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 ...
Age | Confidence|
Resources | Timing
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
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
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 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
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,
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
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.
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