I have my license – now what?

In January of this year, I was fortunate enough to obtain my instrument rating. I’m a private pilot who, ever since I was a boy, always looked skyward and dreamed of becoming an actual pilot. My goal was to fly F-18s for the military, but that bubble was burst when I was in Air Force ROTC in high school and they told me I would be too tall to fly in fighters.

Greg by airplane
The feeling of accomplishment is great – but now what?

Fast forward to 2010… My mother is literally on her deathbed, and she looked at me and asked me not to squander my precious days here on Earth and to seek out and achieve my goals. She then told me that even though flying scares her to death, I should get my pilot’s license since this is something that I had always wanted to do. So I mulled this over in my head and put it on the back burner.

Mom died a few months later, in 2011. Later that year, I considered purchasing a motorcycle for Enduro style riding. Living in Colorado, there are countless mountain highways decorated with snow capped peaks and multicolored treelines in the fall. Once the pavement ends, there are endless trails to ride up over mountain passes and continental divides to get into the high country and be free.

One Saturday morning I notified my wife that I was going out to look at three different motorcycles. She looked at me and told me that she worried about the dangers of motorcyle riding and didn’t want me to do this. Now, one thing about my wife is that she rarely asks me not to do something. She has put up with countless golf, hunting and business trips and never batted an eye. When she told me that she didn’t want me to do something, I listened.

I was utterly shocked at the next string of words that came out of her mouth, however: “I’d rather you get your pilot’s license with that money instead of getting a motorcycle.” So began the quest for my childhood and lifelong dream to pursue a life in aviation.

Shortly thereafter, I was out at my local field that is within 8 minutes driving time. I found a great school that had great instructors and a decent fleet. I started the inquiry process of how much it cost, etc. The next thing I knew, several days later, I was off on my first flight and the beginning of my student pilot career.

Learning to fly was one of the most rewarding, challenging and exciting experiences of my life. Then after my ASEL ticket, I started down the road of instrument training. It seemed only natural, right? I do remember that after my private pilot checkride, I was still very apprehensive about flying passengers. I only had 52 hours flying experience. Now I have friends and relatives who are putting their lives in my hands to go joyriding?

Now I’m a private pilot, instrument rated, mountain flying checkout, with approximately 160 hours–and wondering where to go next. I’ve got a ton of dual time, maybe too much. Sometimes I’m apprehensive to take the family flying unless conditions are absolutely perfect.

Aspen mountains
Mountain flying is a fun adventure in Colorado, but is there more to be done?

We’ve done cross country trips to Oklahoma for graduations, and I flew to Oshkosh last year with a buddy from the flying club that I belong to. I’m just not sure what to do or where to go now. Do I keep adding ratings? A tailwheel endorsement would be cool for sure, but for what purpose? Maybe now that I’ve accomplished my “lifelong dream” there is a bit of a hangover associated?

I tried to reach out to the local EAA chapter to be a Young Eagles volunteer pilot, but regardless of the website claiming that there are no minimum hourly requirements, the local chapter requires a minimum of 300 hours flight time. This is the case for other charitable organizations as well, so that option is out.

So now I’m in a strange state of flux in my flying endeavors. I’m too old to start a flying career (40 years old) and I only use flying for my business occasionally at best. Do I continue on down the path to a commercial rating just to keep building flight time?

I’m needing to fly something more formidable than a 172 as my family is getting bigger and is exceeding the full fuel payload of that particular ship. I can spend 10 hours training for a 182 RG or a Turbo Arrow checkout (roughly $2k to to $2.5k) at our club so we can do more cross country trips. I think this is the direction I’m heading currently but still looking for missions to fly.

It seems like I’m caught in some gray area of piloting where I’m no longer a “student pilot” but don’t have enough hours to qualify as a “real pilot.” The good ol’ boys club of aviation doesn’t want to welcome me in as I’m not a Cirrus driver or have 10,000 hours of experience. Just a family man with a couple of kids and a passion for all things aviation.

So… now what?

50 Comments

  • What you have accomplished is extraordinary, indeed. Considering the low percentage of pilots in our population, being able to complete your training and fly safely is a wonderful feather in your cap; don’t sell yourself short.
    Don’t let the good ole boys get to you. A friend with an old mooney was once escorted a short distance through an moa by two hi-time fighter jocks. With great cockiness they were on the radio making light of his ride when he spoke up and asked them politely, “just how much of your own money do you have invested in your plane?”… silence, then, respectfully, one of the jocks called back “have a safe day, sir” as they cut formation and departed.
    We all are here for a reason and we all share the same love of the sky and the machinery, and the freedom flying entails. You are already a member of the club, even with your lower hours.
    I appears you may be lacking confidence in your abilities, but only hours and training will help you to relax (some) and began enjoying your family and personal flights. Keep a guard up to avoid becoming complacent, but learn to love flying for itself and for the fun it provides. Fun and safe flying should be your goal if you’re not going pro.

    • With a private license and an instrument ticket, you are a real pilot. To get some meaning into your flying, consider PilotsNPaws.org, flying animals (mostly dogs) from high kill “shelters” to no kill rescue groups for adoption. Instead of doing touch and goes and familiar approaches at local airports to maintain proficiency, you’ll fly different approaches into many other airports. All flights are un reimbursed but the direct costs can be tax deductible. All flights are voluntary and if you’re not comfortable, don’t accept the flight. Typical legs are 400 to 500 nautical miles round trip. You have all the necessary qualifications and you might find it addictive. My first year I flew 10 dogs and 2 cats. The second year 55 dogs and 2 cats, third year 125 dogs and 2 cats and I’m now well over 500 dogs and several cats. Many of our pilots fly 172s and 182s and you have access to both in your club.

    • Greg,
      I got my private pilot’s license nearly 2 years ago. I’m currently preparing for my biennial review. I have only flown 8 hours since I got my pilot’s license. That’s only 8 hours in 2 years!! I’m kind of in the same boat as you except I don’t have any additional ratings. Just a plain ol’ private pilot’s license. But I agree with everyone else here… We ARE pilot’s. We paid our dues, crammed our long legs into the smallest, cheapest plane possible. Rubbed shoulders with our instructors twice a week until ready for the check ride. It’s been real hard for me the last couple years. I was flying 2-3 times a week when I was a student pilot and now I can’t afford to fly twice a year! Plus I’ve got a wife and 4 kids at home that would rather I stay and play with them. So I’m in the same position now. Wondering where to go from here. I’m just going to save some tax return money each year and try to fly a couple times a year to stay current. Until somebody gives me a plane and a few extra thousand dollars a year, I won’t be able to do much more than that.

      • Try finding a reasonable club, if not now in the future as they can be much more affordable and you can get some buddy time to help your confidence and share some time in the air.

    • A very late comment to a now old post, but here goes:

      I feel that Greg’s dreams and frustrations were identical to mine. Life-long dream to fly, but also having the what-to-do-next emptiness after the challenge was met. I learned something about myself as a result: I believe I’m someone who likes/needs the challenge of learning, but once mastered, I get bored. And flying became that for me.

      There was always another trip to plan and the complexities and interest in the planning and certainly the flying, but once up there, honestly, it felt like, well, I was driving on a really big freeway. Sure, lots to look at, but the zing was missing. The flying low in the canyons along the rivers zing…but even that was becoming boring.

      So, I sadly simply gave it up. I’d learned something that was truly difficult. I’d achieved my goal, and, it turned out for me to be not as great doing it as it was looking at. That is, the pictures of planes in the sky were better than actually being there. Kinda strange, kinda sad, but I have no regrets. It was simply different than I’d expected.

  • Don’t sell yourself short….You are a ‘real’ pilot…Just keep building flight time…You’d love the turbo Arrow…They’re a fun machine….Bill, Comm’l/SMEL/Inst..

  • If you’re still asking “now what”, then you’re definitely not done yet. My guess is just go as far as you can until you don’t want to anymore. Maybe start small and reasonable, go for a CFI. At 160 hrs you’re admittedly still a bit timid to take your friends and family up. The only way to build up that confidence and reap the rewards of your licenses is to gain experience. Fly often and with as many CFIs as you can, you learn so much from different people. Then perhaps become an instructor yourself, and have the advantage of not NEEDING to CFI (like so many of us do) and just WANTING to. Because it’s fun, rewarding, and few bucks in your pocket in the meantime. Good luck.

    Cheers,

    Shatley

  • You ask a good question; one that probably 90% of the new pilots ultimately ask themselves. The basic reason behind that question is that airplanes are pretty useless to most of the population. Unlike a car, you can’t go to work or the store or plow the fields. There are obvious business applications, but they just don’t apply to most of the population.

    I think that there are two types of private fliers (non-business types); those with an inexorable draw to flight and those that see it as an accomplishment. I consider myself an example of the first type in that, 47 years later, I still get the giggles everytime I take the plane up whether going across the country or out for breakfast. Can’t explain it, maybe it’s the bouyancy, sensitivity of the controls, the percieved freedom or what; it just is great. For others, I can see where it might be like a college degree. An accomplishment that represents time, effort, money and thought. It adds to a person’s individuality and knowledge, but has no direct future use beyond that.

    Maybe you’re in the second category (a majority are). Nothing wrong with that if you can accept it. I think it would be a mistake to try and force yourself to find a use for flying at the expense of time and cost to family.

    • I like your analysis of GA. Thought provoking for sure and I too share the exhilaration every time that my wheels come off the ground! Thank you for the feedback and giving me something to think about.

  • Greg, I too share the same thoughts. I’m 15 years older, have about the same hours, not instrument rated (yet) and a Cessna 172 is where the experience is and I have an AGI Certification in the process. Life dream realized, good financial decisions very important at my age, and regardless of not fitting in the ‘right economic and demographic group’ I just couldn’t leave it alone. I can’t say it would be any different if I were younger. I enjoyed your article, and the comments posted so far. For me in a very silent way, I am going to celebrate the freedom and maybe in some simple way hope the example will affect the lives of my children and grand children.

  • If you’re in it for the enjoyment you will get a lot out of tailwheel and seaplane training, even if it doesn’t seem very practical. I’ve done both even though i own a tri gear airplane and it’s fully worth the investment.

  • Congratulations on your flying accomplishments, Greg! Now what?

    I’m personally a little unimpressed by pilots who simply collect ratings for the sake of ratings. Flying ought to be meaningful and rewarding for what it is, and not just serve as a bucket list of ratings that goes on your annual insurance application.

    Living in Colorado, you have the opportunity to get involved with Colorado Pilots Association. They have a pretty active group there. And you can also get in with various backcountry aviation folks in the Rockies – there’s tons of great backcountry airstrips within a few hours flying time of anywhere in the state of Colorado, including the surrounding states (Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming … and it’s not terribly far to get to many more wonderful backcountry airstrips in Idaho and Montana).

    Learning the skills to fly in the backcountry, and to use your airplane for recreation (camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, etc.) in the great outdoors, is a very rewarding and fun way to use an airplane. Check out the Recreational Aviation Foundation (www.theraf.org) too.

    By getting active in pilot groups like pilots association and RAF, you will get to know like-minded pilots and learn from them things you could never learn in a hundred years of formal flight lessons. And you can make a lot of very good friends in the process. Your wife and kids can also enjoy your airplane with you in such surroundings and by sharing with such camaraderie with others.

    • Thank you for posting this response, as well as to the original author. Actively in flight training and eerily similar to the author, this is my intended goal and you have proveded valuable references I sorely needed.

      • Michael – Besides the RAF (www.theraf.org), there are active pilots associations in each state in the Rocky Mountain region:

        Colorado – http://www.coloradopilots.org
        Utah – http://www.utahbackcountrypilots.org
        New Mexico – http://www.nmpilots.org
        Arizona – http://www.azpilots.org
        Idaho – http://www.idahoaviation.org
        Montana – http://www.montanapilots.org

        These state pilots associations often coordinate amongst each other to hold regional fly-ins and other aviation events. Many folks in the region are members of multiple state pilot associations. Even folks from well beyond the Rockies region join and get involved, with members hailing from CA, TX, FL, and so forth.

        Outside of the Rockies Region, there are of course other state and local pilots associations, but they don’t all necessarily focus as much on recreational aviation as do the Rockies state pilot associations.

        The recreational aviation associations do a lot of fun activities, from organizing formal fly-ins and fly-outs at backcountry airstrips, to informal gatherings, to offering back-country flying instruction, organizing work parties to make improvements to backcountry airstrips, involvement in governmental relations (such as working with state legislatures to revise their recreational use statutes to include aviation as a liability-protected use of private property), and social gatherings.

        Additionally, besides the state organizations and the RAF, there are type clubs that are active in recreational aviation, including the Cessna 180/185 (www.skywagons.org), Piper Super Cub (www.supercub.org), and Maule (www.maulepilots.org). There’s also specialty aviation groups like the seaplane pilots (www.seaplanepilots.org), taildraggers (www.ladieslovetaildraggers.com), and of course there’s the EAA for experimentals, and the trike-flyers and ultralights also get involved in backcountry flying.

        • Duane, thanks for all the references and the advice. I have been looking at the RAF, however using a rented aircraft, back country flying is not possible due to club rules. I’ve been looking and toying around with the idea of ownership however. Thanks again for the encouragement!

  • Get your tailwheel and look for a maule. It would be a great way to explore the back country with the family. It would also so be a great way to show up at hunting camp.

  • Agree with most of the above comments, you have enough training, time and ability to call yourself a pilot. You just need the confidence to enjoy flying and you get that by doing it. I have flown 200 miles for a haircut or a hamburger not because I had to but just for the joy of flying, you don’t really need a reason. I would not bother with tailwheel or floats until you are more confident but maybe a little aerobatic time would give you that and some fun. Enjoy, you are special.

    • Haha, I do the same kind of thing. From Holland to France for a loaf of bread and croissants, to London to buy a tie and to the Frisian Isles to buy a specific kind of Liquor (Nobeltje…) to put in tiramisu.

      Flying for the sake of flying (and to bring something home to show for it).

  • Focus on family trips. It makes everything soooo worth it. Look at a cherokee six, and yes tail draggers are super fun. Remember, HAVE FUN 🙂

    • Definitely think about the 182. I own one and just love it. you get extra head room, reasonable speed, and the ability to carry a HUGE amount of “stuff” A plane for a growing family for sure. just last summer I had myself, my wife, my son, my son’s fiance’, all the baggage that would fit and 5 hours of fuel.

    • Hi. I have flown the Piper Arrow 3, however my favorite airplane so far has to be the C172. I would love to try the C182 however I have found it hard to track one down here in the UK where I am from and when I did it was insanely expensive. I am moving to Canada shortly, Montreal where my wife is from.GA is generally expensive in the UK. I wondered where to take my flying recently now I have almost 400hrs. Canadian CPL and Instructors rating all the way is next for me.

      Happy Landings.

  • Get a motorcycle! Only kidding, do an aero rating. I was at a similar impasse did the aero rating and had so much fun. Real motorsport.

  • The two principal reasons people learn how to fly (or attempt it) are personal challenge, and utility. The good news is, you can continue to find plenty of each in aviation, even after obtaining your first certificate. Either reason provides all of the justification you’ll need – even if it’s not congruent with others’ needs and aviation pursuits. And flying for either reason can be pure fun.

  • Greg, Congrats on getting to where you are. A Pilots License with an Instrument Rating has great utility.
    a couple of thoughts
    1) there is absolutely nothing wrong with using a Cessna 172 for long flights. I owned one for 20 years and flew it from one side of the country to the other. If you are trying to build time, why are you pushing for a faster airplane? getting there is the fun part. Low and slow lets you see the country in a way you can’t any other way.

    2) Plan a really long cross country. one that takes multiple fuel stops and a night or two in a hotel. the first one will take you weeks to plan. That is OK. get the maps out (well ok the ipad) and study the route. where do I stop for fuel, what airports have crew cars for lunch, where would I divert when I run into weather, is there a hotel that will pick us up for the night and get me back to the airport the next morning are all questions that you will need to ask. with this kind of flight you will have to exercise all of the skills you learned, especially the weather. Just be conservative with your decision making and make sure you wife understands (it sounds like she already does) that small plane travel means flexible plans. here is an idea, take your kids to Disney world (the one in Florida).

    3) start flying instead of driving. I admit that having my own plane makes this easier then renting from a club/FBO. My rule of thumb is that I will consider flying instead of driving if the drive time is over 1.5 hours.

    4) Don’t fly commercially unless you absolutely have to. it is amazing how far you can go in a small plane and still get there sooner than with a big jet. and you get the additional bonus of not having to worry about what is in your bags.

    5) don’t get ratings just to get ratings. I don’t mean that you should not get additional training. Good instruction is necessary to keep the rust off and improve your skills. It is just that your money may be better spent on more personal flying. Keep your training focused on the type of flying you are doing. It took me over 40 years to get my commercial certificate. I did not need it so I did not get it. Meeting the experience requirements was a breeze when I finally did.

    6)above all, have fun.

    • Ted,

      Great feedback and ideas. I agree that flying instead of driving has its perks from a time perspective. We made it to Stillwater, OK in about 4.5 hours and there is no way commercially to get there that fast by the time your factor in security lines, renting a car, etc…

      Thanks!

    • Ted’s advice is right on. First get a sense of what works and doesn’t work for you by flying everywhere. You won’t enjoy flying without family support so look for opportunities to utilize the airplane to take the family to do things they want to do. I’ve been known to fly 6 miles to the other local airport for lunch, make 55 mile flying Costco runs and fly 25 miles to a meeting after dark rather than drive 40 miles via road. I rarely do such jaunts now but it enabled me to figure out where flying best fits in my life. Best thing I ever did was sit right seat with a very experienced pilot on a 2000 mile ferry trip in a 100kt plane. I learned more about flying in that one trip than I can even say.

  • An interesting topic and one that prompted me to click though and read because I’ve asked myself the same question. I got my PPL a couple years ago at age 58 and bought an old Tripacer. I like flying, except on those days that I don’t, but it’s expensive and not very practical. Transportation at the other end is usually a hassle and there’s not too much happening at most airports.

    I’d like to try my hand at some aerobatics one day just to see if that might be my thing. In the mean while I’ll just fly to fly. Every time I take my airplane out I’m reminded that it is something to savor that very few people have learned to do.

  • I went through exactly the same thoughts over 30 years ago when I got my PPL.

    Rather than ratings and multiple types I found the answer was a share of a syndicated 172. This give a real sense of ownership in a group of more experienced aviators from whom I learnt a great deal.

    Better yet the lower cost enabled me to really get to grips with the 172, it’s limits and capabilities, and my own.

    Eventually I joined a Cub syndicate and the process started again. The Cub is a hugely capable aircraft and the limitations are really the pilots skill.

    There is a real difference between a syndicated aircraft and hiring one. The syndicate (at least here in NZ) means you get to make the “go – no go” call, not the CFI or anyone else. This means you really get to take responsibility for your own actions.

    I suspect Colorado is full of interesting backcountry and picnics, hunting, camping.

    I now have my own Cub and nothing beats the pleasure of successfully tackling a tricky strip in gusty conditions.

    So in short my recommendation would be to go shopping for a a share in a well run syndicate with a plane you like the look of. Even if you buy nothing you’ll learn a great deal from the experience.

  • I’m 35 and bought a Cherokee 6. I got my private at 34. I’m working on my IFR and looking for missions too. My plan is to fly my family around and get a Mirage someday. I’m hoping for a turbo prop but the Cherokee 6 is great for now.

    • Consider PilotsNPaws.org. It’s a great way to keep yourself in the air while supporting a great cause and your direct costs can be tax deductible. With a Cherokee Six, you can transport a lot of dogs.

  • Greg,
    There have been some great comments with great advice. I’m in a similar situation, but I have taken the path of aircraft ownership. I really couldn’t afford it, but I’ve had it for about a year and a half, so I guess it is working. I got a 60’s C-182 with fixed gear and I couldn’t be happier. It is reasonable to insure, maintain and is a very versatile plane. Fuel usage is similar to a 172 when flying at 172 speeds, but I have the option of using the extra fuel and going faster if the day calls for it.
    What I use my plane for the most is getting views that folks just can’t get from the ground, and sharing those views with others as often as I can (either by bringing them along or through pictures). I’m VFR only, so the transportation utility is more limited for me. But conditions where I live are often known icing when it isn’t VFR, and my home airport has no instrument approach, so the incentive to get the instrument rating isn’t that high.
    Make flights you enjoy and share that joy with others when you can. Don’t just build hours. Make memories. If that includes floats or a tail wheel endorsement or anything else isn’t really that important.
    Also, I know of at least one fly-in bed and breakfast near the entrance to Glacier Park in Montana. I bet there are others in interesting places. If your wife likes to fly with you, that could be a great option to put smiles on both your faces.
    Whatever kind of flying you do and wherever you go, emphasize enjoying it – even when it is for practical or business reasons.

  • Dear Greg;
    My answer to “now what?” is “more.”
    I too dreamed of being a pilot from the earliest days I remember but after needing glasses at age 12, the dream was voided. At the time (1949)wearing glasses meant no pilot. Flash forward to 1964 and my getting a PhD in chemistry in addition to a wife and two kids. My wife had heard of my dream for years and asked “why not now?, when lessons were $6.00 and hour. By 1967 I was the proud holder of an SEL PPL. In 1969 we moved to Israel (now three kids) where rental prices were far beyond our means. End of flying ? Not quite. Flash forward to 1992 when my wife (and now four kids and grandkids) suprised me with a 65th birthday party. Her gift to me was a voucher for an introductory flight at a local flight school. Her message to me (and the family) was “don’t let a dream die.” As you might expect, with a 35 year hiatus I started from scratch and got a PPL two years later. Then I asked the question “what next?” My answer was to see if at the ripe old age of 67+ I could go higher and I set out to secure an instrument rating. With a business to run time was limited but in 1967 I completed the requirements and passed the mandatory flight test with a civil aviation authority examiner in the right seat. When I returned to the authority office with the signed examination report to get my license, the gentleman in charged of aircrew certification looked amazed. “You are,” he said “the oldest pilot we’ve ever had to get an IFR rating for the first time.”
    So Greg, that’s my answer to your question.
    Judah Lando, PhD (now grandfather to 14)

  • Greg:
    Why don’t you START a flying club. Put up a sign at the FBO, get the materials that AOPA offers. Wes’s note really says a lot. One of the very best times in my aviation experience was a fantastic flying club located in MEAD WA. It was called the Economy club and we had 10 members and a really nice 172. Everyone owned 1/10 of the airplane. We all chipped in to wash and clean it. We held a monthly meeting (we included it in the by-laws) and met at the airport to discuss aviation topics. One of the members and I would do an instrument cross country each month. One of us would fly out, the other fly back. It kept us current and it made flying fun. Our rules allowed for us to take the airplane on a Sunday and keep it all week once a year as long as we came back before the next Saturday. That way the airplane was available every weekend. Meeting people with similar interest and searching for the “right” airplane would be a blast!
    GO FOR IT. Keep flying the family. Get an older 182 and have it checked thoroughly before you buy. Join the Cessna Pilots association. Lots of good info there!
    GOOD LUCK!
    IF you ever get to Carson City, stop at Carson Aviation and I will take you to lunch!
    Russ Smith
    Recently retired

  • Greg,
    Another way to make good, practical use of your license and instrument rating would be with the Civil Air Patrol. I joined shortly after getting my Private Pilot license in 2003. It’s been 10 years now, and a truly great experience.
    Dave

  • 38 comments wow
    This happens only one in 50 articles,
    We should see comments like this on every 2nd article,

  • Your next step is co-ownership. Pick a plane that will work for you (maybe a Cherokee Six with your growing family) and then either buy into an existing partnership, or find 2–3 other pilots to go in with. A partnership will keep the costs low, but (a) you’ll fly a lot more (renters rarely keep flying for long), (b) you’ll go on real trips without worrying about booking a rental plane months in advance, and (c) through ownership you’ll learn the other half of aviation knowledge, the part that’s missing from ground school and lessons.

    After that, put in a few hundred hours in your logbook, then, as others have suggested, volunteer for something like Angel Flight.

  • Hi Greg,
    Congratulations on your PPL & IFR! I’m a little jealous of the IFR right now as I am riding out weather for the second day in NC to return home having missed Easter with my family. I have had my license almost 4 years now and an IFR rating is now at the top of my list on a functionality basis. I got into flying for travel purposes mainly, although I like to drive, ride, captain, or fly anything, flying has become a passion in addition to a travel vehicle.

    I learned in a club setting, which exposed me to what I consider the 3 types of pilots, which there can be some overlap (no offense to any group as they are all interesting people):

    1) the hobbiest/hamburger run guy – a guy who loves to fly but does not have any other reason to fly.

    2) the ratings guy/future CFI – a guy who is #1 and who is looking for an extended reason to fly but can’t get his family to travel this way.

    3) the guy who actually wants to fly places/or has a specific need, (buys his own plane if type is not available in a club/FBO setting, although it sounds like you have this available to you ) and actually use flying for that. It will take some trial and error to find out what works for you and your family. But you are already a leg up on a lot of people with you IFR. Be patient and plan some trips. They will not all go smoothly no matter how much planning you do, weather people do make mistakes in case you are not aware of that.

    Like you, after I got my PPL I asked myself now what? My first year after my license I made the mistake of only flying 25 hours that first year mostly to stay current and gain some confidence. After which, I pushed myself to fly more, make some family trips (initially only in perfect weather, then progressing) and stretch my experience. In my case, travel was my only intention with flying. I decided to buy a plane, but only after successfully completing my 2 main missions flying from my home in PA to NC and PA to FL Keys in the summer. Needless to say, a trip from PA to Fl VFR in the summer I learned more about flight planning, diverting, ATC help, and flexibility than I did in my PPL training. With my CFI we never flew in anything other than ideal conditions and I had to experience a lot of this on my own.

    All that being said, the great thing about flying is no matter what category, 1 2 or 3 you are in, you learn something every time you go out and it can be challenging, humbling and fun all at the same time. The real question that you have to answer is which category are you in?

    Happy and safe flying,
    Bernie
    Mooney N231L

    • Bernie, I had to chuckle (with sympathy)with your being stuck in NC. It is exactly that situation that caused me to get my IFR rating. I was stuck in west Texas (where they only roll out the sidewalks for special occasions). After being stuck for 2 days the conversation with my wife was something like this.

      Wife: why did that Mooney take off.
      Me: because that pilot has an instrument rating.
      Wife:(in a very irritated tone) well why don’t you have an instrument rating?
      Me: ahhhhhhh.

      Needless to say, a year later I had one. You should get yours, you won’t regret it.

      Over the years I think that it is quite possible to move from one group to another. Think about getting a usually “willing to fly” but pregnant wife in a small plane. In fact, I am not sure I am not currently in all three right now. perfectly willing to go flying just because it is a pretty day, but working on a CFI rating, and planning a 2 week flying vacation across the country.

  • Hi Greg,
    I’m also based here in the Denver, CO metro area and had the same questions as you a few years back. I was a member of a flying club that had various time and airport restrictions on where the planes could be taken. Being able to only take the plane up for an hour or two at a time and with long trips hard to schedule, I was starting to lose passion for flying. I eventually decided to buy a share of a group owned plane to get my feet wet in ownership and mx. I was hooked!. Then a few years later I made the jump and bought my own personal tailwheel aircraft that really opened up the possibilities. Owning your own aircraft is expensive no doubt, but there are ways to make it more affordable. Colorado (and UT/ID/MT) have some amazing recreational opportunities you can access and if you’re looking for them in an AFD or sectional you won’t always find them 😉

    Since you’re in CO, be sure to visit http://www.flycolorado.org and also check out all of the neat recreational flying videos people post on backcountrypilot.org. I also second some of the previous posts about joining CPA & RAF.

    Good luck!

    • What a well written article!. Who hasn’t been through these same emotions? I know i have and would only have one recommendation, after checking out in multiple aircraft with instructor after instructor while I earned an instrument rating and a commercial ticket. Fly the wings off that C172 as PIC with no instructor! You will be faced with the aeronautical decision making skills that will transfer to any Bonanza or Cirrus you might fly in the future. it took a long time for me to learn this and I thought it worth sharing.

  • I went to tailwheel some time after getting my PPL, and am working on commercial/instrument/CFI as of right now. I would suggest tailwheel just for the fun factor. Plus some spin and upset recovery training will go a very long way towards making you more comfortable in any airplane and making you a better stick and rudder pilot. And if you really like doing spins afterwards, there’s the aerobatic route as well. Good luck and clear skies.

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