AOPA Project Pilot provides members with the tools to find viable flight-training candidates and support them as student pilots with the wisdom and encouragement of experienced pilots through mentoring. A student with a Project Pilot Mentor is three times more likely to successfully complete his or her training. This exciting program is available free to all AOPA members. You don't have to be a CFI to participate. All it takes is someone who wants to share the joy of general aviation and a few minutes a week to help a student along.
After a week spent at EAA Airventure in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, I am blown away by the creativity in our industry and the proliferation of new aviation products. New airplane designs seem to be sprouting like mushrooms after a big rain (can you tell I am from the Pacific North-wet?). Cessna is going ahead with its awesome new 162 SkyCatcher and Cirrus announced the SRS, a slick new low-wing light sport aircraft into a field already crowded with a plethora of relatively inexpensive, simple, and yet very advanced personal flying machines! I got my private pilot certificate in the venerable (but aged) Cessna 152 and can imagine a whole host of new pilots learning to fly in these beautiful new, fun, and less costly airplanes.
At the high end of the personal aircraft spectrum, current pilots are gaining more options with light and very light jets, which are popping out - like frogs out of a pond - as soon as one company jumps in, another couple croak loudly and jump out. Eclipse unveiled a righteous looking new four-seat jet concept. Cirrus, Piper, Diamond, Honda, and a few others have new designs or prototypes flying. As a sculptor I love the smooth shapes and swooping lines being employed. It will be interesting to see how these crowded fields shake out after a few years.
Oshkosh is also a great place for current pilots, future pilots, and enthusiasts to catch a glimpse into the future of aviation. The cutting edge of aviation technology is frequently introduced by experimental aircraft and AirVenture is chock full of fantastic designs. The new Terrafugia flying car designed by a group from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology promises a George Jetson-like future and Sonex just unveiled an impressive electric-powered prototype. Neither of these airplanes is ready for the marketplace, but they both represent a great vision for the future. Imagine flight lessons that start in your own driveway.
Once again, AirVenture lit me up with all the amazing new stuff happening throughout the entire spectrum of aviation. It's a great time to share that magic and light up a friend - take them flying and show them just how easy it is to learn how to fly today. They don't need a million dollar personal jet but can jump right in to flying with a new, lower cost, state-of-the-art light sport aircraft. One thing is certain, if you don't encourage someone to take that step, they are much less likely to experience that magic for themselves.
See you soon at AOPA Expo!
AOPA Project Pilot spokesman
I started thinking about getting a pilots certificate late in 2006. Like a lot of people, I have always wanted to fly. After turning 40 last year, I felt I needed another change in my life.
I contacted a pilot friend of mine who lives in Wichita and who ferries airplanes around the world. When I asked him how to get started, he sent me to the AOPA Web site and that's where it began. While looking on the Web site, I noticed that AOPA was having a pilot town meeting in Kansas City. AOPA offered a "Learn to Fly" presentation that was loaded with good information. I then took the first steps toward learning how to fly by looking at flight schools, getting my medical, and doing a little bit of Web surfing.
From the very start I was learning what it takes to get the airplane off the ground - from pre-flight to radio, taxi, run up, and take off. What a rush it was to be in the air, learning the basic steps of flight. I have about 20 hours but have not soloed yet. To any future student pilots, you will have bad days and good days and then you will have "I hate this bloody machine" days, and "I cannot believe I can fly the machine" days. Plow through the bad days and enjoy the good days. You will start to have more good days as time goes on.
My AOPA Project Pilot Mentor, Tom , and I meet on Fridays at a local coffee shop. It is great to talk to a pilot about my training. Tom completed his training at the same school that I am. His experiences are still fresh and applicable. Now I have to work on the difference between a forward slip and side slip - in Kansas we seem to have a lot of wind to correct for. - Bill Coiner, AOPA 5848228, Olathe, Kansas
We welcome your photos. Although we can't guarantee publication, we encourage you to e-mail photos to email@example.com or call 800/USA-AOPA (800/872-2672). For more information or to nominate someone for AOPA Project Pilot, please go to the Web site.