Since 1985, the FAA-certified team of pilots and instructors at East Coast Aero Club has shepherded citizens from Hanscom Field airport to the skies above Boston for sightseeing, introductory flights, and pilot-certification programs. The crew oversees a 35-aircraft-strong fleet composed of planes by Piper, Cessna, Cirrus, and Diamond, as well as helicopters by Robinson. The company’s entry-level educational program, Learn to Fly, matches pupils up with one of more than 25 certified flight instructors, who teach students how to read each craft's instruments and back issues of SkyMall.
But passengers don't just learn about flight; they also learn about the area around them. Scenic flights afford aerial views of the city, soaring from Hanscom Field over such sights as the Lexington battlefields, the Charles River, and the USS Constitution. Passengers can bring along cameras to capture the spectacular views and document any crop circles they spot in the outfield at Fenway Park.
In Focus: Fair Weather Flying
Home base: Hanscom Field
Services: charters, aerial photography, tours
Selected tours: coastal New England, mansions of Newport, RI
Flyable zone: anywhere in the lower 48 states
Chopper of choice: Robinson R44
R44 vitals: three passengers plus luggage, cruising speed of 130 mph, 300-mile range
Crew: five pilots,
Cumulative experience of pilots: more than 60 years
Aptis Aviation's pilots share their passion for the rush of flying by offering ground training and flying practice for the next generation of aspiring pilots. Based out of Minuteman Airfield, the team uses their fleet of four aircraft for training and rental aircraft. Each skyward outing provides visitors the opportunity to see sweeping views of New England landscapes from a new perspective while learning to control the plane. With equal emphasis on technical knowledge and hands-on practice, Aptis Aviation caters to the learning needs of intermediate pilots as well as first-time beginners.
In the cockpit, amateur pilots guide their aircraft toward the destination of their choice, be it a familiar nearby airport or an exotic locale like the island airport of Hong Kong or the Alps-surrounded runways of Innsbruck, Austria. A highly trained instructor sits beside them, helping with any hiccups they may encounter. And thanks to 180-degree cockpit views, clients enjoy excellent sights—sunrises, sunsets, even banks of fog rolling in—between the highly technical takeoff and landing maneuvers. All told, it's an epic experience. It's also not totally real.
In reality, the cockpit is part of Flight Experience's hyper-realistic flight-simulator version of the Boeing 737NG. It sits stationary on the ground throughout faux flights, allowing clients to learn the ropes of aviation without leaving the world of normal-sized snacks behind. In the pilot's seat, they learn to juggle controls for airspeed, altitude, and flight path, which, combined with the cockpit's lifelike vibrations and digital visuals, create a believable airborne experience.
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