Getting a Pilot’s License – the tripchi airport app exclusive

Today we caught up with tripchi fan to find our about his journey to getting a pilot’s license.

tripchi fan Brian - amateur pilot

tripchi fan Brian – on his path to getting a pilot’s license

Brian works in the hedge fund industry and for years has traveled globally for work, especially to small airports in countries such as Bermuda and Grand Cayman.  He loves volunteering, Boyz II Men, outdoor activities, and a good cigar with friends.  His golf handicap is a constant reminder that he should remain at his current job. 🙂

Thanks for joining us Brian.

What can you tell us about getting a pilot’s license, considering you just got yours?

Like many enthusiasts, I’ve always been someone who was fascinated with planes and flying and often looked to the sky as a child.  When you’re a child who’s interested in planes, it’s not hard to memorize various commercial plane models – makes it easier now as an adult to keep up that hobby.  My job requires me to travel internationally, so I’ve deepened the childhood knowledge to a point now where I look up which specific coach/business seats are better, according to the route and the plane model.

Taking flying lessons, and getting a pilot’s license, has always been a “bucket list” item.  To me it was one of those things I’ve always wanted to do, but never had time for, except all the excuses I had for not flying were that compelling.  Once I took the plunge, each lesson was like a kid sprinting to the next ride at an amusement park.

What I love most is the escape to a world of its own in terms of time/space, communication with air traffic, and alone time.  There’s a focus and attention during flight that can be very zen-like.  When I’m landing a plane, after accounting for communication, winds, and other flight factors, it’s just the landing strip and me.  It takes much practice able to “grease” your wheels on the runway while pointing straight, and once accomplished it makes you exhale with such accomplishment and relief at the same time.

How has getting a pilot’s license changed your perspective on aviation now that you’re becoming an “insider”?

Since I just finished getting a pilot’s license, I don’t think many factors have sunk in yet.  However, it definitely has changed how I fly commercially.  It’s easier to anticipate that we’re in for descent before they announce it.  I often look up the approach patterns because that helps me look for interesting landmarks, and it also gives me the ability to know if we’ve just started a holding pattern.  For example, pilots use highways, buildings, stadiums, and other visual references if their landing relies on visual approaches (as opposed to instrument approaches).  Some pilots like to take wide turns, and some like to cut on a dime.  Having knowledge of an approach pattern lets me chuckle at the jock who likes steep turns.

I often stare out the window and try to anticipate where the pilot would land us during an emergency, as I would during flight training: corn field, straight road with no telephone poles, lake.  Clues like smoke trails from factories or chimneys help you anticipate landing into the wind, which gives you a slower ground speed and ground roll so that stopping requires a shorter field.  While I don’t carry a commercial license, I would feel confident to be able to step in the middle of a flight – I can certainly help with communications and checklists while the commercial pilot focuses on flying.

Brian with his plane

Brian with his plane

What’s your take on the small airport? Better or worse than a larger airport?

As I’m based in the NYC area, airports there are prone to delays at the slightest rain drop.  I much prefer smaller airports for the ease of parking, less runway congestion, shorter walk to the gate, and quicker baggage claim.  People often miss their connecting flights at larger airports because they have to take a shuttle or train to an adjacent terminal.  That can be hectic.

The slight downside comes during a flight delay where window shopping can only be done at the local news stand.  There’s only so much room to walk around.  For people who get bored waiting during a layover, the larger airport has more do see and do.

What’s been your experience around the “feel” of a small airport, such as the one you’re learning to fly at? Is it a destination/hangout for pilots and aviation enthusiasts?

I personally consider small airports to be in two categories.  One has frequent commercial charter jet traffic (eg Teterboro, NJ), while the other is mostly used by private prop planes.  The Teterboro-like FBOs are busy places, but its customers are passengers who are busy people who often rush from their cars to a departing jet.  FBOs typically have plush seating, lounges with full bars, and concierge services.

The smaller private or municipal airports are, in my opinion, where you find gems.  Often with a landing strip of only 3-5,000ft (JFK has 14,000ft runways), small airports have a community feel among the engineers, mechanics, lines crew, pilots, and instructors.  I learned to fly in this context.  Not only did I learn from my instructor, I also chatted with the mechanics and lines crew who gave me good advice.  On certain automatic radio broadcasts, you get to hear airport updates such as warnings for deer across the runway or migrating geese.  I’ve definitely had a few close calls during flight training.

Some small airports often have good restaurants that attract pilots.  It wouldn’t be surprising that attractions such as beaches, golf resorts, ski lodges, and other destinations have a small airport close by.  I’ve always come across friendly people, and often landing fees are waived if you fuel up.  People at the hanger are so willing to help.  This kind of small airport culture is unique, and is a great part of getting a pilot’s license.

What is your favorite airport and why?

I don’t have a favorite airport, but enjoy a short list of ones for the interesting things there:

Hong Kong International Airport – great food and noodles

Cayman Islands Airport – last minute Cuban cigars and rum purchases

Charlotte Airport – See’s Candy and NASCAR trinkets

Abu Dhabi Airport – great prices for watches

Geneva Airport – best logistics, fastest through security

LaGuardia Airport – great approach to land, the Long Island Express visual 31 steep left turn

What is your favorite activity for a long layover (2 hours or more)?

The unfair answer.  Go to a lounge and park myself there with my laptop.

The other answer.  Walk around and find interesting stores.  Some items I personally seek out are electronic gadgets, french fries, cinnamon pretzels, Cuban cigars, and that one electrical outlet that no one is using. One great way to find out about this type of stuff (the hidden gems) is to check out the tripchi airport app.

If I could change one thing about aviation it would be….

The culture.  In general private pilots have a strong collaborative culture, such as helping each other at the fuel pump or giving en-route weather reports.  On commercial flights, however, I often see the antithesis of collaboration in the form of air rage.  If people would just be more considerate of their surroundings, a lot of the delays, rudeness, and poor etiquette would decrease.  It’s OK if people are unfamiliar logistics such as going through security.  But they can see ahead at what people are doing, how they’re delaying the process, and get their laptops out early so that impatient New Yorkers like me won’t shake their heads.

What is the most important amenity an airport should have for an aspiring pilot/someone getting a pilot’s license?

Since it may be expensive for airports to build an observation deck, a radio galley can be quite popular for just a few thousand dollars.  Being able to listen to approach, ground, and tower can be fascinating and educational.  A simple flat screen showing airport traffic (such as FlightAware) and weather radar is also inexpensive.  A radio galley can be an oasis, especially for delayed travelers who just want a little variety.  I find that people who are stuck at airports just want simple ways to pass time, and a simple arrangement that stimulates the boredom goes a long way.  For student and private pilots, we can actually get a sense of how congested the approach traffic is and if there are any on a holding pattern.

If you liked learning about Brian’s journey to getting a pilot’s license, then you’ll love this video of Brian’s Hudson River landing.

It’s 900ft on the altimeter as you approach the Hudson, left turn descent to 600ft over/along the Hudson, and another left turn to pass over a bridge before landing (see cars at 4:15).

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Chandra is passionate about travel and technology....

One comment

  1. […] Do you know what it takes to become a Private Pilot? tripchi was lucky enough to interview Brian Tsai about his PPL journey. We also get to know what his favorite airport is and why he loves aviation so much. His interview can be found on the tripchi airport app blog. […]

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