What is a Private Pilot Certificate?
A Private Pilot Certificate is similar to a drivers license. Issued by the Federal Aviation Administration, it allows you to fly an airplane and carry passengers.It is issued by the FAA once you have satisfactorily completed the training program, written test and flight test.
Requirements to Obtain A Private Pilot Certificate
To qualify for a Private Pilot Certificate you must first obtain an FAAMedical Certificate by completing a routine medical examination and you must read, speak and understand the English language. The medical certificate will serve as
your Student Pilot Certificate once it is signed by both you and your instructor. This is required prior to solo flight.
Although you may solo at age 16, the minimum age for the Private Certificate is 17. You must also pass a written test consisting of 60 multiple choice questions with a score of 70% or better. (Click here to see a sample exam) The Private Pilot written exam is a learning opportunity. Studying the subject material assures you of both a high passing score on the test and a useful understanding of the information. The test can be purchased as a study guide. We also provide practice tests on our computer that simulate the real exam. You will be well prepared by the time you are ready to take the written. Our student scores average in the mid 90% range.
A minimum of 35 hours of flight instruction and solo flight time are required including:
20 hours of flight instruction including: at least 3 hours of cross-country (flying to an airport at least 50 nautical miles from the departing airport), 3 hours at night and 3 hours of flight instruction specifically in preparation for the private pilot flight test within 60 days prior to the test. 5 hours of solo flight time including: one cross-country flight. Finally, you must successfully complete a flight test which will be given as a "final exam" by an FAA designated examiner. The FAA Student Pilot Guide a useful resource. It provides not only an overview of the training process, but answers to many of the commonly asked questions.
Medical prerequisites for the Private Pilot Certificate
The explicit requirements and exclusions for a FAA Medical Certificate are beyond the scope of this web site. However, as a general rule, you must be able to hear a normal conversation, have vision 20/40 or better (corrected) and not have a disqualifying medical condition, or be on a disqualifying medication. While general guidelines are helpful, ultimately you must rely on the physician conducting your medical for a final determination. The important point to remember is that unlike driving a car, it is the pilot's responsibility to determine that he or she is fit for flight.
Cost to Obtain Your Pilot Certificate
The price of instruction varies nationwide and also from school to school. Fuel, maintenance and airplane expenses play a major role in determining airplane rental rates. Silver Express uses a regulated program for pilot training which follows a very structured syllabus that has been approved by the FAA. Both ground school and flight training are taught concurrently and are based on the building block method of learning, where each new concept or maneuver builds on the previous lesson. The advantage to the student pilot is that no prerequisite instruction is required and the course can be finished in a minimum of time and expense.
A cost estimate for the 35 hour private pilot course is listed below. The general consensus, however, is that few persons complete the program in less than 40 hours. Your total cost will depend on the amount of training in excess of 35 hours. Fortunately, payment can be made as time progresses, lesson by lesson, instead of all at once. In addition, we offer student loans to cover the cost.
Medical Exam $65 Books and Supplies $189 Written Test $150 25 Hours Dual Flight $2,975 * 10 Hours Solo Flight $740 * 10 Hours Ground School $450 Flight Test (Checkride) $400 TOTAL $4,969
* Price does not include the fuel surcharge. Currently $15.00 per hour as of 3/16/11, or approximately $600 for the 40 hour course
These prices are based on C-152 BLOCK rates and are subject to change. Currency converter
Time Required to Obtain Your Rating
While only a minimum of 35 hours of flight time is required for the Private Certificate, the total process usually takes several months due to commuting, ground instruction and testing.
Flight training is available in the following areas: Private Pilot, Instrument Rating, Commercial Rating, ATP Rating and Flight Instructor certification. Visa programs are available for foreign students and our bilingual staff is dedicated to meeting the specific needs of each student.
What you need to learn in your first 50 hours
"Generalization" is one of the most dangerous words in the English language. I'm going to use it anyway, but I'm going to make a generalization that is accurate so often it could be cast in concrete. Ready? "In general aviation, no amount of retraining will completely correct what was learned in the first 50 hours of flight." Go back and re-read that. I'll wait.
What we're talking about are the basics of flying, the aeronautical equivalent of how we learn to put one foot in front of the other and how we shape our lips when we speak. In those first few hours, you absorb information that forms your aeronautical personality for the rest of your flying life, and normal training techniques cannot easily dislodge them. If your basic habit patterns are correct, they will survive the worst of instructors in later life. If your habits are wrong, however, they may frustrate the most brilliant CFIs, and even after intense retraining, in harried moments or when we are tired, they may resurface. Just like rust, bad habits that result from bad training never sleep.
Here's another generalization: "The underlying cause of many accidents is the lack of basic stick and rudder skills." Ask any old-time instructor to describe the certificated pilots with whom he or she flies, and chances are the CFI will begin by listing what they can't do rather than what they can. At the core of that description will be abilities such as control coordination, speed/attitude control, and spatial relationships. In other words, some basics are weak.
The de-emphasis of basic flying skills is a relatively recent phenomenon that crept up on us as airplanes became increasingly forgiving and easier to fly. In older aircraft, factors such as adverse yaw were much more noticeable. If you expected a taildragging Aeronca Champ or Piper Cub to go where you wanted, you had to use your feet; otherwise, you wandered around the sky putting a shine on your jeans from sliding around in the seat. All of the factors that existed in older aircraft still are present in newer ones, but better aerodynamics have made them less noticeable. Adverse yaw, for instance, is still there, but in normal flight, it is so minor as to be unnoticeable. As a result, we now have instructors who never learned the subtleties of coordinating a modern airplane -- thus, they can't teach that subtlety.
Compared with older tailwheel aircraft, a Cessna 152 appears not to care whether it is perfectly straight on touchdown or not; some instructors, therefore, don't worry about the nuances of keeping the turn-and-bank ball dead center, nailing speeds right on the numbers, and landing exactly on a predetermined spot. Before we go much further, we should define "the basics" as used here. Although each instructor would probably make up a slightly different list, most would agree on the following as basic skills:
An understanding of fundamental aerodynamics.
An understanding of what each control surface does and why.
An awareness of where the airplane will go if a given trend continues (planning ahead).
The ability to coordinate with the rudder.
An awareness of the nose attitude and the ability to use it and power to control speed.
The ability to use the rudder to control torque and similar effects (P factor, etc.). You will notice the absence of skills such as the ability to talk on the radio or knowing how to use GPS. Marconi contributed absolutely nothing to the way an airplane flies. Bernoullelii did, however, and he deserves our attention. Why Worry About Basics?The first argument for strong basic skills is that they define the "right" way to fly an airplane. That, however, may not be specific enough for some pilots. They want to see results -- something that's improved, or safer, as the result of having good basic skills.
The most classic situation that requires all the basics to kick into high gear is on final approach to a short runway on a gusty, crosswindy day. Because the runway is short, you must plant the airplane right on its end so you have room to stop. This means you can't fly a 5-mile final approach, add 10 kts to the approach speed to compensate for the wind, and cruise down the runway, ready to land when the speed finally bleeds off.
In this situation, the crosswind is going to have you working the ailerons to keep aligned with the runway centerline. If your feet aren't working in concert with your hands, the airplane's nose will be meandering left and right as adverse yaw (which is more pronounced at steeper angles of bank) yanks the wings back and forth. And if you are not used to controlling the pitch attitude and coordinating the power as necessary to stay on glidepath, your airspeed will likely wander up and down the dial.
If the crosswind is gusty and of variable direction, you'll have to instinctively move your hands and feet from a coordinated to a cross-controlled configuration to keep the airplane aligned with the runway once ready to apply the wing-low-slip crosswind correction method at touchdown.
The crosswind, short-runway scenario is not the only situation that requires a strong grounding in the basics. Pilots who understand aerodynamics, as well as control coordination and attitude control, have little or no possibility of ever becoming stall/spin statistics. For a stall/spin to occur, the following conditions have to be present: speed degrading to the stall speed for that bank angle, and yaw (usually induced with inside rudder coupled with outside aileron). Prevent either of these, and the stall/spin is usually short-stopped. Eliminate the yaw (usually indicated by a centered turn-and-bank ball) and the stall might happen, but the spin is less likely. Eliminate the stall by controlling the nose attitude (angle of attack) and power -- keeping the speed appropriate -- and if the yaw is still there, nothing should happen except the pilot will be sliding sideways in the seat.
Incidentally, the stall/spin scenario too often involves overshooting the turn to final approach and trying to skid the airplane around with rudder while maintaining a shallow bank with outside aileron. Then, while this skidding turn slews the airplane around, the pilot lets the nose creep up. When reading about these unnecessary events, it's easy for us to think, "All the pilot had to do was keep the nose down and keep the turn coordinated, or better yet -- go around!" But in an airplane turning to final from an overshoot, when the ground is near, letting the nose creep up far enough for the airplane to stall is easy if the pilot isn't used to watching and controlling the airplane's attitude. In an aircraft such as a Cessna, flying slowly with full flaps, the nose does not have to come up very high for the wings to stall. The situation is further aggravated if the airplane is skidding around the turn with inside rudder and outside aileron. In that situation, not only is the airplane aerodynamically "dirty" because of the skid, the bank is increasing the load the wings must shoulder, which raises the stall speed.
Okay, so we've established the need to develop good basic skills. What do we do about it? If you are already a certificated pilot, the obvious first step is to evaluate your basics and see where you stand on the lousy-to-excellent scale. The second step would be training to remedy the situation. If you are a student, take the test with your flight instructor, and then talk with your CFI about giving you a firm foundation in the basics.
Let's run right down the basics as we've defined them and evaluate your strengths and weaknesses; then we will come up with a training plan.
Fundamental Aerodynamics: A Quiz
When taking this quiz, ask yourself this: Do I know the answers? Or do I just sort-of know the answers? If you have any doubts, you better crack some books because we are not going to give you the answers. We could ask a million other questions, but these will help you know if you have gaping holes in your knowledge.
What is critical angle of attack, and is it the same gliding as climbing? What effect does a 45-degree bank angle have on the stall speed? What is the camber line, and how does it tie into control-surface function? Which has more effect on aircraft performance, hot air or humid air? Why does putting the stick to the side make the ball go off center? What's the difference between torque and P factor? What causes an airplane to turn? Define adverse yaw. Another Quiz: What Does Each Control Surface Do?
What does putting a control surface down do (hint: you answered it above)? In a climbing, left turn with full power, which rudder will you use? When and why? In turns, while cruising, what is the rudder's actual purpose? When is the rudder displaced while making a turn in cruise? What are the effects of lowering flaps from 15 to 30 degrees? Planning Ahead: Where Will the Airplane Wind Up and What Can I do About It?This isn't a quiz, but a practical, in-flight test. First, fly a longer-than-normal final at a normal approach speed but with power. Kill the power when you think the airplane will land on the runway numbers. How close were you and why did you miss?
The runway numbers will appear stationary in the windshield when you are right on glidepath, but the power will bias this view. When you reduce the power to idle, the numbers will start moving up in the windshield, indicating that you'll be short, so compensate for that. Practice making approaches in which you can actually see the numbers moving up or down. Short-field approaches in which the airplane is riding the throttle show the effect more clearly.
Now set up for a power-off approach and reduce the power to idle when you are abeam the numbers on downwind. This should be your usual approach in most airplanes, but this time it's a test. Assume the engine is dead and you have no second chance. Use whatever configuration changes you want, or use slips, to put the airplane down on the first 500 feet of the runway. If you have to touch the power to make the runway, consider yourself a statistic of the National Transportation Safety Board. Look ahead of the airplane and visualize your final while you are still gliding on downwind. Try to imagine where the base leg will be. The trick is to keep looking over your shoulder at the numbers and continually asking yourself how you are doing. If you have any doubts, turn to the base leg immediately.
Once on base you have many options, including cutting an angle toward the numbers to decrease the distance. The key word here is altitude. You can usually get rid of it, but with a dead engine, you can't get it back. This is a great game to play with yourself (or with your instructor), and it will come in handy if you ever have an engine die on a cross-country flight.
Coordination--Using Your FeetA lack of coordination between rudder and aileron control inputs -- either not enough rudder, to too much -- is one common pilot weakness. It is also one of the toughest to set right, once a pilot has learned it wrong. The best way to test it is also the best way to train for it -- the old-fashioned "Dutch roll" (which is a misnomer, by the way). Pick out a point on the horizon and put the nose on it. The objective is to roll quickly, smoothly, and continually from a 30-degree bank in one direction to a 30-degree bank in the other direction while keeping the nose on the point with appropriate rudder inputs. If your coordination is okay, the task will be simple. But if your feet are lazy or you don't understand the concept of using the rudder, the nose will be everywhere but on the point.
If you have lazy feet or let your feet fall behind your hands and get out of synch, you can get confused and inadvertently cross-control, or you may not change rudder as quickly and as positively as you change aileron. Just remember: Anytime an aileron is hanging out, it creates adverse yaw, so rudder is needed to counteract it. No aileron, no rudder -- except for torque and P-factor problems.
Rudder Use for Torque and P-factorSet up a full-power climb and make a series of left and right medium-bank turns. The ball should stay in the middle regardless of which direction you turn, but rudder usage will be drastically different. The more horsepower the airplane has, the more the difference will be noticed. A Cherokee, for instance, has more pronounced torque in a climb than a Cessna 152.
The most common mistake is not taking into account the continual effect of torque. Anytime you are slow with lots of power, torque will be noticeable, regardless of which direction you are turning. It is always trying to turn you left (assuming you are flying behind an engine that turns clockwise when viewed from the cockpit), so you always need right rudder. The result is that in a left turn, you don't need left rudder to start the turn, just less right rudder. A right turn will take a surprising amount of right rudder to keep the ball centered. The exercise is to keep making a series of left and right climbing turns and using the rudder as needed to keep the ball centered. Now, throttle the engine down, and in a glide do the same actions outlined above. This time the ball is out the other way and you will need a touch of left rudder. A common mistake is using aileron to correct and "drive" the airplane like a car. In fact, a surprising number of pilots fly around dragging an aileron all the time without realizing it.
Feeling the AirplaneThis is the same drill as above, but now we're interested in first testing, and then educating, the seat of your pants. Repeat the climbing turn exercise, but have your instructor cover the turn-and-bank indicator. When you think you've got the ball centered, uncover the indicator and see where the ball actually is.
Educating the seat of your pants is simple: Set up a straight-ahead climb with full power and add rudder to center the ball. Then slowly remove the rudder while looking at the ball and concentrating on what your seat is feeling. As the ball drifts out, you should begin to sense the sideways drift in the seat of your pants. Repeat this exercise until you get used to the feeling, and then have your CFI cover the ball while you go back and forth with the rudder and listen to what your backside is telling you. Next set up in level flight with cruise power. Slowly put in a touch of aileron until the ball starts creeping. In many modern airplanes, you will feel just a hint of sideways pressure before the nose comes around into a turn. Older airplanes will sit there crosswise for a few seconds, driving your tail-end crazy in the process. Now do some Dutch rolls with the ball covered up, and let your seat tell you how you're doing.
Nose Attitude and Speed ControlYou are going to get really tired of climbs and glides, but that's where the problems with basics usually surface. Set up a normal glide, nail the best glide speed, eyeball the nose attitude relative to the horizon, and then cover up the airspeed indicator. Glide for a while and try to hold the exact attitude that should give the same speed. Descend 1,500 feet, then uncover the airspeed indicator. Is it where it started? If not, practice. Your goal should be speed deviations of no more than plus or minus 3 mph or kts.
Repeat the exercise while making gliding turns. Check the speed after each turn, applying the same deviation goal. The training here is obvious: You have to do a bunch of climbs and glides in which you spend much more time analyzing how pitch and power determine the nose attitude (angle of attack) rather than the airspeed indicator. Remember that the airspeed indicator tells you only what the nose did a few seconds earlier. It provides historical information you could have gotten from the nose attitude much sooner. The first comment most pilots make when they finally see what the nose is doing is, "Wow, the changes are really small; I thought they needed to be bigger."
When it comes to learning the basics, you are never done. Time has an erosive effect on every skill. Only continual vigilance, such as watching to see if the ball is always in the middle, trying always to land on the first 500 legal feet of the runway (which starts at the threshold), and striving to meet the other goals of precise flight, will keep your basic flying skills and understanding from corroding. If, after checking your basic skills, you find them less than what they should be, don't feel bad. But don't accept them, either. It takes conscious effort to improve and only you can make that effort. No amount of instructing is going to work if your mental effort isn't there. If you are in the midst of, or about to begin, your embryonic first 50 hours, work with your instructor to ensure that you correctly learn the skills we've touched on here. It will make all that follows much easier to learn and fly.
WHY FLY? by J. Patrick O'LearyIT'S HARD TO FIND people who regret having spent the time and energy they put into learning to fly an airplane. Even those who never earn their certificate. Flying is more than mere recreation. It's a skill. It's transportation. It can be a career or an avocation. And to a well trained and practiced pilot, precise and graceful flight is a source of pride.
Flying has it own special moments that provide a unique sense of satisfaction and pleasure known only to those who fly. For one pilot, it may be that lifelong memory of an airborne sunset in the shadow of the Colorado Rockies near the end of a long cross-country flight. For another, breaking out below the clouds after an instrument approach perfectly aligned with the runway and approach lights, may be the week's highlight. Yet a third pilot may judge all other flying against the day he played fighter pilot for a day in a Siai Marchetti SF-260 over Catalina Island.
There are practical reasons, too. A pilot can load his skis and a friend or two into a Skylane and make an easy morning flight to the ski slopes, avoiding the fatigue and traffic of an all night drive on icy highways. Using a 150‑mph high-performance aircraft, a busy professional can meet with clients or prospects over a wide area in far less time than a competitor using commuter airlines or a car.
Many experienced pilots will discover the personal rewards of giving their time and skills as volunteers, and find a new reason to fly. The disaster relief, search-and-rescue and aviation-education work performed by volunteer pilots of the Civil Air Patrol are an excellent example.
To understand and experience flying, you must go out and do it. Throw out all those old notions about what it takes to fly: You too, can become a pilot. Perfect vision and health are not required to become a pilot, even if you wish to fly for the airlines in the future. Eyesight needs to be corrected to near-perfect; just ask your Aviation Medical Examiner when you visit for your medical certificate. Nerves of steel and incredible bravery may be desirable traits, but good judgment, common sense and coordination are better indicators of future success for an aviator or aviatrix.
Flying has never been cheap, and in actual dollars, it is more expensive today than 15 years ago. When I started flying in 1979, a basic, two-seat Cessna 150 rented for $16.75 per hour, and the instructor charged about $12 an hour. Today, a used-but-younger Cessna 152 rents for about $50 an hour, and the instructor charges $30 an hour. From my personal recollection, this 72% increase over 15 years is less than the increase in ski-lift ticket and automobile prices during that same span of time.
So, what does it really take to become a pilot? It takes a willingness to learn, a desire for new experience and a commitment of time and resources to finish what you began. And the first step is through the door of your local flight school.
This article first appeared in Private Pilot Magazine, Learn to Fly Supplement, June 1994.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------Twenty Life Lessons I Learned From Becoming a Pilot
By Susan E. Paul
On September 30, 1993, I received my private pilot certificate. A single, self-employed woman who owns and operates a first aid and safety equipment company, I never had any intention of using my certificate for professional purposes. I wanted to learn to fly to accomplish the goal, and to experience all it had to offer in terms of pushing me beyond my comfort zone. I have always been the type of person that thrives on all types of challenges, I share the widely accepted belief that as human beings, we do not come close to realizing our potential. The time I invested in becoming a pilot obviously gave me the skills and knowledge to competently and safely fly an airplane. Perhaps more important, it reaffirmed prior lessons learned and taught important new ones that apply to day-to-day life. These "life lessons" apply to any person, at any level, and either on the ground or in the cockpit.
1. Patience Always with yourself and with others. Throughout life, one needs to interact with coworkers, customers, bosses, children, spouses, and others in a patient way.
2. Keep a Step Ahead This is probably the most memorable lesson I learned in my flight training because my instructor emphasized it. In aviation it means thinking ahead and contemplating the "what ifs" (what if the engine quits, what do I do first?). In daily life, it means staying on top of your "to-do" list in all areas of your life. I continually strive to keep my life simple enough so I can at least come close to this feat! As an owner/operator of a business, this is very important for me.
3. Communicate Effectively, Clearly, and Concisely It amazes me how few people in and out the aviation community possess this quality. This characteristic is essential to a successful relationship. We all know how important it is when communicating with a busy tower. Unnecessary words are a waste of energy and time. I am working on talking less, particularly in my sales interactions.
4. Conserve and Control Your Energy This is a weakness that showed up in my training. When I started flying lessons, I found myself exhausted at the end of a days work and not in top condition to fly. I am continually working on pacing myself so I can accomplish more and enjoy it in the process. This quality is crucial in maintaining a household.
5. Be Thorough and Precise No need for explanation on the importance of this lesson. Lack of these two characteristics in flying can have unpleasurable consequences. In day-to-day life, these qualities can help to win over a boss, customer, a guest, and others.
6. Know How to Relax As aviators and Americans, this is a lesson many of us need to learn. One cannot perform at one's best if tenseness prevails.
7. Face Your Fears We all, at some point, have to face our fears and control them. Flying solo for the first time was a fearful moment I will never forget. Facing our fears in real life, whether they be job interviews, public speaking, talking to our children and spouses about sensitive subjects, is important, too.
8. Take Care of Yourself Physically and Mentally If we did this all the time, we'd certainly feel much more on top of things. It is certainly essential to sitting in the cockpit. And regardless of how busy our lives, we should make time to exercise regularly, because in the long run, it will give us more time.
9. Use All of Your Senses As a students, pilots tend to fixate on one thing. With experience, pilots learn to be more aware of everything around them. In many challenges, such as everyday life, using all of our senses is very important.
10. Know Yourself Your limits, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Know when to stop. Know when to say no.
11. Possess the Ability to Focus It is obviously crucial to focus on the task at hand. Our daily lives are full of distractions. Focusing on what we are doing at the moment is essential to living effectively. To quote my dance instructor, "Be where you are."
12. Know, Practice, and Be Proficient at the Basics No matter the level of training, it is important to always be conscious of the basics we were first taught. Aviate, navigate, and communicate is one of the most common phrases taught in flight training. Keep things basic in daily life.
13. Lightness Counts Being light on the controls is important to relaxed and safe flying. Being light on the controls is important to maneuvering an airplane precisely and safely. Staying light in life is a key to successful living. Most of us approach life too intensely.
14. Accept Responsibility for yourself and your passengers, your airplane, and for all areas of your life!
15. Know Your Priorities to enable you to focus on what is truly important. Keep things simple. Figure out the priorities that work for you.
16. Follow Through To The End Closing your flight plan is important in flying. If you don't, they start looking for you. Follow through on tasks to their completion. Just starting something gets you nowhere.
17. Be Courteous Always in flying, to your passengers, the tower controllers, your fellow pilots, and anyone else you meet in the air or on the ground. Your considerations will come back to you.
18. Persistence Keep on going, even when it gets tough.
19. Keep it Simple More is not always better. Know what you need to know, take one step at a time.
20. Be Flexible Flexibility, always having option, such as landing when the weather turns sour or not flying when physically or mentally not up to it, is the key to safe flying. Flexibility is also crucial at work and in relationships.
These are may life lessons taught by learning to fly. While many of them may apply to you, aviation teaches many more that may be more pertinent. So why don't you learn to fly, if you haven't already, and discover what life lessons aviation may offer you. All I learned about flying, the relationships I made, what it taught me about myself has been more valuable than the money I spend on my training. ©1996 Flight Training magazine
Posted on Thu, Jul. 29, 2004
Wings & Things
In search of Zen and oneness in flight
BY RAFAEL LIMA
There are the practical aspects of landing a small plane: Flying a left- or right-hand pattern around the airport, holding a specific altitude, and lining up with the runway, high or low, or a bit left or right.
There is another aspect, the one that I am after: The experience of absolute absorption into, and complete integration with, the universe.
Zen. The Zone.
Some people golf, some play tennis. You can get in the zone driving. You can get in the zone doing yoga.
The Japanese have a ceremony in which they simply pour tea. That's all. They pour tea, and while they pour tea they allow themselves to be completely integrated in the act of pouring tea, and in so doing, they become one with the universe.
You can do the same thing flying a light airplane toward the ground at high speed only to raise the nose at the last second -- in the last foot off the runway -- and fly it there: one foot (six inches is better) off the runway, hanging it there, feeling the airspeed decay, the tires barely squeaking as they kiss the runway.
Some people call this a well-executed landing. I call it Zen and complete integration with the universe.
And with an instructor from Silver Express flight school along, I plan to get ``in the zone.''
When I meet Kamal Patel, a commercial pilot with over 6,000 hours of experience, I keep the stuff about integration with the universe to myself.
Kamal is very professional, and I can see he is a ''by-the-book'' instructor.
Kamal eagle-eyes everything I do -- but everything is conscious, premeditated even, the way it was when you first took those little wheels off the back of your first bike.
But as I take off, I notice the palms of my hands are sweating. Slipping elegantly into the zone is going to take a while.
As the plane levels out, I take in measured breaths and manage to clear my thoughts. The headset microphone is on, so I resist the urge to chant Buddhist mantras out loud.
I remember as a student pilot, flying six days a week for two hours a day, I could float a Cessna 172 onto a runway so smoothly, the tires never screeched -- they hissed.
That's not likely on this approach. I bank the airplane, and there's the big white runway number: 9 L. It's a hot day; the haze from the Everglades fires makes visibility a problem.
There's also a crosswind.
In any landing, the pilot is drawing a line in three dimensions. As the plane lowers to the runway, it is being pushed up and down by thermals, left or right by crosswinds, forward or back by tail or head winds.
While all this pitching and yawing and lifting and dropping is going on, you're supposed to be chatting with the tower and performing landing checklists, watching for traffic and keeping an eye on engine gauges.
As I fly the plane over the numbers, I am completely aware of every input I make to the controls. I hold the plane off the runway, and instantly I know I flared too high from the sudden drop and the screech of tires.
I take off to try again.
Once more, a thump and screech. Drop, thump, screech. Three times in a row, for a different reason each time.
So much for the effortless metaphor thing.
On the next try, I lift my eyes from the cluster of instruments, gauges and knobs before me.
Instead of watching the RPM gauge I listen to the pitch of the motor and the hiss of air over the wing. Instead of fixating on an instrument, I sense a loss of altitude.
Rather than fight the plane, I work with it -- coaxing, adjusting, allowing. I feel the plane through the yoke and rudder pedals instead of fighting the airplane with them.
When I hear the hiss slow, I apply a bit of power; when I feel it yaw, I coax it straight with a little rudder; when I feel it drop, a bit of back pressure on the yoke.
There are the big white numbers. I can feel it. The Zone.
It all really does slow down. The big white runway numbers float before me so long, I have time to notice skid marks on the number 9.
In my peripheral vision, I see hangars and parked planes drift by. The white line of the runway now right below the nose of the plane, the hiss of the wind softer and softer. Pulling the power back, I feel the plane on the cushion of air between the wings and the runway.
It seems like minutes as the Cessna flies straight and level a few inches off the runway, and then I do look down at the instruments.
Altimeter says we're on the ground. Yup, looking down from my window I see the tires are rolling. I gently lower the nose gear down softly, softly to the pavement.
''That was better,'' Kamal says. ``How did that feel?''
''Like Zen,'' I say.
Rafael Lima is a private pilot and teaches screenwriting at the University of Miami. His occasional column focuses on stories about flying and its history in South Florida. E-mail him at