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.
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.
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?