Learning to fly is easier than most people think
F Air can teach you to fly an ultralight airplane for the cost of two ski trips
Learning to fly a plane is a lot easier than many people think, and renting a small plane is an option for those who don't want to buy one.
F Air is the oldest flight school in Central and Eastern Europe, established in 1990. It trains hobbyists on small planes as well as commercial pilots. The school began with gliders and expanded from there, but hobbyists still make up a significant part of the business. F Air trains pilots for ultralight and light plane licenses — as well as commercial licenses. But for for the hobbyist, a full commercial license is not necessary. It is also possible to rent a small plane when you need it, rather than own one.
Altogether, F Air owns about 40 ultralight and light airplanes of different types.
F Air is located at Benešov Airport, in the small village of Bystřice, some 40 kilometers south of Prague.
It is a fairly hidden, and not too busy. People worried about learning to fly a small plane is a sky surrounded by landing jumbo jets can relax. Benešov Airport is strictly for smaller aircraft.
The skies around the airport are calm, save for the occasional fellow hobbyist taking off or landing.
A potential customer meets with the staff for a discussion about what flying means, and and other issues such as renting versus owning an airplane. After that there is a tour around the flight school where the potential client can meet the team and see the fleet, and learn about the program. After that there is a 30-minute demo flight. “Ninety-nine percent of people say, 'Yes, I want to continue,'” said Michal Markovič, CEO and head of training at F Air. “Primarily people fly because of the beauty of flying.”
One attraction of flying is the three-dimensional movement, and another is seeing the earth from a bird's perspective, Markovič added.
People fly sometimes for fun but also for a reason, such a s two-day trip to Croatia to go to the beach. Planes are ideal for short trips like this, since less time is spent traveling. “Flying offers a combination pleasure and traveling,” Markovič said.
In one or two hours you can be from the airport to the ski slopes. If you take your boots, you can rent skis at your destination. “I can fly to Budapest be at the thermal spa in two hours. By car it is very complicated,” he said. He also cited Finland and Denmark as popular trips.
With a four-seat airplane someone could take their family to see a concert, visit relatives or go see a castle. There is a large number of airports for small planes across Europe.
In the Shengen zone, which covers most of Europe, there is no check-in and no need to make a report. It is similar to driving a car. The only issue is to possibly call the destination airport to make sure there is a place in the hangar, otherwise . “The freedom is absolute. It is total freedom,” he said.
People have a lot of misconceptions about the cost of flying.
To learn how to fly an ultralight takes only about a month if a student can go every second day.
“The best time to learn is summer. You can fly to 10 o'clock,” Markovič said. For slightly larger planes, a private pilots' license takes two to three months. Flying is only possible in daylight hours.
The cost of getting an ultralight license is the equivalent of two skiiing holidays, according to Markovič.
He compared the cost of maintaining a plane, including hangar fees, during the year to that of having a horse. “It is not very expensive,” he said.
The physical requirements are also not as strict as many people think. People with glasses can fly, and a two-hour physical exam in a doctor's office is all that is needed.
With an ultralight a pilot can fly 1,000 kilometers on a tank of fuel. “It is absolutely enough. Who wants to fly six hours? It is for pleasure. It means you want to fly two hours,” he said.
Personally, Markovič prefers to fly ultralights. “It is very safe. There are no complicated instruments. You get the best feeling of flight,” he said.
F Air can prepare everything for the customer, providing the plane, fuel and flight plan. For plane owners, it can take care of maintenance, insurance, documents and pre-clearing for flight. “There are no worries. All you have to do is call in advance,” he said. “People want to come to the airport, jump to the airplane and fly.”
For beginning pilots or if bad weather is predicted, it is also possible to hire a trainer from the flight school to be on hand in the plane as a safety pilot or instructor in case of difficulties, or F Air's pilots can be the crew and the customer can simply be a passenger.
If a safety pilot is needed, it is best to call a day in advance. If you own your own plane and will fly it, about half an hour or less is needed.
While there is increasing interest in virtual reality, especially for big planes, Markovič says flight simulators and 3D viewers will never take over. “There is no substitute for the feeling of actually flying,” he said.
And of course, a simulator will not really take you to your destination.
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