Student Pilot Finances/How To Plunge Yourself Into Massive Debt/I Regret Nothing

*cue hysterical laughter*

Okay, so one of the first questions people ask when they want to know more about flight training is “Is it really as expensive as people say?”

And the answer is yes. Whatever you think you’re going to end up spending on it, it will probably cost twice that. Here’s a link to the rates at my school. And those are mostly the numbers based on the *minimum* number of hours required by Transport Canada. Most people will take longer than that to be ready for the test. Furthermore, between getting your private license and getting your commercial license, you have to get your Pilot in Command time up to a minimum 100 hours, and that’s not included in there either.

So, thinking about those statistics on how many people make it through flight training and how the majority don’t finish, I wondered how much of that is due to lack of funds. I bet it’s most of them. When I started, and word got around about what I was doing, suddenly there were people left and right telling me they’d done some flight training at one point. But then they ran out of money. Over and over I heard the same story. I’ve seen people on the internet in the throes of that running out of money stage, and it’s heartbreaking. I almost feel guilty for having been able to do it myself.

I suspect there’s some people who were surprised I made it this far, even though now they all say “I knew you could do it!” But the people who know me the best tell me they never had any doubt I could do it, and the only thing that really surprised them was that I managed to make it happen financially. I’m not someone who’s really good with money, but now that I’ve made it this far, I figure maybe I do have a few things to say on the subject with regards to flight training.

So here’s some straight talk about the realities of how much it costs to learn to fly.

The main thing I’d recommend, that I did do right, is making sure the money is there when you need it. You don’t want to be nearly ready for whatever level test, just need a few more hours of practice, and then run out of money. If that happens, then you’ll be out of practice by the time you get your hands on more money, and need more hours of practice before you’re ready again. Having a credit card with an amount of credit you never imagined you’d actually use is great for that. Lines of credit to pay off the credit card with cheaper interest rates are even better. I stress about money easily, and when the secretary at Harv’s would remind me I needed to top off my account, it made it so much easier to know I had my credit card in my wallet and could take care of it right there and worry about paying the bank later and focus on flying when I needed to.

Another consideration is whether or not to buy your own plane. I had a lot of people tell me that I should buy my own plane, that it would be cheaper in the long run. I think if you’re only planning on getting a private license that’s probably a valid argument. For myself, I didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t, but not for financial reasons. On the one hand, I’d have been responsible for maintenance and airworthiness reports, hangar space, repairs, and I don’t know what else, all while trying to focus on learning to fly.

On the other hand, I’d have only learned to fly one plane. All through my private license, I flew about ten different Cessna 152’s. Some had climbing props, some had different types of radios and instrument styles, and sometimes the stall horn would go off if you looked at it the wrong way while another wouldn’t go off until you were fully stalled. Then I got my license and got checked out on the Cessna 172, and the Citabria. When I’m ready to go on to my Multi-IFR, the school has two Seminoles available for me to fly, and if I’d bought my own plane, it would have been a single engine and would have been useless for getting a multi-engine rating, even if I were lucky enough to find myself a plane with both a VOR and an ADF to work with on my IFR rating. So, I’d say, if you’re planning on just doing a private licence, go ahead and buy a plane. If you’re planning on going commercial, don’t bother.

What else to say…

Where to get the money? There’s a good question. Student loans doesn’t cover flight training. They don’t consider that legit post secondary training and you can’t get government student loans for it. Everyone will tell you to apply for scholarships, but there are actually very few, and almost none worth more than 1500$. Most of them are like, 200$-300$. I have not won any monetary scholarships. The big one I did win was the first to solo scholarship, and that was mostly schwag, plus a really fracking nice headset. Still totally worthwhile, even just for the headset, but it doesn’t go very far when it comes to avgas. I kind of have a dream of someday having enough money to fund a couple thousand dollar scholarship.

I was lucky. We had some money –about 25k–and my husband agreed to sign it over to me to follow my mad little dream. I think I probably spent about 15k on my private licence. I’m now finished my commercial licence and that money’s all gone, plus I’m about 15k in the red. I would have run dry of credit long before completing my CPL if I hadn’t had that money to start. If your flight school is on a certain list, you can qualify for a student line of credit, which is what I’ve got, but if you don’t own a house or a car worth more than a few thousand bucks, you have no collateral, and they can’t repossess your pilot’s licence so they’re hesitant to lend you a whole lot. I got a limit of 20 in the student line of credit, and another 10k in a second line of credit. My Dad was willing to co-sign for me, but turns out because he’s self employed, his signature didn’t actually help me, even though he’s the most financially stable person I know and could have paid for all my training out of pocket. I have also received a little over 10k between my Dad and my paternal Grandmother and other family members.

And that’s another thing. I have family I can turn to if things ever got really bad. I wouldn’t be on the street if the debt became overwhelming. If my Dad wasn’t as financially stable as he is, going into this much debt would be terrifying. Many people wouldn’t have had a job where their income would have allowed them to borrow as much as I have, and wouldn’t have the startup money to offset the debt. I’d love to be able to say, like many people do, if you want it, you just have to find a way to make it happen, look at me, I did. But I know there are tons of people out there who love flying who may never be able to follow their dream because they could never scrape together  the resources necessary, and it’s not fair. I’ve been lucky.

So how much does it cost to learn to fly? The answer is all of it. All your monies. All gone. And some of the monies that belong to the bank too, as much as you can sucker them into lending you. All the monies you can sucker your family into giving you. If you discover you love flying, you will hemorrhage cash at rates you do not now think possible. There are always more ratings, more training, more time-building, more licenses to get, and if you love flying, you’ll just keep going until you have no more money. The numbers on checks and bank statements will start to seem surreal and loose real meaning. But if you’re going commercial like I was, unless you’re filthy rich, it’s really an all or nothing thing.

And yet, there has not been one single moment in all of this where I’ve thought to myself “I wish I hadn’t done this,” or “I don’t know if this was really worth it,” or “This didn’t turn out to be everything I hoped it would be.” It is everything I hoped it would be, and like the title says, I regret nothing.

Wet Egress Training

For those who don’t know, wet egress training is hands on training on how to get out of an aeroplane…underwater. Wanting to be a commercial pilot and all, I figured when the guy who does wet egress training in Canada came in to the ‘Peg, I should get in on it. For various reasons, I ended up joining last minute, but the instructor squeezed me in anyway.

Let me start by saying I am not a water person.

I’ve never had a bad experience with water. I can tread water and swim – not super fast, but I can swim. I can even hold my breath for a decent amount of time. My issue is I’m one of those unlucky people who can’t hold their breath *underwater*. Water goes up my nose and in five seconds I’m panicking. I’ve tried the humming thing, and exhaling. Nope. Apparently I’m not the only one – it’s a thing, some people’s nasal passages don’t close off when they’re holding their breath underwater. It sounds like there may be a trick for those people, and I’m thinking I might go swimming again sometime soon and try that, but as it stands, the instructor saw pretty quickly that I was having problems.

It was like my first few weeks of learning to land the plane, I suck at this, why am I having so much trouble, everyone else seems to be doing fine, etc. I could get out of the dunker, but I’d have to let go of my nose and then I’d be panicking with water down my nose and not get the PFD in the holder, even though it was right in front of me.

They suggested trying the mask, and I was like, nope. You want to put something over my face? I don’t think so. I have a thing with anything covering my face, stopping me from breathing, or for that matter, even stifling my breath. I don’t even like it if my breath is blowing on something close to my face.

Bryan was great though, he took me aside. I’m not used to getting one on one attention from an instructor. I’m not used to struggling with things. I normally just don’t bother do things I’m not good at. He talked me through getting my head in the right place. By halfway through I was okay with the mask, but I didn’t use it in the dunker, I wanted to make sure I could do that without it. By the end, I was getting out of the dunker with the PFD in hand without too much problem, just fighting through the water up my nose.

Anyway, video or it didn’t happen huh?

It was really worthwhile over all. You can have all the lectures and info in the world, and it won’t prepare you for the disorientation of being upside down underwater. I definitely feel like I have a much better shot if I ever found myself in that situation.

Three Things Make a Post

Quick update, because I’ve been busy and not had time to post!

Thing 1: Women In Aviation Women Fly day went great. I took nine women flying, and despite some of the planes being grounded, over four hundred women got in the air that day. The weather held right to the end of the event, at which point it turned shitty as could be, IFR right to the ground. I stayed around right up until seven pm, helping out organizing hangar space for planes that couldn’t make it back to their home airports due to the blowing snow. It was an awesome day.

Thing 2: Afterwards, there was a class for women who caught the aviation bug to prepare to write their PSTAR exam – the test you have to pass in Canada to get your student licence. I taught the class one of the four days it was on, which was fun. Aaron from Harv’s Air was kind enough to come out and mark the exams, and almost all of our students passed. We’re also going to have a class for the radio exam, starting this Sunday, and I’ll be helping out with teaching that one too.

Thing 3: Last Sunday I had C-FLUG booked to go do some circuits and drop off the new spinner cover (old spinner cover was cracked, we ordered a new one, and it needs painting before it’s put on) and the night before I figured I’d check where to drop it off, and Jill said she was heading down to International Peace Gardens, and I should come with her. I had the plane booked for the morning already, and no one else had booked it for the afternoon. It was last minute, but I looked at the weather, and the weather was really too nice to be wasted, so I went, and spent about four and a half hours in the air that day. Good practice for my upcoming three hundred nm trip. I’ll post more about that in it’s own post though, when I have more definite plans.

Keep your wings level.

Women in Aviation Week – Women Fly at St Andrews Airport

Two years ago I participated in the Women Fly event out at St. Andrews that kicked off my flight training. It’s an event where women who’ve had limited experience in small planes are invited to go for a free plane ride. I’ll be participating in it again this year, and I’m really excited.

Because last time I was a passenger, and this time I’ll be a pilot.

Being a member of the 99s, and flying C-FLUG, the 99’s plane reserved for women pilots only, I’ve been in the loop about it from early on. With C-FLUG being the women only plane, it just wouldn’t feel right not to have her there for an event like this. There’s not a lot of other pilots flying C-FLUG right now, so I get to fly her.

She’s been down for maintenance for a while, getting a brand new windshield installed. I helped with that. They guy doing the windshield installation that I was helping thought I was useful enough that he asked for me again when we were finishing up. Now the compass is installed again, and I got the sun visors put back on. No one’s shoveled the ramp in a while, so a bunch of snow had drifted in front of the door – I got rid of most of that yesterday, and we ferried her over to St. Andrews airport. She’s plugged in and tucked away in a heated hangar offered by Cam, because it’s supposed to snow tonight, and we don’t want to have to deal with removing ice from the wings. Taking off with ice or snow on the wings: highly illegal in Canada.

The plane is ready to go.

I’m excited. It had been more than two months – longer than I realized, since I’d been flying last. I did a circuit checkout in a 172 on wed, just in case things went badly with the taxiways at lyncrest, and we couldn’t get C-FLUG in to St. Andrews, and I wasn’t as rusty as I feared I might be. It had been at least a year and a half since I’d been in a 172 at all. So, flying twice in three days, and planning to fly again tomorrow. I’m a happy Lindsay. And excited to take as many women out flying with me as I can manage!

Ode To A Vegetable Steamer

We used to have a vegetable steamer. I think it was my Dad’s and he never used it so his girlfriend-at-the-time gave it to us. We used it all the time, it made the best vegetables and didn’t cook all the flavour out of them. We loved it. We loved it to death. One day, the timer stopped working, I still steamed the vegetables though, so we kept using it and just used the oven timer to time it. Then the element stopped working, and it didn’t steam anything anymore. It died. It was an ex-vegetable steamer. And I’m a flight student and starving writer, kinda too broke to get a new one.

Technically I’ve been paid for my writing before. It was nanofiction–tweet-length stories–and the transaction fees to claim the payment would have been more than the payment itself. Athena’s Daughters 2 was the first time I was going to be paid more than the price of a cup of coffee for my writing. I was pretty excited. It wasn’t quite pro rates, the original $100 per story the submission guidelines stated, but $100 was good.

But that was an advance against royalties. And the Kickstarter (thanks to all you people) was a smashing success. So when I got my payment from the publisher, the success of the sales pushed it past the $100 and started paying me royalties, bumping it over pro rates. And then some. And then I realized the amount was in U.S. Dollars, and with the current exchange rate, in Canadian dollars it was even more.

I think it was Jim C. Hines that I saw say in a blog post, that first time you make enough money from selling a story to pay a bill is a big deal. I think he might have said that’s the first time you feel like a real writer. There’s lots of landmarks to hit as a writer and this is definitely one of them.

But it’s not just that that floored me. I was expecting one amount, and ended up with three times that amount. It’s not just enough to pay a bill, it covers more than a third of our rent for the month. Or three hours of flight instruction. Or cat food, groceries and the phone and internet billls together.

I’m not saying this to brag. I’m saying this so that you understand I’m not just being sentimental when I say thank you, and tell you all that you made a difference in my life and did something that matters to me. Because that extra cash was because of all the people who contributed to the kickstarter and bought the anthology, and all the people who shared the word on social media to get more people to back the kickstarter.

So thank you for the cat litter, and the cat food, and the internet bill and the phone bill. And for our new steamer.

You guys all rock.

Athena’s Daughters Volume 2, Kickstarter Closing in a Few Days

Last day to contribute to the Athena’s Daughters 2 kickstarter is January 14th. We did make the hardcover goal, so the hardcover reward levels are available, and the hardcover will only be available during the kickstarter, so when I’m a big shot famous author, it’ll be a priceless collectible. *nudge, nudge*

Also, the artwork for my story has been released, so I can show it to everyone! It’s pretty much exactly what I imagined the artwork for that story to look like, and I’m stoked about the story not just getting published, but illustrated as well. Here’s the link to the update where the artwork appears: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/103879051/athenas-daughters-volume-2/posts

I picked up the first anthology for myself, and I’ve read a bunch of the stories in it. I don’t read a lot of short stories because I find it hit and miss as far as quality, sometimes, but as far as anthologies goes, Athena’s Daughters 1 is top notch, so I can only imagine the second volume will be just as awesome. I’m honoured to be included in it.

The link to the main page again, in case anyone needs it: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/103879051/athenas-daughters-volume-2/comments

Thanks to everyone who’s supported the project so far, it’s been a smashing success, and I look forward to seeing the anthology in the wild!

New Year’s Goals

It’s been a rough year. Between home drama, moving in april, worrying about my husband’s health and him being in and out of the emergency room, I’m not where I had hoped to be this year. But I’ll give myself a break because I’ve worked hard and haven’t given up. Checking over my goals for last year:

– Reading goals: Read a novel eligible for the auroras and vote in them. Read a debut novel. Read an author I haven’t read before. Read another book in at least one series I started. Read a novel by an author I know in person. I think i got all of these, Samantha Beiko’s debut novel The Lake And the Library, and Chad Ginther’s sequel Tombstone Blues both count as novels by authors I know in person; an author I haven’t read before: Chris Wooding’s Retribution Falls, and another book in a series I started: Kinslayer and Endsinger by Jay Kristoff. 

– The usual: Stay happily married and not die. No surprises here. 

– Get my commercial pilot’s license. Did not make this one, but I have made progress, building time and passing my commercial written exam. 

– Get my multi-IFR rating. Commercial license first. 

– Finish Skybound. Got this one. 

– Get a solid start on revising another novel. Started Earthbound, the sequel to Skybound.

So I didn’t do as bad as I thought. I haven’t flown as much because I’ve been under a lot of stress, and that’s not a good way to learn. I got some aerobatics training in, and that was fun. I needed something to challenge me.

Plus, I’ve got a short story coming out in an anthology, and the Chiseries event coming up.

Anyway, my new goals for this year:

– Stay happily married and not die.

– Do my three hundred nautical mile trip requirement for my commercial license.

– Get my commercial licence.

– Get a good ways through revisions on Skybound.

– Write a short story for that idea I came up with inspired by the documentary “Blackfish”.

– Reading: I think I want to get back to reading more female authors again. I also want to get through a bunch of novels I’ve had kicking around on my TBR list – The Name of the Wind being one major one, I need to get to, because people keep raving about it, and we have it and the second book.

It’ll be a busy year. We very well might be moving again at some point, but with Chiseries in a week, and Athena’s Daughters coming out this year, I think 2015 is getting off to a good start.