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Learning to fly as a pastime

EI-BIB Cessna 152Most people, whether afraid of flying or not, are fascinated by flight.  This is shown by the huge interest in air shows every summer; locally in Galway, the Salthill airshow is a huge attraction for people of all ages and backgrounds.

However, for most of the population, except for those few occasions in the year when they use airlines for business travel or to go on holidays, flight is on the other side of a security fence or high above their heads.  There is also some anecdotal evidence that aircraft flying is perceived as an expensive and inaccessible pastime.  Without doubt, aircraft ownership and operation is expensive in the same way as owning your own football ground or golf course is expensive and it is for that reason, like those other pastimes, that enthusiasts of flight have formed clubs to share the costs and provide the coaching necessary for fellow members and the next generation of pilots.

For those who are fascinated by flight and who want to make the effort to pursue their dream of flying an aircraft themselves, clubs such as Galway Flying Club provide the ideal environment in which to get support and encouragement and assistance.

Like all the best clubs, Galway Flying Club is a voluntary organisation in which the members contribute their fees, time and expertise.  Nobody receives any form of payment from the club irrespective of their contribution and this includes flying instructors, who are the voluntary coaches to new members wishing to obtain their pilot’s licence.

Like sailing or diving or ballet or gymnastics, aeroplane flying is technically demanding and requires intensive training and medical fitness.  The club’s qualified instructors take new members, who have never before sat in the cockpit of an aircraft, through the various stages of training to the point of qualification for a Private Pilot Licence.  Having acquired this licence, the new pilots are free to use club-owned aircraft for their private use to enjoy and share with friends the pleasures of flight.

The process of training and qualification within the club takes a minimum of one year but more usually is spread over a number of years during which a student pilot attends classes provided by club members for examinations in the technical matters of Theory of Flight and Aircraft Systems, Navigation, Meteorology and Regulations. A medical examination is required to show the regulatory requirement for a minimum level of medical fitness.  They also fly regularly with a club instructor, once a week or sometimes once in two weeks.  During the practical lessons, they initially gain the basic skills required to fly the aircraft in the vicinity of the airport.  When proficient in this, they are sent on their ‘first solo’ flight – a takeoff, position back to the runway and landing.  Following this and with practice and more advanced training in aircraft handling and navigation, the student pilot achieves the required proficiency to apply for skills testing for the Private Pilot Licence (PPL).  On successful completion of this test, conducted by an examiner of the Aviation Authority, the new pilot is issued with their licence.

Frequently, a group of student pilots who join at about the same time, work through the training process together and provide each other with additional help and support.  This all adds to the social interaction of a group of people with a shared passion and contributes to the vibrancy of the club.

If you are one of those who has been looking through the security fence at the airport or looking up to view the passing aircraft above your head and if you want to get in and try it yourself, call in to the club-house any weekend where you will be welcomed by a group of like-minded people who will help you make your dreams come true.

It must be emphasised that Galway Flying Club is not a training school for those aspiring to be professional pilots or those solely interested in building flying time towards a professional qualification.  Neither is it an aircraft hiring facility.  It is a club that facilitates its members in the pursuit of flying as a leisure activity and in the social activities shared by people with an interest in flying.  As such, it offers members and demands from members much more that just aircraft flying.