Certifications offered at airport
• Private pilot: Allows holder to fly into almost any airport and fly other people. Requirements: 40 hours of flying, 20 hours of ground school. • Instrument pilot: Allows holder to fly in inclement weather. Requirements: an additional 40 hours of flying experience. • Commercial pilot: Allows holder to fly anything for hire. Requirements: 250 total hours of flying experience. • Airline transport pilot: Allows holder to fly for airlines. Requirements: 1,250 hours total flying experience; must be at least 23 years old. • The Lawrence Municipal Airport also offers training for certified flight instructors and instrument flight instructors.
Nathan Patterson took his first flight when he was 3 years old. He has wanted to be a pilot ever since.
Nine years have passed, and Nathan’s father has finally succumbed.
“He’ll probably fly before he drives a car,” Bob Patterson said.
The Overland Park residents visited the Lawrence Municipal Airport last month to learn how to fulfill Nathan’s dream.
Tom Renfro, chief flight instructor at the airport, equated the process of earning a pilot’s license with that of earning a driver’s license. He said students have to study the rules, take the test and fly with an instructor.
Earning a private pilot’s license, the first basic license, requires a total of 60 hours of training: 20 hours of ground school, 20 hours of flying with an instructor and 20 hours of solo flying.
Students at the Lawrence airport learn on an integrated system, alternating ground school and flying throughout the training.
Renfro said integration helps students become better pilots and finish in less time. He said most students complete their training in a year.
Students also have to pass a 60-question, multiple-choice exam and successfully complete a final test flight with an instructor before earning a license.
Carole Dawson said she earned her private pilot’s license during her first semester at Kansas State University in 2002.
“If you buckle down and get after it, it really doesn’t take long at all,” she said. “It’s just a matter of how much you study and how bad you want it.”
But earning a license isn’t cheap.
Renfro said a pilot’s license can cost between $5,200 and $6,700. The bulk of the cost, he said, comes from renting the aircraft at $110 an hour.
Most pilots say the time and money are worth it.
“It’s one of those areas in life that there still seems to be quite a bit of adventure left to it,” Dawson said.
Although Renfro said there is no age limit to flying, students cannot fly alone until they are 16.
For that reason, Renfro suggested starting ground school and flying with instructors at age 15.
Nathan is still a bit young, but with the prospect of flying on the horizon, he’s already bragging to friends in his sixth-grade class.
“It’ll be cool to finally get up in the air and be in control,” he said.