Hey, I’m Ryan Sanders. I’m 25 years old and currently, an Instrument Rated Private Pilot, working towards my Commercial Pilots License. I’m glad to be able to share my aviation story, and hopefully it can inspire someone out there to get up and take that first step.
So let’s see, my interest in aviation goes back as far as I can possibly remember. As a child I was always encaptivated by airplanes, and can remember at a very young age knowing that I was meant to be a pilot. I just always knew that eventually someday, somehow I would become a pilot. My mother frequently had to travel for work and would often fly, and when we would go to the airport to drop her off, just getting to see the airplanes was the coolest thing ever to me. (She would even bring me back the Aircraft Safety Cards) To this day she still sends me pictures every time she flies!
For career day in grade school as a child, every year I would dress up as a Delta Airlines Pilot complete with wings and everything. My mother’s friend from high school was a First Officer with Delta and had given me some wings! When I was seven years old, I got my first copy of “Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000”, and logged way to many hours on that game” (If only these hours were actually were able to be logged) I remember growing up, I constantly stayed on Microsoft Flight Simulator pretending I was an airline pilot, and would fly many different airline planes (747,757,767,A320, etc) and would even make the PA announcements, I wanted to be an Airline Pilot so bad, and everyone knew it. Fast forward a few years and at about 9 years old I got to take my first flight ever with a family friend on a Cessna 172, and that just sealed the deal. I knew right then and there that I was going to make this happen.
I wanted to begin flight training as soon as possible, but unfortunately, I could not afford to make this happen when I was going through school. I was fortunate though however to have family friends, who were pilots and would from time to time take me up. At seventeen years old I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as an aviation mechanic. Upon completion of MOS school, I was assigned C-130’s. I deployed three times with my squadron in Cherry Point, NC and got to travel to over fourteen different countries. This only made the itch to become a pilot even worse. After working with that squadron I was assigned to my current duty which is being a MOS Instructor for C-130 Mechanics. During my time at Cherry Point, I met an excellent guy who I became great friends with (DJ is also known as @aircrewlife). He was based in Charlotte, seeing him and what he did helped motivate me to take the first step to make my dream become a reality. When I arrived in Little Rock, AR for instructor duty I began to do my research to find a Flight School. That search led me to Central Flying Service Flight Training where I went and took my intro flight in a Diamond DA20 Katana.
My CFI was tough on me (maybe because he was an old retired Air Force guy) but it definitely helped me out a lot in the long run. I remember one thing I struggled with the most during my PPL was probably “soft field takeoffs” I just remember it being difficult to get the airplane airborne and remain in ground effect. I would go on and complete my PPL training in the DA20 while still working full time in the Marines. It was challenging trying to balance full-time work with flying and studying, but I made it happen. August of 2016 arrived and it was finally time for my PPL checkride. I was so nervous, I remember reaching out to many pilot friends (some of who were CFI’s) for help and they all were such a great help. I want to credit Aaron (@aaronair) a good buddy from Alabama like me, (who is now a Captain at PSA) for taking the time to really make sure all my questions were answered and that I really understood everything. I passed my PPL checkride and was now a Pilot, a goal of mine since I was a kid playing in the sandbox. Words couldn’t explain how excited I was, and like most, I couldn’t wait to share the thrill of flying with others. It wouldn’t be long before I took my first passenger up as an officially licensed Private Pilot. But I realized that this was only the first step on the long road ahead of me. No time for rest, as I needed to begin my Instrument Training. Shortly after that, I began my Instrument Training. I did it all in the evenings after work (so I was able to gain a lot of nighttime hours!) I completed my Instrument Training in about 4 months and then went on my checkride on April of 2018. During my Instrument Training I took on a job as a Line Service Technician at the airport FBO, and that was some of the best experience I could gain. It allowed me to reach out and network, gaining many different contacts from different pilots who have mentored me along the journey. It was hard work, working two jobs and studying, flying, and going to school but it was worth it. Anyways I was so happy to have my Instrument Rating done and learned so much valuable information during that training. Currently, I am working towards my Commercial License, and have Commercial Ground School done. I go to Liberty University online, fly after work and on weekends, and still work full time in the Marine Corps. At times it feels like a huge burden but I always have to remember “It doesn’t need to be easy. It needs to be worth it” I should have my Bachelors Degree finished by next fall, and plan on moving to Dallas, TX to pursue a career as a Pilot with the intentions of eventually becoming an Airline Pilot. I can say that because of great friends that motivate me, I have been able to get this far. I personally want to thank my friend DJ for always pushing me, and not letting me settle. He has been one of the biggest driving forces in me making all this happen. My best advice to anyone would be to surround yourself with people who share similar interests and people who work hard and don’t make excuses. The kind of people who will always push you to be better. One thing I learned in the Marine Corps is to never quit and never give up. I am loving every minute of the journey so far and cannot wait to see where it takes me. I know everyone has some dream or something in life they’ve always wanted to pursue. My hope is that everyone will just get up and at least take that first step. Don’t let the journey to get there intimidate you. Yes, it is difficult at times, but it’s supposed to be. That’s what makes it so rewarding! Thanks for letting me share my story! And just remember “It doesn’t need to be easy. It needs to be worth it.”