Start finding passengers… now!

What’s the first thing you want to do when you get your ticket? In all likelihood, you want to go somewhere…and you want to take a passenger with you.

Sharing the joy of flying is one of the very best parts of learning to fly. It’s why we often ask brand-new pilots, “Who’s your first passenger?” Who gets to share that astounding experience of climbing into an airplane and taking off on an adventure?

Sadly, some folks don’t have anyone to share flying with. In 10 years with AOPA, I’ve read many letters and forum posts, and heard many personal stories from sad pilots who can’t get the important people in their lives to fly with them. I wrote an article several years back suggesting strategies to coax your spouse or significant other into at least climbing into the cockpit with you for one trip around the pattern.

But I often wonder if we’re not missing an opportunity while we’re in training. If we do some advance planning and consult with our flight instructor, we can bring along someone on an instructional flight. Now obviously I’m not talking about subjecting your spouse to stall recovery or a session of engine-out practice. But why shouldn’t he or she ride along in the backseat for a dual cross-country? Or better yet, when it’s time for night flight? (Night time flying is generally smooth, which makes it a nicer experience for the passenger.)

Ad added bonus is that your special someone gets to see you operating the airplane with the added security of a flight instructor on board for his or her first time flying with you. This is a probably more of a psychological plus than anything else, but if it helps to soothe the jangled nerves of a nonpilot, why not?

Passengers can create unnecessary distractions, of course, so plan for that. (Don’t, for example, try to do a preflight with your spouse hanging off your elbow.) And do talk to your flight instructor about whether this is feasible for you. He or she will likely have some good suggestions on flights where this would be a good idea versus flights where this would decidedly not be a good idea (see: my stall recovery reference, above), and he’ll want to check your weight-and-balance calculations.

–Jill Tallman

Tags: , ,

  • Brian McDaniel

    Good Idea. My wife is a bit nervous since her sister and nephew were killed in a C172 crash at Crest Airpark in 95. Having an instructor with us would be reassuring to her I think.

  • Paul

    My mom was reluctant to agree to go flying with me. When practicing emergency maneuvers with my CFI, I sent youtube links to give her an idea what I was learning, for example:

    so that she’d realize that the airplane wouldn’t just fall out of the sky if the engine quit and that I had been trained to deal with such a situation. To my surprise, she watched all of the videos and says she will give it a try–hopefully I’ll be able to take my parents up soon. If she had been around during my training, I agree that it would have been a great idea to take her along on one of the dual XC flights.


  • Jim

    Yes, this s a great way to get the family involved early on. I take my son (age 8) with me on lessons periodically. He loves it, especially steep turns and stalls, it’s like a carnival ride for him. Now my youngest son (age 5) wants to go too.