Dawson is Clare’s first ground school student to solo
January 8, 2016
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  • Looking for a unique experience for 2016? Have you ever wanted to learn how to fly?

    Now it is possible, and even affordable right at the Clare Municipal Airport

    With the completion of Clare Airport Manager Gary Todd’s Ground School training, and just 11 hours of flight instruction under his belt. James Dawson, a Clare County Resident, completed his first solo flight December 20.

    Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) Dick Acker knew Dawson was ready to solo, but the weather was the biggest hold up in the process. On Sunday, December 20, 2015 the weather finally broke and Dawson completed three takeoffs and landings after Acker had climbed out of the plane. This was his first experience of being alone in the airplane without a backup to correct his mistakes. “I nailed the first and third landings, but the second one I floated a bit on the flair,” Dawson shared. “I couldn’t believe how much better the airplane climbed after takeoff with only one person instead of two,” commented Dawson. “This is so awesome; it has been a dream of mine for so long now, I’m very excited!”

    Dawson was one of just over a dozen students that recently completed the very first course of Ground School classes at the Clare Airport, taught by Todd.

    The Ground School training program is brand new this year at the Clare Municipal Airport.

    Todd said, “It has never been done here before. I hoped for a few students and ended up with 13 for the ten-week course which just ended. The course began last September and finished in December. “We met once a week for three hours over the ten week period,” Todd added.

    He continued, “The next step in the process for Jim is planning out and flying; short, long and night-time cross country flights. This preparation calls upon knowledge he gained from his Ground School Training at the airport. He will have to chart the flights, compute headings, mark waypoints, compute time, distance and fuel burn, to name a few items. Dawson is up for the challenge as he recently passed the Aeronautical Knowledge Test (AKT), a requirement for becoming a pilot. Dawson hopes to have his Private Pilot License by early spring.”

    Todd said after the successful completion of the Ground School, a minimum of 40 hours of flight time is required to get a license. Former Airport Manager Acker is one of Todd’s several recommended Flight Instructors.

    Todd is uniquely qualified for the new program. He holds an Advanced Ground Instructor rating with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and has been a pilot since 1999. He operates Patriot Aviation and rents the training aircraft, a Piper Tri-Pacer (PA-22-150) that he purchased for the school. He rents the plane out to students at his cost “to help lower their financial outlay.”

    The Piper seats four, flies around 115 miles per hours and is a fun airplane to fly,” Todd said.

    “There aren’t any Ground Schools within 25 miles of Clare,” Todd said. “Other methods (for Ground School) include: self-taught books and DVD’s, Community College Flight Schools, or Flight Instructors teaching ‘ground’ after the flight lesson. These methods can be very costly and take much longer than a dedicated Ground School.”

    Patriot Aviation’s Private Pilot Ground School course includes all necessary books and materials needed to sufficiently prepare for the written AKT examination,” Todd said. The cost of the course is $300. “Upon completion of the required coursework, students will receive the instructor’s endorsement to sit for the FAA examination at a local testing site.”

    The course is perfect for just about anyone who has ever dreamed of learning to fly. “Previous flight experience is not required,” Todd added, “as this program is designed to assist a full-spectrum of students, from novice to seasoned flyers.”

    He said another Ground School will begin in February.

    “I already have seven students signed up right now for the next session with room for eight more,” Todd said. He added, “I plan to start the next class the second week of February, but I am unsure on which night (it will be held) as yet. I need to poll the students for an open evening for everyone.”

    Todd’s Private Pilot Ground School, which readies students for the AKT test, covers 11 major areas of Aviation Information:

    Airplanes and Aerodynamics,

    Airplane Instruments, Engines and Systems,

    Airports, Air Traffic Control and Airspace,

    Federal Aviation Regulations,

    Airplane Performance and Weight and Balance,

    Aero Medical Factors and Aeronautical Decision Making,

    Aviation Weather,

    Aviation Weather Services,

    Navigation – Charts and Publications,

    Navigation Systems, and

    Cross-Country Flight Planning.

    He said, “Currently in the US, there are fewer than 600,000 licensed pilots, which is less than half of one percent of the population. Being able to take off and land an airplane is not for everyone, but some accept the challenge willingly. It requires attention to detail, but anyone who can ride a bicycle and drive a car can pilot an airplane.”

    He added, “Clare Municipal Airport is your resource for information on what it takes to become a pilot. They now offer Ground Training, Aircraft Rental and can recommend Flight Instructors to train with. Contact Gary Todd at 989-386-0445 for more information.”

    “Sign up today and reserve your spot in the class,” Todd encouraged everyone. “Let this be the first step in becoming a pilot!”