Want to Learn How To Fly in the Townships? Bring Money!
By Manfried H. Starhemberg
I spent at least 40 years of my misspent life flying airplanes, starting at 13 with a KR-1 glider. KR stood aptly for "Knochenbrecher", the German word for "bone breaker". It was one of those " a seat on a beam and the whole world under the seat of your pants in panoramic view" type of contraptions. There were no atheists in KR-1s and we all knew how to sing "nearer my God to thee" during the early days of training. Then it was my dad's clapped out Piper Colt and after I got an education, the Air Force allowed me to spend the taxpayer's money in expensive loud armed toys. After that it was as a pilot for a major airline. Now it's just the occasional job for some rich dude who wants to go skiing in a hurry or the rich lawyer who has to be somewhere in a hurry. I don't mind, and eventually this year, my license will run out because my favorite medical examiner will not renew my medical certificate required for commercial flight, even after I offered him unlimited use of my Range Rover, an antique clock and a shopping spree at the Dollarama. O well, I had a good 40 years of it. As a monument of my time aloft I have the sculpture of a bent propeller in my yard.
But this made me think of what it would take for a nice young kid from the Townships to live the dream of flying, or perhaps becoming a commercial pilot. For beginners one may wish to speak with Alexandre, a senior flight instructor at Eid Air Aviation in Bromont whom I caught teaching theory in his classroom at Bromont airport last Saturday.
Eid Air Aviation, founded by its president Andre Valdeboncour in 1996, is one of two prominent flight schools in the Townships, the other being Paquin Aviation at Sherbrooke airport. Eid Air also has recently established a second school at that airport. In Bromont the school has currently 20 active and about that many inactive students. "Inactive" means that people only sporadically take a lesson or that, often for financial reasons, they have suspended their courses. About half of them will return over time, the others have given up on the dream of flight.
Why? It's the cost dummy. Learning to fly has become a very expensive proposition these days. Let us start with the very basic form of license. This is called the "Recreational Pilot Permit" and will allow an owner to fly with one passenger only. This license is good in Canada only, so forget about a night out in Burlington. The cost of this very basic right to operate a small single engine starts at $ 7,095 which includes 15 hours of dual instruction flying, ten hours of solo flight, 40 hours of ground school and on the beginning a five hour intruductory course. The cost does not include the required $ 650.- for medical examinations, written tests and flight test certifications from Transport Canada. Add taxes to all of this and you will be out approximately $ 9500.- with books, charts etc. you may wish to purchase. And if you still want to fly, you have to rent an aircraft...Buying your own has become ridiculously expensive with even the lowliest "cheap" Cessnas going for a minimum of about $ 25,000.
In case your "better half" expects to go shopping in Vermont or New York, you have to go back to school and upgrade to the "Private Pilot License". Cost for that ticket at Eid Air Aviation is $ 10,570.- plus all the fees mentioned above but you can go straight to this type of certification, bypassing the recreational pilot training.
Now that you are hooked, maybe you wish to upgrade to a commercial license. With your private license in hand you can get to commercial pilot status for only another $ 27,250.- In all, it will cost almost $ 40,000.- to become licensed as a commercial pilot but that is for "single engine - land" only. At this point, having logged some hours, you may be eligible to land a job with an air taxi company or as a pilot for a corporation which may enable you to earn enough hours to graduate to twin engine planes and eventually, small jets. Each step takes some time as there are requirements for a minimum of hours flown. You have yet another option: with a private pilot certificate you can take an approximately $ 9,000.- course to become a flight instructor yourself. If you were one already you could look out of your office window at a beautiful sunset over the airfield like this picture supplied by Eid Air Aviation.