Let's not forget other people's schedules either. I was ready for my practical test and check ride in mid-October but, thanks to weather, the first appointment was canceled. We met a week later and again a cold front left us with adverse weather conditions. I was able to salvage the time somewhat by completing the oral that day. But, I couldn't get on the schedule for my check ride until another two weeks later because the examiner was booked. The monthlong wait for my check ride seemed like an eternity — and gave me plenty of time to build up anxiety.
Additionally, becoming a safe pilot requires the same basic skills (other than for night and instrument training required for the private) regardless of the certification: A crosswind is a crosswind for any student. I became very familiar with that the day of my cross-country solo. The wind had kicked up considerably and turned into a direct crosswind (the strongest I had encountered) between the time of departure from my home base and the time I returned. Adam Valencic, my instructor and co-owner of FLA, came on the radio after I announced my downwind entry, reminding me that I could land at a nearby airport that was aligned with the wind if I had trouble. Already with that in mind as a backup plan, I responded that I would if necessary. My setup for final was a bit off, so I announced a go-around with an aside for Adam that I was comfortable giving it one more attempt. Now "familiar" with the wind, my setup was good on all legs — and my training sufficient — to land safely.
At the end of the day, I completed my Sport Pilot training in just over four months, and that was at a somewhat relaxed schedule with some delays. That is two months less than it took me to log the 15 hours I had acquired earlier in the Cadet. And now, once I spend time enjoying flying as a sport pilot, I won't have much further to go for my private license.
Along the way, there clearly were some fits and starts. I had to ask myself some questions to figure out what would work best for me. What was my mission? Did I want to fly solely for recreation, or did I want to be able to fly to that business meeting in another state? Did I want to carry more than one passenger? What kind of airplane did I want to fly? Did I want to fly at night? Could the Sport Pilot rating help me continue on to my private? Most important, what would keep that passion and joy alive and accessible? For me, pursuing the Sport Pilot certificate was the answer, a remedy to the frustration and fear of losing my reacquired enthusiasm to fly. For those of you who might find my story familiar and are considering returning to the skies, or who want to learn to fly, you might find yourself asking the same questions.
But in the end, whichever path is a fit, I'm certain we are all flying, first and foremost, for the same reason — for the joy of it.
Exclusive to the iPad and Web: Check out the March iPad edition to get Connie's take on switching from a standard-category airplane to an LSA as well as a look at an in-flight video taken during her Sport Pilot training. Additional training videos are available on her blog, Logbook, here at flyingmag.com.