Learning to Fly: How Old Is Too Old?

Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman September 15, 2013 01:32
As is clear from the adjoining stories on Wayne Handley and Kathy Zancanella, you can fly airplanes – and fly them well – into your 70s and beyond. Surf the Internet, and you’ll read of licensed pilots over 100 and of the UFOs (United Flying Octogenarians), a national organization of pilots 80 and older with thousands of members.
Mother Lode airport managers will tell you that most local pilots are over 50. Indeed, FAA stats show that the average age of private pilots nationwide has been rising for years and is now nearly 48. Most got their licenses years ago and have logged hundreds if not thousands of cockpit hours.

But is it too late to learn to fly at 60? Or 70? Is getting a pilot’s license a worthy addition to your bucket list?

“Student pilots in their 50s and 60s are who we teach,” says Ross Anderson, 62, a contract flight instructor with Mountainhouse Aviation, based at the Amador County
Airport in Jackson.

“There’s really no ‘too old,’ ” continues Anderson, who learned to fly at 16 but earned all his advanced ratings after turning 57. “If you have the time and desire and are physically fit, we can teach you to fly.”

Getting a private pilot’s license typically requires 75 hours of flying, both with an instructor and solo, and costs about $10,000 for lessons and airplane rental.

“It has to do with your mindset,” says Columbia-based flight instructor Chris Miller, the 62-year-old owner of Springfield Flying Service. “If you’re in good health, if you’re ready to challenge yourself and learn something new, flying might be for you.”

Miller described aviation as a blend of aesthetics and academics: the freedom and inspiration of soaring through the air with the discipline of vectors, lift, airspeed, drag, altitude, stall speeds and much more.

“There’s a lot of homework,” he says. “To avoid information overload I’d recommend against flying lessons more than three times a week.”

This pace could lead to a license in four or five months, although some much more leisurely students take a year or even several years to get certified.

If you’re ready to take lessons, help is available:

Amador County Airport (call letters JAQ), 2380 Airport Rd., Jackson, Manager David Sheppard, 223-2376. Call Mountainhouse Aviation, 295-7761; flight instructors Ross Anderson, 296-1342, and Bob Pina, (925) 354-0619.

Calaveras County Airport (CPU), 3600 Carol Kennedy Drive, San Andreas, Manager Kathy Zancanella, 736-2501. Inquiries are welcome; no onsite instruction offered.

Columbia Airport (COA), 10723 Airport Road, Columbia, Manager Jim Thomas, 533-5685.  Springfield Flying Service, 532-4103.

Pine Mountain Lake Airport (PML), 20960 Elderberry Drive, Groveland, Manager Jim Thomas, 533-5685. Pine Mountain Lake Aero Club offers licensed instruction. Call Dennis Smith, 962-4950, or visit online, pmlaeroclub.com.

Copyright © 2013 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman September 15, 2013 01:32
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1 Comment

  1. Dread March 26, 20:54

    78 is too old to fly a airplane. More so than a driving a car.

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