Pilot School – Flying in the Direction of my Dreams

Recently I was smoking a doobie with Richard Branson last week week and I was telling him that when I was a kid I had always dreamt of being and pilot. I told him I thought the future was upon us now because children born today may grow up to be pilots for his company Virgin Galactic and fly spaceships. He told me that just last week Virgin Atlantic hired a 58 year old guy who had just got his pilot license. The conversation really got my wheels turning about the concept of going back to school. To train as a pilot. With the hope of flying to space someday… maybe for Sir Richard Branson. 😉


I know I can’t control the future, but I hope to be able to nudge it a particular direction. I mean, I’m all about going with the flow but I’ve also made a point of trying to hustle down opportunities when life presents them. In the spirit of chasing those opps as well as freedom, more travel & more artistic and activist photography and journalism projects, I’ve decided to go to flight school and get my Private Pilot License.

I’ve signed up to spend October in Helena, Montana training under the tutelage of Jeanne Macpherson of Mountain Airdance. She’s a master flight instructor and also happens to be my buddy Jim Gallea’s stepmom. After hanging out with Jim and his family during his recent wedding to Claire Danby this summer in Portland, Maine I realized that this longtime ambition of mine was totally within grasp. I took the plunge and signed up as soon as I got home.

Right now I’m slogging my way through the trenches of online groundschool course materials that I can track down on Pirate Bay. Four days into my pre-trainging I’m learning lots and have become conversational in a variety of aeronautical topics… ‘rate of turn’, ‘pitch the gyro’, blah blah blah, something something air pressure, something something cabin attendant. 😉

I don’t know exactly what the next steps will be after I get my initial private pilot license. I hope that it would in some way involve flying planes, getting new experiences under my belt, going new places, etc. There are lots of great ways to build your hours piloting a plane and I plan to look into them all. All I know for now is flying seems like a great complimentary skill to photography. Something likely to keep me off the computer and outdoors on a a regular basis.

To infinity and beyond! 🙂

UPDATE: I finished flight school and passed my FAA written examination. Photos and captions below! 🙂

8231895229_bbd0e86fdc_oI‘ve always dreamt of being a pilot. My dad took me to lots of air shows when I was a kid.

8106966096_d4486df3d5_oTo keep costs down I joined the Sleeping Giant Flying Club at Helena Regional Airport.

8116764262_4be00ef634_oThe flying club has 5 planes. I did most of my training in the little Cessna 152.

8097533787_6635d63c7a_oI learned about the mechanics of flight in ground school and started daily work in this airplane.

8095825081_0be2e50962_oGround school consisted of learning how to file my daily flight plans the old fashioned way… using a slide rule and compass.

8114000514_c08ab3c528_oI hadn’t been to the doctor in years and was relieved to find out I’m in tip top shape including perfect vision.

8105894751_4c8435f8bc_oMy little Cessna weighs 1000lbs empty and can carry about 250lbs of fuel. Max takeoff weight is 1600lbs. Not a lot of wiggle room.

8101240712_294e9eda8e_oThe elevation of Helena Regional airport is about 3800ft above sea level on the runway.

8103181670_ae25e7f747_oHeading out to the practice grounds over Lake Helena to practice my list of maneuvers.

8105899421_0d3ce34f8c_oUnique to this airport was the presence of a military aircraft control tower and quite a bit of Apache helicopter training traffic in the area. I got pro at talking on the headset.

8135867826_9c43fc747f_oOnce I started to get comfortable flying the beauty of the landscape began to reveal itself to me.

8100532494_190a3a3c0f_oGorgeous shiny taildragger at Vetter Aviation where I operated out of daily.

8137210645_04ca137e63_oFocus. Focus. Lots of stuff to pay attention too. Take offs and landings all day long!

8129287209_20a97e4743_oWeird little donut islands near Helena, Montana.

8103923268_7556e0d2ce_oGorgeous river winds it way through between the mountains. Montana is rugged and gorgeous.

8123410272_f58264ab0b_oFirst day training in a ‘high performance’ aircraft w/ dual engines, landing gear & wings below the cockpit.

8123314850_eb598acb1a_oDaily log book entries. I flew once, or twice, or three times a day when the weather was good and executed nearly 100 takeoffs and landings.

8101244139_2ffb618e6e_oLearning with Jeanne was awesome. She’s a total pro. Blocking off a whole month and flying daily was definitely a good idea.

8125706944_b03b4a827c_oOxbox rivers twist and turn as the mountains flatten out into high plains.

8125079983_14de7d0482_oPlanning my first ‘solo cross-country’ flight, one of the big milestones along the way towards your Private Pilot license.

8123259142_83dab1dd60_oAfter ground school and 3 weeks of flight school I’m ready to embark upon my first solo cross-country flight.

8133656725_8165a6b4e1_o A minimal amount of nighttime flying experience is required for your Private Pilot lisence.

8123403893_e96303fbfa_oHoward is one of the other flight school teachers. As of the taking of this photo he had been flying something like 90 consecutive days.

8090581284_e62435e4b4_oI spent my whole time in Montana with one eye on the sky. The weather was constantly changing and I was looking for the windows of good weather to get up in the air.

8125700313_763543e7fe_oThis is the tool you use to practice instruments only flying. It blocks your forward vision while still allowing you to see the gauges and dials you use to fly.

8126503011_dc102e30d1_oPost solo cross-country completion ritual and celebration. I did it! Jeanne cuts the tails off my shirt.

8129323136_6e87088e91_oKris Krug, Soloed, October 24th 2012 @ KHLN in a Cesna C-150 N21902 w/ CEI Jeanne MacPherson 2994447.

8137190285_c09b9f8e31_oMy tails on the wall with all the other students who graduated from Vetter Aviation flight school at Helena Regional Airport in Montana.

8122175297_c7e3ed4fb0_oThanks to this trusty old bird from the 1950s for a safe month of training.

8699671632_5b21342405_oI passed my US Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration Airman Knowledge Test!!! 🙂

8136532022_32a01e8b11_oMy graduation cap from Jeanne at Mountain Airdance. 🙂


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