Wednesday, June 20 , 2018, 3:10 pm | A Few Clouds 66º


Local News

Above All Aviation Inspires Aspiring Pilots to Take Flight

The company, stationed at the Santa Barbara Airport, is hosting a Learn to Fly event on Saturday

Saturday is National Learn to Fly Day, and in a not-so-quiet corner of the Santa Barbara Airport, Craig Arcuri, president and chief flight instructor of Above All Aviation, is gearing up to share his passion with whoever is ready to step up to the tarmac.

As luck would have it, I was given the opportunity to partake in a “discovery flight” — an orientation to flying an airplane — becoming perhaps the first Noozhawk staffer to take the controls of an aircraft.

While Arcuri normally flies a twin-engined Beechcraft Baron between his business in San Jose and Above All’s Santa Barbara headquarters, his airplane of choice when training people how to fly — as with many flight instructors — is a small single-engine Cessna. In the hangar behind the office, a surprise waits. An A4 Skyhawk sits silently, waiting for a contract pilot to play bad guy for the U.S. military.

Arcuri and his instructors don’t fly or train people in A4s, but they do teach people how to fly safely by using a checklist system designed to eliminate careless errors.

“Even though I’m familiar with what I need to do, it’s easy to forget something, so I always use a checklist,” Arcuri said while going over a laminated placard with a sequence of flight preparation procedures.

Arcuri and other trained pilots also take care to check and double-check as they go down the list. As we taxied down the runway, he kept looking back and forth to ensure that, despite the all-clear given by the control tower, there were no other planes coming. It was kind of like checking both ways before crossing the street.

Our aircraft was designed to have a lot of redundant systems aboard, and one of them that makes people feel a lot better is an airframe that can’t be broken up by strong weather if it’s kept below a certain speed.

For the average automobile pilot, handling the controls of a small aircraft is a bit foreign, but gradually, your hands and feet get used to how much pressure to apply to make the plane swing back and forth on the tarmac — and later, once airborne, how little it really takes to maneuver up, down and through turns.

While Arcuri offered some assistance to make sure his new novice pilot had a proper handle on the controls — particularly on takeoff and landing, which can be a little tricky as the plane bobs back and forth on shifting air currents — I basically flew the plane in a big loop over downtown Santa Barbara and the harbor. Aside from being relatively easy to do, the flight afforded some of the best views of the beautiful city I’ve ever seen.

Flying is not an inexpensive hobby, but Arcuri said that with some funding, anyone can learn to fly without breaking the bank.

“I don’t do this to make money,” he said of Above All. “I want people to learn how to fly safely, because it’s really a lot of fun.”

On Saturday, Above All Aviation will sponsor a free Learn to Fly event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., including seminars and a raffle for free discovery flights.

It offers flight instruction for all levels, FAA-approved scenic aerial tours, photography flights and glass cockpit training. Training can be tailored to your schedule, and group classes are available. Click here or call 805.455.3575 for more information about taking flight lessons with Above All Aviation.

Noozhawk staff writer Ben Preston can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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