What inspired you to learn to fly?

Staff reporter and Master CFI Meg Godlewski says that’s the first thing she asks new students. Our next print issue is focused on Learning to Fly, so we want to reach out to our readers to find out what inspired them to learn to fly? What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in the cockpit — about flying and about life? What advice would you give someone who has dreamed about learning to fly but hasn’t taken that first step?

We’re also looking for photos to possibly put in the print edition, so send those along of your days as a student. And CFIs: Please send in some of your favorite photos of students. Who knows? They may find a place of honor in our next issue!

You can send comments and photos to janice@generalaviationnews.com. Please put Learn to Fly in the subject line. If you prefer, you can make your comments below.


  1. Chase Reid says

    As a young lad growing up in Springfield, IL, I recall going to an airshow at the local airport, and being up close to the real planes whose balsa-wood models I had built. I guess I was hooked and didn’t realize it. Fast forward to college. I was in ROTC which had a program where they would teach you to fly in exchange for a comittment to 3 years active duty instead of 2. Are you kidding me? Of course I jumped at it! Got my Private Pilot ticket in 40 hours. After graduating from Army fixed-wing flight school (with Comm, Multi-, Inst ticket), I transitioned to the DeHavilland Otter, which I flew for a year in ‘Nam. What a fantastic airplane! Various flying clubs after leaving the military, but then didn’t fly for 13 years (kids, money, etc). Got back in the left seat for a couple of years, but grounded again for the past 4 years due to health concerns. I’m working on that currently, and I still look to the sky when an airplane flys overhead.

  2. Buford Suffridge says

    While in the Navy in 1969 I took a few lessons but quickly saw I could not afford the hobby. When I was 68 my youngest son bought a 1969 model Cessna 172 and got his license and suggested I might want to get mine too. Since I could now afford it, I started taking lessons and at age 70 I became a private pilot and now 2 years later we own a 2005 model 182. Recently I overheard someone say that buying an airplane makes buying a sailing yact look like a good investment, and there is a lot of truth to that!!

  3. Myra Coleman says

    Both my husband, then just a family friend, and I were widowed when he invited me and my daughters to accompany him in his Cessna 175 to a weekend in Gatlinburg TN with another flying family. Later, we were married and my love of aviation began. After several years, I realized that it would be a good idea if I learned how to land an airplane safely. With his enthusiastic support, I began lessons in a Cessna 150 and acquired a private pilot’s license in October 2006. I immediately transitioned to our Comanche 180 and am still learning. Now he jokes that he never gets to fly in the left seat!

  4. Louis Leet says

    Dad was an Army-Air Corps researcher at one of their development laboratories. We always had “aviation trinkets” around the house, includind a Kinner-Fleet and a J-5 Piper “Cub”. I learned to fly and became an Aeronautical Engineer to continue exploration of the third and forth dimensions of our grand world. I’m 68 now, and do not plan to stop my quest…

  5. Cheryl Berry says

    I lived near Santa Monica Airport. My Dad was a tool maker for Douglas Aircraft. I took my first airplane ride in a commercial flight from Santa Monica to Santa Maria. That plane ride was the beginning of a love affair with flight. In 1971 my Navy husband and I were station at Yuma, AZ. He took flying lessons at the Marine Air Base and became a private pilot, our growing family, two sons, made a lot of scenic flights over the southwest desert. We moved to Arcata, CA where my husband earned his instrument and commercial licence . We rented a plane at local airports when we had the extra cash to spend. In 1978 we moved to a town with an airport but no planes to rent. In 1990 after both sons were graduated from high school and on their own, we purchased a Cessna 150 and in 1994 after only 6 months of lessons I earned my private licence. I had a terrific instructor who was constantly encouraging me, he had the patience of a saint. I want to keep learning to be a better pilot and have completed several phases of the WINGS program.

  6. Gaylon Pugh says

    I’ve noticed almost all these comments started out when “I was a kid”. I’m no different. We lived in a small town and about 3 miles from the airport of an adjacent larger town so when that little red biplane (looked little to me from where I was) went into the air and performed aerobatics over where I knew the airport to be I was enthralled. Later at 15 yrs. old I joined an air explorer group (like boy scouts I guess) and got my first flight in a small plane. That was somewhere around 1965 and the pilot didn’t give me a headset so it was noisy and it was bumpy so a little scary but that didn’t ruin my fascination with flying. Over the years I scarfed other rides and finally at 52 I went for my license. I, like every other pilot I know now, live aviation. If nothing else but reading, talking and flying when possible.

  7. Gene Clifford says

    It all began with my building balsa wood model airplanes when about 8 or 10 years old.
    Then while in Highschool I joined the Civil Air Patrol, and accumulated many observer hours flying with them.
    After this, flying seemed to take a back seat, until I met a Commercial Pilot when I was in my mid 50’s, and he encouraged me to not wait until I retired to get my pilots license.
    So I launched my airbourn adventure, and over an 18 month period, I soloed at 12 hrs and I got license 1 week after I turned 55, with 62 hrs.
    I’m still flying at least once a month at age 76.

  8. Patrick Piper says

    After WWII and into my pre-teen years, I would lay on the ground in my back yard, in Cleveland, Ohio and watch the airplanes fly over my house on the way to Hopkins Airport. I decided that I needed to learn to fly if it was the last thing I did. After high school graduation I went to the airport to see what kind of money I would need, and discovered that $11/hr was too much and that I would come back when the price went down. Of course it never did. After a stint in the US Navy and even college, opportunities to learn to fly seemed to disappear, until one day while teaching school in Sabina, Ohio one of my students wrote on the back of her test paper that “flying was her business, her only business”. I inquired what she meant and she said that her father was a pilot and that he taught people to fly. I went to the airport, met her father, and he put me in the left seat of a Cessna 150, and that was it for me. No matter what sacrifices I had to make I would find the money somewhere and learn to fly. The year was 1975. I set a goal to solo in ten hours, which I did, and got my private within a year, even having to play hooky from school to get in my long cross country in the middle of winter. I have since had five airplanes, including a Stinson 108 and now an old Cessna 150D model that I rebuilt from the ground up and fly regularly. I would rather fly than eat. It still thrills me to go aloft and just fly around and look around. I am seventy this year and see no reason to quit. This year I plan to fly at least two hours a week so that I can fly a hundred hours. Getting my pilot’s license motivated me to get an A&P and I eventually ended up working as a mechanic for Continental airlines for twenty-three years.

  9. John Wesley says

    As a kid, I lived about 1/2 mile from the Jerry Tyler Memorial Airport in Niles Michigan. We lived on the extended centerline of RNW 22 which was the most active in the 50s. As I got a little older and braver, I would venture over to the airport and hang on the fence watching. One day, when I was about 8, I was admiring one of the J-3 cubs through the fence when this great guy, Lee Roskey, the airport manager and local pilot invited me in. He later gave me a ride in one of those J-3s that changed my life forever, After 48 years and 15 thousand plus hours, I still enjoy hanging on the fence, but alas at most airports in this area, there is no longer anything to see, or men like Lee Roskey to show you around.

  10. Orville Moore says

    One day when I was about 5 I looked up and said “Mama, some day I’m going to be a pilot.” As long as I can remember that has been my dream. After a stint in the U. S. Navy I got married and almost immediately bought a J4 Cub Coupe so that I could learn to fly. Finding an instructor was a problem so my progress was sporatic. A couple of years later I sold the Cub and enrolled in A & P school. While in school I rented a Piper Colt for $5.00 per hr. wet and there was an instructor available for $3.00 per hr. I got my A & P and a week later got my Private Pilot certificate. It took me several years to finally get my commercial, instrument, CFI and multi engine tickets. I started flying for a living in 1975 as an instructor/charter pilot, and in 1976 started learning to fly aerial application. I have been on vacation now for 38 years and am still in the midst of an enduring love affair with aviation and airplanes. I have over 3500 hrs of dual instruction given and have taught many good pilots to fly and am still actively involved flying about 600 hrs a year, including over 100 hrs with the Civil Air Patrol, instructing, and flying aerial application. It has been a blast and I have never regretted flying for a living.

  11. Jim Edwards says

    My Passion has long been aviation (70 years and 33 thousand hours. When asked about what set me on the path I followed, I answer by telling the following story. It’s mid-morning in a Central Illinois sweet corn patch on a summer’s day in 1944. The air is already hot and muggy. A young boy is lethargically hoeing weeds. He’s wet with sweat and the serrated edges of the leaves have scratched and irritated the bare skin of his arms. An older man, the boy’s uncle, is hoeing a few rows away. The uncle is a rough, crude man, with little education and a mildly cruel bend, who sees the boy as a source of free labor (albeit of minimal value). The ground is muddy. The boy stops occasionally to knock the clods from his shoes drawing growls from his uncle to get busy. The two will never like each other. Now there comes from the distance the distinctive sound of a Merlin aircraft engine. The sound grows to a deafening roar which abruptly shifts in pitch (do to Doppler Effect) as a P-51 mustang fighter flashes by low overhead. The corn quickly hides the fighter. The boy gazes at the spot at where the fighter disappeared listening to the sound fade and then resumes hoeing. There is a slight smile on his face and he’s never looked back.

  12. John Reed says

    Flying from England to New York in a PanAm Connie in 1946 was a great introduction to the world of flying. Later, I enlisted in the USAF and worked on B-47’s out of an A&E squadron. Now I wanted to fly in them, not just work on the ground. After completing the Aviation Cadet program as a navigator, and elctronics warfare training, I flew over 2,000 hours on the B-52. Obtained pilot and instrument ratings while doing this, then applied for, and was fortunate enough to be accepted by a major airline. Released from active duty as a captain. 29 years later I retired as captain and accident investigator. I was one of the lucky guys who saw commercial aviation in ‘the good old days’. Still flying in two lovely old antiques. If you want to do something, make it happen!

  13. Rick Freeman says

    It’s an addiction. It is something you have to do, you can’t shake it. It is a necessity for well being. As with any addiction only those affected understand. Hopefully you have an understanding partner.

    I was civilian trained. LBJ decided I was to fly helicopters in Vietnam. Carrier based fighters came after that, then an airline career, then EMS helos and fixed wing, then contract flying “down range”, now looking for another window seat somewhere. It is a necessity only the affected understand, a requirement for well being.

  14. Vince Flynn, MD says

    When I was a kid in the ’40’s my uncle had his own airplane. He would fly to our town, fly over the house and we would drive out to the local airport and pick him up. He gave us rides in the airplane. Later in my 30’s I loved to drive to a beach about 500 miles into Baja, Mexico. The road was terrible and would take several days to get there. Even after the road was paved, it took 14 hours to drive it. I learned to fly so I could get to my favorite vacation spot in 3-4 hours. I have now been doing this for the past 39 years flying Cherokee 6’s, Bonanzas, Cessna 172’s, 177’s and now my 1968 Cessna 182. It all started when my uncle gave me a ride in his airplane.

  15. says

    For many years, in fact since I was able to walk – I think, I was dreaming of flying. I recall that as a kid, I would spend many hours lying in a ditch, in deep grass, watching planes and gliders float down to the field in front of me for a gentle touchdown. I was pretending to be in the cockpit of one of these colorful beauties. It was a living dream. I was experiencing the magic of flight. The field was not too far from my grandparents’ house. We lived in, what use to be then, Communist Czechoslovakia. Just after the war in 1949, my father escaped to Canada. This shattered my chances to become a pilot. The state considered me a potential flight risk, no pun intended. They simply assumed that I would fly over the border to the West.

    I was not able to fulfill my dream until I came to Canada. Soon after I arrived in here, I enrolled with a local flying school, and started to learn to fly. The year was 1970. Flying was incredibly expensive then. My favourite plane, the venerable Piper Cherokee 140 was going for $18 per hour, and instructor’s presence set me back another $5. That may not sound like much, but I was making $2.50 per hour before taxes then. As I said, flying was expensive. It took me three years of scraping every dollar before I finally earned my Private Pilot License. Then, as it often happens, “life interferes,” and soon after I got my license, I stopped flying.

    About two years ago, I could not stand it anymore. I am 68 years young now, and I am finally living my dream again. No, I am not a wealthy man. I just made the decision to do it.

  16. Edward Baker says

    My inspiration came in 1961, when I visited a small “Gasoline Alley” type suburban airport that had a fleet of Piper (J-3) Cubs used for flight training. After an introductory flight, I was hooked. J-3’s rented for 4$/hr plus instructor for another $4/hr, very affordable. . . Needless to say, the airport eventually went broke and is now an upscale residential development.

  17. George Nye says

    In the late 50’s, my father who served in the Army Air Corps, and I would walk to the Hershey Park Airport in Hershey, Pa. and we would take a 15 minute sightseeing flight over Hershey twice a year. I remember it cost him $3.00 each. Now many years later I still fly over Hershey, Pa about twice per week. Ive been flying 37 years from Reigle Airport in Palmyra, Pa. Taking off from runway 31, I pass over the town of Hershey. Virtually every time I remember that was my inspiration to fly.

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