Monday, October 28, 2013

College Decisions for a Student Pilot - To Go or not To Go, Should You Go to an Aviation University? (Pros and Cons)

As a Junior in High School, it's about the time I really need to start thinking about college decisions, set some goals, and think about where I'd like to see myself in 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years. 

All of you know I'd like to be a Professional Pilot, hence the name of this site. If I had an ideal career path, it'd be something similar to the following: (*this is just a frame, I like to keep my options open, and let new opportunities arise)
  1. In my early 20's: Do some really interesting flying, such as flying in the Caribbean, Alaska, Africa, etc. I wouldn't plan on making much money, but would love to focus on having a laid-back lifestyle and gain some great flying and life experiences. 
  2. Move into the airlines: Begin working towards a career as an airline pilot either nationally or abroad. Over time, I'd aspire to be flying internationally with a Major Airline. 
  3. Go Corporate: After gaining airline time, search for a job with a corporate group to fly in a more relaxed, personable environment. 
  4. Who knows? 

Inspirational aviation video, "What do you desire? - A Pilot's Perspective:" (credits at the end of the video)

For a student pilot, the world can be viewed as a mountain, with becoming a professional pilot as a general goal. There are paths up to the top of the mountain; some quick, some fast, some expensive, some not. If I've learned one thing about college decisions, it's that everyone has an opinion on the best route to go. 

In my case, I have the very generalized goal of becoming a professional pilot. I've had mentors explain different routes on how to "get there." To tie college into this makes the decision even more complicated. Below are a few of the many "paths" through college which I could take to start off my career as a pilot. Some pros and cons to each are listed below. (largely, information comes from current professional pilots that have served as mentors to me) 

1.) The Aviation Universities: Many colleges in the USA have aviation and aerospace programs. Three examples of well known universities in the United States which either centralize on aviation, or have highly reputable aviation programs are: Embry Riddle (ERAU),Purdue, and the University of North Dakota (NDU). 

  • Pros: 
    • A like-minded student body, sharing the same passion
    • A structured learning environment, students working together
    • High acceptance rates
    • Reduced hiring minimums (from 1,500 hours to 1,000 hours as of August, 2013)
    • A degree in a field you're interested in 
    • Aviation-related minors (ATC, Aviation Management, etc)
    • Alumni and Student Networking 
    • Airline quick-start programs, only available to students from these schools, see this link for examples: Internships and Development
    • Instructing jobs (through the schools) offered to students and alumni 
    • Learn and fly on "top of the line" prop and jet simulators 
    • Take advantage of diverse, well maintained fleets of aircraft with glass cockpits
    • (ERAU): two locations to choose from: Prescott, Arizona and Daytona Beach, Florida 
  • Cons: 
    • Expensive, expensive, oh yeah, and expensive 
    • Low paying career (early on) -- hard to pay off school debt
    • Degree in Aeronautical Science isn't great for much else, besides being a pilot
    • Too much aviation? It's something that you'll be constantly surrounded by... If you consider this as an option, you probably shouldn't be thinking about an aviation university anyways
    • Group setting: everyone else is like you, a pilot, you're no longer unique

Example Aviation University (Embry Riddle): 

2.) The Armed Forces (ROTC, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Air National Guard): For years, people relied upon military experience in order to become airline pilots. You get the chance to travel the world, get paid for it, serve your country, fly some incredible aircraft, build flights hours quickly, and have school paid for. As of late, more and more pilots are taking a civilian route to becoming professional pilots, contrary to popular belief. 

  • Pros:
    • ROTC programs at many "normal" universities (including aviation universities) 
    • Have school paid for
    • Military member benefits 
    • Paid to travel the world
    • Opportunity to fly amazing aircraft (from F22's and C130's, to C5's)
    • Build turbine time, quickly
    • Serving your country 
    • Military networking
    • Some airlines are known for being military "hubs" (Delta for instance) 
  • Cons: 
    • Joining the military is a serious commitment 
    • Your life could be at stake
    • Military life can be extremely stressful and boring at times
    • Extremely structured environment 
    • No guarantee of a pilot slot, there are a limited number of places 
    • Low salary 
    • Separation from family 
    • Unpredictable and un-controllable schedule  
    • Committing years of your life to the military, which gives up valuable seniority years in top-paying jobs later on (before the mandatory retirement age of 65) 

Inspirational Military Flying: 

3.) Go to a "Normal Univeristy:" Get a "normal degree" and do training at a flight school on the side. Your options are endless within this category. You can, in theory, money and academics permitting, go to any university in the country and do flight training on the side at an airport nearby. 
  • Pros:
    • Free-form training, how you train is up to you
    • Choose where and when you'll train 
    • Flight training is generally cheaper at a flight school vs. at a university
    • Choose a college that you'd like to go to, that might not have a great aviation program 
    • Major in something other than aviation, as a backup, in case flying doesn't work out
    • Have more relationships outside of aviation 
    • Not aviation all the time
  • Cons:
    • Majoring in something you might not care about 
    • Spending too much time away at the airport, training, thus not being able to maintain great relationships with friends that might not understand your passion
    • Not as structured 
    • No quick start programs, not wasting valuable early years 
    • Networking comes from your own connections, no aviation alumni network 
    • Smaller fleet choice, less of a student to student support network 
    • Training in addition to college work is a lot to have on one plate
Example Flight School (ATP): 

So what should you gain from all of this? -- There are so many paths you can take towards being a professional pilot, many more than I could even hope to list here. One is not necessarily "better" than another, it's just a matter of personal preference and finances. However I end up "getting there" will be written about in the future right here, on the blog. 

This week, I'm headed down to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (Daytona), and will be writing in detail about my experiences there. I'm hoping to bring you what visiting the campus would be like, and what I find out about ERAU, from my first ever college visit. 

The inspirational quote of the day is posted below, this one is one of my favorites: 

Thanks for reading and watching, stay tuned for many more posts soon!
-Swayne Martin
Twitter: @MartinsAviation
Youtube: MartinsAviation1

So what do you think about this post, do you have any different opinions? Share what you think below. The more information you give, the better, for student pilots! Thanks again for visiting!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Share Your Story: Sean McCusker, Student Pilot, Isle of Man

Welcome to the 27th "Share Your Story" post. Pilots from around the world write in featuring their flight experiences, promoting their blogs, websites, social media, novels, etc. These posts show future aviators the diverse range of experiences/careers available to them. More details + how to participate can be found via the following: Click Here and Get Involved

My passion for aviation has existed for as long as I can remember. I've always been keen to fly whether it be as a passenger or pilot. I remember that I was slightly 'obsessed' with aviation when I would look forward to a flight, more than the holiday destination that it may be taking me on and I will always try to book flights that involve connections, even if they're more expensive than the directs! I consider myself very fortunate that I live on an island and my parents hating boats, as it means even as short a journey to Mainland UK is still another trip on a plane!

I first experienced my taste for piloting planes at the age of 13 - flying with a family friend in a Piper Archer out of Prestwick Airport, Scotland. This for me is where the fuse was lit because ever since then I've been passionate about returning to the skies and the thought of being there has never left my mind. I returned again to the skies not long after my 14th Birthday, again in Scotland but this time in a smaller airfield called Cumbernauld. This airport is especially thrilling as it lies between both Glasgow International and Edinburgh International airports - making for some extremely interesting airspace!

My flying after this took a lengthy break as I became bombarded with school work and had no money to fund my flying, but upon reaching 16 I was starting to study for my A-Levels (UK qualification) and I got a part time job at a local fast food outlet and from then on worked my Friday and Saturday nights away, missing out on every party or social gathering that was happening. Despite my none existent social life, I considered myself to be very lucky as I was earning good money whilst still in full-time education. 

To read more of Sean's "Share Your Story" article, click below. (If you're already on the full article, ignore this)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Share Your Story: Callum Davies, Student Pilot, Manchester

Welcome to the 26th "Share Your Story" post. Pilots from around the world write in featuring their flight experiences, promoting their blogs, websites, social media, novels, etc. These posts show future aviators the diverse range of experiences/careers available to them. More details + how to participate can be found via the following: Click Here and Get Involved

Callum Davies is a 16 year old student pilot that flies out of Barton Airport in Manchester, England. He soloed on the 10th of August, 2013 in an Evektor EV-97 Eurostar. Prior to solo flight, Callum had 19.25 hours of flight training. 


From a very young age I had always wanted to become a fire-fighter until one day my father asked me what I really wanted to do. My answer still being a fire-fighter. He told me that the salary isn’t as good compared to other jobs. He told me to come back to him the next day when I had found a job that I will enjoy, get paid well and never regret doing.

Becoming a pilot seemed a great choice but I didn’t know where to start. After downloading flight simulators, reading blogs, watching documentaries and visiting my local airport which is about a mile from where I live I soon became hooked. From then on I have never looked back...

To read more of Callum's "Share Your Story" post, click below. (If already on the full article, ignore this)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

First Time Departing Class C Airspace (Richmond KRIC) - How to Depart a Class C Airport/Airspace

** 100th Post on "From Private to Professional Pilot!" ** Make sure to check out some fantastic posts written by professional pilots in the "Share Your Story" Section above. Articles and tips from my own flight training can be found in the "Flight Training" tab above. Thanks for the support everyone!


So how do you depart a Class C Airport/Airspace? I had the awesome opportunity for my first flight into a Class C Airport/Airspace, Richmond International Airport KRIC. Richmond is the airport I’ve grown up flying into and out of commercially since I was only 2 weeks old. I was excited and nervous about being on the same frequency with pilots from Delta, US Airways, United, etc. Before this flight, I had only been into controlled airspace one time, at Charlottesville Regional Airport (Class D). Even then, I had only spoken with the tower, never speaking with approach.

I made two videos to help other student pilots see what flying into Class C for the first time might be like (one arriving and one departing). I know that I would've loved to see these videos before my flight! More videos like this can be found on my youtube channel, MartinsAviation1. The title of the video below is "First Flight into a Class C Airport/Airspace (RIC) - How to Fly into Class C "

Here is the 1st video (arriving): 

Here is the 2nd video (departing): 

Flying into Class C Airspace for the first time as a student pilot coming from an uncontrolled field can be a little nerve wracking. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous! The night and morning before our flight, I made sure to watch some youtube videos on entering and exiting Class C Airspace/Airports. This helped me get an overall feel for the speed at which Class C communications happen. In the photo below, you'll see the airport I departed from, Hanover KOFP, and see how close the outer rings of Richmond Airspace are: 

Since we were trying to enter and exit quickly, we kept our speed up on final and put in 1 notch of flaps, so that we could make a quick departure with takeoff flaps. The second we touched down, we powered right back up and went into a maximum performance climb (60kts) to get up and away from the wake turbulence from the previous CRJ.

Departing Richmond airspace, we were routed right over downtown Richmond, which was pretty lucky! It was very cool to see the city from the air. 

Once we had Hanover OFP in sight, we let approach know, and went through the normal pattern. On short final, for runway 16, we noticed a fox that was sitting right at the threshold marks. In the photo below (and video above), you can see the fox running away from the runway, out of our path. 

Thanks for reading and watching!
-Swayne Martin
Twitter: @MartinsAviation
Youtube: MartinsAviation1


Motivational Quote of the Day: 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Airport Review: First Flight Airport, North Carolina (KFFA)

One thing I really started doing this summer was flying wherever I traveled with my family. Before North Carolina, I'd flown Piper's over Gulf Shores, Alabama, and gliders over Lake Tahoe, California. Being a pilot opens up a world of new opportunities, some of which most people in the world will never experience. So many "firsts" were made for me this summer: my first flight over a beach, first flight with my mom, first flight with my brother, first glider flight, first helicopter flight, and now, my first flight into First Flight Airport!

As any pilot or aviation enthusiast will know, the first heavier-than-air powered flight took place in Kitty Hawk, on December 17th, 1903. The Wright Brothers flew their primitive Wright-Flyer I, made of Spruce wood and Pride of the West muslin, off Kill Devil Hills, NC. Today, a monument sits atop the dune upon which the Wright Brothers flew many of their test-glider flights. This monument is easily seen from First Flight Airport (KFFA), which is only a few hundred yards away.

First Flight Airport (KFFA) has one runway: 2/20 (3,000ft x 60ft). As one pilot famously said "If you can land at First Flight on a windy day, you can land anywhere." With tall trees on both ends and sides of the runway, it's frequently turbulent with a noticeable crosswind... this was the case on the day I flew there. 

Arriving into First Flight Airport for the first time was a really cool moment for me. We flew over Kill Devil Hills and the Wright Brothers Monument. I couldn't help but think what the Wright Brothers might've thought if they'd been able to get their hands on the controls of the Cessna 150 I was flying. 

My dad was waiting at the end of the runway for our arrival into KFFA's runway 20. In the video below, you can see his exterior footage of our landing coupled with the GoPro cockpit footage which was being recorded at the same time. Here is the video:

The First Flight Airport was extremely quiet, as expected. There were a handful of planes on the ramp, covered with tarps. The background looking out from the airport was quite impressive though, with the Wright Brothers monument standing on the very close dune.

Here is the video of our takeoff from KFFA's runway 20. Once again, both the exterior footage from my dad and the cockpit GoPro footage have been matched up:

Thanks for reading and watching!
-Swayne Martin 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

So What's Next? - Over Halfway to Private Pilot!

Totaling up my logbook today, I realized that I am more than halfway into my private pilot training! If you have been reading on this site, you've seen some of the great experiences I've been lucky to have and some of the things I've learned along the way. If you click on: Flight Training, Tips, and Advice, you can see every major event I've gone through since the beginning of my pilot training. 

So what's next?...

Here are just a few of the things I've done so far in my training: 

My goal is to complete my Private Pilot Training and receive the license on or around my 17th Birthday, this February (2014). Here is what I have left to do in order to get the full license:

  • Finish instrument training
  • Night flying
  • More solo cross country flights
  • A "long" solo cross country flight (over 150nm and into 3 airports)
  • Pass the FAA Written Exam (not taken yet)
  • Pass the private pilot oral and flight test

As of now, I have 23.6 hours total flight time including 6 solo flight hours. To complete my Private Pilot training, I have to have a total of 40 hours flight time (there are sub-requirements within this hour total). In this, I will now be flying an average of 1 hour per week in order to complete my training on time. I can't wait to have my full Private Pilot's License! 

Every time I get up into the air, I start to feel more and more like a "real" pilot. I'm so grateful for the incredible opportunity I have in flying, it's really making me into who I am as a person. 

Thanks so much for reading! More articles to come soon!,
-Swayne Martin

Twitter: @MartinsAviation
Email Me:

So what do I look forward to the most with the Private Pilot's License?... Finally being able to fly with these people!: 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Thanks to My Family and Friends! I Couldn't Do It Without You!

I've been extremely fortunate to have such a supporting group of friends and family that make up the community around myself. Without their support, I know I wouldn't be where I am in my flight training, or maybe even wouldn't have gotten this far! I can't wait to finally finish up my Private Pilot Training so that I can fly with some of them! 

Over the summer as you might've already read, I had the chance to fly a Piper Warrior over my family reunion in Gulf Shores, Alabama. I was amazed to see dozens of family members down on the beach jumping up and down, yelling, and swinging towels around for me! Check out this video to see what I'm talking about:

What I didn't know was that my family decided to buy me little model plane and all sign it for me. This was one of the most touching gifts that I ever received, the messages were so supportive and kind. Check out the pictures below and read some of the messages:

Last year at school, one of the school heads found out about my flight training, and made sure to have an article written about me in the school paper. As I was walking around the halls at the end of Sophomore Year, I saw everyone picking up the paper, and learning something about me that they might've never heard about! Even into this year, tons of people in my grade are finding out that I fly and are begging me for rides! ... That'll have to wait until I get the license! 

My friends and family mean the world to me, I can't wait for the opportunity to fly them over the city and school that we've all grown up in. It'll be an awesome time!

Thanks for reading and watching,
-Swayne Martin
Twitter: @MartinsAviation