Pilot’s Digest: Tell us a little about yourself?
Ruth Dickinson: I’m a student pilot at American Flyers in Pompano, Florida, and recently gained my private pilot licence. Originally from London, I’ve been living for the last 30 years in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. I also have a home in Orlando, Florida for 20 years and have been a frequent visitor over the years. I’m married with a son and daughter studying at a university in Florida and own and run a sports and fitness business in Dubai. I’m fortunate to have travelled the world and seen some amazing places and met some wonderful people along the way.
PD: How did you get into flying?
Ruth: Eighteen months ago, I celebrated my 60th birthday and decided to embrace new challenges – and number one on my list was wanting to fly. As a birthday gift, I was given the most wonderful opportunity of a lifetime… flying lessons. A dream come true.
PD: Tell us how you went about choosing a flight school?
Ruth: Over the years, I had researched flying lessons by looking at locations as well as schools and training centers. I know many pilots and also asked where they recommended. Florida is a popular choice as a location and I know it well – so I started by knowing that I would like to train in Florida.
PD: What made you choose American Flyers?
Ruth: A number of friends had trained with American Flyers Pompano over the years and they highly recommended it. I took an introductory flight and loved it. Everyone at the school was super friendly and very helpful – happy to answer all my questions. Living abroad and being a foreign national I had to first obtain a visa and various clearances and American Flyers was very supportive and helped with the process which was also very straightforward.
Prior to enrolling, I discussed scheduling and felt confident that I could commit to the course whilst also running my business back in Dubai with a few very long-distance commute trips in between. Everyone at American Flyers Pompano has been very supportive and encouraging whilst also making sure I kept on track. The system is excellent and keeps all the instructors up to date with your progress and ensures that you are progressing towards passing the required ground knowledge and flight skills.
PD: How much outside studying did you have to put in during your time with American Flyers?
Ruth: There is studying to do outside of the classroom and I did put the hours in, however, it’s not unmanageable. The ground school covers all the ground knowledge and with regular reviews, it’s easy to keep up. I found the flight instruction great fun as well as challenging and if there was any skill that I needed to focus on the instructors were excellent in helping me achieve the required standards. All the records of your progress and areas needed to be covered are kept in a central file and are easy to access.
PD: What is your most memorable moment at American Flyers?
Ruth: The first solo for sure is the most memorable moment – after the 3 laps in the pattern you feel 10 feet tall. It’s a great feeling coming back to the ramp knowing you’ve completed your first flight as the pilot in command. It’s a wonderful confidence booster and definitely a great motivation to progress further.
PD: Looking back, what advice would you give someone interested in starting pilot training?
Ruth: Take an introductory flight and find out what to expect. Be prepared for the challenge of a lifetime that is fun as well as rewarding. Be prepared to work hard – on the ground and in the air, it can get pretty intense at times. But the day the examiner turns to you and says “congratulations, you’ve passed” makes it all worthwhile. Set aside the time and know that at times it will take over your life as you near the final stages. It’s all about your commitment, so do the research beforehand, and know what you are signing up for. I got the textbooks before the course started and asked pilot friends what I should expect in terms of knowledge and flight training.
During the training period, take time out sometimes and ensure you have a life balance too. For me, I was juggling family commitments as well as running a business on the other side of the world. But it’s all “doable” and with the right commitment, you can achieve success.
PD: What’s next for you?
Ruth: I’ve loved every minute of my training and time spent at American Flyers Pompano – met some great people and made new friends too. I love flying and it truly has been a dream come true, so it’s onwards and upwards. I’ve recently enrolled in an instrument course and can’t wait to start. After that, we’ll see what the future holds in my journey to the skies.
PD: If you could fly anywhere, and go to any flying destination, where would it be?
Ruth: I love the coastline of Florida and have been fortunate during my training at American Flyers Pompano to fly down part of it. I’d love to fly from Pompano southwards down the shoreline to Key West, one for the bucket list.