I (Chris) have my private pilot’s license, although I haven’t flown since before grad school. I am still passionate about aviation and am looking forward to the day when I get back in the cockpit. In the meantime, I occasionally get my fix through Microsoft Flight Simulator or having lunch at Pilot Pete’s.
I learned how to fly in Juneau, Wisconsin, and did most of my flying out there. It is a great small airport run by Wisconsin Aviation. It is uncontrolled and generally quiet, but has enough business aviation traffic to justify the county spending the money for good runways and other improvements. I’ve also done some flying out of Fond Du Lac and West Bend with West Bend Air who operates the FBOs at both locations. These guys are also a first rate operation. I mainly fly with them because they have a fleet of Cessna 172s, and although I prefer Pipers overall, the 172s have some advantages also.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004
My instructor thought I was nuts, but I found that spending time on Microsoft Flight Simulator really enhanced my learning process, and it helps me with recurrency training. I invested in CH Products yoke and rudder pedals and purchased the Dream Fleet Piper Archer add-on. The add-on closely resembles the aircraft I trained in (a Piper Warrior) and allows me to practice procedures in my home office much cheaper than real Hobbs time. I frequently use it for refresher training if I haven’t flown in a while which really saves time in the cockpit. During training, I would also fly my upcoming lesson in the simulator before I showed up for the real lesson. The rehearsal really helped get my mind ready and was especially helpful when flying into new airports. Basically, MS FS2004 is a great procedures trainer, if you have the proper aircraft model and you treat it as serious tool instead of as an arcade game.