Reader question: when did you know you had the aviation bug?

When asked about how they originally got interested in aviation, many pilots talk about a specific moment when “the aviation bug” bit. It might have been a first airplane ride, a trip on an airliner, or a visit to an airshow, but the result was the same – a lifelong passion for airplanes took hold.

We want to know what that lightbulb moment was for you. Add your comment below to share your story.

21 Comments

  • I interviewed a corporate pilot once for an article, and he claimed that as a baby/young boy, he had airplane wallpaper in his bedroom so he told me he went to bed every night looking and thinking about airplanes.

    I think the bug comes young. When I worked at Flying, one of the staff had a framed report card in his office from elementary school where the teacher wrote that he “would be a better student if he spent more time studying and less time drawing airplanes.”

  • The first time my dad brought a sailplane home in a trailer and assembled it on the front lawn. He put me in the front seat and closed the canopy… that moment… I knew. Its the earliest memory I have. I was three.

  • There was just never any doubt for me: I knew in my heart – no, deeper in my SOUL – I would one day be a pilot. It was a part of me, I never questioned it.

    It took me until I was 45 to get the ticket. But I was ALWAYS GONNA BE.

  • My grandfather was a fighter pilot in WW2 flying P-51/P-47s, so I grew up listening to some great stories. But I didn’t get bit until I was a junior in high school. I was competing at the Naval Academy in Annapolis at a regatta for high school kids when a friend’s father invited us to go up for a short hop in his Piper Archer after the event was over. That father had been a flight engineer on a P-3 Orion in the Navy so he was keen on making it a memorable flight for three teenage boys. We flew about 1500 feet right over the Academy dome and he pulled about 4Gs in a hard right bank to the towards the Annapolis harbor. I could feel the blood rush out of my head during the manuever. What a thrill!! A few years later I got my PPL at Lakefront Airport (KNEW) while attending college.

  • My dad took me up in a Piper Cub at age 6. With him sitting behind me, the 180 degree view and all the noise and motion, I was hooked.

  • My dad worked at Northrup in the early ’50’s and his boss was a B-25 pilot during the war. Visiting his well equipped home workshop there were lots of his Air Group photos hanging on the walls, and his parachute laying in the corner of the shop made it all so real.
    A photo of the Snark Missile launching with both RATO bottles blazing from its Zero Take-Off Mobile Platform that he and my dad were both heavily involved with designing, building and testing was enough for this 6 year old to say “That’s what I want to do!”

  • Born with the gene, I guess. I can remember “racing” DC-3s rumbling by overhead…on my hands and knees in the grass. Pre-school years? Dunno, but I don’t recollect ever racing ’em when upright! I also remember being aware that they in fact were actually winning the race, despite indulging in every sleight of mind a little kid’s brain could conjure. How I knew they were DC-3s is also lost to memory…but they were!

  • I always dreamed about flying.When I was 14 years old,we made a trip in a Cessna 170 with the father of a close friend.Since then I have logged almost 4000 hours mostly in a Cessna 210 Centurion.I began with a C182 .Now and still in good shape (68) I continue
    with my passion.I got my degree as Engeneer in Agronomics and Flying was really good
    for my job.Hope to keep my medical for many more years.
    Argentina is a great and easy country for flying.

  • I’ve never wanted to do anything else. I’ve been fortunate to be around aviation all of my life. My parents lived on a small airport in Illinois during my early years. My dad managed the airport and was an ag pilot and flight instructor. Later he flew a Cessna 310 for a construction company. Whenever he had to chase parts, I would tag along. I started working at the local airport when I was 16, painting the t-hangars. Worked the line and when not working I was riding along on freight trips. That all led to quite a career. 16K hours in Cubs to jets. Since my current job has me flying a desk, I recently bought a Cessna 140 to rekindle the passion and keep the dream alive. Having a ball, sharing aviation with a new generation.

  • I took interest in aviation after a year and a half in Vietnam, being flown around in various helicopters. Jumping out of them, hooking artillery under them, flying this way and that way with my feet dangling over the side, dodging what the bad guys were shooting at us, flying with the doors off. Where in the “world” (as opposed to “in-country”) could a young kid have this much fun (OK, excluding the shooting part). We have an amusement park here in Pittsburgh called Kennywood. I always enjoyed the roller coasters, etc. Zipping around in the air was a roller coaster plus 10. When I came home from the war I eventually started taking lessons in a Jim Bede designed TR2. Flying is still, by far, the most relaxing, enjoyable thing that I do.

  • As a young teenager, I spent my summer weekends as a caddy at our local golf course. The course was just across the highway from our local grass airstrip. One Saturday found me hooked up with a middle-aged couple, he attached to booze, and she attached to gaudy costumes and bourbon. I was standing in the middle of the second fairway, where I shouldn’t have been, leaning on the upright club bag and gawking as a Stinson mail plane as it dropped a mail bag on the airstrip, then circled around to pick up the outgoing mail bag.

    A driven golf ball smacked into the bag I was leaning upon, just below my belt level. I knew right than that flying would be my life. Certainly flying couldn’t be as dangerous as playing golf.

    I retired from the skies with 22,000 Alaska bush flying hours; and I’ve never played a single round of golf!

  • I truly believe I was born with it (the bug) My father was a corporate, mountain pilot all around México, my mother was a dispatcher, cargo and passenger tickets seller, meteorologist in a local airline (3 boeings 247) since she was 15. So, as long as I remember one of my playgrounds was the ramp and hangars at the Sabreliner and Commander, then Beechcraft and the Cessna local dealers in México City. My father was a Coca Cola local dealer pilot and flew D18, C45, Comanche, then when I grew up he was the director of the Cessna flight school. so at 15 I was already flying Cessnas 150 with my father and uncles.
    After 50 years of flying and flying corporate jets for 40 years, I am now flying one of the most fascinating jets. A Falcon 900ex Easy. I am happy. By the way, I have a daughter flying in Aeromexico Airlines

  • The bug may have come from the flights I took as a very young child commuting between Spain and Germany in the early 60’s when travelling with the airlines was something glamorous and passengers were treated like kings.
    But I also remember having a relative who owned an airplane (maybe a Cessna?) and would travel with it and this sounded so cool and fun to me, since then I have always loved airplanes.

  • Growing up in S. California, I was surrounded by aviation. I would constantly be building models, sending away to the various companies for picture/specs of their aircraft – it was awesome.

    But, in particular, I met a gentleman that had worked as an engineer for T. Claude Ryan at Ryan Aeronautical (think Spirit of St. Louis). That did it for me, as he told me what it was like in the early years of aviation, with everything they did being on the cutting edge. Incredibly exciting time to live through or, in my case, to hear about!

  • I watched the Sky King show every Saturday morning as a kid in the 50’s and as a result proclaimed that I would fly some day. My dad also used to take me to Zahn’s Airport in Amityville Long Island New York to watch the planes fly and walk around the main hangar looking into cockpits. One day an elderly gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and said he was taking me for a ride. My look of disbelief made him further state, “Come on. Your dad just bought you a ride.” We flew in a Piper Colt (my very first flight in any airplane) and it was so wonderful that I knew there was no turning back. I HAD to do this. 2 years later I started instruction at Zahn’s airport flying Piper J3 Cubs and Cherokees. That was in 1970 and I’m still hooked after owning a Piper Cherokee 140, a Beech straight 35 Bonanza, a Beech M 35 Bonanza, and now a Grumman AA1A. Another Bonanza is in my future. Unfortunately, Zahn’s Airport had to close due to obscene escalating property taxes and is now and industrial complex, but my memories and excitement of learning how to fly at that field will never die. At the time my parents’ fear of my flying lead them to state that only birds and idiots fly. Guess I’m the biggest idiot that ever lived.

  • The real lightbulb moment came when I realized that pilots flying in IFR conditions selectively ignore some of their sensory inputs and only trust a subset of what their body is telling them. I thought (and I still do) that the ability to selectively “switch-off” senses is a remarkable testimony to what our brains can do after (excruciating) training.

  • Since I can remember I wanted to fly, and was the only one in my family without a fear of flying, so did not get a lot of support.

    Due to an injury when a young teen was not able to go into the military and fly the aircraft there I desired, so went to aircraft maintenance school, earned my A&P, then obtained my ratings as i could. Today am 60, have about 19,000 hours, fly a Global Express jet, and a Bell 212 helicopter.

    In my off time my hobby is airplanes. (-:

  • I am still waiting around to get the bug. I admit I did stop by various airports over the years to track down the flight school, ask a question or two, and sometimes go for an intro flight. I for sure expected those flights to give me the bug. I did like bringing the kids to the airport for Sunday brunch at the local airport, and turns out I did get my private pilot’s license there a few years ago. I even owned the flight school and a maintenance shop there for a bit and enjoyed learning about the business side of aviation and fixed based operations. I have a great group of pilot friends. I even own an okay airplane that gets me to the lake in forty minutes instead of three hours. That is magic to me. Every time I think about that it makes me smile. When calculating the time it takes to get to the lake I never count the time it takes to get to the airport, or to the lake from the airport at the other end, or the time spent hanging out at the airport catching up with people on both ends. The clock starts at wheels up and stops at the tie down on the other end. But I diverge. I’m still waiting to wake up one morning, look up at a clear blue sky, and head to the airport just because it is a beautiful day to fly. Until then I’ll just be waiting around to get the bug. I do believe it will happen though.

  • I was 9 years old making paper ‘gliders’ etc… that was in 1943… worked at one of the airports on Staten Island (one of the 5 boroughs of NYC) washing airplanes when I was 12 or 13 years old….received a ride in an airplane that could take-off and land on water or land… built and flew u-control model airplanes that I designed (some that exceeded over 130mph). Graduated from RPI as an Aeronautical Engineer…flew B-47’s etc in the US Air Force, F-86H’s etc in Mass. ANG, owned and flew Cessna 182…now mentor youngsters and ‘oldsters’ …and do seminars on soo many Aviation topics…loving it!

  • We lived in Dallas, TX during WWII, and my father made a wooden model of a B-24 Liberator that he hung over my crib. I am told military aircraft flew over at low altitude frequently. Mom said my first word was “airplane-o.” In later years, rubber band-powered balsa models, plastic models, and U-control planes had their day. But I was in my forties when the full viremia struck, and I was off on the great adventure of flying real airplanes.

  • Well let’s see. I got the bug sometime around age 10 or 11. Our neighbor 2 houses down had a Piper Cub. Of course back in ’61 at age 10 or 11, I had no idea what a Piper Cub was. I was most likely a tri-pacer. All I remember sitting in the right seat I could hardly see over the dash. Mr. Council would always ask my dad if any of the sons wanted to go fly. Of my two brothers and I, I was the one that jump at the opportunity to go for flying.

    I remember on the appointed days and times I would jump into my neighbor’s car and head out to Rutherford Field outside of Baltimore. Rutherford Field was a dirt strip. Probably in the neighborhood of 3,000 feet. Heck what did it matter to a 10 year old boy going for an airplane ride. All I can remember was whatever was in the air that first day, I caught it. From then on flying was in my blood. Every opportunity I could I would take the chance to go fly when offered the opportunity. I would even ask my dad to make a conscience effort to drive by Rutherford Field every chance we got if in the neighborhood. Just driving by the field would conjure up wonderful memories of flights gone by.

    Of course in between flights my dad and I would build balsa wood model airplanes and fly them to keep the love of aviation and flight alive. To this day I can’t help but wonder what an opportunity missed it would have been if I did not have seized the opportunity to experience aviation at its fundamental form from a dirt strip in a Cub piloted by a Private Pilot.

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