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.