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BETHALTO - The flight school Piston Aviation invites community members to come by and learn how to fly this weekend.

From 12–5 p.m. on Sunday, June 30, 2024, Piston Aviation will welcome people to their location at the St. Louis Regional Airport in Bethalto. Attendees can check out the school, talk to certified flight instructors and even take a discovery flight to learn whether they love to fly.

“We’re probably the coolest flight school ever,” said Dack Quigley, who helps oversee the school. “We say we don’t just make pilots; we create leaders who happen to be pilots.”

He explained that Piston Aviation stands out from other flight schools because they focus on the whole student. In addition to learning how to fly, students gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their goals.

Quigley, who has a background in personal development, is interested in each student’s dreams and the beliefs they have that hold them back. He sits down with every student and talks to them about what they want to accomplish in flight school.

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“Part of our school that’s different from other schools is that learning to fly can be challenging, can be intense, and the biggest thing it takes is confidence,” he said. “Focusing on just the curriculum of flight, we’ll teach you to be a pilot. However, we focus on the whole person and on your thinking, your thoughts, your attitude, and surround you in an environment that you can believe in yourself.”

Quigley said that many hopeful pilots worry they have too much holding them back, but it’s actually quite possible to become a pilot. He noted that even the cost barrier is manageable with Piston Aviation’s financing options. Getting a commercial pilot’s license at Piston Aviation costs about $75,000, almost $50,000 less than at other flight schools.

To become a pilot, you start at a flight school like Piston Aviation, where you get your private pilot’s license. Some people decide to go on to get their commercial pilot’s license, which takes about two years total. Most people then become certified flight instructors, a role in which they make about $40–50 an hour and work until they have 1,500 hours of flying experience. Then, they can be hired by an airline, where they might make anywhere between $170–300,000 a year.

“Some people just want to be a pilot. They don’t do it for the money,” Quigley noted. “However, how many people look at that kind of money and think it’s impossible or out of range? Look at being a pilot and it’s seriously so attainable.”

Piston Aviation trains a lot of pilots who go on to fly in commercial airlines. But while flying is serious, the school also puts a lot of emphasis on having fun, which is one of their values. They focus on helping students achieve their goals and develop their dreams.

“The dream is the thing to covet, to support and nourish, and we have to work one-on-one with each person to find what they need to get them where they want to go for their reasons,” Quigley added. “Half of the whole business is having the dream and learning how to fly the plane, doing the mechanics, learning the rules and the regulations and how to maneuver the machine. But the bigger part, or equally as big, is believing in yourself and forgiving yourself if you make a mistake or fail at something and not being so hard on yourself and enduring the long journey.”

They hope to welcome a lot of people to their Bethalto campus on Sunday, where you can see for yourself if flying might be the right path for you. It costs $50 to take a discovery flight, but everything else at the event is free.

For more information about Piston Aviation or to register for a discovery flight on Sunday, visit the official Piston Aviation website or Facebook page.

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