A bit of background may help put this review in perspective. I have always loved aviation. As my 65th birthday approached, I knew that it was time to stop dreaming about learning to fly and just start the process. Spending our winters just a one hour drive from the Eagle Airport, a quick internet search popped up Alpine Flight Training. It looked interesting but I also seriously considered going to Scottsdale, Arizona for an intensive course. There are a couple of flight schools at the Scottsdale Airport. They use Cirrus aircraft and promise a private pilot’s license in 21 days. There were two issues with this approach in my case. First, 21 days of flight training with two fights per day is a lot. I found that after I flew for two hours, that I was mentally done. Sure, I could have gone back up for a second flight and had the instructor keep me out of trouble. However, I really do not think, that I would have gotten much out of it. Flight instruction should be Fun. Why hurry the process? If you are a twenty something year old student with aspirations for a career in aviation, then maybe a short, intensive training schedule is right for you (Alpine offers a condensed, intensive course). Second, the Cirrus SR 22 is a powerful, sophisticated aircraft. It is meant to be flown fast and has an improving but somewhat troublesome safety record. Yes it has a parachute. However, most student pilots are going to get into trouble close to the ground, where the parachute is of little value. I really wanted the experience of flight at a pace and flight speed, which would give me the greatest opportunity for success. Alpine Flight Training has a Diamond DA 20 C-1, which is a modern carbon fiber, two seat trainer. It has a dependable Continental 125 HP fuel injected engine and is a delight to fly. This was the plane I chose for my training. It is derived from an Austrian sailplane design, with a center stick and a bubble canopy, which provides astounding views. While not hard to fly, you do really need to fly it. Alpine’s second airplane used for primary and instrument training is a Piper Archer, which I also learned to fly. The Archer is a more traditional plane with a yoke and certainly is more comfortable for tall pilots and a bit easier to land. Alpine has good airplanes, which are impeccably maintained. Given a safe, appropriate aircraft, the most important thing is to have a good instructor. You are going to spend upwards of 50 to 70 hours with this person and it has to work. Loren French, the owner of Alpine was my primary instructor. I also had the pleasure of flying with Joe, John and Brian during my training. Flying with different instructors is really valuable. The key thing is that all the instructors at Alpine are fascinated by aviation and teach because they love to be in the sky and share their knowledge. These are pilots with years of experience, some still flying commercially with the big airlines, who just want to fly small aircraft in an amazing mountain environment. Many flight schools are filled with young, poorly paid flight instructors, who are are trying to build time for their resume, to fly commercially. The opposite is true at Alpine. My principal instructor, Loren is one of the brighter guys, that I have met. While intelligence does not always equate with the ability to teach, Loren has that gift. I am not going to go into his resume, but suffice to say he knows more about aviation, than most seasoned, professional pilots. What is more important to the student is his extraordinary ability to explain the complex components of flying an aircraft. As he recently told me, each student has a particular hurdle. Some students struggle with the academics, some with the hands on skills and some struggle with decision making or the pressure of being the captain. You are not really going know, what issue will prove the most problematic for you, until you are training. What I can tell you is Loren has an uncanny ability to be firm and encouraging at the same time. This is not easy to do. When your teacher tells you that you really messed up, perhaps in a dangerous way, and then is able to support and encourage you to do better. That’s as good as it gets! I loved my training at Alpine and plan to do my IFR and advanced mountain training with them after some experience in my own aircraft. Alpine has great enthusiastic instructors, excellent aircraft and an amazing mountain environment. I can’t imagine getting better training anywhere.
Cliffside Beach Club
Nantucket, MA 02554