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Learning to Fly in NJ

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New member
Jun 24, 2002

Forgive me if I sound like a newbie - I am. I've taken a couple of lessons from 2 airports - one controlled, the other not. Does anyone have any strong opinion about learning in either environment? I can't seem to make up my mind.

For the curious, they're KMMU (Morristown Municipal) and KSMQ (Somerset).

I had a lot of gliding experience as a teenager (at KSMQ) and spent those formative years hanging around a grass strip, hauling gliders around for free lessons. I stopped when I went to college. Now that I'm a little older and wiser (and richer), I'd like to get into it again, because I loved it so much.


Which is better? How about both?

I did all my private training at a non-towered field. After getting my private, I'd fly to the nearest Class C to do a touch and go for the challenge and to log some all important cross country time towards the instrument rating. I smile looking back, because I must have made thirty trips to that airport for a touch and go before I finally worked up enough courage to stop and get out of the airplane. My instructor had mentioned something about "clearance delivery" to me after I got my pvt. license and I was too proud to admit I didn't know how that worked - I was a licensed pilot, after all!

When it came time to try to make a career of aviation, I found a school at a busy, controlled airport. What a change in atmosphere and a boost in confidence! Now I'm not intimidated by any airspace, ATL, ORD, EWR, CYYZ, is that as hard as it gets? (I suppose I could fly overseas and work on learning accents).

Come to think of it, now I'm afraid to fly into uncontrolled airports! The mere mention of the letters "CTAF" make my knees quiver. I think flying freight into uncontrolled airports made me realize, like Joseph Heller's character Yossarian in Catch 22, that everyone is trying to kill me!
Go to them all!

Strictly from a cost perspective, I'd advise that an uncontrolled airport is better ... I learned at a large Class C airport and loved it, but getting in and out took a little while.

Personally, I think a good instructor will expose his/her students to the widest variety of airports and situations possible. When I taught (at an uncontrolled field), I wouldn't send my students for a private pilot checkride until, at least once, they had (dual, not solo): gone in a class B airport (CLT was nearby), gone in to a paved 2400x25 strip nearby (it did a really good job of curing people who liked to float down the runway or land off centerline!), and landed at least once on grass. By the same token, I required my instrument students to demonstrate approaches at multiple speeds ... from the 90-110 (depending on a/c) they'd like to do up to the "160 to the marker please" variety often requested at larger airports.

My students really appreciated the variety of their experience, and I felt that it made them better pilots. Regardless of where you choose to train, I'd encourage you to experience the widest variety of airports and approaches possible during the course of your program.

Best of luck!

I've flown a bit out of MMU, you won't experience any big delays there. Teterboro is another matter... Personally, I'm glad I trained at a busy Class D airport. I just feel more able and comfortable when I am in busy environments. I know uncontrolled fields have there good points too. Specifically with regard to MMU, you have a greater variety of schools to choose from over Somerset and the cost difference will not be much. One nice thing about Somerset is that you can get glider training there. Century Flight is an excellent flight school at MMU run by an AA pilot but they are somewhat more expensive compared to the others located there.

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