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Twin Ports' Be a Pilot program helps teach flying

It's getting ridiculously easy to fly, according to a teacher-pilot based at Twin Ports Flying Service in Superior. Russ Rothe, a flight instructor with Twin Ports Flying Service, is one of many pilots across the country who are teaching people t...

It's getting ridiculously easy to fly, according to a teacher-pilot based at Twin Ports Flying Service in Superior.
Russ Rothe, a flight instructor with Twin Ports Flying Service, is one of many pilots across the country who are teaching people to fly their own planes. Flying schools, such as Twin Ports, are supporting the organization Be a Pilot.
Funded by more than 60 aviation-related companies and organizations such as Cessna and the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA), the program known as Be a Pilot is designed to teach the ordinary person to get off the couch and take a plane among the clouds.
The Be a Pilot program makes lessons affordable, about half the price of a regular lesson. It's all offered by the industry as a way to introduce people to flying and, it is hoped, to private plane ownership.
Be a Pilot is a nonprofit organization that has existed since 1997 and has given out 130,000 introductory flight certificates, including 35,000 this year alone.
There are two training planes that Rothe flies with students, a 172 Cessna four-passenger, "very forgiving" craft and a 152 Cessna two-passenger. Students can fly on all but the coldest degree days, Rothe said.
A retired air traffic controller, Rothe now flies five to seven hours a day and "never tires of the view." He and his wife, also a pilot, fly frequently and typically make an annual trip to California. Rothe tells his students, "there's no reason why a pilot with a new license can't fly all the way to Florida." He said that with more training, students can become accomplished enough to fly to California, which involves flying over the Rocky Mountains.
"It's just a matter of planning to make a trip to Florida, but flying to California involves learning more skills."
Rothe mentioned the airport directory that lists all hotels and restaurants and rental cars in an area. To reach Florida, the pilot puts Tampa, for example, in the Global Positioning System and receives all the necessary information for flying there.
Although personal flying will not replace ground transportation, flying will become more prevalent. "People will go to small planes for intermediate travel, because a plane can reduce the travel time for getting to Omaha, Neb., from 10 to 3 1/2 hours."
Omaha, Rapid City, S.D., Des Moines, Iowa, and other mid-sized cities that don't have direct commercial flights or involve long car trips are easily reached by a small airplane. "You start to save money on overnights and other expenses by flying a small plane," Rothe said.
The beginning student will spend a couple of hours doing airwork such as a medium-banked turn, a climb, climbing turn, a make level and a descent. The maneuver that takes the longest to learn is landing a plane, because it takes eye-hand coordination.
"But after you learn landing a plane, it's like riding a bicycle."
Rothe realized his dream when he became a pilot. He had flown before becoming an air traffic controller but stopped during the years when he was raising a family. Now, he's realizing a dream he had his whole life.
He said that his goal is to make pilots out of people. "They become decision-makers, because becoming a pilot is empowering."

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