Jillian Beck 2016-11-24 11:50:52
Learning to Fly A McAllen attorney finds freedom in the skies. McAllen City Attorney Kevin Pagan nurtured an interest in flying from the time he was a little boy, listening to his father’s stories of gliding crop dusters low over farm fields. A first flight in the ’80s between undergrad and heading off to law school further fostered a passion for aviation in the future attorney. These days his job keeps him busy, but he still finds time to take to the skies. His early attraction to flight and an inherent desire for a challenge drove Pagan to continuously improve his skills as a pilot and earn higher-level certificates, eventually becoming a flight instructor over a decade ago. In his training, Pagan was quick to pick up the physical techniques of flying, but found the mental aspects the most demanding— and vital—to master. Not to mention then learning how to impart his knowledge to students. “It’s one thing to be able to do something, it’s another to be able to show someone else how to do it and help them get over any apprehension they might have,” he said. While he doesn’t get to teach as much as he’d like, he hopes to find more time to instruct as he nears retirement and winds down his law career—hopefully, also inspiring a love of flying in his son and daughter. In any given year now, he’ll be at the helm of a plane about a half dozen times, going on business trips, meetings, and the occasional family vacation. The wide expanse above the clouds is a sanctuary from the constant barrage of emails and phone calls that flood the head litigator of a municipality. “There is a certain feeling of freedom and a bit of an escape to it—the chance to be alone with God and nature,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.” What inspired you to become a pilot and a flight instructor? I had already been interested in flying, but it was really my first introductory flight that hooked me. It was at an airport in Little Rock back in 1983, and from that time on, I knew I wanted to fly. I pursued flying to the instructor level because I wanted to be as skilled and educated as I could and I thought it might someday make a great part-time or retirement job. What was the hardest part about learning to fly? It was understanding the precision required to be a really “good” pilot, as opposed to just someone who can get the plane safely off and back onto the ground. As I advanced, the mental aspects of flying, such as on instruments in cloudy weather, was a challenge but one that I enjoyed. As I moved on to getting my instructor certificate, the hardest part was learning to fly from the “right” seat instead of the “left.” It really took some effort, but once you get it, it seems natural. Tell us about your favorite flight. One of my favorite trips was a vacation I took with my family. I flew my wife and my son and daughter from McAllen all the way up to Northeast Arkansas where I spent my childhood. We flew up, spent a week there, and then flew back. It was really nice to be able to travel with the whole family and enjoy the flight and the time together. What training went into becoming an instructor? It’s rigorous, and you have to obtain a series of other certificates, like a commercial pilot’s license, first. The actual training is a lot of book knowledge, learning to fly in the right seat after you’ve spent hundreds of hours in the left, and, of course, learning how to teach. You learn more when you know it well enough to teach someone else. Plus, realizing that what you teach—or don’t—to a new pilot might mean the difference between that pilot being safe and competent and potentially getting into some bad trouble. Do you have any advice for someone interested in learning? Just go ahead and do it. So many people I know say they want to try it but never do. If you are like me, all it will take is that first introductory flight at your local airport and you’ll be hooked. It’s challenging, but most people are capable of learning and will find out what great fun it is. Has it changed your experience as a passenger on an airplane? You are much more aware of what is going on in the air traffic system, for example. Plus, I’ve found that I hardly ever get nervous on airline flights. How do you mentally prepare before going up in the air? I’m careful. I use the pilot’s acronym IMSAFE—illness, medication, stress, alcohol, fatigue, emotions—to make sure I don’t have issues before I fly. I consider myself a conservative pilot, and I rarely suffer from what’s called get-home-itis, which can cause trouble. I follow the old adage: I would much rather be on the ground wishing I were in the air, than in the air wishing I were on the ground.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
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