Up in the Air: I believe I can fly!


Flying was always a dream for me since my childhood. I love taking planes, especially small ones where you can see everything the pilot is doing. Well, I waited a long time (until my 39th birthday) but now, the time has come to fulfill my dream: become a pilot of ultralight planes!

The fascination for planes and flying is really something I feel since my childhood. Like many kids I dreamed for some time I could become a professional pilot. As a teenager, at school I was quickly discouraged by my science teachers telling me that my knowledge in maths and physics were really too low if I wanted to study to become a professional pilot… so this idea vanished and I chose another professional direction (which, by the way, makes me completely happy!).

Credits: vicuna

But I never gave up the dream to learn to fly, if only for my personal pleasure and not to make a living out of it. But there was often a financial limit, as in France, such a pilot formation costed quite a lot. Since I arrived in Polynesia (back in 2009), I noticed that there was an “aeroclub” near of the small airport of Raiatea, but it was always closed and inactive. But this year, one of my colleagues at school told me that he and some friends took over the aeroclub and re-opened it to organize flying initiations and formations on an ultralight plane. I didn’t really know what an ultralight plane was, but in fact, it is exactly the same as a “normal” plane, but with a weight limit at 450kg and simplified commands.

Ready for take-off!

I immediately went to the club to know more about it and made my first initiation flight. It was absolutely stunning! I was like a little kid and couldn’t believe my long hoped dream could come to reality! I asked for the different conditions of the formation to get my ultralight flying licence, and it wasn’t so expensive, and I could afford it. It’s at least 15-20 hours of flying lessons before the instructor decides that you can fly alone and after some more time of training, he decides to give you (or not) the ultralight flying licence. Of course, there’s also a theoretical exam about general aeronautic principles. A bit of science is required, but it seems quite logical to me today (although as a kid, science was totally uncomprehensible to me).

Now, I’m still learning and discovering all what it requires to pilot a little plane, as a lot of situation can be dangerous if you don’t pay attention to different criteria such as speed, wind force and it’s direction, etc. But as the progression of my flying knowledge becomes better, i understand more and more things. I’m so happy to learn about all of these! Of course, after 13 flying hours and 63 take off & landings, I’m still a beginner, but my instructor is very confident about the fact that I’ll have my license at the end of my formation!

Credits: vicuna

Flying over the islands of Polynesia and the blue lagoons is everytime an amazing and beautiful experience (have a look at some of the videos from the aeroclub, see link below). I took some shots with Horizon during my first flights, when I wasn’t supposed to pilot the plane at every moment… and could shoot some pictures. But I soon understood that you can’t really pilot and shoot at the same time, it’s one or another thing. So I didn’t take new pictures and wait for a special photographic flight we agreed on with my instructor where he will be the pilot.

Ready for landing!

One last thing too: the mood of the aeroclub is really great. There’s a special thing to share the same passion, and specially the passion to fly. And it’s very mixed in age, as there’s no limit to be a pilot. The oldest pilot in our club is 86 years old and the youngest 14. So regularly, after the flying lessons, we take some time to have a drink, eat something and exchange our experiences and feelings about our last flights.

Credits: vicuna

So, why is this contribution in the Analogue Lifestyle section? In a way, flying an ultralight plane is 100% analogue. There’s no software, no programming or any digital technology (the motor has some electronics of course, but it’s not what you can call digital technology). The plane reacts directly in an analogue way, the pilot has the hand over every information and decides of everything. There’s no auto pilot or anything else of this kind. I feel the same as if I have a fully manual camera in the hands, I can decide for myself, the technology doesn’t decide anything for me. Of course, it can be difficult at sometimes, you make mistakes and you need to learn and understand things slowly and with patience, but that’s all about the normal human learning progress that is fully analogue…

Ultralight plane (Sierra P2002) on the left vs “normal” plane (Piper 2000) on the right

If you had the same dream as a kid, and still have it somewhere in your mind, think about ultralight planes flying. It’s really more affordable as “real” planes, not really so difficult to learn (if you’re determined to do so) and as secure as normal planes (don’t forget that a lot more people are killed by car accidents or domestic ones than in a plane crash…).

Fulfill your dreams!

For more information about ultralight aviation, go to Ultralight aviation on Wikipedia. Also check out Raiatea Aeroclub for some great videos to watch!

written by vicuna on 2012-12-04 in #lifestyle #flying #island #ultralight #small #analogue-lifestyle #lomography #plane #airport #aviation #sky


  1. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    dreams are the fuel of our lives! fly vicuna fly! :)

  2. sushi_9009
    sushi_9009 ·

    so great...and congratulations again for this :))

  3. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    thanks @superlighter and @sushi_9009! :)

  4. neanderthalis
    neanderthalis ·

    Toll, ein weiteres unglaubliches Abenteuer. Herzlichen Glückwunsch!

  5. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    Danke @neanderthalis! :)

  6. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    Little update since I wrote this article: I had the chance to make my first solo flight, all alone in the sky for 30 mn flying around the beautiful Taha'a Island... an absolutely stunning and marvellous experience!! :)

  7. stouf
    stouf ·

    Génial! la vicuna s'envole : )

  8. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    @stouf: après avoir de la plongée et appris à naviguer sur l'eau, fallait bien explorer la dimension celeste... :)))

  9. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    Now you need an airplane of your own... Antonov AN-2, PZL version is best... becomwe an airline!!! www.planecheck.com/index.asp?ent=ap&man=Antonov&des…

  10. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    @herbert-4: ha ha, for sure!! "vicuna airlines", sounds great! :))))

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