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Walters Gets His Wings: Checklist complete

I did it. It took a while, but I finally achieved what I started out to do in June 2016. I finally got my private pilot's licence (PPL).

Nearly a year and a half later...Walters got his wings

CBC Reporter Jeff Walters attained his private pilot's licence after nearly a year and a half of ground school and flying lessons. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

I did it.

It took a while, but I finally achieved what I started out to do in June 2016. I finally got my private pilot's licence (PPL).

Achieving my PPL means a few things. I can fly passengers (just not for hire), can fly any Canadian registered single-engine non-high performance aircraft anywhere in the world, and can achieve a number of endorsements, including flying floats, at night, above the clouds, or by instruments.

Achieving the PPL can be broken into two parts. I had to write an exam, and then actually apply for my private licence. I passed my flight test in the fall, but it took a bit more motivation to finally get my ground school complete.

I had no excuse for taking so long. The weather was brutally cold for part of December and January, meaning I didn't even attempt to fly. I used some of (but not enough of) that time to study, and finally I was comfortable enough to do a couple of practice exams, and then do the 'real thing' at Transport Canada.

To write the exam for Transport Canada, you require a letter of recommendation. I did my ground school online, and needed to squeak out a few more hours in the online course before being able to get that letter. It seemed tedious at the time, but it really did help at the actual exam.

The private pilot written exam is a challenge. It's certainly not impossible — I got a very good mark — but you need to really know the material. The topics are wide ranging from Air Law, to the basic mechanics of your place, the theory of flight, to meteorology (which is really interesting but the most challenging section of all) to navigation.

A challenging exam

You have three hours to complete a 100 question multiple choice exam. It sounds easy, but let me assure you, you can't just go in and challenge the exam. It's also not just guessing the answers — some require a number of calculations to get the correct figure.

As for my actual pilot's licence, I'm hoping it will be in the mail soon. Transport Canada is a busy agency, with apparently a bit of a backlog when it comes to issuing and registering documentation. I have all the boxes checked — cross-country flight complete, more than the minimum number of flight hours, as well as my written, language and flight tests complete. After submitting all my logbooks and paperwork...it's a waiting game.

As for the future, I've had a few people recommend to me that I now pursue my commercial pilot's licence (CPL). The requirements require some more finesse in my flying, as well as gaining quite a few more hours in the plane, but I think it's attainable in the next year or two. With the current pilot shortage in Canada, there certainly will not be a lack of flying options in the future.

A lot of people have contacted me about flying, and learning to fly. Go for it! It's the most fun you'll have, while also being challenged. It's not cheap, but I think the reward, in the end, is worthwhile.

If you are interested in flying, check out your local flying school, or contact a freelance instructor. In Thunder Bay, there are a few freelance instructors. There is also a flight school working on getting established in the city. From my understanding, they are in the process of getting the paperwork completed with Transport Canada.

Last but not least, a big thanks to my fiancee for her support (I spent many hours in the air and on ground school), as well as my flight instructors Blake and Melesa. I couldn't have done it without you.

It took a while...but Walters got his wings.

About the Author

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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