Many people have found peace and tranquility in the air. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people have their license to fly the US skies. For them, it’s a way life… either for professional or personal enjoyment. Regrettably, for their significant other, it may not be that exciting.
I have been a right seater, by choice, for more than 20 years. My husband is the passionate left seater. He’s offered many times to let me take flying lessons, but that’s not the responsibility I want. On the other hand, one of my closest friends is a private pilot and she loves the freedom of flying anywhere, any time. The three of us spent a wonderful day at EAA AirVenture 2018, walking around the C-5, attending the Women in Aviation panel discussion, and touring all the other airplanes that had been flown in for the show. While each of us had a great day for different reasons, it was definitely fun spending time together.
So, left seaters may be asking… how can my significant other have fun with aviation like I do? That may be a challenging question, but if asked as “What would make flying more enjoyable for you?” it would get a better response. We all know that when it comes down to time, it’s very precious, we never have enough of it, and “what’s in it for me” is always in the back of our minds.
That’s where the conversation should start. Time. How does flying fit in your family schedule? This may be one of the most important topics to discuss. Both of us are employed full-time, have a few charitable and professional groups we belong to and a four-legged furry kid. “Family analysis” is what I call it. For many years, flying didn’t fit into our schedule, but about four years ago we, started re-evaluating what was important to us. Together we discussed our commitments, what we got out of them (professional certifications, civil service, etc.), and whether we want to continue them for years to come. Based on those conversations, we decided to investigate the cost to rent airplanes from our local FBO.
To left seaters, especially my husband, this was the first step to getting to fly more. To right seaters, including me, I saw money flying out the window. So, I started asking more questions.
- How much does it cost? Per hour?!?
- How far can we fly in an hour? …oh yeah, half hour out and half hour back. That’s not a lot. How about two hours?
- How much fuel does an airplane take? What’s the cost per gallon? …wow! That’s more than premium gas! We only pay for what we use, right?
- How do we know when a plane is available? Can it be any plane? (This should be seen as an opportunity to explain planes and ratings and how that impacts what a left seater can fly)
My take is that if money is being spent, I need to understand on what, and how it’s going to benefit me, too. So I started thinking about what would make it worthwhile to me. And, what would I be willing to sacrifice. I then asked my left seater what he would sacrifice. Fewer dinners out? Fewer golf games? Fewer new electronics? Again, this turned out to be a really good conversation because I ended up with more perennials (less yard maintenance), he agreed to golf the free work tournament only, and we decided that it would be healthier for both of us to make dinner at home.
When we rented an airplane for the first time a few years ago, the ride was very enjoyable, just as fun as I had remembered from many years ago, and only a little shocking when we paid our bill.
So, had my left seater won me over? Not yet. The flight conjured up even more questions. Why did my ears hurt? When “tower” wasn’t talking to us, it was really quiet. Where was the radio? Just flying around our regional towns won’t be fun forever. Where else can my chauffeur fly me? It was kind of hazy, but I could have still used my sunglasses.
First things first… head comfort. I asked my left seater if there were more comfortable headsets. He did some Googling and we decided I should put that on our list of things to check out at the next EAA AirVenture (now I had to go!). But, during his search, he actually offered… “Some headsets come with Bluetooth.” Which I took as “connect it to my phone and have music!” A win for me!
Next, where else could we go? I started Googling aeronautical “maps” (charts to pilots) because I wanted to understand how far away some of the NASCAR race tracks were, some college and professional football stadiums, and our out-of-state friends and family. It took a few months to agree on a full US laminated wall chart, but once we did, we started marking where we’ve been and where we want to go. It became fun looking across the US (not over mountains, though) to see the places we could fly.
And then I heard… as long as the weather is “good.” I understand not flying in rain or snow. An instrument rating lets us fly when it’s cloudy so what other weather concerns are there? Oh boy! I have spent the last six months “interpreting” WeatherBug’s forecasts. “Partly Sunny” to “Sunny” means wear sunglasses and plan to take pictures. “Partly Cloudy” means ask about the ceiling. “Breezy” means possible turbulence and/or crosswinds which aren’t really fun. “80% humidity” in the summer means take a handheld fan or swamp cooler, while humidity in the winter keeps us grounded since it’s easy to collect ice on our wings. Needless to say, now we talk about the weather a lot.
So, my left seater asked again if I wanted to learn how to fly. By all of our conversations, it sounded like to him that I was understanding more and possibly getting interested in doing more. While it’s true I can follow a lot more conversations now and can ask better questions, I really have no interest in becoming a left seater. For those of you who do, I totally support you. Anyone who wants to learn how to fly should have the opportunity. It is a very accomplished license since only 0.19% of the US population has that bragging right.
I will continue to enjoy my flying lifestyle as a privilege from the right seat. I have watched videos, read articles, downloaded safety checklists, and surfed for ways to develop better passenger etiquette. I ordered Flying Companion from Pilot Workshops to learn more about pre-flight activities in my comfort zone. I printed out and laminated a SAFETY checklist for me and our other passengers. We have started watching the free Aviation 101 online course from Embry-Riddle together so I can ask questions about concepts I don’t understand. So far, my average quiz score is 94%! While I won’t become a private pilot, I am learning how to make the whole flying experience more fun being #mrsrightseat.