Wednesday, June 16, 2021


Up, Up, and Away


Photo by Kelley Fryer/elan

(Photo by Kelley Fryer/elan )


Photo by Kelley Fryer/elan

(Photo by Kelley Fryer/elan )


Photo by Kelley Fryer/elan

(Photo by Kelley Fryer/elan )

The notion of a "bucket list" can be a rather morbid and structured concept, but most people do have an idea of a couple things they would love to do or try in this lifetime. Some want to see the Grand Canyon, some want to swim with dolphins, some want to visit distant lands, but if you talk to enough people, one particular item pops up again and again – flying.

From a childhood dream to the desires of an adrenaline junkie, taking to the skies is a bucket list item for many. Regardless of reason, learning to fly is more attainable than people might think.

At Chester Charter, located at Chester Airport, flying isn't a dream. It's reality. Aspiring pilots can make it their reality by setting to work towards obtaining a private pilot's license.

Chester Charter Co-owner Jean Dow says she constantly has people walk in and say, "Oh, this is something I have always wanted to do." The attraction is understandable, she says, especially on a clear day with nothing out ahead but blue sky.

"People, their eyes just go to the sky and they remember the urge from when they were a child and that they want to fly," she says. "Everyone thinks in order to learn to fly you have to be wealthy and that's not really the case. It's attainable and you pay by the hour, and it is a goal that a lot of people have."

It takes a minimum of 40 hours to get a private pilot's license, but the national average is 70 hours. On average, aspiring pilots can expect to spend between $6,500 to $12,000 for their private pilot's license. Final licensing also includes exams, but on the first day of lessons, depending on the airport and instruction program, students should expect a ground briefing, pre-flight check instructions, control familiarization, and basic in-flight aircraft control information. Before long, it's time for takeoff.

All lessons are done with an instructor who will launch and land the aircraft in the beginning. Dow notes that students can achieve those necessary hours at a pace that's best for them.

"It's something where people really enjoy the whole process," she says. "Some people take three months and some people a year or two, go at their own pace, just enjoy their lessons and know that they will get to their goal."

Once you earn your license, the sky is more or less the limit. While it seems most private licensed pilots only want to fly on a clear day when it's enjoyable, Dow says where folks go or what they do is entirely up to them.

"There are people that fly and they just kind of bore holes in the sky," she says. "But then there are people who actually use their private pilot's license to, say if they have children in college, they take the plane and go pick their kid up and bring them home for the weekend; or they have a relative they want to go visit, or there are people that have homes on Block Island and they want to go back and forth to their home. There are many different reasons."

While trips to Block Island make flying sound like a rich man's game, Dow says that is not the case.


"It really is something that is very attainable," she says. "We have over 100 airplanes on the field and there are people that are retired, there are people who plow snow for a living; it's not just a rich man's hobby – you can own a little two-seater and have a very humble job."

Once you get a license, it's tempting to purchase a plane, but renting and co-ownership are also options.

"We have a flying club here on the field that has a couple of airplanes," Dow says. "There are other airports that have even bigger flying clubs or yes, you can purchase your own plane. You can do that by yourself or you can have a partner or there are three-way partnerships, so there are many different avenues you can take once you obtain your license."

In the end, Dow says the value of flying differs from person to person.

"You are buying yourself a piece of freedom up in the air and it's a big achievement to get your pilot's license," she said. "It's a privilege to fly and people that do it, love it."

For more information on Chester Charter, call 860 526 4321

Pilot's Licensing Programs

Several area business offer flight training and licensing for aspiring pilots.

Chester Charter

Coastal Air Inc.

Shoreline Aviation
East Haven

Yale Aviation
New Haven


Zoe Roos covers news for Guilford and Madison for Zip06. Email Zoe at

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