February 2007Commentary

Flight Forum

Virtual Flight

Reading "Preflight: Upping Age 60?" (December 2006 AOPA Flight Training) made me realize how similar my story is to so many others. I always wanted to learn to fly but thought it might be too expensive, or that I might not use the certificate after I got it.

I was playing with both Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane--and really getting into it--when my wife started asking me why I was not learning to fly for real. Next thing I knew I had my intro flight.

During my training my instructor used to comment on how well I understood the instrument part of the training and how much more quickly I was learning than most of his other students. He had been teaching for about 12 years at the time and seemed very interested in why I was moving so quickly through my lessons.

Now that I am a private pilot and looking to go on to an instrument rating, the simulator is a way for me to "fly" when I cannot get out to the airport and do it for real. I practice my cross-countries a lot and work on my GPS and radio navigation skills.

In the future I hope to show my simulator setup to friends and family and use it as a way to spark some interest in flying. Who knows, someone might do a virtual flight with me and get excited about going up for real, and I can become a mentor for them.

I think the simulator will always be a part of my flying as it gives me a way to experience different planes, different locales, various weather conditions, and a way to practice a great deal more than my wallet would normally allow.
John Welch
Aurora, Colorado
For more on this subject, see "Preflight: Flight Sim's Influence" (p. 8)--Ed.

Leave the Age 60 rule alone

I read "Preflight: Upping Age 60?" (December 2006 AOPA Flight Training) and wanted to comment. I am an airline pilot with 23,000 or so hours and have been flying since the mid-1970s. I came from an airline family and was civilian trained, and I still fly GA aircraft.

I disagree with your take on the age 60 issue. Your assertion that the current rule does not allow higher earnings from age 60 to 65 does not take into consideration that the career advancement that gets you to the higher-paying jobs would be severely hampered by stagnation resulting from the lack of retirement movement from the top.

This would result in many pilots being stuck in a seniority range from which they would be unable to progress.

Second, if you look at the opinions of the majority of airline pilots (Air Line Pilots Association and others), you will see the consensus is to leave the rule as it is. Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today confirm this. Indeed it is the vocal minority pressing for change.

Third, and most important, is the statistical fact that the average airline pilot upon retirement has 22 years of life remaining. This is reduced for international pilots such as myself. I would like to enjoy my retirement when I'm still healthy enough to do it. I can't imagine having to stay up all night long and then enjoy the special experience of watching the sun arise in my face over some large body of water when I'm pushing the mid-60s.

I believe readers of AOPA Flight Training down the road would appreciate the increased hiring and upward movement when their turn comes, and not the stagnated career this change would cause.
David Hanst
Carson City, Nevada

College review sparks fond memories

Your December 2006 article "Why Did You Pick That School?" brought back some special memories. Though I graduated with a master of architecture degree from the University of Illinois in 1976, I went though its Institute of Aviation's Private Pilot course during my last semester.

I thoroughly agree with your interviewee Ryan Galis as the Institute and University are both very special places--and very active. Instead of Pipers, I learned to fly in Beech "Sportdowners" (Sports with 180-hp engines) and still think they were terrific trainers.

I wish Ryan the best in his career in aviation. OskeeWaWa Illinois!
W. Douglas Gilpin Jr.
Charlottesville, Virginia

"Learning Beyond the Lesson" (December 2006 AOPA Flight Training) included an incorrect spelling for Linda Dowdy's company. The correct name is Sim Flite Minnesota (www.simfliteminnesota.com). AOPA Flight Training regrets the error.