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So, I’m going to be a pilot

Henri Rantanen 0

Ever since I was a little kid, there has been a small spark in me to get to the skies. Now, after a decade of aviation-related hobbies, I have started flight school to get a Private Pilot’s License.

Read how I’ve gotten from flying RC-planes to skydiving and flying with an actual aircraft!

OH-PIF
Instument panel of Piper Cherokee

Aircrafts are fascinating. All the engineering and even politics around aviation are interesting, do you know any other field that brings more people to collaborate cross borders?

Aviation as a hobby

During my life, I’ve tried many different ways of flying but now I think I’ve have found my thing: good old-fashioned civil aviation.

Here is a short story on how I got started:


Radio Controlled models

It all started when I was a kid. During grade school, I was so jealous because my friend had an RC-plane.

After he was done with it, I bought the 35 MHz 4-channel Hitec RC-radio equipment from him and coupled it with a Styrofoam Tiger Moth biplane kit. Bad idea, very difficult plane to start with.

While in Jyväskylä I used to work in a store specialized in Kyosho RC-models, I got to play around and maintain a wide variety of models and got friends from the local RC-community.

Different RC-models I’ve had

  • GWS Tiger Moth
  • GWS Estarter
  • ParkFun Blitz 3D Coaxial helicopter  (Bell Ranger)
  • GWS Slow Stick
  • Yuneec Procopter (best toy ever, cat ate it)
  • Hobby King Ventus glider with 2,33m wingspan
  • Hobby King Tuff Trainer
  • Sometimes borrowed Align T-Rex 550E from a friend
I tried to teach my friend to fly the T-Rex in a simulator. Quite tricky but fun!

Skydiving

While I was studying for my electrician degree in Jyväskylä, I had a couple of friends who were skydiving in Tikkakoski airport (EFJY).

They managed to talk me into the week long course and my career was set to be jumping from a functioning aircraft.

OH-CHQ

My first skydiving experience

On the 7th of August 2011, I fell 1 km (~ 3300 feet) from the sky, wearing the orange pleasure and a heart-rate monitor. 110 kcal per jump, not so extreme of a sport.

I broke my ankle during the landing and because the skydiving season was almost over continuing skydiving was not really an option that year. 

Video of me climbing out from Skydive Jyväskylä’s OH-CHQ, Cessna Skylane II

I’m glad I did it and would recommend skydiving to everyone but skydiving as a hobby was too much for me.


Light Aircrafts

After the skydiving, my lust of getting to the skies was still there but I needed something with less adrenaline than free-fall. Maybe being a private pilot might be my thing?

Renting an airplane

I asked my friend, a commercial pilot if we could rent a small airplane and go flying just for fun and we did.

OH-PIF
Me 2013 with Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee, Vesivehmaa, Lahti

We took off from Lahti, flew to Jyväskylä skydive-club for coffee and returned to Lahti via sightseeing Tampere.

Short compilation of my first ride in a light aircraft

Seeing how things are actually done in civil aviation got me interested and the need to fly was still there.

The thought of being able to anywhere, fast, without roads was intriguing. 


Learning at home

Web & YouTube

During my engineering school and as a student there was not time nor money to pursue the dream of flying. So I did the next best thing: photography and YouTube. Here is a couple of interesting channels from professional pilots who explain well how stuff works.

This gave me a pretty good understanding of aviation as a hobby and profession.

Good example, Captain Joe’s explanation how PAPI-lights work.

Home flight simulator

I wanted to get some hand-eye coordination going so I started playing around with flight simulators.

Home Flight simulator Xplane Saitek
My home Flight simulator setup

I set up Logitech Saitek Yoke system with X-Plane 11. It made decent simulator experience with some issues like missing rudder pedals. It is still enough to learn the basics and enjoy the flying!


Flight School

After getting a stable job and money was no longer an issue, I decided to start flight school. The first time it was realistically possible. There is no time to wait for the retirement days!

Jeppesen flight computer E6B

Selecting a flight school

I chose my flight school Blue Skies Aviation in Lahti-Vesivehmaa airport because of couple of reasons:

  1. It’s is in the middle of nowhere with little traffic
  2. Flights are easier to arrange
  3. I expect the flight-lessons to be less stressful in less crowded air-space
  4. A friend went there and recommended the school
  5. 80 % of the theory to be studied online
  6. Price was lower than the competition
EFLA
Piper Cherokee taking off from Lahti-Vesivehmaa (EFLA) Runway 07

My current plan is to graduate with a Private Pilot Licence with single piston engine qualification before fall 2020. I might get the Commercial Pilot’s Licence later if this turns out to be my thing.

Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL)

PPL license would allow me to fly light airplanes alone and with friends, splitting the costs with the passengers but I can’t make a profit, not without extra training and updating to Commercial Pilot’s license (CPL).

  • 15 000 € totals
  • 100 hours of theory
  • 45 flight hours

The cost of flight school

Getting a regular driver’s license in Finland is expensive but nothing compared to commercial or even private pilots license.

Most of the price comes from the one-on-one flight hours that you have to take to learn how to maneuver and operate the aircraft.

Whole training costs around 15 000 to 20 000 € depending where you take the course and flights. Medical checkups and administrative costs quickly add up.

Breakdown and payment plan

I made the following payment plan with the school, so I could get the Private Pilot’s Licence without a loan:

  • Start fee and materials 1500 €
  • 21 payments of ~ 440 €
  • Totals 10 725 € to be paid over the 2-year training
  • Rest is various medical and administrative fees 

Future plans

Owning a light airplane

I have already years ago promised myself a small light aircraft, something like Cessna or a Piper when I turn 50.

View from the backseat of Piper Cherokee

Owning and operating your own aircraft is not really THAT expensive that people would think, it’s like having an expensive sports car, needs insurance, regular checkups, and maintenance.

I doubt I’ll be flying enough to justify the purchase of an airplane, as rentals cost around 200 € per flight hour depending on the model.

Joint ownership would be a good idea but for that you need people. If you live in Finland and are interested in co-owning an aircraft with me, HMU!

Travelling in Finland and abroad

Finland is a land of lakes, thus I like the idea of having a seaplane for them long weekend-rides to the summer house.

My future plans, summed up in a picture. Photo by Shifaaz shamoon on Unsplash
Verdict
  • Almost anyone can be a private pilot if they want to
  • Follow your heart and listen to your kidneys

Also check out my photo album: Aviation and YouTube channel

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