Ever since pioneer aviator Lincoln J. Beachey landed his plane in the Goleta Valley in 1914, the Santa Barbara Airport has served our oceanside community. Yet, while many see the airport solely as a necessary waypoint in their journeys, some students are turning to SBA to learn how to fly themselves.

With two local flight schools housed there, the airport is a perfect venue for aviation enthusiasts to obtain their pilot license.

Isla Vista resident and SBCC student Philip Andre received his license from the Red Baron Aviation school. Andre considers flight school as a first step towards his future, not to mention a great time.

“I enjoy the responsibility of flying,” Andre said. “You are in control of an aircraft. And it’s also a way to just get away.”

The Baron’s main competition — Spitfire Aviation — is owned by UCSB alum Andrea Read. She said that her school has three full time, and two part time, instructors, making it the largest flight school in Santa Barbara.

“We have six training aircrafts, we train private pilots, commercial pilots, transport pilots; we can train for almost any kind of license,” Read said. “We get a lot of UCSB students and professors. Some learn just for fun, some want it to be vocation, and we can do both.”

Read said she considers Santa Barbara to be one of the best places to learn how to fly.

“Learning in Santa Barbara is exceptionally good,” Read said. “The weather is outstanding here year round and Santa Barbara has probably one of most conducive airports for learning. It’s busy enough, with L.A. so close, to get experience with air traffic that you wouldn’t get with, say, Santa Ynez or Salinas. It’s the perfect balance between busy and not too busy.”

Andre, too, said he appreciates the location and the size of the Santa Barbara airport.

“It’s nice, it’s not a huge airport, it’s not very busy,” he said. “When you take off, you take off right over the ocean. It’s a really nice view.”

Read said that for anyone who is interested in learning to fly, but not quite sure they are ready to take such a big step, can take a $99 “discover flight.”

“They get to do take off and landing, the climb up and descent,” Read said. “It’s a killer flight for really cheap. Flying is one of the coolest things you will ever do in your life.”