Done! I’m finally done with the professional pilot program with a crisp FAA commercial multi-engine certificate and an instrument rating in hand. The journey so far has been a long and rewarding one. I did private pilot training from October to December 2017. Then went home to The Bahamas to work and returned in October 2019 to start instrument training. I stopped at the start of 2020 due to the pandemic and returned in February 2021 to finish up instrument and commercial training. I finally got the instrument rating done in April of 2021 and completed the final commercial multi-engine checkride in December the same year. Four years of stops and starts, hard work, early mornings, late nights and great achievements. All in all, I feel grateful to be done. Being at Wayman definitely helped prepare me for the professional pilot atmosphere. Here are top 4 moments from flight training that truly has made it memorable.
The Introductory Flight
The introductory flight was one of my first days at Wayman in 2017. I was assigned an instructor who evaluated my knowledge level since I had already completed ground school. After being successfully evaluated we went to a Cessna 152 where I was shown how a preflight is done. Everything felt like it was happening so fast since it was my first time around a small airplane. We got in, started up and taxied out to the runway. The takeoff roll was so short and I was surprised at how light the 152 was. The introductory flight took us east over the shoreline and then south down Miami Beach before turning back around over Key Biscayne. Miami Beach at 500 feet is an incredible sight to see. In my opinion this was the best way to get introduced to the flight training environment. We are lucky to be able to live and learn in such a beautiful part of the world. Flying over the infamous South Beach is Lesson Number 1! You can see all the umbrellas and sunbathers on vacation.
The First Solo
Just like every other pilot, the first solo will always be a huge memory. After 2 weeks of lessons and a long day of practice in the pattern it was solo time. The goal was to do several takeoffs and landings by myself. To be honest I felt really calm once my instructor got out and I went to takeoff on my own. It wasn’t until I actually got in the air when it hit me, “Wow, I’m actually in the air by myself…. But I also have to get it back down next!” I got a bit nervous but at this point all you can rely on is the training. This is what I did and flew a nearly flawless first solo. This milestone gave me a lot of confidence. When you come back in the building and ring the bell, the building erupts with clapping throughout. It is a great supportive environment where everyone has faced those same challenges and lifts each other up. It was all smiles and high fives, pure energy surfing on the adrenaline of my first solo.
“The first time you actually shutdown an engine in flight it is a strange experience. It is almost unnatural to see a prop feathered standing still in front of the engine while in flight.”
The Challenging Weather
This flight was memorable because it was the first time I dealt with real challenging weather after getting my instrument rating. Sometimes it’s good to safely increase your limits as a pilot as your skills grow. When done right with risks mitigated there is a lot that can be learned. This particular day my instructor and I went for a cross country and on the way back the weather started to deteriorate. It was summertime in Florida and there were many pop-up isolated thunderstorms. Fortunately, all the storms were circumnavigable. Nonetheless, it made for a challenging return trip to North Perry Airport. Through proper use of holding patterns, ADSB weather radar, ATC weather advisories and sound decision making we were able to make a smooth RNAV approach and even smoother landing on a wet runway. Learning how to navigate weather, make decisions in the air and landing on a wet runway greatly improved my confidence and decision making skills. It allowed me to increase my personal minimums. You have to leave your comfort zone to grow.
The Multi-Engine Training, First Engine Shutdown
No doubt the most fun part of training was flying the mighty multi-engine Piper Seneca. It has a lot more power than the 152s and 172s and are a lot more stable while flying. It also has many more systems, such as retractable landing gear, two engines and constant speed propellers. All this increases your workload. However, when flying multi-engine aircraft the most important thing is knowing how to fly it on one-engine if the other fails. The first time you actually shutdown an engine in flight it is a strange experience. It is almost unnatural to see a prop feathered standing still in front of the engine while in flight. But it’s important to practice it during training. You realize in most cases small twin engine airplanes can fly just fine with one powerplant inoperative. Flying a multi-engine aircraft and practicing these maneuvers truly made me feel as though I was really becoming a professional pilot. Then crank it back up in mid-air to understand that the machine is under your control. Multi-engine training is so important because especially in the Caribbean the vast majority of small “island hoppers” are twin Cessna 402s, Piper Aztecs and Piper Navajos.
I am super thankful to have had the opportunity to go to flight school and complete all the training. Although this is just the start of my flying career, finishing training felt like getting over a large mountain. After returning home I was fortunate enough to be hired rather quickly as a first officer on the Beechcraft 99 by a charter company. The company flies Beechcraft 99 15-seat turboprops and 9-seat Cessna 402s. Naturally, I was excited and am looking forward to when I officially start. My next goal is to get my commercial single-engine land and sea ratings and also get into aviation business consulting. I can absolutely say that the training at Wayman Academy helped properly prepare me for a flying career.
What has been your highlight from flight training?