Frequent Excuses List

You're reading this site, but you haven't started flying lessons yet? You must have some excuse. Let's see if it's valid ...

Medical Reasons| Age | Confidence| Resources | Timing | Politics

Medical Reasons

You wear glasses or contact lenses

So do I, and I hold an airline transport pilot licence.  As long as your eyesight is correctable to 20/20 with lenses, and you have nothing seriously wrong with your eyes, you can probably pass the vision test.

You're colour blind

If you're a little bit colour blind you still may be able to pass the test. Even if you're completely colour blind, you can still get a licence to fly in the daytime. Unfortunately, if you can't demonstrate an ability to distinguish between red, white, and green lights, you can't be licenced to fly at night, which would limit your options as a commercial pilot.

You have had a serious medical problem in the past

There are airline pilots flying with heart bypasses. I know pilots who have received or renewed commercial medicals despite medical histories of DVT, pulmonary embolism, multiple concussions, or cancer. Very few conditions are permanently disqualifying. You can contact Transport Canada and find out if yours is. If a possible medical problem is all that is keeping you out of the sky, invest a hundred dollars in an aviation medical examination and find out for sure. See also my page on the aviation medical.

You have a physical disability

A paraplegic person can hold a private pilot licence. The airplane needs to have modified controls just like your car. I've seen a pilot leave his wheelchair tied down in the same spot his airplane was parked. There is an International Wheelchair Aviators association.

I knew of a student pilot with two prosthetic arms. I think he must have his licence by now. If your instructor submits paperwork indicating that you can reach and operate all the required controls, you can get the licence.

I worked with a commercial pilot who was missing a finger and have flown with another who has one leg fastened together with titanium rods and screws. There is a pilot with two prosthetic legs who flies for an American commuter airline, and at least one paraplegic pilot who holds an airline transport licence, also in the USA. In Canada, CARs 424.05 (5) (d) appears to prohibit paraplegics from holding a commercial or airline transport licence.

You don't have to be in factory-new condition to fly; you just have to be safe to fly.

You have a social disability

I know someone with Asperger's Syndrome who holds a Category 1 medical, has completed a private pilot licence, and is working on the commercial licence.

You have a mental illness

People who suffer from a mental illness usually can not hold pilot licences, because depression or even momentary irrationality is not compatible with piloting an aircraft. For example, schizophrenia is automatically a disqualifying condition for a medical, which is unfortunate, because schizophrenics tend to be bright people. Many medications used to control mental illness are themselves incompatible with flying.

There is a certain mental fitness and capacity required to complete a pilot's licence, but a person who wants to fly can legally enjoy controlling an aircraft while accompanied by a flight instructor or another competent pilot. They just can't be in charge of the airplane.

You're deaf

You could hold a pilot's licence, but would be restricted from going through any airspace that requires radio communication.

You get airsick

A lot of people do -- at first.  And you get over it. Really. After a few hours airsickness diminishes and goes away. Before I started my flight training I couldn't even read a map while a passenger in a car without feeling sick.  I even threw up a few times during flying lessons. Now I teach spins, or fly for hours through turbulence, and the sick bags are strictly a precaution for my passengers.


You're not old enough

You are permitted to start flight training and log flight time at any age. You must wait until your fourteenth birthday before you can fly solo. You can hold a recreational licence at sixteen, and a private pilot licence at seventeen.

You're too old

It is common for men and women to earn their pilot licences after retirement age. There is no maximum age to earn or hold a pilot licence in Canada.


You're not good at things like that

Things like what? Sitting in a chair, looking out the window, moving a few levers? You don't need video game reflexes to fly an airplane. You aren't good at flying yet because you haven't been taught. You will be, step by step.

You're not strong enough.

Minimal physical strength is required to fly most airplanes. If someday you start flying a larger airplane that requires more strength in emergency situations, then work out regularly and eat nutritious foods. No airplane will ever kick sand in your face again.

You're scared of heights
Oddly, many pilots are. The sensation of looking down out of an airplane is completely unlike the vertigo-inducing feeling of looking down off the CN Tower or a suspension bridge, so fear of heights doesn't come into play.

It's too dangerous

Many people who are not pilots perceive flying as a very dangerous thing to do, but with experience, they realize that it is not.

After my first flying lesson (from a friend) I discovered my instructor owned a skateboard. "Cool!" I said, "Teach me to skateboard!"
He said, "No way, it's too dangerous!"
I looked at him like he was crazy, but years later I saw that same look on the face of one of my students, as I told him that I don't ski downhill anymore because it's too risky for me.

If you are in the habit of making dangerous decisions, such as driving drunk, skiing closed runs, scuba diving alone, or using electrical appliances in the bathtub, then for you, flying would be dangerous. If you make sensible decisions in your daily life, and the very fact that you are concerned about the safety of flying indicates that you probably do, then you have the potential to fly safely.

You're terrified, no special reason, just terrified

You're terrified, but you secretly want to learn to fly.  Why don't you just try it? Take an introductory flight, with an instructor who is trained to anticipate and safely correct for any stupid thing you might do, and used to seeing the big stupid grin on the face of someone who has just discovered how fantastic flying is.


You can't afford it

There's no hiding the fact that flying is not a cheap hobby. If it's completely out of your financial reach, then it may be a dream that has to wait until you have a better paying job. But if you were planning to spend $7000 over the next couple of years on upgrading your car, renovating your home, or taking vacations, you do have the resources, you just have to decide which you want most.

I had a student who figured he once spent the same amount in a weekend on greens fees and beers as he did on flying lessons. I know of a man who sold an expensive BMW and bought a bicycle, financing professional flight training all the way to his multi-engine instrument rating with the difference. The same trick with a Honda Civic would get you a private licence, if you get a cheap bike. If you are going towards a commercial licence, student loans are available. Also remember that you are not required to make advance payments on your flying lessons. You pay entirely as you go along, for one lesson at a time.

There also may be scholarships available, especially if you are a member of a minority group or the child of a war veteran.

You don't have a car

There are other ways to get to the airport. I took public transit to all my lessons. I have arranged carpools between students.


You'll just wait until ...

I'm not going to pretend that there aren't wrong times to add another item to your schedule. I do know that I've heard many students say, "I wish I'd done this years ago!" and I've never heard one say, "this would be better if I were a year older."

Your work schedule won't let you

Flying schools do not operate on a nine to five basis. I have given lessons at seven am and well past midnight -- but not on the same day! Many flight students work for a living, so flight instructors are used to working evenings and weekends. Your initial training doesneed to be done during daylight hours.

You don't know your schedule more than a day in advance

Many instructors can work with that kind of scheduling. You might not always get a flight on three hours notice, but it's possible.


They'd never have cast you in Top Gun

The airplane does not know the colour of your skin, the colour of your politics, what is between your legs, nor what you use it for. You don't have to be an arrogant jerk like Maverick or Ice Man to fly an airplane, either. I have some statistics on female airplane pilots. Transport Canada doesn't collect race statistics, but I can tell you that I have worked with or met pilots of pretty much every shade of skin colour.

Your mom/dad/husband/girlfriend/kids won't approve of flying lessons

It's probably for one of the reasons listed above. Find out what their concern is and try to answer it.

Also, clean the house and bring them chocolates. (Even if you don't get flying lessons out of the deal, someone will get a clean house and chocolate, so I'm doing good for the world).

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This page created 13 December 2002 by Robyn Stewart. Last revised 5 November 2003.
Copyright 2003 Flying Start Initiatives