Opinion

Why I’m giving up flying – life as an “ex-pilot”

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We all know the day will come when we will fly as PIC no more, whether because we keel over dead, get too sick to pass the medical, feel that our skills have deteriorated irreversibly, burn out on aviation, or simply run out of money. For me, a combination of factors added up to an important question.

Home is where the hangar is

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Every pilot has more than one home. There’s the place where we sleep, eat, and get our mail (at least most of the time). Then there is another place where we have our being and that’s the airport. In my case, for 17 years, it was Hangar 2 at Fitchburg Municipal Airport.

The most important person at your airport

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No, it’s not the control tower operator, it’s not the person who mows the grass, and it’s not the person who plows the snow – it’s an AOG (aircraft on the ground) transient. Sporty’s Founder Hal Shevers explains why.

How do we encourage new aviators?

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We proclaim the future of aviation lies in the hands of the youth, and we must give them opportunities to become pilots. We argue that flight training needs to be cheaper and we need to create more aviation programs so it is easier for them to succeed. We need scholarships and free flight training. But what kind of solution is moving the finish line closer to the start?

Learning to fly – is it worth it?

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Why would anyone spend $100,000 getting all of the licenses and ratings, work bottom-rung flying jobs to get the 1500 hours, and then seek a $22,000/year position at one of the regionals? It makes no economic sense. For better or worse, commercial aviation is not the glamor industry it used to be. Is there more to it?

Why I wear a ball cap when I fly

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It started blue, a dark blue, when my wife gave it to me as a Christmas present. Its latest achievement of many was earned in March when I completed my CFI training. It was instrumental in keeping my head from exploding while learning in flight, and during the check ride. Now my two-tone AOPA ball cap has faded to a light purple from long periods of exposure to the sun.

It sure is quiet at my airport

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There may come a time when our joystick and keyboard kids can load up, type in a destination, and sit back to let advanced technology avionics do most of the work. Until then we are likely to remain a pretty select group, airplane pilots–not airplane drivers–and our airports are likely to remain…quiet.

This is why you became a pilot

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OK, so after a year or so of lessons, studying, agonizing over the written, sweating during the oral and dreading the practical, you’ve done it! You are a pilot! Now what? What do you do with this very rare right and privilege?

I have my license – now what?

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Now I’m a private pilot, and 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?

Thoughts on training vs. education

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“You train for things you know are going to happen. You educate for the things you can’t anticipate.” Most of us use the term “train” to mean everything we pay for in order to get a license or rating. But the reality is that the respective approaches to training and educating are very different.

Two very different types of flying

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For most of us amateurs and professionals, flying involves risk management. While boating has its own satisfactions (and accidents), the reward-risk level in aviation is substantially higher, and this to me indicates that aviation attracts people who are more likely to be “risk-takers.”

Avionics: advancing or retreating?

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For some ancient, bureaucratic reason my Piper is not allowed to use the same newer, more capable and less expensive avionics and autopilots that experimental airplanes do, although we all fly the same airways, airspace and systems. Is TSO’d equipment really twice as good and twice as reliable as today’s non-TSO’d?

In the air, trust is all we have

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False bravado in the left seat can get you killed. The trust that you carry has to be inviolate: a certainty that you know what to do, how to do it and when. For me, that trust has been an off-and-on thing.

Mission possible: flying starfish

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Why do I fly? What is it about being in the air that compels me to spend spare time, and even more scarce resources, to pursue aviation? Actually, it’s pretty simple: it’s about sharing my insatiable passion with others.

Proposal for a new IFR certification

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From time to time, the FAA changes the qualifications for a license or rating and even adds a new designation of pilot. Steve Phoenix has made a study of the pilot population and gives here his recommendation for a new category of instrument pilots.