The Wright brothers were the beginning of an adventure in private pilot training that has grown into a major industry. As our sky’s become more and more cluttered with aircraft of various kinds pilot safety has become extremely important and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had become our watchdog.
The Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) in Europe and similar organizations in the Orient have basically copied the FAA requirements for not only private pilot training but the operation of airports, overhaul stations, repair stations, and general maintenance operations. Even the loading of jet fuel and aviation gasoline falls under the purview of these international organizations.
Humankind has been intrigued with flying for at least as long as recorded history and for the last 100 years, private pilot training has become big business around the world. Daedalus and Icarus set the trend. Daedalus wanted to test and train before flying—Icarus was forced to fly with no testing and no training because of a nighttime indiscretion with a fair lady—a quick decision that the two ancient inventors were soon to regret.
The latest addition to our cluttered skies are the numerous varieties of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). These aircraft are radio controlled (RC) and are generally flown by certified FAA certified privately trained pilots or by United States Department of Defense (DoD) trained pilots who have gone through the rigorous training schools. Most of these UAV private pilots, who are contracted, have either military backgrounds or commercial airline backgrounds. The days of ‘barnstormers’ are long gone. These pilots are seated at a computer and fly the UAV—sometimes from several thousand miles away. Creech AFB in Nevada is an example.
Currently these Nevada pilots fly UAVs that are based in Iraq or Afghanistan. Or they can also fly the UAVs locally for private pilot training in a restricted area (due to FAA regulations). Hopefully they will someday be allowed, by the FAA, to fly above places like Tulsa, Oklahoma, Peoria, Illinois, Small Town, USA, or along our international borders spotting transients crossing the border and bringing back (or sending in real time) videos of those border crossings.
These UAVs have all of the attributes of a manned airplane; landing gear, wings, tails, rudders, elevators, an engine, propeller, brakes, fuel tanks, and a pilot—a remote pilot, but a real pilot nevertheless. And the instruments are all on the ground, with data being sent by onboard sensors. These UAVs range from about the size of a large bird to wingspans of over 60 feet—much larger than a Cessna 150 for example. One important thing to note—the designers of these UAVs do not have to worry about pilot safety—thus saving millions of dollars.
But even though the US Government is going to spend billions of dollars in the next few years for UAVs, General Aviation still has a large need for private pilot training for flying manned aircraft. The growth in private pilot training has been fettered in the last few years by the high cost of fuel. The price of oil appears decreasing, if this trend continues that alone will be enough to spur private pilot training — the interest will always be there.