Life lessons from a private pilot student

Twenty years ago I developed a strong urge to learn how to fly; I was however a student and wasn’t sure I had the time (or money) to pull it off.  Almost two years ago to the day, I got my first demo flight and I was hooked.  120 flight hours, 400+ landings, and hundreds of hours of studying later, I am today a licensed private pilot.  While I am obviously extremely proud (although verifiable statistics are hard to come by, I have heard anecdotally that only 0.1% of the word’s population is qualified to do so), it has been a long, hard, and sometimes painful journey.

When I reflect back on these last two years, I realize a lot of what I learned has nothing to do with flying itself, and many of the lessons I have taken away have applied and will continue to apply in my life (both professionally and privately):

  • Perseverance pays off: There were numerous times during this long journey where my frustration was extremely high, and I almost gave up on at least three separate occasions.  Apparently, 70-80% of people that embark on this journey never complete it. I kept pushing through and it eventually paid off.
  • There is no such thing as a free ride (pun intended):  Getting through everything was hard, hard work.  In addition to the actual learning of how to fly an airplane, I had to revisit my high-school physics (how many of you remember Bernoulli’s principle?), learn about the laws of aerodynamics, and get a crash course on meteorology and biology.
  • Focus, focus, focus (a.k.a. 80/20):  Every step of the way, while I had sort-of mastered one skill, there  was a new thing to learn.  I was never satisfied with my performance and had to really fight my urge to perfect what I had already learned, vs. moving on to the next thing.

I am certain these lessons I have taken away will make me a better person and professional.  Now on to the next stage, getting my instrument rating.  Hopefully I will keep reminding myself of these three points along the way.


3 Responses to Life lessons from a private pilot student

  1. RG May 1, 2011 at 22:56 #


    I love this post simply due to the fact that the lessons learnt seem so obvious and yet we tend to forget it during our daily lives. Reading about your post, I could relate to so many occasions when I succeeded by applying these very principles and slipped on countless other occasions for ignoring them. Sure to go up on my wall!!


  2. Sumith May 2, 2011 at 07:46 #

    Congratulations! Your learnings are timeless and can be universally subscribed to. I’d like to reserve my “free ride” over the bay the next time I visit Palo Alto.

  3. Isabelle June 5, 2012 at 17:17 #

    …so I guess there are some interesting posts on this blog!


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