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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Marine takes on challenge of learning to fly;

By Cpl. Nicholas Tremblay | | September 5, 2002

When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return. Leonardo da Vinci

Since one MCLB Albany Marine first sat behind the yoke of a Cessna 172 Sky Hawk, he has eagerly awaited the next time he got back into the pilot's seat.

Cpl. Daniel Lane, Headquarters Battalion training clerk here, has taken pilot's lessons for almost a year to learn to fly a Cessna 172 Sky Hawk, a high-winged small aircraft.  The lessons to earn his Private Pilots License began when he decided it was time to follow his dream take to the sky.

The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native has been interested in obtaining his Private Pilots License for six or seven years, but never seriously considered the possibility until last year.

Many Marines encouraged Lane to take advantage of the educational opportunities available here, and he did so. He took some college classes from Heinz Community College, but soon found himself disinterested and "burned out."

He came to the conclusion that if he was going to invest in secondary
education, he wanted to indulge his personal interests. So Lane decided to take flying lessons to earn his PPL.

"I said to myself, I need to learn about something I'm interested in," said Lane. "I'm like, if this place [MCLB Albany] is such a great place to get an education, why can't it be a flight education? So that's what I did."

Earning a PPL will certify Lane to fly a Cessna 172 Sky Hawk, solo, during the day when the weather is clear.

Although Lane agrees that learning to fly and being in a cockpit for hours at a time is a lot more challenging than just sitting in a classroom, he said it doesn't bother him, because he enjoys it.

Lane's quest to earn his PPL involves a lot of studying and reading, he said. But all the hard work he has put into learning about the plane's various instruments and how they operate made his job easier once he was strapped into the pilot's seat.

"Once you learn how the different equipment on the plane works and you understand the basic principles of flying, it's not really work at all," said Lane.

Along with eating up a lot of Lane's time, learning to fly has also taken a big bite out of his wallet, he said. Already he has invested over $8,000, but he feels it is money well spent.

To get lessons, Lane must rent a plane, pay a flight instructor and pay for gas for the aircraft. But he has learned ways to cut down the expenses, he said. He has joined a flight club, the Albany Flying Club, which has helped him save some money. As a club member, he is now part-owner of two Sky Hawks, which means he no longer has to rent a plane. He just reserves one of the planes for the days he has lessons, and he pays for gas, which he gets at a reduced rate because he is in a flight club. The hourly wage for his instructor also decreased $10.

Once Lane has his PPL, his next goal will be to earn his instrumental flying rating which certifies him to fly by solely relying on the aircraft's of the aviation instruments. This certification is required for flying after dark or during inclement weather.

When Lane starts taking classes to earn his instrumental flying rating he will be able to use his GI Bill (government funding to assist in college tuition) to pay 60 percent of the costs for his lessons and class time, because he will attend a school that is pre-approved by the Veterans' Assistance Program.

The driving force behind the Marine's finding ways to afford lessons and to achieve his PPL is his goal to fly a seaplane someday. Along with wanting to fly a plane that will enable him to land and takeoff in the water, he may want to pursue a career as a commercial pilot of a multi-engine aircraft.

"It is really more of a hobby that I like going back to my room and study the next thing I will need to know for my flying lesson," said Lane. "It's just so interesting. I'm glad that I'm spending my money on something that I really enjoy."

One of Lane's most recent accomplishments was completing his first solo flight. With his instructor on the ground, the only connection Lane had to him was a hand-held walkie-talkie. With sweaty palms, he checked his gauges to ensure they were properly functioning and eased the throttle forward. The small plane slowly made its way down the runway, gradually as it increasing speed. Just before the tarmac met the red clay,  the plane rose smartly.
Lane was pleased with himself, but he knew several tasks were ahead before he could plant his feet on the ground.

Once his instructor was assured Lane knew how to fly the small plane, its tires skidded across the tarmac as Lane gently brought the bird back to the earth. A sweaty brow and a sweat-soaked tee-shirt showed kind of excitement. It is so serene up there, with no wind and just you in that plane.

"You're flying at a thousand feet, looking at everything and it's a really peaceful environment. That is just the best classroom I have ever been in, by far. Flying is just another freedom that I have never experienced until now."

Although while flying Lane is constantly checking his gauges, his flight pattern and keeping in radio contact, he said he doesn't even realize he is doing all that.

"It just clicks," he said. When he is behind the yoke and in control of the plane he is so relaxed that everything that he was taught comes automatically.
Scott Gatlin, Lane's flight instructor, is impressed with how quickly the Marine caught on to everything, he said. In the two years that Gatlin has been an instructor he feels Lane is one of his best students and rates him in the top 2 percent of all students he ever taught.

"Anybody can be taught how to fly, but some people have a higher aptitude than others, and Danny is one of them," he said. "He has the ability to grasp a complex thing such as piloting, and he has learned how do everything a lot quicker that most individuals."