It takes more than flight time to become a licensed pilot

GROTON, Conn. (WTNH)– The instrument panel on an airplane can be intimidating for would-be pilots. To find out what it takes to become a licensed pilot, News8 climbed on board Coastal Air at the Groton New London Airport.

“A lot of people don’t realize just how involved getting your license is,” said owner Ryan Gauthier.

He says it takes a minimum 40 hours of flight time to get a private pilot’s license but there’s more to it.

While sitting in the cockpit of one of his planes, Gauthier told us before new students even look at the instruments they look out the window.

“We start by looking outside getting them to interpret a lot of the things they see outside and then we start to correlate that to instruments inside the airplane,” said Gauthier.

He sees the recent plane crashes in Connecticut as potential teaching moments.

Monday’s fatal plane crash in Wallingford comes just days after two people were killed when their plane went down in East Windsor and since October two student pilots have been killed in separate crashes in East Hartford and at Tweed New Haven Airport.

“When the official reports come out too we’ll take those and kind of pick them apart with out students and try to make sure we get the most out of what happened to them,” said Gauthier. “So it’s not repeated with us.”

Gauthier says the FAA’s airman certification standards require pilots to demonstrate knowledge, skills, and risk management how they’ll handle dangerous situations.

“The higher you are the more options you have available to glide somewhere and execute a safe landing,” said Gauthier.

But at 700 or 800 feet your hands may be tied. At that altitude.. “If you lose an engine you don’t want to try to turn a plane back around you want to glide straight ahead even though a better option may be behind you,” said Gauthier.

Because plane crashes are many times catastrophic, they do get a lot of attention, but Gauthier reminds people the chances of a person being killed in a car crash in their lifetime are about 1 in 5,000, and the chances of a person being killed in a plane crash in their lifetime are 1 in 11 million.