So you want to learn to fly? You’ve come to the right place. Let’s see if we can answer some of the questions that most of us had when we first dreamed about becoming a pilot.

What is the single most important thing to know about the Wings of Carolina?

The Wings of Carolina is one of the largest and one of the oldest and most long-enduring flying clubs in the United States. The Wings of Carolina is not a flight school, but we may do as much flight instruction as anyone in North Carolina and is an excellent place to learn to fly, whatever your interest or ambition.  The Wings of Carolina is a non-profit, member-owned, volunteer-driven organization formed more than sixty years ago and then and now operated by people who are devoted to the idea that flying should be as affordable and accessible as possible to those who dream of it.

Let’s get back to flying. What does it mean to “learn to fly?”

In common parlance, it means obtaining a Private Pilot Certificate, which is the basic pilot certification issued by the Federal Aviation Administration. With this certificate, a pilot may fly a single-engine airplane in visual conditions, day or night, virtually anywhere in the United States.  (Or most other countries, for that matter.  A few years ago, I joined an experienced private pilot on a flight around the world.)  A Private Pilot Certificate is a lifetime membership in the spiritual fraternity of pilots — a pilot’s certificate never expires, although you must fulfill currency requirements to continue to exercise its privileges.

Must I have perfect vision and be in perfect health?

Not at all. Visit the club any day and you will see for yourself that few of us are perfect physical specimens. You must obtain a medical certificate, but if you can see reasonably well with correction by either eyeglasses or contacts and if you are in reasonably good health, you will have no difficulty obtaining a medical certificate and you will be able to learn to fly and obtain a Private Pilot certificate. The principal disqualifying medical conditions would be only those that might cause sudden, serious incapacitation, such as neurological disorders or serious heart disease. Absent such conditions, you should have no difficulty qualifying for a medical certificate if you can see well enough to read a book or drive an automobile.  We would be happy to answer any questions about your potential fitness to fly and refer you to more definitive sources of information.  Note that you will not need your medical certification at the outset of your training; you will need it before you solo, which will occur perhaps halfway through your flight training.  Incidentally, a qualified Aviation Medical Examiner visits the club periodically to conduct examinations.  You do not have to be a club member to visit on those days and obtain your medical certificate.  If you are interested, please send an email to “medicals@wingsofcarolina.org

In recent years the FAA has created a less burdensome means of medical certification, known colloquially as “Basic Med,” so there are now several options for obtaining the necessary medical certification.  The Club recognizes Basic Med certification and we would be glad to explore those options so you can find the best means for you.

Must I be a U.S. citizen to learn to fly with the Wings of Carolina?

No. We welcome members from many different countries. If you are a foreign national and wish to learn to fly or obtain an advanced certificate or rating, such as an instrument or multi-engine rating, with the WCFC or elsewhere, you will need to register with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration and submit to a background check, which will take several weeks. We can help you with this process. At any given time, the Wings of Carolina has several members who have undergone this registration procedure and are learning to fly with the Club. If you are not a U.S. citizen, please let us know when you apply for membership so we can advise you how to begin the registration process, which is not unduly onerous nor invasive.  We have guided many members through the TSA process successfully.

Must I prove that I am a U.S. citizen?

If you are a U.S. citizen, you are required to demonstrate your citizenship by presenting a U.S. passport, an original birth certificate, or one of several other qualifying documents. We can help you with the specific requirements and you can find additional information on the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association website.

What can I do with my Private Pilot Certificate?

You are qualified to fly into any civilian airport, although for reasons of cost and complication, you might choose to avoid some of the largest air-carrier airports. You will, however, be qualified and legally entitled to land at any airport from a grass strip south of Pittsboro to Chicago O’Hare.  And your private pilot certificate is, should you wish, the first step on your journey toward an instrument rating, a commercial pilot certificate, perhaps a multi-engine rating, or other advanced certificates and ratings, or perhaps a professional flying career.  Many of our members have begun at the WCFC the journey that now has them on the flight deck of numerous of the best-known major American airlines.  If that is your ambition, we would be happy to answer any question you may have about that journey.

With a Private Pilot Certificate can I fly at night?

Yes, so long as the weather is clear enough to allow you to fly by visual reference, you may fly at night.  A flight on a cold, clear winter night, with the stars above and the city lights below, is one of the great pleasures we pilots enjoy.

What do you mean by “visual reference?”

A Private Pilot Certificate entitles the pilot to fly VFR, which stands for “visual flight rules.” The definition of weather suitable for VFR flight is more complicated than we need explore here, but suffice it to say that, in general, flight in low visibility or actually in clouds requires an instrument rating, which is an additional rating granted pilots who have learned to fly solely by reference to the instruments in their airplane and without outside visual reference. If you plan to travel over any distance by airplane you may well want to continue your training to acquire an Instrument Rating, which will increase the utility of your flying. Many pilots proceed beyond the Private Pilot Certificate to acquire an Instrument Rating or other advanced ratings and certificates, such as a Commercial Certificate or a Multi-Engine Rating. Such additional training is available at the Club from Club instructors and many Club pilots take advantage of the opportunity to enhance their skills and increase the utility of their flying.

Can I fly a twin-engine airplane?

You may fly a twin-engine airplane with a Private Pilot Certificate but you must also have a multi-engine rating, which requires additional training that you can get through Club instructors in a Twin Comanche closely allied with the club.

Can I fly a tailwheel airplane?

Yes, you can fly a tailwheel airplane (Piper Cub, Citabria, Decathlon, Aeronca, etc.) with a Private Pilot certificate.  You will need an endorsement issued by a qualified instructor certified to do tailwheel training. The WCFC fleet does not include a tailwheel airplane.  There is a reason why tailwheel airplanes have been for decades relegated to special purpose flying.  They are harder to land.  They are, however, delightful to fly and are an intriguing challenge.  If you are interested in tailwheel training, there are options closely allied with the Club although not within the Club’s immediate structure.  Reach out to me at george.scheer@wingsofcarolina.org.

Is learning to fly dangerous?

You will often hear pilots say that flying is much less dangerous than the drive to the airport. I could quote statistics to prove that assertion; I could also quote statistics to disprove it. It would depend on whether we are comparing travel miles or travel hours and whether we are considering general aviation as a whole or whether we are factoring out corporate aviation and a number of other assumptions on which our comparison would be based. While it is difficult to simply state the risk inherent in flying, the question is a serious one and deserves consideration. The risks of flying are substantially less than those of many other activities in which we engage with little concern. While flying involves undeniable risks, those risks are both less and different than supposed by non-pilots. (For example, the non-pilot will often ask, What happens if the engine stops? In fact, engine failures are far from the most common or serious cause of aviation accidents.) Pilots, far from being daredevils, are among the most safety-conscious of people. Leaf through any aviation magazine or attend any aviation gathering and you will read and hear an emphasis on, virtually an obsession with, safety. The club emphasizes safety in all of its training and all of its practices and fosters a communal culture that respects safe practices. You will find that club pilots are, in general, highly motivated people who are accustomed to pursuing ambitious goals. You will not find them to be risk-seekers. They are sober, careful individuals who have determined that the rewards of flying far outweigh the minimal risks and that those risks can be minimized even further by their own proficiency, discipline, and good judgement.

How old must I be to become a pilot?

One may solo at sixteen and obtain a Private Pilot certificate at age seventeen.  An Airline Transport Pilot certificate (ATP), which you will need only if and when you become an airline pilot, requires one to be twenty-three years of age normally.  (There is a rare exception, a “restricted” ATP.)  One can take training at any age and we often have young people in the ground school.  As to the wisdom of starting actual flight training younger than sixteen, let’s just say I have my thoughts.  Let’s talk.

How long does it take to obtain a Private Pilot Certificate?

That depends. It’s a good question, because learning to fly requires a substantial commitment of time and money (more about that later) and it is wise to have some idea what’s involved before starting the process. It may take as few as six or eight weeks to learn to fly or as many as five or six years, depending on how much time one can devote to the task and a few other variables. Nevertheless, I would like to give you some idea of the time scale involved. Most people who learn to fly with the Club are able to schedule perhaps one or two flight lessons a week. On that schedule, one is likely to complete training for the Private Pilot Certificate in six or eight months. If you can devote more time, the process can be accelerated, but it is very difficult to complete the training in fewer than three months. We have had occasional rare individuals who have finished in six or eight weeks, but they were in a position to devote their time and attention almost exclusively to flying for that period – a luxury unavailable to most of us who have work or family to which we are devoted.  Furthermore, that accelerated pace is not necessarily the optimum pace:  there is much to be said for enjoying the learning process over the change of seasons and allowing time for the learning process to accrue knowledge and experience.

What can I expect on my first flight?

After an orientation to the club and its procedures, you will be introduced to two important preparations for every flight:  obtaining a weather briefing and preflighting your airplane.  Your instructor will explain the controls and you will sit in the left seat – the traditional pilot or captain’s seat.  You will learn how to taxi the aircraft on the ground and you will probably be at the controls, assisted by your instructor, for your first takeoff.  Once in the air, you will have demonstrated to you the basics of aircraft control, including turns, climbs, descents, and straight and level flight, and you will have an opportunity to control the airplane yourself – an experience unlike any other.  Upon returning to the airport, you will witness your first landing from the pilot’s seat – the best seat in the house.

How often should I try to fly?

For most people who have other responsibilities — family, work, school — that is to say, a life, two flight lessons a week is a reasonable goal. It’s difficult to take full advantage of more than that unless you have a lot of time to devote to study between lessons. At the same time, if you schedule less often than once a week, there will inevitably be some inefficiency in the training process. Remember that weather will require cancellation of some flight lessons, so if you plan on one flight every week, you will probably average three flights a month. One of the advantages of training with the flying club is the flexibility it affords. If you can fly only twice a month, you may take a bit longer than average to obtain your certificate, but you can do it. We have had members take as long as five years to obtain a certificate, but they enjoyed flying when they could, enjoyed the learning process, enjoyed the association with other pilots, and eventually reached their goal.  Most flight students who schedule two or three sessions a week and study between flights can obtain their certificate in approximately six months.  Each of those initial sessions will occupy between two and three hours at the Club and later in the process you will be making cross-country flights that may take half of a day.

Do I need to take a ground school?

You must pass a written test and a flight test to obtain a Private Pilot Certificate. (The FAA now administers the test via computer so it is now officially called a “knowledge test.” Those of us who have been at this awhile remember when it was a paper and pencil test and may still call it a written test.) You may decide how you wish to prepare for that written (excuse me, knowledge) test. You can simply buy some books and study on your own. An entire industry exists to provide you, for a price, with books, videos, and online education to prepare you for the written test.  There are many aids online and even complete ground schools online, some for a significant price and a few for little or no cost.  A good ground school, preferably live and in person, is the best way to prepare because you will not only learn the information required for the test but you will learn it in context. Note, I am speaking here of a good ground school. You will see advertised ground schools, often weekend affairs, which promise to prepare you for the exam. They do that and nothing more. They teach specifically for the exam, in some cases literally drilling the actual questions ad nauseam. A good ground school will not only prepare you to answer the questions on the knowledge test but will help you understand the material and will bring you to understand aviation safety, how it is achieved and sustained.

Where do I find a good ground school?

Glad you asked. The Club teaches an excellent ground school several times a year, usually in the early fall, the early spring, and once in the summer. What makes it good? A very experienced instructor, for one. John Hunter, the instructor who has created our ground school, is a pilot of many decades’ experience, an aircraft mechanic, one of the founders of an airline, and a former teacher who cares about teaching. The Wings of Carolina Ground School will not only prepare you for the exam, it will give you a broad understanding of many of the areas of knowledge that a pilot must comprehend – aerodynamics, aircraft systems, weather, air traffic control procedures, aerial navigation, aircraft systems and engines, flight physiology and safe piloting techniques. This is not a weekend test-preparation review class.  It is the equivalent of a college-level class, which meets for fifteen three-hour weekly sessions, with homework assigned and periodic review quizzes.  We try to impress upon prospective pilots at the outset of their flying careers the practices that will keep them safe for as long as they fly. You will learn what constitutes aviation safety and what careless habits, misjudgments, and false assumptions lead to difficulty or tragedy.

Are you a pilot who has not flown for a while?  The Private Pilot Ground School is also an excellent way to refresh your knowledge and acquaint yourself with recent changes in regulations.  Every class usually includes a few “rusty pilots,” who want to return to active flying and it is always enjoyable to have them share their experience with the new students.

You do not need to join the Club to take the Ground School.  We so believe in its value that we want to encourage everyone to participate.

How much does the ground school cost, when does it meet, and how long does it take?

The cost is approximately $200 for the entire course. In addition you will spend something more for books and materials. It will be the best bargain you will ever find in aviation. Trust me. The course usually meets one weeknight for three hours each week for a session of fifteen weeks. If you pass the final exam at the end of the session, the instructor will endorse you to take the official FAA knowledge test. If you then pass the FAA test, your results will remain valid for two years. So long as you complete your training within two years, you will not have to retake the test.  During the years of rampant Covid, we conducted the ground school remotely, but now, as of September 2023, we are delighted to once again, as we have for more than thirty years, meet together in person at the Wings of Carolina facility on the grounds of the Raleigh Executive Airport.  We will be in our beautiful second-story classroom with a panoramic view of the ramp and runway.  This is not a canned presentation.  The class is lively, interactive, and in real time. We will entertain your questions and encourage interaction between the instructor and the class and the participants with each other.  Please see the wingsofcarolina.org website for detailed information, including reviews of the course by previous participants.

Should I take a ground school before I begin flight lessons?

Not necessarily. The ground school will prepare you for the written (aka knowledge) exam, which must be completed before the end of your training. The ground school will also provide you with a broad introduction to the theoretical aspects of flying — weather, aerodynamics, aircraft systems, airports, airspace, the air traffic control system, the Federal Aviation Regulations — all of which will enhance your flight training and save you and your instructor valuable time that can be utilized in the airplane. Therefore, the ground school will be a useful adjunct to your flight training, but do not feel that you must complete the ground school first. The ground school will take fifteen weeks to complete and your flight training is most likely to stretch over six or eight months, so even if you commence both at the same time, you will complete the ground school well before you complete your flight training and take your checkride. (You may think of the “checkride” as the final exam required for your certificate.) If a ground school is not being offered at the time when you are able to begin flying, do not let that inhibit you. Begin flying and take advantage of a ground school as soon as another class commences.

How much does it cost to learn to fly?

It depends . . . Not a very helpful answer, I know. It does, however, depend on a host of factors that are impossible to predict precisely: how quickly you learn, the amount of time you have to devote to the task, the weather, and the frequency with which you can train. Because it is wise to have at the outset some idea of the commitment, in both time and money, required, the club has prepared a realistic estimate of all the costs involved, which will be primarily the cost of airplane use and instruction but which will also include such often-overlooked expenses as an aviation headset, books, your medical certification, and the cost of your checkride. Please check “Documentation and Forms” on the main web page, which will route you to a list of club documents, including our Private Pilot Certificate Estimated Costs document. We will endeavor to keep this good-faith estimate updated, but please remember that it is an estimate.  The actual cost will vary for each individual.  Because of its non-profit structure and its mission to make flying as affordable and accessible as possible, the Wings of Carolina will likely be your least expensive option for flight training, but please do your research and look not merely for the least expensive training but for the best value. the highest quality and the greatest commitment to teaching and safety.  This is a lifetime investment and will bring a sense of accomplishment that will endure long after many other purchases have lost their charm and their utility.

Do I have to pay that much to start?

By no means. You pay as you go, so you do not have to offer up that total sum at the beginning, and if you should find at some point in your progress that you do not wish or are unable to continue, you will have paid only for the expenses you have actually incurred. The flight time you have logged will remain in your logbook as a permanent record and you can resume your training later, either at the Club or elsewhere.

Is there any way to learn to fly for less?

Alas, I doubt it. Since the Club is non-profit, we keep costs to a minimum. Many Club members volunteer their time to manage administration, maintain airplanes, improve and care for our building, design our IT infrastructure, manage club finances, and serve in Club management.  We do so much ourselves that we would otherwise have to hire — thus reducing the cost of flying as far as humanly possible.  (We never scrimp on maintenance.)  It is possible to learn to fly at area flight training businesses for not so very much more than it will cost at the Club, but I am unaware of any place one can learn to fly for less.  And you should choose your flight training on the basis of quality, not cost.

Does the Wings of Carolina offer flight training scholarships?

There are many opportunities to volunteer at the Club and earn a discount on Club dues. Unfortunately, the WCFC cannot offer individual flight training scholarships. We work very hard, most of it volunteer effort, to make flying as affordable and accessible as possible for everyone rather than single out any particular individual, no matter how worthy, for financial assistance.  We at the WCFC understand that learning to fly can seem expensive, but we believe that flight training represents a very high value — flying will open to you a rewarding new world, replete with challenge, accomplishment, and deep friendships.  Many factors drive the cost and many of those factors speak to safety, notably the high standard required by regulation for aircraft maintenance. We are a truly non-profit, member-owned, volunteer-driven organization with a mission to provide aviation education at the lowest possible cost.  There are various national and international organizations that do award scholarships for flight training.  Investigate the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association), the Women in Aviation, and the Ninety-Nines for scholarship opportunities and suggestions for financial assistance.  I suggest you explore these links, which I have pointed to scholarship opportunities offered by those organizations.  Numerous people of my acquaintance have obtained scholarships from these and other aviation organizations.

I have been quoted by other flight schools a much higher cost to learn to fly.  I see on the WCFC website an estimated cost that is dramatically lower.  Can that be realistic?  Is the club really that much less expensive?

The WCFC is not a flight school.  We are a non-commercial, member-owned, volunteer-driven club with a mission to make flying affordable and accessible.  Maximizing revenue is not our mission.  On the “Documentation and Forms” page of our website, you will find Form 1.12, which is our attempt to provide a realistic estimate of the cost of obtaining a Private Pilot certificate at the Club.  We try to keep the estimated cost of obtaining a Private Pilot certificate current and realistic, but the cost of fuel is an important variable – and it does vary.  And we train to proficiency, not merely to check off the boxes, so each training course can vary in duration and expense depending on variables that are difficult to predict, such as weather, frequency of training, and student aptitude and commitment.   Our estimate includes costs that may not be immediately apparent but should be anticipated such as purchase of an aviation headset and other supplies and equipment, an aviation medical examination, and the final practical test, aka “checkride.”  The WCFC mission includes a commitment to make flying as affordable and accessible as possible and everything we do is driven by our effort to make flying safe and affordable.

We need to say that if a flight school quotes you a cost to obtain a certificate based on the regulatory minimum 40 hours of flight training that would be unrealistic.  The national average of hours required for obtaining a certificate is about 70 hours.

I have read that the Sport Pilot Certificate is a less-expensive way to learn to fly?  Is this true?

The Sport Pilot Certificate and, less recently, the Recreational Pilot Certificate, have been well-intended attempts by the Federal Aviation Administration and the aviation community to make access to flying more affordable by reducing the required level of training.  While we applaud the motivation, we feel it is unwise to economize on training. We prefer to reduce costs by operating as a non-profit organization, eliminating the profit motive and overhead without reducing the level or thoroughness of training. We also want our pilots to enjoy the greater privileges afforded by the Private Pilot Certificate, which has been, for many decades, the basic pilot qualification standard.

Nevertheless, we recognize that, for some individuals, the Sport Pilot Certificate may be useful and we would be glad to discuss it with you. We are well acquainted with its privileges and limitations. We further recognize that the training and experience acquired in obtaining a Sport Pilot Certificate can be a good start toward the achievement of a Private Pilot Certificate.

Can I train for a Sport Pilot Certificate with the Wings of Carolina?

Yes and No.

Yes:  All training received at WCFC may be applied to the training requirements for a Sport Pilot Certificate.  A student may begin training with the Club at our low rates and can later decide to apply the training time toward a Private Pilot Certificate or a Sport Pilot Certificate.

No: The WCFC does not at this time have in its fleet an LSA (Light Sport Aircraft). Consequently, if the student wishes to terminate his or her training by obtaining a Sport Pilot Certificate we can assist in guiding him or her to appropriate training to this end elsewhere.

Explanation:  At the present time, the WCFC is convinced that the more comprehensive Private Pilot Certificate, which requires a higher level of training and confers much broader privileges, is the best initial goal and the best long-term value for aspiring pilots.  Additionally, in our non-profit Club our flight training costs are as low or lower than most Light Sport training costs on a per-hour basis.  Since training at the WCFC is paid for “as you go,” this makes flight training less expensive at the Club.  Frankly, we believe that the broader privileges granted by the Private Pilot Certificate make it a better value for most pilots.  (Yes, one may earn a Sport Pilot certificate and fly an LSA without an FAA medical certificate.  If that is your situation and intention, Sport Pilot training might make sense. for you.)

Why, then, should I learn to fly with the club?

First, please understand that the Club is not a for-profit business. We do not make money when someone chooses to learn to fly with the club. We have no financial incentive. We are not in the business of selling flight training, so this is not a sales pitch. The flying club is not the best avenue to a pilot certificate for everyone. For most people, though, I am convinced that there is no better place to learn to fly. It does cost somewhat less to learn with the club, but cost is not the principal advantage of the club. The most important reason to fly with the WCFC is the collegial nature of the Club. Much of what you learn about flying you will learn outside the context of your formal lessons. Flying well and safely isn’t so much about stick and rudder skills as it is about making good decisions and experience is the best teacher of judgment. At the Club you can benefit from the experience of many other pilots.

The collegial nature of the Club makes all the difference.  There is so much more to becoming a pilot over and above the flying.  At your typical flight school you show up, you take your two-hour lesson, and you go home.  You will learn to fly.  Here’s the difference:   at the Club you will come to be at home in the aviation world.  You will meet dozens of other pilots, some of them new students, some of them military pilots, some of them international airline pilots, some of them pilots of experimental craft they have built. You will linger in the maintenance hanger and learn how airplanes work, how the systems are put together, how they break and how they are fixed.  You will share the experiences of pilots who fly to the next county or the next continent. You will learn how to read an airplane maintenance log.  You will learn how to buy an airplane, how to bring it into regulatory compliance and how to keep it compliant.  You will learn how to fly trans-nationally; how to deal with customs; how to file an EAPIS form.  You may choose to serve on the board of directors and learn about aviation insurance, taxation, and aviation financing.  If you dream of owning an airplane, you can turn to a mechanic for advice, you can come to know other pilots who have flown the airplanes you might consider owning, you can discuss aerobatics with pilots who share that interest, you can meet pilots and instructors with thousands of hours of tailwheel experience. You will not only learn how to fly; you can learn how to own an airplane — which is not anything like owning an automobile. The depth and breadth of experience in the club is truly remarkable.  And these people will become your friends and fellow pilots.

Do I have to join the club to learn to fly?

If you want to learn with the Wings of Carolina, you will want to join the Club.  Our structure as a non-profit Club offers many advantages, but it does mean that we can offer instruction only to Club members.  The good news is that we welcome new members. The Club is inclusive and welcoming — and completely non-discriminatory.  We believe that aviation, whether amateur or professional, should be accessible to all nationalities, ages, genders, races, religions, or political persuasions, and we are proud that our membership reflects that mission.  There are many other places you can learn to fly and we will be happy to tell you about them. We have found the Club to be the very best place to fly, but we want you to find the training environment that best suits you.  We are not a commercial, profit-driven flight school and we do not compete with them. If or when we believe that a commercial flight school is your best option, we will say so.  The WCFC is very nearly unique.

I see that some flight schools offer accelerated training programs that lead me to believe that I can acquire my Private Pilot certificate in three to five weeks.  Your website suggests a different, more gradual approach.  Can I do an accelerated program with the Wings of Carolina?  Do I want to?

Certainly, if you commit yourself day in and day out to flight training, you can accelerate your progress toward a certificate, but most of our members are looking for a different experience – a relationship with flying and aviation that integrates with their life – their family, their work, their personal life.  They don’t see the certificate as the end, but rather the beginning of a long and enriching relationship with other aviators and aviation enthusiasts and aviation professionals.

At the WCFC our paradigm is continuous learning and training.  The WCFC is not a commercial flight school.  Unlike most flight schools, we are training pilots who will be flying our airplanes.  Most flight schools, although they may also rent airplanes, work on an expectation that you are there to earn the certificate.  You pay your money.  You get your certificate.  You shake hands and each go your way.  The WCFC is something different. We are a community of aviators.  We train you with the expectation that you will be flying our airplanes.  You will fly the same airplane that I will be flying with my kids.  It is a different relationship.  We have a personal incentive to make you a safe and responsible pilot.

Can I fly the Club airplanes after I get my license?

Absolutely! One of the best reasons to fly with the Club is the availability of airplanes for personal use. We are really a big partnership. Very few people will fly enough to justify supporting the substantial fixed costs of personal aircraft ownership. Much as you and I might own an airplane together to share and thus minimize the cost, the Club is many people sharing fifteen airplanes.

As a Club member, you will have access to Club airplanes for your personal use. I have flown Club airplanes to California, the Bahamas, Eastern and Western Canada, New England, Wyoming,  Wisconsin, and the Caribbean, in fact to most parts of the United States and Canada for both business and pleasure. So can you.

Can I have an airplane to fly any time I want one?

Almost, but not quite. For a Club such as ours, we must balance availability and utilization. We could have thirty airplanes and we would each then be able to have an airplane at any time but the airplanes would not fly very often and the fixed costs they accrue would be amortized over a relatively small number of hours and the hourly cost would be prohibitive. So we could have an airplane when we wanted but it would be expensive to fly. We would have availability but not affordability. Or we could have just three airplanes and they would fly many, many hours and the hourly cost would be very low but we would have many members competing for three airplanes and you would never be able to have an airplane for your personal use. We would then have affordability without availability. We are always trying to balance availability with utilization. Therefore we have Club rules to give everyone an equal opportunity to use the airplanes. As it generally works out, you can get access to a Club airplane most of the time if you can plan a week or two ahead for long trips. For a casual or training flight of an hour or two, you can almost always find a Club airplane available.

Can I get those advanced ratings you mentioned with the Club?

Yes, you certainly can. For many of us, the Private Pilot Certificate was just the beginning. Many Club members go on to obtain an Instrument Rating, which enables them to fly by reference to instruments in low clouds or reduced visibility, or a Commercial Certificate, or even a Flight Instructor Certificate. Each of these can be obtained flying Club airplanes and training with Club flight instructors.

Can I obtain a multi-engine rating at the club?

The Club does not own a multi-engine airplane, however we can arrange for you to obtain a multi-engine rating working with a Club instructor at advantageous Club instructional rates.  For further information, email me at george.scheer@wingsofcarolina.org.

I am a certificated pilot, but I have been away from flying for a few years — work, family, finances, medical issues, just life getting in the way.  Can the Club help me find my way back to flying — doing this thing I love and miss?

Absolutely.  Many of us have had times when we were unable to fly.  Sometimes those absences stretch into years while life gets in the way.  There is even a term for us.  We are known as “rusty pilots.”  As you know, your certificate never expires, but it can take some effort to keep it current and to keep ourselves proficient.  We see that all the time at the WCFC.  Joining one of our ground schools is a great way to renew our interest and review some of the knowledge that we may have forgotten.  (It is also a great way to meet other members.)  But in various ways, we can help you get back to flying, whether it takes an in-depth ground school class or just a few hours with an instructor to review charts and airplane systems and other basics.  You will need a flight review as per FAR 61.56, which at minimum includes an hour of ground study with an instructor and an hour of dual instruction.  Depending on how rusty we are, the flight review can be one flight or several because the criteria is always competence and mastery.  It can also count as a Club checkout.  Welcome back!

I am already a pilot.  I may or may not choose to train for additional certificates and ratings.  I just want to join the Club and fly Club airplanes.  What must I do?

We welcome experienced pilots.  They enrich our culture and our learning environment.  You will want to join the Club and we will place you on the waiting list for a checkout.  We try to fast-track pilots on the waiting list because we expect that the checkout will not require as much of an instructor’s time as would primary training.  We do however administer a thorough checkout.  Expect written tests on Club SOPs and Flight Standards, on the systems and performance of the airplane you will be flying, and on the FARs.  In flight, you will demonstrate the maneuvers and tasks appropriate to the certificates and ratings you hold, pertinent to the flying you will be doing with the Club.  (If you hold a Boeing 777 type rating, we’ll have to take your word for that …)  We are unapologetic for the thoroughness of our checkout procedure.  We emphasize safety and continued learning and it drives everything we do.

How do I get started?

Phone the Club at 919.776.2003.  (Choose option #1 to route to one of several Club members who will be glad to discuss flight training at the Club.  To ring the Club Flight Center itself, choose option #2.  For information about the Ground School, choose option #7)  Email “bookkeeper@wingsofcarolina.org” for administrative questions regarding Club membership or the flight training waiting list. Inquire if the Club will be conducting a ground school soon and, if so, consider participating.  You do not need to join the Club to participate in the Ground School.  We welcome non-members.  If you want to take flight training with the Club, ask about options to join the waiting list for instruction.  You may join simply as an interested party or as a Club member.

The waiting list

The Wings of Carolina welcomes new members. Due to extraordinary interest, the Club has a waiting list for flight instruction.  The length of that list varies day to day and week to week.  If you were to join the waiting list today, it would be several months before we can begin your flight training, but you will be in the queue.  If you are already a pilot, we will try to get you checked out as soon as we can, but it may not happen immediately.  Our checkouts are very thorough.  We are not driven by profit and make safety and thorough instruction our priority, so we will not hurry the process or start more students than to whom we can provide personal attention and dedicated instruction.   Feel free to inquire.  We believe that quality is worth waiting for.


The WCFC is proud of the way in which our members have cared for the safety of their fellow members. Aviation is about risk assessment and mitigation and we bring these same practices to protecting the health of our members. As far as we can determine there has never been a transmission of the Covid virus attributable to a Club activity. In 2020 we instigated a number of preventive measures and asked our members to abide by precautions that have prevented viral transmission at the Club.  Now in the fall of 2023, as the prevalence of Covid has diminished, we no longer require those measures, but we are alert to any change in the public health situation and will, if necessary, take similar steps to protect our members.  Risk assessment and mitigation is a fundamental concept in aviation at every level.  The Club has always been a friendly place, where the door is always open and visitors are always welcome.  Drop by for a casual visit. We are still of that spirit and we will also be very happy to schedule a visit to the club, where you can see our facility and our fleet and ask questions about the Club.  To schedule that visit, please email “ambassadors@wingsofcarolina.org“.

I have some questions. Where can I find additional information?

Telephone the club at 919-776-2003. (Choose option #1 to route to one of several Club members who will be glad to discuss flight training at the club.  To ring the Club Flight Center itself, choose option #2.)  Email me at the address below. Visit the Club at Raleigh Executive Jetport (formerly Sanford – Lee County Airport) in northern Lee County. Saturday and Sunday afternoons, we will often have a volunteer Club member on duty at the Club to greet visitors and discuss the Club.  Any Club member will be happy to tell you about his or her experiences as a pilot or as a Club member. Flying is a challenge, an accomplishment, a thrill, a discipline, and, above all, a grand adventure.  For many of us it has become a passion.

George F. Scheer
Chief Flight Instructor