As North America gradually becomes warmer and greener, it’s time to start thinking in earnest about the upcoming flying season. Not that flying stops when the landscape gets white. In fact, some of the very best flying weather happens in the middle of winter. Want to know what it feels like to be at pattern altitude before you turn downwind? Go fly on a cold, clear day!
But flying is a much more reliable proposition in the summer. I live in Michigan, so I never completely discount the possibility of a blizzard in April, but you have a much better chance of getting to fly when you plan to fly.
And, not coincidentally, this is the time when the really big adventures happen. Opportunities to go see what the edges of the envelope look like.
If you’ve never flown aerobatically, you’ll find that a lot of the Citabrias, Super Decathlons, Pitts S-2s, and other aerobatic aircraft are starting to stir. It’s a great time to go get some aerobatic training. Or at least to make plans and call around to see where you can get upside down.
Remember that aerobatic time is useful no matter who you are. Even if you’re a primary student (and even if you’ve never flown anything at all), aerobatic time with an instructor counts toward your private certificate. And, even if you’re a long-time pilot, you’ll be safer and more confident if you’ve been inverted or done a few cross-controlled stalls or spins in a rated airplane with a qualified instructor.
Better yet, get a group together to go fly some acro. If you’ve never flown acro before, you’re probably going to last about 20 minutes on your first flight. That’s not a lot of airtime considering that you have to brief, get the airplane out, put the airplane away, etc. But, if you get three or four of your friends together at the school, you can all go through the briefing together and then fly one after the other. You might even be able to get a break on the airplane rental and instructor fees if you come in a group.
And there’s nothing more fun than hanging out with your friends and sharing the experience of doing something for the first time. I know. I shot a movie about it last summer. And everybody wants to come back and do it again, regardless of whether we shoot another movie!
As everyone who’s been reading my posts here knows, I’m an enthusiastic Civil Air Patrol officer. CAP really accelerates its training pace during the summer. Last year, I went through the pilot track at CAP’s National Emergency Services Academy Mission Aircrew School (NESA-MAS) near Columbus, Indiana. I learned a lot about search-and-rescue flying and met some of my new best friends in the process. Plus, I got to see how people from other wings did things and I compared my skills and procedures with those of other CAP pilots.
NESA is great for senior pilots, but it also has lots of opportunities for non-pilots or for pilots with less experience and time. Remember that two out of the three roles on most CAP aircrews (observer and scanner) are non-flying jobs that still put you in an aircraft and depend on your skills.
And, even if you don’t make it to NESA, many wings take advantage of the summer weather to conduct search and rescue exercises (“SAREXes”) that are like NESA, only they’re more local and usually run one or two days. It’s a great opportunity to earn your CAP ratings and hang out at the airport with like-minded people. Plus, if you’re aircrew, you get to wear that favorite item of pilot clothing: The flight suit. (Is it wrong to love an item of clothing as much as I love my flight suit?)
So don’t let it get to be mid-summer before you make your plans! Now is the time to look ahead and plan some adventures. Get on the Web, get on the phone, and get into an aircraft!