow pass near the dock and waved at the star-struck boy.

"There's a certain amount of intrigue and romanticism surrounding aviators, from the stories I've heard and what I witnessed when I was growing up," says Hubbell. "So I figured I should somehow be a part of it."

Hubbell, 37, who is now a senior manager working in networking solutions in Chantilly, Virginia, was working on a proposal for the Pentagon last year when he met Steve Batdorff, a former Air Force fighter pilot and program manager of GTE's SkyCentral aviation Web site. Batdorff became Hubbell's mentor through AOPA's Project Pilot. He explained to Hubbell how to go about choosing a flight school and an instructor based on his background and desires. Along the way, Batdorff provided answers to all of the neophyte pilot's questions regarding his new undertaking.

Being a part-time U.S. Department of Defense contractor, Hubbell decided on the Quantico Flying Club at the Quantico (Virginia) Marine Corps Air Facility. His instructor, Bill Dunn, is a captain in the Marine Corps. Currently, Hubbell has logged 10 hours and hopes to someday earn an instrument flight instructor's certificate. He also hopes to utilize flying for his business travel.

Like many prospective pilots, Hubbell was worried about the cost of flying. "For the longest time I had the misconception that flying would be rather expensive," he says. After discussing the possibility with mentor Batdorff, Hubbell learned that flying is comparable to other sports. "I found that it was no more expensive than scuba diving, golf, or skiing, depending on your perspective." For Hubbell the cost of flying is reduced, thanks to the military flying club.

From a wide-eyed kid on the dock to the left seat of a Cessna 172, Hubbell is finally realizing his dreams of flight. He especially enjoys the fact that he and his father can share something that is very special to both of them. - Peter A. Bedell

Chris Wagner

Chris Wagner is a master chef who hails from Augsburg, Germany. And while he makes his living cooking gourmet meals for private homes and yachting parties in South Florida, flying is his real passion. "Flying has been a dream of mine since childhood," he said. "I grew up near the Augsburg airport and inhaled far more airplane exhaust than car fumes."

As is so often the case, Wagner's interest in flying seems to have a strong genetic component. His father has been flying sailplanes and single-engine airplanes for some 50 years. "He's even got 8-millimeter home movies of me at the airport as a child," Wagner reminisced.

Wagner began taking flying lessons three years ago. Now he's accumulated 52 hours in Cessna 152s and 172s. The pressures of work have prevented him from earning his private certificate as fast as he'd like, but these days he's closing in on his objective. Now, Wagner is preparing for his solo cross-country flights. He's taking lessons from Marian Smith, a veteran full-time instructor who works for Palm Beach Aircraft Services, Inc., an FBO at Lantana, Florida's Palm Beach County Airpark.

Does the cost of flying bother him? "The price doesn't deter me at all," Wagner said. "In Germany, you'd pay about 219 Deutsch marks to rent a Cessna 172 for an hour. That's about $120, so the cost of flying over there is at least double what it is in the United States - maybe even four times more if you count the higher cost of gas and so on. So here, you practically fly for free, in comparison."

Those numbers explain the large influx of European and other foreign student pilots to sunny training sites such as Florida.

Wagner has a mentor in a corporate and charter pilot friend who flies a Gulfstream and a Cessna 421. Every once in a while, Wagner is treated to some right-seat time in the 421. Apparently, those experiences have whetted his appetite for bigger and better things.

"After I get my private certificate, I'll get the instrument rating, then a commercial certificate and a multiengine rating," Wagner asserts.

Although Wagner has spent years attaining master chef status, his passion for flying may cause a change of career. "I'd quit cooking to become a professional pilot," he said.

Whether Wagner flies for hire or uses his piloting skills to fly from one culinary assignment to the next, it's safe to say that flying has immutably changed his future course in life. - Thomas A. Horne

E-mail the authors at [email protected].

A Promise Kept

Harrison Ford tells how he pursued his love of flight


I was first intrigued by flying when I was in college in rural Wisconsin. I had a few lessons back then, but I never got it together enough to solo. As I recall, it was costing me all of about fifteen bucks an hour for the airplane and instructor, although that was a great deal of money to me back then. I guess it was about 1962. The desire to fly never really left me, and I promised myself that it was something I would take the time to do, sooner or later. As with a lot of other pilots, it turned out to be later, but I've never looked back.

It was riding up front in the jump seat of my Gulfstream that really fired up my desire again. Still, with my busy schedule and all the travel I do, it took some time to make it happen. About three years ago I finally set off to get my pilot's certificate. Once I started, I was determined to finish, but the road to getting my certificate was interrupted by the various productions I was involved in. While I soloed in August 1995, it would be awhile before I'd take the checkride. I persevered, and on September 19, 1996, I passed my checkride. It was a funky day for a checkride, 1,300-foot overcast, winds at 25 knots, but everything went fine. I'm not sure when exactly I got my feet on the ground; I was walking on air for quite a while.

Most of my early training was done in Jackson, Wyoming. I bought a turbo-charged Cessna 182 to start. The turbo really makes a difference at that elevation. A pilot at my airport in Jackson had been moved by AOPA's Better Than New 172 articles to apply essentially the same treatment to a Cessna Turbo 206, but after finishing the project, he had to sell it for personal reasons. It was a beautifully equipped and finished airplane. I flew it and immediately felt very comfortable in it, so I moved up to the 206 to finish my training.

I don't have many friends who fly, but there are a few people who spurred my interest in aviation. Jimmy Buffett is one of those people. He fostered in me a kind of jealousy for the freedom and the skill that he has. Sidney Pollack, the director, who flies his own Lear 55, also encouraged me and spurred me on when I started, although in the main I was self-motivated.

Because I have a home in New York City, where I spend a good deal of time, I also trained at Teterboro, New Jersey, and flew back and forth between Jackson and the East Coast. I had a dozen cross-countries of the United States in my logbook by the time I earned my ticket, the first one in the 182, hand-flown all the way. That first cross-country in the 182 was a great eye-opening experience. When I have to get somewhere fast and meet a schedule, the Gulfstream is a great business tool; but for enjoyment, flying a small airplane across the United States is hard to beat.

When the 206 blew its turbo and sent pieces of the turbine through a couple of cylinders, we decided that the prudent thing to do was to rebuild the engine. The problem was that the airplane would be down nearly three months, and I certainly didn't want to be without something to fly for all that time, so that's when I bought a Beech B36TC Bonanza. The Bonanza is a great traveling machine and a joy to fly. I've taken it from Los Angeles to New York and back a number of times. I've thoroughly enjoyed every flight I've made across this beautiful country.

Once I knew that I was doing Six Days, Seven Nights (see " GA at the Movies," page 90), I got my tailwheel endorsement. Learning to fly the Piper Cub and Stinson 108 was a good deal of fun, and I developed a far greater appreciation for what the rudder pedals are for. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to get something light and rugged to fly in Wyoming and to maintain my tailwheel skills, so I ordered an Aviat Husky [built just down the road from Jackson in Afton, Wyoming].

Some airplanes just get under your skin, and the [de Havilland] Beaver is a perfect example. It is such an honest aircraft. Having fallen in love with the Beaver after flying it in Six Days, Seven Nights, I bought one, had it zero-timed, and have just recently taken delivery of it. All of the helicopter flights in Kauai piqued my interest, and just this spring I earned my helicopter rating in a Robinson R22. With my rotorwing ticket in hand, I then attended Bell school in Fort Worth and picked up a 206-L4 Long-Ranger equipped with a high-altitude tail rotor, so I can use it in Wyoming. The helicopter opens up another unique flying environment to me and required me to master another set of flying skills. I guess I've got it bad.

I will always want to keep the Beaver and Husky but will probably trade in the Bonanza at some point for a twin after I get my instrument rating. I don't really have many ambitions beyond that - no interest in flying jets, particularly. My love and interest is in this hands-on environment of flying light airplanes.

I was treated to a flight with the Thunderbirds in an F-16, which I got to fly myself for about 20 minutes. That was a real kick! You gain a true appreciation for the awesome capabilities of both the airplane and its pilots. Then, an hour later I was flying with Sean Tucker in his Pitts, and I was fascinated by the contrast between the two. The intercom wasn't working, but Sean would perform a maneuver and I'd see and feel how he moved the controls and then I'd try the same maneuver. What intrigued me was that it was the same kinds of inputs I use to fly, just in a different, more intense environment. In the Pitts I felt more in control, more like I was flying the aircraft than when I was flying the F-16. One of these days I'd like to do some more aerobatics, although more from the perspective of handling an unusual attitude than to pursue aerobatics itself; it sure was a lot of fun, though.

Since I am often away from one particular airplane or another for months at a time, I do take a day with my CFI to get current. When you don't use skills for a while, they get rusty, and that's not my idea of the way to fly. In any case, I do recurrent training at least every three to four months. We'll fly to six to 10 airports in the area, with about 14 to 16 landings to get myself current to the level at which I like to be. I train to commercial standards; the CFI expects the same of me as he does a pro.

We don't just go around the pattern - that's not recurrent training. We perform simulated engine failures on takeoff and all the way to a landing, stalls, and other air work. I do it because I think the training is important, but I also do it because it is the most fun I can have. I enjoy refining my skills and developing new skills. That's always been an interest of mine in acting, in carpentry, in everything else I have done - to achieve a level of skill and excellence. Flying is no different, just more critical.

I devoted quite a bit of time to training in the Beaver, both to assure others that I was adequate to the task they had in mind and also for the pure fun of it. I just love the airplane, and I loved the demanding environment I was flying it in. It was a pleasure to have a specific and very restrained regimen to deal with, requiring very precise flying. Since that's what I always strive for when flying, it didn't seem unusual or require a new mind-set.

I love going into new airports; I love crosswind landings; I love short-field takeoffs and landings. I love landing on grass, or a dry lake bed, or dirt road. I love slipping an airplane and all it takes to finesse a good landing. I just love handling an airplane. I like flying alone, and it's not unusual for me to take four to five hours and do a round robin of 10 airports, just for the pleasure of flying. Still, I also like having someone along to share the experience…and admire my landings. Flying with pros is great because I always learn something from them and increase my knowledge and skill level. I probably fly about 250 hours a year. That's a lot of flying just for fun.

My wife is gratified that I found something that interests me and engages me as much as flying does, and she has been very generous in allowing me the time. She frequently flies with me, but I more often fly for fun and training than on missions to go someplace or get something done. I spend every moment that I can in the airplane, but I am able only occasionally to disguise it as business or a family trip.

I like most the change in visual environment, the places that I visit and see, and the great people I meet in the world of aviation. I also appreciate the circumstances under which I meet these people. They accept me simply as a pilot who shares their love of flying and they seem to respect my genuine interest in aviation. The fraternity of aviators cares little for other trappings; they welcome you because of a shared interest and judge you on your flying skills. My only regret is that I waited so long.

Lending a Hand

Project Pilot program helps members to help students


Do you remember all the questions that you had when you were a student pilot? Remember the questions that you thought were too dumb to ask your flight instructor? How many questions did you simply forget between lessons? Do you remember the experienced pilots who took the time to answer some of these questions in discussions by the coffee pot or in the pilots' lounge?

Remember AOPA's Project Pilot?

In Project Pilot, launched in April 1994 to help rebuild the dwindling pilot population, AOPA members identify friends and coworkers with the time, money, and desire to learn to fly - and then mentor them through the process.

The four-year-old program is going like gangbusters. Through the end of April, 26,307 potential pilots have been encouraged by 19,954 mentors to pursue their dreams of flight. Another 67,102 student pilots have been enrolled in the companion Project Pilot Instructor program by 8,429 certificated flight instructors.

Is the mentoring program successful? Bulging folders of correspondence at AOPA headquarters tell the story. Many mentors report that they enjoy the experience as much as the students they encourage; the process often helps to restore the mentor's enthusiasm.

"I have been flying for over 20 years. After all that time, it has become like second nature, and some of the fun of discovery has waned," wrote Bettina Browne of Atlantic Beach, New York, who mentored her husband, Edward Radburn. "Watching Ed enjoy flying as a new pilot has restored some of my enthusiasm, and so the mentor program has been a benefit to me, too."

Lawrence Gering of Indianapolis, Indiana, agreed to mentor Pamela Berry. "Like most student pilots, she sometimes felt overwhelmed or underconfident," he said. "The materials provided by the Project Pilot program were very useful in providing her with the encouragement she needed to finish successfully." Berry earned her certificate last December, and Gering is now mentoring another student.

At one time Harry Moore of Lincroft, New Jersey, was mentoring five student pilots. Two have earned their certificates and the other three have soloed. "I enjoy the experience and I think they do, too," he said. "It's good for them to have somebody to bounce things off of." One of his students has decided to become an airline pilot.

Flying is now a family affair for Jim Yeager of Oceanside, California, and his wife. "Billie began the quest for her private pilot certificate about a year and a half ago, after I had purchased a 1978 Piper Warrior," he said. "She wanted to feel more comfortable flying with me, at that time a newly licensed pilot. Initially she was just going to take a Pinch-Hitter course, but after a couple of sessions she got the bug and decided that she would like to go ahead and work to get her certificate." Billie Yeager received that certificate in February. "We are now a two-pilot family," Jim boasted. "The only problem we have is deciding who gets to fly left seat."

Participation in Project Pilot is free to both student and mentor, and enrolling a student in the program is as simple as a toll-free telephone call to 800/USA-AOPA (800/872-2672). Program materials are usually mailed out on the same day that you call.

Students receive the Joy of Flying videotape, a copy of AOPA Pilot, an article with suggestions for beginning flight training, and the first in a series of six informative newsletters. The remaining newsletters are mailed at intervals during the next year. Project Pilot students who join AOPA are entered in a monthly drawing for their choice of a free written exam video course or an aviation video library, valued at up to $200, from King Schools.

Mentors receive additional newsletters designed to help them encourage their students. In addition, if one of a mentor's presolo students goes on to earn his or her pilot certificate, the mentor will receive a $100 Sporty's Preferred Rewards Gift Certificate. (There is a limit of one certificate per mentor.)

If you can't find a mentor locally, AOPA Online can help you to find one - nearby or far away. Set your Web browser to and scroll down to the "Find a Student-Find a Mentor" bulletin board. Use of this new service has almost doubled during the past month, after AOPAPresident Phil Boyer mentioned it in his column ("President's Position: It's Working," May Pilot). And, in case you're wondering, AOPA is aware of numerous student/mentor relationships based primarily on e-mail communication.

A companion program for CFIs, Project Pilot Instructor, continues to grow by nearly 200 flight instructors each month. Among other benefits, participating instructors receive a monthly newsletter with tips on technique and marketing. For more information or to enroll, interested CFIs can call 800/ USA-AOPA (800/872-2672) or visit the Web site (

E-mail the author at [email protected].

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