This year was a mixed bag. I spent less money per flight hour, but I also flew a lot less—only 53 hours in my logbook this year. However, I had many opportunities to do different types of flying.
The year started out on a high note, with earning my commercial pilot certificate in January. In April, I had the opportunity to race in AOPA’s Road and Runway Rally, driving a Smartcar and flying AOPA’s 2010 Sweepstakes Fun to Fly Remos GX from Maryland to Florida for Sun ‘n Fun. The highlight? Opening the show April 13 with a low pass. I experienced flight in a couple of new aircraft—a Helio Courier and a hot air balloon.
But the year also brought my most difficult moment in aviation, the death of my boss Chris O’Callaghan. Chris was killed in a midair collision during a soaring competition in Texas in August. (See AOPA’s tribute to Chris). Losing someone I had worked with for two years and saw more often than my family was extremely painful. In addition to the personal loss, the fact that he was a fellow pilot and was killed in an aircraft accident made the situation even more difficult. The first few weeks after the accident, I lost all interest in flying. When I would force myself to fly, I would get nervous if more than one aircraft was in the traffic pattern at once. However, I continued to go flying, whether with my father or with my friend and flight instructor I worked with to earn the commercial certificate, until I once again felt comfortable in an aircraft. I knew it was what Chris would have wanted.
After that, I tried to honor Chris in my own way by taking others up for their first flight in a general aviation aircraft (Chris was very passionate about introducing people to aviation). Sharing the gift of flight—with a sixth grader, my grandmother, and a nonpilot coworker—helped to bring back the joy of flying.
This fall, I experienced a new high—aerobatics—while working on an upcoming feature for AOPA Pilot. After each of the three lessons—filled with loops, hammerheads, rolls, Immelmans, Cuban eights, snap rolls, spins, and the split-S—I walked away with a grin almost as big as the one I wore after my first solo.
As I reflect on the year, I can’t help but look forward. I’m already planning for the challenges I hope to face next year.
Loops and rolls have proven so enticing that I want to work toward my tailwheel endorsement and sharpen my aerobatic maneuvers so that I can rent the Citabria and introduce some fellow friends and pilots to aerobatic flight.
I also plan to earn my flight instructor certificate next year. The first step—passing the Fundamentals of Instructing written exam—is already complete. My hat goes off to all of you flight instructors out there. I’ve been lucky to work with professional instructors who inspired me to go further in aviation, and I plan to work my tail off to make sure I do just as well for my future students.
What were your highs and lows in aviation this year? What are your aviation-related end-of-year traditions? And most importantly, what do you hope to add to your logbook in 2011?