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Part 61 Flight School: My Early Training Experiences

Bill Gates once said, “The airplane became the first World Wide Web, bringing people, languages, ideas, and values together.” With my family separated by more than a thousand miles, aviation was the link in my life that connected me with my loved ones in California and Nebraska. While traveling during my childhood, airline recruiters, gate agents, flight attendants, pilots, and other flight crew became my second family. Each one of these individuals made my experience personalized and unique on every single trip. My goal as a pilot and mentor is to provide similar indelible experiences for the generations that follow.

My name is Cole Dostal, and I am a first-year student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), working toward an Air Transport Administration degree while completing my flight training outside of the aviation institute. Currently, I am working on my instrument rating at the Millard Airport (KMLE), and plan to complete the rating in the Spring of 2021. Eventually, I will get my Commercial, CFI, CFII, and ATP ratings with a career goal of flying for a major U.S. airline.

My interest in aviation began during my early childhood when my dad and I traveled to various destinations throughout the world including Greece, Iceland, China, Brazil, the Arctic Circle, and numerous other countries. Learning about the various cultures and ways of life around the world was something that fascinated me. In middle school, I began traveling by myself to visit family in California. I took great joy in meeting new people on the plane and learning about their unique purposes for travel. It was then that I realized the importance of aviation and how it is the lifeblood of our modern society. My passion for aviation was fueled even further after taking a discovery flight at Advanced Air in Council Bluffs, Iowa. In high school, I was awarded the AOPA High School Flight Training Scholarship, at which point I then began my private pilot training. I finished nearly a year later with my certificate in hand.

After obtaining my private pilot license in November of 2020, I joined the Skyhawk Flying Club and Oracle Aviation at the Millard Airport which is where I will complete my instrument and commercial training under Part 61. The reason I joined Skyhawk Flying Club was to allow more flexibility in my schedule while also having the capability to take planes on longer cross-country flights over the summer months and attend various fly-ins. Also, the syllabus for Part 61 flight training is more flexible when compared to a Part 141 University or academy flight school which allows me to work at my own pace.

Currently, I am building Pilot in Command (PIC) cross-country flight time for my Instrument Certificate in our club Cessna 172. However, I plan to eventually get checked out in our club Arrow and Bonanza by the summer and take a few leisure trips as well. On a typical day, I do some self-study coursework for the instrument knowledge exam as well as learn and review new topics from the FAR/AIM, Advisory Circulars, FAA Legal Interpretations, or my favorite book, Everything Explained for the Professional Pilot. In conjunction with my bookwork, I schedule three flights per week on average and complete additional ground training at Oracle Aviation.

Throughout training, all pilots will encounter various challenges such as family emergencies, financial constraints, or difficulty with a particular aviation topic. For many pilots including myself, COVID-19 was a time of lost hope and despondency. My first solo was April 4th, 2020, just after COVID initially hit the U.S. Shortly thereafter, my high-school announced that they would not be conducting in-person classes for the remainder of the year. For many seniors in my position, this was disappointing as we would not get many of those “last” moments in high school or the ability to say goodbye to those that we would not see again after graduation. The completion of my first solo flight during this time had monumental meaning to me as it was my final big moment before college. It seemed as if I was figuratively and literally taking-off into the next stage of my life.

The biggest piece of advice that I have for others is to share your aviation experiences with your mentors, family, and friends. No matter if it is your first solo, passing your private pilot check ride, or finally getting your ATP certificate; let them know of every small success that you have had related to aviation. Not only will your mentors and friends provide you with words of encouragement and make you feel a sense of accomplishment, but they may also give you the confidence needed to continue pushing through training. It is also important to stay in contact with many of these individuals as they may be a valuable resource as references and for letters of recommendation throughout your career.

Additionally, do not be afraid to ask your mentors or aviation friends about aviation topics and find people with which to study. No matter how simple or complex your question may be, ask a friend or mentor for advice or answers about topics as this also builds their knowledge, especially when doing a mock oral exam. Do not forget to enjoy your flight training. Be sure to take some fun cross-country trips with family and friends and share with them why you are passionate about aviation.

Lastly, it is also important to participate in activities outside of training. Not only are they fun to attend, but they also look good on your resume. Some of the activities that I have been involved with include Aviation Nation RV-12s Aircraft Build, Millard IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) Club, EAA Chapter 80, Young Eagles Volunteer, FAPA Events, Oshkosh, and other aviation seminars. This spring I plan on attending some fly-in breakfast and EAA chapter fly-outs. Additionally, it is important to get aviation memberships with AOPA, EAA, NBAA, and other similar organizations to apply for scholarships, career advice, mentorship, and to better build aviation contacts.

Throughout my aviation training, I have been given an abundance of support from friends, airline recruiters, pilots, and other mentors. It is my objective to give back and share my passion for aviation and become a mentor to the next generation of pilots. Ultimately, aviation has had several important implications on my life. It is my goal to make that same memorable impression with future colleagues and passengers.

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