Reader question: what do non-pilots ask when they learn you fly?

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You know it’s coming…

When meeting someone for the first time, talk often turn to hobbies or professions – the dreaded, “what do you do?” question. For most of us that means flying and a long conversation about airplanes, weather, safety, and so much more.

The reaction to the statement, “I’m a pilot” is as varied as the people we meet. But often the response is another question. When did you learn to fly? What type of airplane do you fly? Are you ever scared?

Add a comment below and answer this month’s question: when you tell someone you’re a pilot, what question do you know is coming next?

15 Comments

  • I would put them in 2 camps most think it is too hard and costly, others think it is easy and cheap. Those that think it is easy and cheap want or are working to be pilots and think it is a great way to expand their thinking, they love to fly. The ones that feel it is hard and costly have other passions to take up their time, boating, horses, kids in college, car racing. Flying takes a long term commitment.
    The most common question is how long have you been flying? Then comes do you own a plane? Very few expect you to say yes and are even shocked if you do say yes, then comes where do you keep it and or how big is it and how fast.

  • I’ve found basically two groups:
    I would be terrified! I would NEVER do that!
    I have ALWAYS wanted to fly!
    I try to find an opportunity to take the second group for a flight.

  • We pilots are a tiny minority in the world, so a common response is surprise, often followed by a bit of jealousy. Having owned 2 airplanes raises the awe level, followed by questions about cost and danger (not safety). When asked if flying light aircraft is dangerous, I respond. “You can make it as dangerous as you wish.. and as safe as you wish.” People are often surprised to hear that there are lots of flyable airplanes available for less than they paid for a new car (ahem, ignoring the running costs!).

  • When I told a friend I was learning to fly he asked the inevitable “Isn’t that expensive?” My friend, who owned a couple of hours speculated that it must be nice to be rich. I asked him how much it cost to take care of his horses, he told me that with the hay, the grain, the farrier, etc, about $600 a month. (that’s several years ago) When I told him that was quite a bit more than I spent on flying per month, that discussion came quickly to an end.

  • Being an Aviation ‘Nut’, Aeronautical Engineer, a pilot for 50+ years, flown about 400 yougsters to become an EAA Young Eagle (YE), and ‘tons’ of ‘oldsters for well over 40 years, and mentor/dialog with people ALL the time about Aviation ‘stuff. 1) Boys just look at me, the airplane, a Cessna 182, receive the flight to become a YE…. little or no questions; 2) Girls ask ALL kinds of questions. For example: Aren’t you too tall to be a pilot?…What’s that instrument for?… How long have you been a pilot?… After offering a 10-11year girl who was in the right seat, she responded. “…no, NO, you need the practice..”; 3) Adults don’t comment at all…. You REALLY did that!…. When we going to fly again, that was fun!, What an interesting life you have had!

  • I have a friend that thinks it’s dangerous yet he rides a Harley and thinks nothing of sharing the highway with big trucks and hot rod cars along with inattentive, distracted, and reckless drivers. GA flying accidents continue to be rare campared to motorcycle and auto accidents, they just get more news. Interesting that in a very recent Flying article the author said GA continues to seek ways to make our passion safer, but Cycling Magazine readers find attempts to make cycling safer to stifle their freedom. To each his own.

    As one other comment mentioned, whether it be hot cars, motorcycles, bass boats, snow skiing, hunting and fishing, or whatever their passion, people find ways to enjoy and spend the dollars.

  • Exclaimed by a male Young Eagle from my right seat, “why do you use a check list, I thought you already knew how to do this.”

    Most people become very respectful when they learn I’m a pilot.

  • I’ve been a pilot since 1968. Currently, the comment most heard is “Good for you!” Really? I have no answer for that comment.

  • Kids ask me ‘How does it feel to fly an airplane ?
    Aren’t you lucky?
    How do you feel going through clouds !
    Are you not afraid ?
    In fact I used to have these questions on my mind too when I was a kid. I used to hang on to the airport perimeter fences and see airplane come and go. Had a feeling that pilots were like super heroes !!
    Happy Flying !!

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