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When I first mentioned an introductory flying lesson to my sleepy teenaged son the morning after a Friday-night sleep over, he was just coherent enough to blurt out a colorful expletive before uttering, “Yeah!” Of course, the impending silence when he realized what he had just blurted out to his mother woke him up in a heartbeat and muted his excitement at the same time, but that’s a tale for another time.
Flash forward to a hot Saturday morning in August. My now 17-year-old son, Jordan, and his cousin, Taylor, are very much awake and grinning from ear to ear
as they rock, paper, scissor to see who will be at the controls first. Winning with a well-placed scissor, Jordan climbs into the cockpit of a high-winged Cessna, ready to fly the friendly skies. Naturally, he’s taking pictures of the instrument panel. Naturally I’m taking pictures of him taking pictures of the instrument panel. Naturally their instructor is a beautiful Asian version of Jessica Beal in yoga pants who has just made me regret my morning donut. And naturally, this is turning out to be one of the best Christmas gifts ever, thanks to Indianapolis Pilot Services, operating out of the Greenwood Municipal Airport.
The dream of flight is one many young people have, but actually getting up in a small plane and testing the waters can be difficult. But not any more. Thanks to programs at various regional airports – including nearby New Castle and
Shelbyville, in addition to Greenwood – opportunities are available from $60 to $199 for a 30-minute flight, which includes letting the student actually take the wheel, or whatever you call that thingy in planes which makes them go up and down. Forgive my ignorance – I stayed on the ground and did Jessica-inspired butt crunches during their ground lesson and missed the appropriate terminology.
If you’re interested in a similar experience – flying, not crunching – Indianapolis Pilot Services advertises its training programs in limited detail via its alter-ego, Jeff Pilot Services, on its website at http://www.jeffairpilotservices.com/. Prices aren’t mentioned on the website at this writing, partly because the organization works with various partners to offer frequent specials. For example, I purchased a Living Social deal for $109 in October 2013, advertised as a savings from the regular price of $199. A Google search for “Indianapolis Pilot Services Flying Lesson” didn’t bring up any current deals with Living Social or Groupon, but I did discover a $109.99 deal at Sportations.com. And, if you happen to miss a pricing special, just call them at 317-610-1081 and ask for the $109 rate. That’s what my sister-in-law did for Taylor and they were happy to match my Living Social purchase price. When prices are involved, it never hurts to ask.
We had one-year in which to use the special voucher which came via email online and I made the reservations online as well – a real convenience when you live and work online like I do. Also, for the best deal, purchase two, book them back to back and take a friend. In this instance, Jordan and Taylor basically tagged along on each other’s ride. While the normal experience takes students from Greenwood to Shelbyville, instructor Anna Nguyen let them fly to Kokomo where they landed, switched seats and took off again, back to Greenwood, a trip which lasted over an hour. There were no immediate appointments after ours and Ms. Nguyen loves to fly, thus we definitely got our money’s worth. So, while I can’t guarantee you’ll get to Kokomo too, there’s always a chance.
Calls to the Greensburg Municipal Airport and the Batesville Airport didn’t turn up any similar introductory flying programs, but the New Castle-Henry County Municipal Airport offers a real deal in comparison. For just $60 a student receives 30-minutes of ground instruction plus 30-minutes in the air – a good buy even when compared to Indianapolis Pilot Services’ special rate of $109.99.
The one caveat to New Castle’s program is its limited availability. While Indianapolis Pilot Services has eight instructors and eight planes at its disposal – including its Ms. Biel look alike and a sister facility in Columbus – New Castle won’t have a full-time instructor back on staff until September 15 and only has two planes which could pose a scheduling problem depending upon the popularity of the program.
The Shelbyville Municipal Airport doesn’t have a specific introductory flight program, but arrangements can be made upon request, though it too is limited to one instructor and two planes. No specific fees have been established at Shelbyville, but when asked, my contact said they would probably match the Greenwood rate. Suggestion? Quote the New Castle rate to them and they may just take you up on it. As nothing is currently written in stone at Shelbyville, you may be able to negotiate a better price.
This suggestion of a similar rate to Greenwoods, however, didn’t surprise me as when I compared rates for actual lessons toward obtaining a private pilot’s license, Shelbyville’s rate was very close to the one offered at Greenwood. Because some individuals need more instruction than others, rates differ because the number of hours of instruction and plane rental fees will differ. The Federal Aviation Administration requires a minimum of 40 hours of flight time, 20 hours of flight instruction, and 20 hours of ground instruction just for starters, but those are minimums only. Students are encouraged to train as long as necessary before making that first important solo flight.
With Indianapolis Pilot Services, the minimum rate in terms of hours would cost around $7,600 – and can be earned in as little as three months if you’re willing to work at it – but on the high end that rate can climb to over $11,600. A pricing sheet is available upon request which breaks the instruction up in terms of pricing and hours for either the Cessna 172 or the Warrior. Fortunately, at over $5 a gallon, aviation fuel is included in the plane rental fee.
Shelbyville’s rates for obtaining a private pilot’s license run similar to Greenwoods with a low of $7,000 up to $10,000 while the New Castle-Henry County Municipal Airport comes in again as the price winner with a range of $6,000 to $8,500 on the high end.
As for Batesville and Greensburg, they do not yet offer any form of flying instruction.
And as for Jordan and Taylor, they landed back in Greenwood smiling even more than when they took off. They regaled us with tales of flying through clouds and watching hot air balloons from above and how we all looked like little ants from up there before asking us if they could take real flying lessons. Naturally we grabbed a flyer. And naturally we said we would look into it. And naturally great memories were made. Nothing more may come of this – after all, they will both be heading to college this time next year – but the spark has been fanned by bright blue skies and pretty white planes. For now, that will do.
Lastly, welcome to my inaugural column, Out Around with Robin. If you have something you think I should try or an event you suggest I attend or a can’t-miss activity that I need to experience, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For now, just remember to get out, and get around. There are lots of great things to do in our lovely little part of the Midwestern world. So get out there and do it.
Until next time.
For more information contact:
Indianapolis Pilot Services/Jeff Air Pilot Services, LLC, http://www.jeffairpilotservices.com/, (317) 610-1081
New Castle-Henry County Municipal Airport, http://www.cityofnewcastle.net/department/division.php?fDD=30-173, (765) 529-7903
Shelbyville Municipal Airport, http://www.shelbyvilleaviation.com/default.htm, (317) 392-1284
Reprinted with permission from the Greensburg Daily News and Indiana Media Group