Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fresh Tickets: Cleared for Takeoff on Both Sides of the Pond

New Pilot profile: Michael Medley

Part 1 of an ongoing series (Editor's note, this is the first of a series on new pilots who have just earned their pilot's licenses - Dan)

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

When looking at the current state of general aviation, it seems a plethora of threats at all levels continue to make earning a private pilot's license and flying GA airplanes a challenging, costly endeavor. Ridiculously high fuel prices makes each flight more expensive, while prices for new airplanes and avionics continue to rise to record highs. In Washington, D.C, pressure regarding the possibility of user fees and other legislation could negate any recent growth general aviation has enjoyed. Add to this the increasing costs for flight instruction, and it is easy to see why some potential flight students are staying on the sidelines, waiting to see where GA is headed.

But despite all of those negatives, learning to fly still offers unlimited positives, and against the odds, flight schools continue to produce new Pilots with a fresh Sport or Private Pilot's ticket. In this new, ongoing Airplanista series, we will profile a few of these new licensed Pilots, and try to drill down and find out why they chose now as the right time to earn their ticket.

First up, let me introduce you to Michael Medley, a resident of Manchester, England now based in Fort Pierce, Florida. Medley moved to Florida to complete his Full EASA ATPL license while also earning his FAA license up to the commercial level.

Medley has been in the fast track, starting his training in November, 2012. "I chose this date because for flying, winter time is the best time of year to fly in Florida due to the consistency of the weather," Medley said. "My training was done in a Cessna 172, and it took 49 Hours to do my EASA PPL with a extra 12 hours to complete my FAA. In total, it took me 61 hours to obtain both licenses, which includes the standard FAA night rating. I took my lessons at Fort Pierce Airport (KFPR) and the total cost for both private licenses amounted to USD $11,000 excluding accommodation."

Medley's path to the flight deck of an airliner as a professional pilot follows the same script as the rest of us...and it's a path that solidifies the theory that we should never stop introducing kids to airplanes:
"When I was four years old returning from holiday in the States," Medley explains, "I managed to catch a visit to the Flight Deck to see the Captain. It was a night flight, so my first memory is of all those amazing lights and dials...I felt like I had stepped into outer space among the stars! But the reason I decided to pursue the career in aviation is when my Grandfather took me on a day trip at about six years old to Blackpool. He arranged for me to take a helicopter ride from the sea pier and fly along the shoreline and over the theme park. The pilot said I could sit upfront with him for the flight. It was incredible, a little boy with these big headphones on getting to sit with the pilot. It was at that moment I just KNEW that I had to become a pilot!!  This feeling mixed with that first cockpit visit made me know I wanted to fly big jets. I shall forever be grateful to my grandfather for giving me that taste and the spark of my lifelong dreams!"
Like many Pilots who aspire to fly for the airlines, Medley has a plan in place to achieve his goal. He's only 22 now, but has been working towards that assignment on an airliner's Flight Deck for eight years. "I started to properly pursue this career path when I was 14 years old," Medley said, "when I joined the Air Training Corps until I learned I would never make it as a RAF pilot due to my eyesight. I waited out the downturn of the economy of aviation in Europe, until January, 2012 when I decided that this was the year to start as Airlines in Europe started to recover. It took months to raise the USD $79,000 to do my whole Airline Pilot Programme, with a good portion of that coming from family. I'm glad I chose now and not four years ago to begin training as I believe life's experiences have helped me be successful so far and maturity has played a big part."

Once his training did commence in Florida, there were two big challenges that faced the young trainee. "The first hurdle," explains Medley, "was obtaining my medical. Because of my eyesight, the CAA wanted me to see a specialist and I went through three agonizing weeks of not knowing if I could ever be a Pilot. It scared me as I didn't know of anything else I wanted to do in my life. The second hurdle was during flight training when I struggled with the aspect of emergency drills. I just couldn't get it right so I kept practicing both on the ground and in flight. I finally overcame, and now I say to always remember your checks and memorize your emergency drills! I am glad to have pushed through because it feels amazing to have my licenses. The best feeling of my life so far was passing those checkrides! To think less than 1% of people in the UK have a Private Pilots License and I am one of them. That's a pretty exclusive club I'm in!"

Despite the costs, the challenges and the personal sacrifices Medley has made in pursuit of his dream, he highly recommends starting now if flying is something that someone wishes to enjoy. But like everything in his life, he says you need a plan:
"I would say now is a good time to start flight training, but have a goal. Before starting, ask yourself if you want to fly for personal leisure or are you going to want a career out of it. If you want it for leisure, take your time and be patient because flying is an art and you should enjoy it without putting pressure on yourself to earn the license in a short space of time. But if you want this to be a career, do your research, visit these schools and have a tour to get a feel of the place...you want to know you will be comfortable and get the most out of your training. And I believe maturity is a big factor, because flying this isn't just a matter of take-off, cruise and landing. It's all about being a pilot-in-command and making decisions. Don't learn to fly if you're not mature or haven't gained life experience.''
Michael Medley
Medley is an aviation optimist, and believes better days are coming. "The future for GA looks positive, more opportunities are growing around the world for people to fly," he says. "I think Pilot growth is going to be its highest over the next 5-10 years and to me just getting into this profession, that's quite exciting stuff. Not everyone wants to fly airliners, and I see more and more people just falling in love with General Aviation, acting on the opportunity it gives you to make your dreams and passion become a hobby and maybe even a career!

Now that Medley is licensed and ready to move up into advanced ratings, he wants to become a cheerleader for GA, and thinks all Pilots should to likewise:
"What all Pilots can do now to help bring more students into training is to spread the word of what it means to fly. The feeling you get as you race down the runway, the adrenaline rush as your wheels pull away from Terra Firma and you become airborne. The sound of the engine purring in delight during cruise as she just loves to fly! The views you get at sunset OR sunrise...all this sort of stuff is what builds up the passion and desire that all aviators have. Flying gives you the chance to view the world from a completely different perspective than the rest of the world and if I could do the training over and over again would I do it? Hell yes!"
So for this young English pilot on his way up to the Flight Deck, choosing late 2012 to begin training was a good decision. He waited out the downturn for four years while gathering his required finances, did his homework on U.S. flight schools, and so far, all parts of that plan are in the green. Medley sees opportunity where others might see stagnation. This is a "cup half full" Pilot, one that is seizing this very moment to launch a professional career.