FlyingIn 1995, my boss and I took a trip to a customer site in his v-tail Beech Bonanza. It was a great introduction to general aviation. I got to sit up front and ask a thousand questions, twiddle with the radios, and look out the window. I was wired for the next few days (believe me -- it was not the excitement of being in a chicken processing plant -- it must have been the plane).
To me, the coolest part was using radios to navigate and communicate with ATC. After years of playing with ham radio, this was finally a practical use of all of the things I had learned before. After all, I was tired of "you're 5 and 9, please QSL" (meaning "I can hear you loud and clear, but I have nothing to say to you, so please send me a postcard"). This radio-navigation stuff was just plain cool.
My interest in aviation faded for a while. But then in 2003, my friend David Robinson invited his old college room-mate to visit. Daryl Moore used to be an instructor in the Air Force, and now he flies jets for UPS. Daryl flew into town in his own private plane, a two-seater aerobatic plane built in the Czech Republic, a Zlin 142C. That weekend, he took us flying around the countryside. Suddenly (again), I realized that normal people could learn to fly airplanes (this statement should not imply that Daryl is normal -- he is far from it).
In the spring of 2004, I took a private pilot ground school class at Wake Technical College. I was not sure when or if I would eventually start flight training, but the ground school material was interesting. I finished the course and took the FAA written test. A year passed, and the idea of flying lessons faded away.
Then, in September of 2005, I decided to go for it. I joined the Wings of Carolina Flying Club in Sanford, and I started taking lessons with a young instructor named Norm. Norm taught me the basics, got me to solo and to fly on long (50+ miles) trips. But then he left for an airline job before I could finish. So I continued studying under another club instructor, Besty. She was nothing like Norm, she was a retired school teacher, complete with prepared lesson plans. Each instructor had their own style, and I learned a lot from both of them. All of my training was in a two-seater Cessna 152 -- the club has three of them.
One year later, in September of 2006, I passed my check ride, earning my Private Pilot Certificate.