Getting Back Into Flying

Posted by in Aerobatics, Aviation

I received an inspirational email from a reader the other day. I hope he won’t mind if I quote a bit of it here, because it brings up a topic which has been on my mind lately.

Even though I got a six-year head start on your ticket, and have even gotten a bit of action in the box (Citabria or Stearman driving), my 300 hours is nothing compared to your 3000! The demands of home ownership and $155/hr rates on 172s put a lot of dust on my logbook, and I let my currency lapse–a dangerous thing, I know, since many pilots never pick it up again once they hangar their medical for the first time.

But thanks to your witty and inspiring blog, I renewed my 3rd Class last week and just today finished my BFR! Yee haw…back in the saddle.

I’m glad I was able to inspire you to get back into flying! The magic never goes away, there’s always something new and exciting in aviation. The trick is just to find it.

Many people fall away from aviation because unless they’re pursuing a professional career as a pilot, once they have the core ratings and certificates, there’s not much of a reason to go fly. You can only eat so many $100 hamburgers before the “new” factor wears off and the cost/benefit ratio starts to tilt in the wrong direction. It’s especially hard if you own a home or have a family. The rising cost of fuel and insurance don’t help.

I’ve found several ways to keep aviation interesting. One was to fly for Angel Flight West. Let me just say it’s the most rewarding flying you’ll ever do; helping those in need while getting your aviation fix can almost be a guilty pleasure. And it will take you to airports you would not otherwise have had a reason to visit. Your horizons will expand in many ways. The direct expenses are also tax deductible.

Another great idea was aerobatics. It improved my experience and skill levels immensely, not to mention bringing me in touch with an amazing group of aviators. It’s also a humbling thing to watch the great aerobatic pilots fly. They aren’t just the Unlimited competitors either. There’s a guy who flies a stock Great Lakes in Intermediate and he’s as entertaining to watch as any airshow. And as you progress through the ranks, there’s always a new generation of pilots coming up behind which need mentoring and coaching.

Aerobatics is a quest for the perfect flight — something which is impossible. Yet we continue to strive for that perfect roll, flawless spin, constant-radius loop, etc. Side benefits include an ability to recover from unusual attitudes with speed, accuracy, and a cool head. This is a boon to overall flight safety.

Formation flying is another burgeoning genre. The stick-and-rudder skills are almost secondary to the sense of camaraderie which develops from trusting another pilot with your life, and having them do the same with you. In formation flying, you’ll often find highly experienced pilots, interesting experimental aircraft, and a higher level of discipline than you might encounter with an average group of aviators.

The cost of flying has been a tough nut to crack for a long time. And it’s not getting any easier. The only thing I can say for sure about the cost of flying is that it will be more expensive in the future than it is today. Ten years from now we’ll look back on what we’re paying today and wish it could be that cheap. Hard to believe, but it’s always been true in the past.

OK, so that doesn’t help you finance your fix. There are things you can do to fly “on the cheap”. One is own an aircraft in partnership. I’ve always been a fan of buying less than you can afford. This is important because you want to own the plane rather than have it (financially) own you. Having said that, a flying RV-3 can be had for ~$25-30,000. That’s a 200 mph aerobatic airplane, and with an Experimental-Homebuilt airworthiness certificate, you can do the maintenance yourself. Split it with another pilot and the indirect costs are cut in half. It’s a little more complicated than sole ownership, but it certainly costs less.

Of course, the cheapest way to fly is to get paid for it. Instruction, banner flying, skywriting, pipeline patrol, towing gliders. There are a lot of great full or part-time jobs out there. Even if you just tow gliders a couple of weekends a month, at least it’s something which keeps you in the cockpit and in touch with the vibrant aviation community.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to get off on a dissertation about flying. Well, ok, yes I did. It saddens me to see people leave the flying populace, so it’s a good day when someone writes to say they’re getting back into the game.

You worked hard for your ratings and certificates. You knew it would be a tough endeavor. What nobody told you is that it’s just as challenging to keep that spark going when you’re through. But in the end, it’s well worth it. You’ll see!