Learning to fly

Ken Strawbridge, pilot at the Waterloo Region Flight Centre, wants students make their summer soar. During the shortest, sweetest four months of the year, with limited time to cram in a year’s worth of working, sleeping, slacking and traveling, it may be difficult to narrow down activities to the truly special ones, but Strawbridge knows that one flight is all it takes to convince you to knock learning to fly off your bucket list.

A graduate of the Conestoga College aviation program, Strawbridge has been working with the flight centre for over two years. He was my co-pilot during an introductory flight one sunny day at the beginning of June. The 40-minute flight, courtesy of the flight centre, gave me a bird’s eye view of Kitchener, Waterloo, Elmira and even Laurier’s own football stadium. After soaring over the city, Strawbridge let me take the controls.

“You’re not going to crash the plane,” he laughed after I told him there may be a Transport Canada inquiry once they fished us out of the rubble. Strawbridge turned out to be correct and I had the incredible good fortune to line it up for the perfect landing. Strawbridge’s record remains intact.

“I’ve never had an accident,” he said, although he was quick to add, “Someone did throw up on me once.”

You can begin the over 100 hours of flying time necessary to obtain a pilot’s license at 16, but Strawbridge said university students are at the perfect age to take up flying because they are primed to take in the extensive information.
“Between 20 and 25 (years old) is good because you’re old enough to understand all the instruments and young enough to retain the information,” he said.

Like driver training, learning to fly requires a combination of in-class and in-plane hours logged, followed by written and practical exams. Costs for obtaining a license vary depending on the flight hours required to learn, but the flight centre estimates the minimum outlay for a recreational license will top $6,000.

If you’re not sure you want to spend a year’s tuition on flying, an introductory lesson costs only $80 and the student is guaranteed to take the controls on their first time out.

Located in Breslau, the flight centre is surrounded by farm fields and forests, as well as the Grand River. The view from the cockpit is wide and green, leaving a lasting impression on those circling the area. If flying a plane is not on your life’s to do list, Strawbridge recommends spending some of your summer soaring above Waterloo Region on a scenic flight.

“They make a great first date.”