Senior soars to new heights
April 10, 2018
The engine roars to life, the fasten your seat belt light clicks on, the airplane begins ascending down the runway, and in a matter of seconds dense clouds encompass your sight. The problems of the world quickly turn minuscule as you look upon the vast earth from thousands of miles above the ground. This sensation has become ever so familiar to senior Natalie Poulin.
Poulin began taking flight lessons on March 4 at the Lake Charles Regional Airport.
“Growing up, I have watched tons of piloting and airplane videos on YouTube with my dad and he would sometimes explain what the pilots were doing inside the cockpit at any given time,” Poulin said. “Fascinated by this, my dad encouraged me to get my pilots license.”
To receive a basic private pilot’s license, one must meet many requirements. Those interested must be at least 17, able to pass an aviation medical exam, and take a 3rd class FAA written test. Some flight instructors prefer their students to take a ground school course and take the written test before stepping foot in a plane, while others allow their students to take an online ground school course and flight lessons at the same time.
“A minimum of 10 flight hours practicing takeoffs, landings, turns climbs, decents, emergency procedures, and radio communication are required to be able to do your first solo,” Poulin said. “You’ll continue working on navigation techniques, more difficult maneuvers, and eventually solo cross-country flights. After a minimum of 40 flight hours (20 hours with an instructor, 10 hours of solo flight, three hours of cross-country training with an instructor, three hours of height flying, and three hours of basic instrument training) to be eligible for the check ride. A FAA examiner gives the check ride, consisting of a verbal exam and a flight exam, lasting anywhere from two to six hours. Once you pass your check ride, the examiner will give you a temporary pilot certificate until the official certificate arrives in the mail.”
After receiving her basic private pilot’s license, Poulin plans on working to achieve an Instrument Flight Rating. This allows her to fly in clouds or in environments that require the sole use of instruments. Once this certificate is received, Poulin then plans on working to achieve an even higher certification.
“I would like to get certified in a multi-engine aircraft, complex, high performance, and eventually an Airline Transport Pilot,” Poulin said. “To become eligible for an Airline Transport Pilot, you have to be at least 23 with 1500 logged hours. For each rating, you have to go through specific training with an instructor.”
Not only is Poulin receiving her pilots license, but her dad is also working to renew his as well.
“My dad obtained his private pilot’s license several years before I was born, but over the years he let his medical certificate expire and eventually quit flying altogether,” Poulin said. “Once I started flight school, my dad has been looking to renew his medical and spend a few hours with my instructor to make sure he still remembers how to fly an airplane perfectly.”
Poulin and her father are looking to purchase a small airplane. This would enable them with multiple opportunities to practice their flying skills on their own.
“Instead of renting a plane every time either me or my dad wants to fly, my dad is looking to buy a plane,” Poulin said. “In the beginning, my dad wanted to buy a Cessna 172 cr 182 but decided he wanted either a Piper Archer, a Piper Cherokee, or a Piper Warrior because they have updated panels and overall a better plane for the price. He hasn’t completely decided what plane he wants but we are still looking.”
According to Poulin, flying is not as hard as it looks. She has a checklist to follow from the time the plane is pulled out of the hangar to the time the plane is back on the ground and turned off.
“Before every flight, I have to perform a pre-flight and check the entire airplane to make sure the contra surfaces are not missing any bolts and work correctly,” Poulin said. “I have to check each fuel tank, oil pressure, fuel contaminants, and propeller damage. Once in the plane, I have to get permission from the control tower to taxi to whichever runway they tell me. Before takeoff, I have to perform a run-up to check altitude, airspeed, heading indicator and ask the tower if I can takeoff. Once you reach 55 knots in a Cessna 172, pull back on the yoke and you will start flying! During every flight, I have to pay close attention to the altitude and airspeed to avoid stalls. In the air, the yoke controls pitch and aileron movement while the rudder is controlled by the pedals with your feet. While flying, the tower will contact you and tell you what kind of aircraft is flying in your airspace, what altitude they’re flying, and in what direction. If needed the tower will tell you to change direction or altitude to avoid colliding with another plane in transit. If wanting to land, you must contact the tower. After landing and taxing back to the tie down area, you have to take time to log the flight in your logbook. Understanding exactly what instraments, buttons, switches, and how everything on an airplane works together is challenging but interestingly satisfying to tie it all together and be able to travel anywhere in the world in a matter of hours.”
Poulin said the new Foreflight app has made flying easier than ever. The app assists with navigation, tracks weather, gives detailed information about every airport in the world, and configures weight and balance.
“The app gives you every frequency (ATIS, Ground, Tower, etc.), how long each runway is and what direction they are in(the numbers on runways indicate their heading runway 36 would be 360 degrees), time zones, service information (fuel, restaurants, hotels, etc.), and can be used to track your flights,” Poulin said. “After entering what airport, you are flying out of and the one your wanting to arrive at. Foreflight will give you a heading to follow until you reach the airport.”
Poulin’s goals do not rest solely within piloting, but engineering as well. This fall she will attend Lamar University to major in mechanical engineering.
“The summer after graduation, I will spend as many days as I can at the airport to be able to get my license quickly,” Poulin said. “In the fall, I will attend Lamar University until I graduate with a master’s in mechanical engineering, an IFR, complex, multi-engine, and ATP. Once I graduate from Lamar, I will continue my education at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida for a master’s in aerospace engineering. I want to eventually work for NASA, Boeing, Space X, etc. designing aircraft and continue to fly on the side until I have enough hours to fly commercially all across the world and visit places people only dream of visiting for a living.”
All the stress from school, homework, and college is left on the ground when Poulin soars into the air. She is able to completely focus on flying the airplane and clear her mind. She says flying several thousand feet in the air and being able to see the curve of the earth along with miles coastline can be captivating. Her passion for piloting and helping others enables her to pursue her dreams each and every day.
“Over the span of several years, pilots, especially women pilots, have decreased tremendously,” Poulin said. “As a pilot, I want to be an inspiration to those who might be too scared to fly or to those who think flying is only for a specific group of people.”