Cirrus in flight
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
4 min read
Cessna Skyhawk

I don’t know how we are going to fit this Cessna 172 on that narrow 75’ strip of concrete

There I was turning from base to final, oh my. Is that me getting scared?  Last time I did this I thought I was “Joe Pilot”, what’s happened?

The runway looks really small. I don’t know how we are going to fit this Cessna 172 on that narrow 75’ strip of concrete. Maybe I’m really high. No, 600 feet AGL.  I’m going to have to figure out how to land an airplane after 16 years without embarrassing myself too bad.  Hoping the flight school has some NASA forms, or are they now called Space X forms?

Old(er) and Rusty.  You have heard the story thousands of times. Used to fly, got married, kids, college, even more college, less money, etc. The last kid is almost out of school and as time moves on, things stabilized.  I wanted to get back to flying because I really love it.

The “Rusty Pilot” – it is a great term but I think it leads you into thinking a can of WD-40 and a few laps around the pattern and you are back. I guess it could be possible if you were out for a year or two and jumped back in. But it’s been 16 years for me. What’s new? Let me count the ways. Six packs are not the way to go today. Most of the “new” is glass. What was once the Heading Indicator, Airspeed Indicator, and the Attitude Indicator is now just the Garmin G1000.

The components of the airplane in the “before times” were straightforward.  It is like if you had an IBM typewriter, a cave person might figure out how to put paper in and push buttons to get letters (HA, take that you 20 somethings.  Now you see what it feels like to not know tech. Go ask your parents what a “typewriter” is, I’ll wait).  Transponders are now hidden inside of glass requiring a sequence of button presses that are not outwardly intuitive for the new pilot.  No more is there a device on the panel with numbers 0-7 that you could basically figure out.

cirrus airplane

I transition to learning in a Cirrus.

Then there are the charts. Makes you feel bad for Gutenberg and all his hard work.  Unfolding a map and looking for KORD?  That I can do, KORD is by that big lake. Approach plates are on a tablet, not inside a one inch stack of paper.  It is way better, but it is just one more thing to learn beside the flying part.  An ILS now has a step child called LPV.  I like cool abbreviations as much as the next pilot but geez, do you have to change everything?  As I transition to learning in a Cirrus, what happened to Va?  Its now Vo?  So I guess if you make really cool airplanes, the FAA lets you make up your own “V” speeds?

The bigger problem is that I don’t think anybody is sure on what they’ve forgotten. The issue is your mind.  You can’t recall something you forgot, so how are you supposed to know what parts of flying you are missing that you can’t remember?

I did the AOPA Rusty Pilot course, it was helpful.  But I think the magnitude of how rusty anyone could be is the issue.  I called AOPA to get an idea on what to do, and they were a big help. They said just go to my local flight school and jump back in the pool. The school should be able to figure out what I didn’t know.  Oh and bring money, lots of money.  Now that I do remember from my last time flying.

So I signed up for Sporty’s online Private and Instrument ground course.  After spending a few weeks binge watching those, I felt more comfortable at least with the ground work. I went out to the flight school and we jumped into what I thought was a old friend, a Cessna 172. There is a lot of rust to blow off. The glass panel was new and I guess I need to re-learn how to taxi.  My first taxi was like I was driving a lawnmower and was heading for the infield grass to do some trimming. I may be responsible for more than a few instructors quitting.

Depending on how far behind you are, some online training is good.  But spend time listening to your instructor, trust me, they have probably seen worse.  YouTube can be good as well.  But I suggest that you just get back into flying. I do still remember what a blast it is and how much I love it. There’s no better feeling than going from Chicago to Nashville in 2.5 hours.  What’s not to love!?

Stephen Lane
Latest posts by Stephen Lane (see all)
11 replies
  1. mike harper
    mike harper says:

    I suggested to my wife that she would enjoy taking some flights with an instructor to see if after 50 years she still enjoyed piloting. HaHaHa!!! She got her license up dated and then bought a 172. Here I am all alone with only the horses to keep me company while she is in Buckeye at the AOPA fly in.

    • Mike Finkle
      Mike Finkle says:

      Wow, Mike, you really messed up. You should have found a friend to take care of the horses and joined your wife at Buckeye. The Air Fair Fly-In was GREAT, and AOPA really took great care of us Members… good food and snacks, a great front row seat setup for the air shows, and great seminars and Exhibits. Be sure to join her for the next one!

  2. Enderson Rafael
    Enderson Rafael says:

    Well done, Stephen! Here I am, another 30ish pilot. Now 40ish, living the dream in the heavy metal, but longing to be back on GA more often. Did my first Cessna flight in years, my first stalls (out of a simulator) in almost a decade. Oh man, that feels good! Let’s get that rusty color off our wings! Thank you for sharing!

  3. George Yancho
    George Yancho says:

    this is all good info and encouraging. After selling my mouse back in “84 I wanted to get back into flying. $$$ was still an issue so I bought a few raffle tickets. Be careful what you prayer cause I won last years Alaska airmen raffle. So after 40 years of not flying I delved into the rusty pilots webinars. Put 6 hours in a 172. Then started the real learning. Tail wheel, glass panel, Auto pilot, stick instead of yoke, and high performance. Instead of 1,600 ft, it was now 140ft. Glad to have rusty pilot and info like this to keep learning.

  4. Pavol
    Pavol says:

    Great story,
    Glad you came back to flying.
    Impressive how many license extentions you got.
    In Europe we are happy if we stay current with SEPL, most other options are cost prohibitive.
    Pavol Varga

  5. William
    William says:

    Great story! Very similar to mine in fact. Learned to fly at about 40 and rented for 5 years. Then the usual story of going back to school, got married at 48 and had another kid.
    Reached 60, and my wife said if you wanted to resume flying, this would be a good time to do it. We both had good jobs and were financially stable enough to get back into it, so I did the Rusty Pilot program back when it was still in its early years. I hadn’t flown in 15 years or so. I too pulled out my old King Schools Private pilot courses, which the Kings were gracious enough to honor their old program of giving you half off a program if you turned in your old one. They got a whole box of video tapes and I adjusted to the new online learning environment LOL!
    I wanted to fly off airport so I started my flight training in an old Champ taildragger. It was almost like learning to fly all over again! Knocking the rust off and learning how to tame a taildragger. Bought my own 170 after 10 hours in the Champ, and it took another 20-25 hours to learn that aircraft and be proficient enough to be comfortable. But I am loving it, and loving aircraft ownership as well. Still flying on the old vacuum steam gages, but have adapted well to the iPad and flight programs.
    Thank you for the article!

  6. Norm Willis
    Norm Willis says:

    Thanks Steven for sharing your story and encouragement.
    One of my earliest memories is my dad taking me and my mom up for a flight when I was not quite three. Although this hooked me on airplanes for life, unfortunately I waited until I was almost 40 before getting my pilots license, but then proceeded to SEL, MEL, Instrument, SES and into aerobatics, competing in Advanced at the national level. 6 years ago I had atrial flutter eventually requiring an ablation procedure which cured it. I’ve spent the last 3 years working in another state which has made it difficult to wrestle with the FAA to get an unhindered medical back. Seems that by the time I can get the follow up cardiology tests done on my limited time at home each week (Saturdays and Sunday morning) to comply with the FAA’s one year renewals, the good weather has gone for another year. Now I’m ready to get flying again, but don’t have the same confidence I did 5-6 years ago and I’ll be 79 y/o in a week! The Rusty Pilot program is going to be a great help getting back in the air in my Christen Eagle! Again, thanks for the encouragement.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *