If you want your child to learn how to fly, you should expect to invest several years into encouraging this goal. Ideally, the process should start years before your child is legally able to take their first solo flight. Here are some ideas to guide you.
1. Get Children Excited About Flying Young
Long before your child is ready to learn the formal rules of aviation, you can foster their excitement through toys and books. Consider buying young toddlers toy airplanes; model airplane kits can be fun for grade school children; and books about the joys of flying should punctuate your son or daughter's entire childhood.
2. Take Children for Their First Flight When They're Old Enough to Understand
If you have a private plane or if you know someone who does, you may want to set aside a special time to take your child on their first flight. Even if your child has flown commercially, the first flight on a small plane or jet can be a very special experience. You can even let your child into the cockpit and allow them to "steer" briefly.
Ideally, your child should be old enough to appreciate and remember this experience. Depending on the child, that may be anywhere from the late toddler years to early elementary school years.
3. Start Lessons When Children Are Young
To fly a motorized aircraft solo, a child must be 16 under the rules of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). However, children can start ground lessons and flight school at any age. If your children are ready for the course work and old enough to understand the responsibilities, you may want to enroll them in aviation classes.
4. Consider Non-Motorized Aircraft
You may also want to introduce your children to the joys of non-motorized aircraft. Under the law, children as young as 14 can operate gliders and balloons. That can be a fun way to ease children into the first solo flight.
5. Remember Flying Can Be a Career
Your child won't be able to work as a pilot for an after school job while in high school, but he or she may be able to start taking jobs at the age of 21. That's the minimum age allowed for flying commercial aircraft in the United States. If your child is interested in a possible career in the skies, he or she can start commercial flight training around age 18.
Contact a school, like Institute of Aviation at Parkland College, for more help.