Sport Pilot on the Way to Private

Relocating my training closer to home



Flying with First Landing's Adam Valencic
in the school's Remos

A lot has changed with my training since my last blog. I had a successful Lesson 8, which was inspiring after the Lesson 7 letdown, and I was eager for the next flight. But my subsequent lessons kept getting canceled due to weather or last-minute work-related issues and the weeks between flights just kept ticking by. I found this very frustrating (this wasn’t the first time these type of delays had kept me from getting back into the air, sometimes 4 weeks at a time) and it dawned on me that driving the 3.5 hour drive to Vero and back for each lesson not only made it a long day but also limited my flexibility in rescheduling. (Flight Safety, however, was very accommodating and would have made time for me whenever I needed it.) My logged 15 hours after Lesson 8 were still a long way from reaching the finish line. It was time to see about bringing my training closer to home if I was ever going to get certificated before the two-year windows on my passed knowledge test and medical ran out.

When I approached Mac with my "diversion" request, he suggested I look around for Part 61 training. The program at Flight Safety was excellent, but I have to admit that Part 141 was not a natural fit for me and the logistics of my life didn't make it easier. Plus, Mac thought that, though it would be extra work for me to go for the Sport Pilot license along the way to the Private, I should consider it since it would be good for the magazine. I was all about it. After some research, I found that there were several Sport Pilot training centers within a 40-minute drive. I had narrowed the list down to two: Orlando Gateway Sport Pilot at Kissimmee and First Landings Aviation at Orlando-Apopka.

Everything began to fall into place. However, in a stroke of cosmic irony, it was becoming apparent that the decision to pursue the Sport Pilot certificate was navigating me back to my aviation roots — and tender memories. I’d be back in an LSA (a Remos) — I soloed in an Aeronca Champ at age 16 — and one of my choices, First Landings, happened to be based at the airport where I did some of my touch and goes preparing for my first solo. Plus, If I chose Orlando-Apopka, Bob White Field, my dad’s “Grass Strip Forever,” would be in view each flight since it’s located only a couple of miles northwest. Finally, I would be remiss not to mention that if I trained out of Orlando-Apopka, the practice grounds would be a few minutes west, over the shores of Lake Apopka, the very same location where my dad and two other souls onboard crashed in his Waco.

Perhaps the gentle nudges of fate had a hand in my final decision, but, in the end, the ease of access/distance won out and I settled on First Landings at Orlando-Apopka, a 25-minute drive from my work and home. The arrival of Florida's temperamental thunderstorm season has made the decision worthwhile just based on that alone. To date, I've had four lessons and three of those have had to be rescheduled. Because I am much closer, I have more flexibility in rescheduling; so instead of what would have most likely meant weeks of missing flight lessons at Vero, I was able to reschedule them within the same week at Orlando-Apopka.