How to become a pilot


Hope Zagotti, Senior Contributor

To most, flying a plane seems unimaginable, impossible.

But senior bass drummer and hockey goalie Ben Janik is training to earn his pilot’s license. 

Janik has been training to become a pilot for a few months now, and he is still in the beginning of the process. He recently got accepted into the Western Reserve Flight Center in May of 2019. And in the recent months, he has been going to the Youngstown Warren Regional Airport to take his lessons and practice flying the plane in the sky. There is a whole process a person has to go through in order to get their license. 

Janik said, “It’s basically 40 hours minimum of in-flight time, 20 hours with an instructor in the air and 20 hours by yourself and that’s minimum, most people get more. And then there’s a certain amount of hours of ground school, like ground training, after that I have to take three types of tests: I need to take a written one on paper, I need to take an oral one, someone will just ask me questions and I just have to answer off the top of my head, and I need to take a practical one where an examiner will come up in the air with me while I’m flying and they’ll examine my skills and ask me to do certain tasks and then I can get my license.”

He has a couple hours of ground school complete and he has completed about 5 or six hours total right now of actual flight time. And when he flies, it is a process of about three hours because they have to inspect the plane and follow a checklist every time. Then they have to get out to the runway and take off. There is about an hour total in which they fly and then they secure the plane and talk about what happened in the air and what they completed. 

When asked what made him so interested in wanting to get a plane license, Ben responded, “Well it was a lot of my dads influence considering he’s in the Air Force and everything, but I remember one time when I was a kid, I was like 6 and my dad’s friend owned one of these planes that we’re sitting in now and he took us up and I was sitting in the back seat and I thought it was the coolest thing ever and I was like, Oh wow, that’d be really cool if I can be the one controlling that one day. So, that kinda got me started, now I’m actually old enough to you know legally do this.” 

Janik’s dad is the Base Commander at the Youngstown Warren Regional Airport. He basically oversees the people who work at the Air Force there. His dad does a lot of paperwork and attends meetings. He still gets to fly planes every now and then but there is a lot of responsibilities with the job and it is a very important one. 

After Ben completes all of his classes and his flights and completes the process of getting his license, he is going to be able to fly solo and this makes him feel excited. He says, “I just feel like it’s gonna be a lot better to fly on my own because it’s just so peaceful, and it’s peaceful with an instructor, so I can’t imagine what it’ll feel like without anybody there with me.”

He will also be able to take his friends up in the air and he will also be capable of flying planes bigger than the one he flies now, which is a Cessna-172 Skyhawk. 

In the future, Janik wants to work up to being an Airline Pilot.

He said, “It will definitely take a while, I have to work my way up to be an Airline Pilot, which is what I wanna get to eventually. I’ll probably start as a Flight Instructor and then get some more hours and then maybe like a Private Pilot and then move up to a Commercial Pilot for an Airline or something like that, hopefully, eventually.”

He also added that in the future he would like to fly a Boeing 747, which is an American wide-body Commercial Jet Airliner.

And when asked if there was anything he would like to tell someone who is interested in getting a plane license themselves, he answered, “Make sure you have the time for it cus it takes a lot of time. And don’t just hop in the plane and fly around for a bit and expect you to get your license, it’s not like getting your driver’s license where you can just practice whenever. It takes time out of your day to get to the airport and get ready and get set up and go. And also don’t be afraid, you better know how to read because it’s a lot of reading and you get these massive textbooks, and honestly you probably read 3-4 times the amount your actually in the air, like the time spent reading or just doing ground training and like ground school and studying that kind of stuff, a lot more than the flying part. I’ve been told this and now I tell people this, flying is the easy part, the stuff on the ground, that’s the tough part. Flying’s easy, studying’s not.”

Training mostly consists of practicing emergency situations. Sometimes he will practice and the instructor has Ben put on a special set of glasses that will block out his vision and he can only rely on the instruments that are in front of him. He has to fly straight without losing or gaining any altitude. He also needs to identify landmarks and being able to land at the Airport. He also practices touch and go´s which is landing the plane on the runway and immediately getting the plane in the air again. And he also practices stalls, which is another emergency situation. It is when a plane is no longer able to produce any lift. 


Although he still has a long way to go, he has the chance to become an excellent pilot in the future. Flying a plane may seem crazy, but to Ben, it simply makes him happy.