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updated: 12/7/2012 8:38 PM

CLC to launch new private pilot ground school in January

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College of Lake County

With the demand for commercial pilots expected to take off due to a wave of retirements, the College of Lake County will launch a new, 15-week private pilot ground school that will serve as a steppingstone to aviation careers.

The non-credit course will be offered during in spring semester by Continuing Professional Development, part of the college's Workforce and Professional Development Institute. The class begins Jan. 30. It is the first step in becoming a pilot and gaining the knowledge for a career in the aviation industry, said Jim Senft, course instructor and licensed private pilot.

An information session on the program will take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 16 in room T33 at the Grayslake campus, 19351 W. Washington St.

The course will cover FAA regulations, weather, radio communications and navigation. Other topics include flight safety, aircraft components, aerodynamics, aerospace and aircraft logistics and emergency procedures.

"Upon completion of this course, students will be prepared to take the FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Test. Students who successfully pass the test may continue to pursue their private pilot license through a certified flight school," Senft said. Once enrolled in a flight school, students complete at least 40 hours of hands-on, "behind the stick" training -- actual piloting with an instructor present -- in order to be eligible for flight portion of exam.

A private pilot's license allows you to fly yourself or take friends and family on sightseeing trips, but you are not allowed to work for hire, as that requires a commercial pilot's license, Senft explained. But the private pilot's license is an important steppingstone. "Without it, you can't move on," he said.

The demand for pilots is expected to grow rapidly. Airlines employed almost 6,000 more people in May 2012 than they did in May 2011, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Transportation. "The airline industry is on the brink of what's predicted to be the biggest surge in pilot hiring in history... Boeing has forecast a need for 466,650 more commercial pilots by 2029 -- an average of 23,300 new pilots a year," according to a USA Today article from June 21, 2011. Beyond piloting aircraft, the new private pilot ground school offers a gateway to other aviation careers, Senft said. These include air traffic controller, air dispatcher and border security.

The course will appeal even to those who have no interest in aviation careers but are curious about flying and the aviation industry. "You learn cool things, like mapping out a flight plan, meteorology, air space and how a plane flies. Students should expect to work hard to succeed in this ground school class, Senft said. "Less than one-tenth of one percent of the population are pilots," he said. "It's a relatively small group."

Cost for the course is $499, and it meets from 6-9 p.m. on Wednesdays, Jan. 30 through May 15. For more information, visit