When Audrey Allexandre arrived in San Francisco seven years ago, this speech therapist had no idea that she was going to learn to fly a plane!

Audrey Allexandre CaptainComing from Shanghai to follow her husband’s career move, this mother of three started to work as a substitute therapist. But her schedule quickly became unmanageable between the children attending different schools and her settling into her new life. She decides to take a professional break and think about what she could do “for herself” besides her job.

At the same time, she participates in cultural philanthropic activities, including support for the Villa Albertine San Francisco project with her husband Chris.

During a fundraising gala organized by the LFSF, she wins a tour in a tourist plane to fly over the bay of San Francisco aboard the Cessna of Murray Kucherawy, an amateur pilot.

And there, it is an eye-opener, a click!

While for the other passengers it is just a nice ride, she is literally overwhelmed by the experience and decides to learn to fly a plane.

For our readers who want all the details on the training:

It’s like for all licenses, there is a theoretical part and a practical part:

  • Ground school: 12 lessons of 3 to 4 hours on the ground where you learn aerodynamics, weather, airspaces, and engine mechanics. This theoretical part is validated by an exam. The exam conducted by the FAA consists of 60 questions to be completed in 2h30 and a minimum of 70% of correct answers is required to pass.
  • Flight training: 3-hour sessions that take place on the ground or in flight, and you need a minimum of 60 to 80 hours of flight to obtain your FAA license. This training, which can start simultaneously to the “Ground School”, consists in pure piloting where you learn to take off, land as well as manage emergency situations and “cross country” flights with and without an instructor.
  • The training includes several levels of piloting for three different licenses: “Sight pilot for private amateur pilots”, “Instrument pilot” and finally “Commercial pilot”. Obtaining a commercial license allows the pilot to charge money to passengers.
  • The overall budget ranges between 10,000 and 15,000 dollars, depending on the time necessary for each individual as well as on what aircraft is used. This includes the cost of the instructor (from $80 to $100/hour), the rental of the aircraft (for example $180/h for a Cessna 172), a private insurance in addition to the flight center insurance (around $180/year), and “flight reviews” every 2 years (around $90 or $100/h)

Audrey then tells us about her very first solo flight, “a simply unforgettable moment”.

Counting more than 60 hours of flight training with her instructor Patti Andrews, she still has fond memories of being alone at the controls and taking off from San Carlos airport, performing specific patterns above the airfield, and then landing. For each student pilot, the first solo flight is a very special and emotional moment; she/he is alone on board and therefore “in command”. These are three consecutive takeoffs and landings on the runway of the “home airport.”

Audrey wishes to stress the importance of the choice of instructor throughout the duration of the training. She wants to say a special “thank you” to hers as she “greatly appreciated having a female instructor in this environment which remains very masculine”.

Since she passed what is called the “check ride” which includes 3 or 4 hours of a test on the ground  followed by 3 or 4 hours of flight with an examiner.

Audrey Allexandre View

photo © Audrey Allexandre

This license allowed her, among other things, to go to Colorado in 5 days with 5 stages which includes a memorable flight over Monument Valley.

When we met Audrey, she was practicing “visual piloting” and was continuing her training to obtain her “commercial” license. She wants to offer her services within a nonprofit organization that offers disadvantaged and disabled young children to make a discovery flight (which is not possible with a private pilot license).

As soon as she will have her commercial license, Audrey Allexandre will be able to combine her passion for aviation and philanthropy.

She recently joined the board of the Upwind Summer Foundation, created by the “Chief Pilot” Herb Pattern and Terry Fiala in 2013.

Based at the San Carlos Flight Center, (where Audrey trains), this nonprofit gives 4 young people the opportunity to learn to fly a plane. Upwind provides them with a scholarship to cover all costs for full-time training. Those elected can obtain their license during the 3 months of holidays between their junior and their senior year from the age of 17.

Audrey is also fond of the Fly Like A Girl group based at the San Carlos Flight Center: a group for women interested in aviation or any related field such as aeronautical engineering, air traffic control and proudly wears their T-shirt here.

Like Audrey, give yourself wings in this back-to-school period! May this high-flying passion inspire you to start new projects, in the short, long, or medium term… The main thing is to get started!

Bon vol Audrey!

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