• F. Pacheco

Lehigh Valley Flying Club: A great place to learn to fly – a Student Pilot’s Perspective

We will have a continuing series of blogs every now and then focusing on one of our student pilots and their flying experiences.

And, so we begin, with Alvaro Gil’s journey to a Private Pilot certificate. As with many people, Alvaro always had an interest in aviation. However, not being from an aviation family there was less of an opportunity to receive guidance in reaching out towards his flying dream. Fortunately, in 2005, his friend Luke earned his pilot certificate and off they went for a great scenic view of NYC along the Hudson River corridor.

While the flying bug clearly had a hold on Alvaro, unfortunately, at that time, the high cost of flight lessons in the northern NJ area made it "a show stopper".

Affordability and family commitments continued to play a large part in delaying any decision for flight training. Fast forward to 2016 and many more reasons to hold off the financial and time commitment needed to earn the certificate abounded. Alvaro was blessed with a wonderful wife, two beautiful kids, and a new business. He was ripe for another “not this year moment”. However, he decided now was the time to take advantage of all of life’s opportunities, joined the Lehigh Valley Flying Club in September of 2016, and began his Private Pilot training.

Two days after joining, Alvaro took his first training flight with Tom Fox, one of our great club instructors. The first lesson was fairly straight forward, focusing on straight and level flying, maintaining headings, climbs, descents, and turns. The first flight was a really great start, experience, and overall an enjoyable flight. Tom may have been expecting some nervousness, luckily, any nerves were ironed out beforehand in a Cherokee 140 when Alvaro took quite a number of flights with his friend Jerry in 2015. Jerry was kind enough to take him flying 20 times that year!

First Solo

New Year’s day, 2017. A great way to start the year. Alvaro knew it might happen if the weather held up, and New Year’s Eve was a dry one for him. “The first solo was exciting” said Alvaro. “We flew to Jake Arner Memorial airport (22N) did a few take-off and landings and then Tom said, pull it over, he got out and off I went into the pattern. As soon as I was on the downwind it really hit me that I need to get down by myself!” The second solo was by far the more intense. It was this flight that he truly did everything “by myself”. It seemed like a monumental task at the time - to depart form a class C airport fly about 30 min and then re-enter class C airspace and land.

Cross country flights

The first dual cross country was a short 53 NM hop to Cherry Ridge Airport (N30) followed by a second short x-country dual to Lancaster Aiprort (KLNS) which was more fun. On this outing, Alvaro and Tom were going to have dinner at the airport restaurant and Tom challenged Alvaro to "stop landing on the left side of the runway". His incentive that day was that Tom would buy dinner if he kept it on the center line. How did it end? Well, I believe Alvaro ordered seconds that day and dessert.

His first solo to Cherry Ridge was fairly uneventful with calm winds that day. On the way home he did “get thrown around a bit” which is a normal occurrence in the hills of Northeast PA in a C152. Alvaro said he learned a valuable lesson, “leave as early as possible if you want to avoid afternoon thermals in a 152”.

The next challenge was the "long x-country". In regards to this phase of training Alvaro said, “this was where of all the flights, it all came together and I learned the most. It was an exhausting but invaluable experience”.

Exhausting, I bet! The route of flight took him from our home airport of Allentown (KABE) to Cape May (KWWD) to Capitol City (KCXY) and back again. Flight Following was utilized on all legs starting of course with the Allentown Class Charlie departure. Allentown Departure hand off was made to Philadelphia Approach and those beautiful words “cleared into the Class Bravo” were received. Sometime after departing the Bravo, Philly handed over to Atlantic City Approach and they terminated Radar Services with the field in sight. The return leg take off from Cape May started with flight following from Atlantic City, a hand off to Dover, then Patuxen, and finally Harrisburg for the second landing at Capitol City. The final leg, Harrisburg to Allentown was super easy after the morning flights. Alvaro remarked of the experience, “it was a huge eye opener and confidence builder.”

Night Training

Night training was intense. Alvaro remarked, “I was absolutely exhausted after every night lesson. While flying at night rewards you with awesome sights, cool temperatures and decreased traffic you pay for it with an increased work load. I look forward to getting more comfortable with night flying”.

Knowledge Test

In preparation for the knowledge test, Alvaro said, “I did this a bit backwards. I just purchased the $75 Gliem prep on line course and the large Jepesen book. I told my wife I was going to get all the ground study done then start my training. I don't think she believed me, or thought that I would not stick it out. I usually studied 8 pm - 11 pm and in a few months I passed the exam and started looking for a flight school.”

Fortune would have it that he found Tom almost by accident. He was getting desperate to find somewhere to learn and searched CFI and EASTON PA in Google. The search found Tom’s Arrow for sale and he called him and asked if he was interested in training him. "Amazingly" he was and introduced Alvaro to the Lehigh Valley Flying Club (LVFC).

Alvaro’s Closing Thoughts

“Just about every lesson has its challenges that you overcome in one or two flights. You have to try your best, sleep on it, think about what went wrong and do it again. Eventually it will stick.”

Our flying club, different from for profit flight schools, offers a different experience. While we at the club are very mindful of costs our goal is not to make a profit. We are here to offer an affordable quality fleet and social experience where each member can utilize what we have to offer to enhance their own flying experience. The low dues and tach time charging of flight hours saves on the cost and our extensive fleet means there are always plenty of flying opportunities. Lastly, we have some of the best CFI's anywhere!

In closing, Alvaro is scheduled for his check ride on September 20. I know I can say we are pulling for you and know you will do great.