Your connection with the sky

Cleared for Adventure!

Tupper on the ramp with a C-172

Greetings! I’m delighted to post this, the first of my entries for AOPA’s Let’s Go Flying blog.

This first post is a little longer than I expect the average post will be, but hey, we're getting to know each other.

By way of introducing myself, I’ll tell you that the best way to describe me is as a student pilot. Don’t get me wrong, my certificate says that I can fly single- and multi-engine aircraft and that I’m rated to fly second-in-command in the mighty Douglas DC-3 (that iconic 1930s and 40s airliner). But I’m a student pilot, just as most pilots will tell you they are when it comes right down to it.

Through the coming posts, I’ll flesh out that idea a little. A good pilot is always learning. Many of my pilot colleagues tell me that they learn something new on every single flight. And I believe them. In fact, if you don’t learn something new on a flight, the chances are good that you weren’t paying adequate attention and that you need to focus a little more on the experience.

I tell you this because the point of this blog and this AOPA project is to interest you in heading out to the airport to see what general aviation is all about. Or to get you back to the airport after life interrupted your flight training. If I’m going to be helpful, I need to help you to understand that, even as the greenest student pilot, you and I are essentially the same. We’re only separated by some flight time and some experiences. You can get something out of this blog no matter how new you might be to aviation. I fully expect more than a few of you to surpass me. Rapidly! In fact, if you happen to become an airline pilot (and some of you will), please keep your eye on the passenger manifest for my name and invite me up to your cockpit when you land your CRJ, B-737, or A-320.

Most of the fun of GA is challenging yourself. If we had the flying cars that they promised us in elementary school and everyone could fly, I wouldn’t be nearly as excited about aviation as I am. Certainly not excited enough to spend almost all of my vacation time chasing opportunities for new and exciting flight experiences.

This stuff isn’t easy. There are no shortcuts. It requires patience, competence, and skill. But the raging beauty of GA is that most people can do it if they apply themselves. We each have in us the raw material from which pilots are made.

Setting a goal and achieving it is the greatest gift that you can give yourself. And no endeavor contains more worthy goals than aviation. There is absolutely nothing that can top the feeling of a breeze on your back where your instructor recently cut off your shirttail because you soloed for the first time. Unless it’s driving home from your private checkride with your new certificate sitting on the passenger seat beside you. Or flying your mom for the first time.

And, even after years of flying, I can sit here and name four or five things off the top of my head that would be wonderful challenges that would consume anything from a weekend to six months and would each be very gratifying to achieve.

I’ll be focusing in three areas in my posts. First, I’ll try to cover the information you’ll need as you decide to begin flight training or continue from where you left off. How to find a school. How to decide what school and instructor works for you. What equipment you need and what you can put off. All the stuff that you’ll need to get a good start and see it through to your private ticket. I took 90 hours (about 20 more than the average) over the course of three years to get my private ticket. I had a son, advanced in a great career, changed schools a few times, ran out of money a couple of times, and went through four or five instructors as they moved on to other things. If there’s a barrier or hurdle that most student pilots face, I probably faced it.

Secondly, I’ll let you in on some of the training that I do. I was absolutely serious when I said that I’m a student pilot. I plan to begin a transition to flying the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit in a Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182. I have all of 0.5 hours in front of an Avidyne panel and have flown nothing but conventional instruments and maybe GPS through an instrument rating, so this will be a big challenge. I’m also planning to go get an Airplane Single-Engine Sea rating in a PA-12 on floats in the spring. And I’m toying with the idea of going for the commercial certificate next year. Plus, I’ll continue aerobatic training through spins, unusual attitudes, and other things that challenge me. It’s a little more advanced than the stuff on the private pilot syllabus, but the point is that I’ll challenge myself so that I’m putting my time and energy where my mouth is. And, even when I’m upside down and recovering from an unusual attitude, you can be sure that I know that figuring out VOR navigation for the private ticket can be just as challenging for a primary student and I’ll never forget that.

Third, but perhaps most importantly, I’ll let you in on the most important stuff. Why I fly and why you should, too. The philosophy and fire of aviation. Why we line up at the fence at airshows all misty-eyed and shaking our fists in the air for performers ranging from the Super Cubs to the F-22 Raptor and everything in between. What makes my scalp tingle and why I can’t stay dry-eyed through a Heritage Flight or an IMAX movie with a Space Shuttle launch in it.

I’m a part of a tribe of the most outgoing, talented, good-natured and upstanding human beings you’ll ever meet. And you can be a part of that tribe. The most important part of the tribe. You can be a student pilot.

Begin or continue your training and, together, we can be students of the greatest endeavor yet undertaken by humans.

I can’t wait! Yeah!

2 Responses to “Cleared for Adventure!”

  1. Steve,

    We look forward to following along as we all learn valuable aviation lessons

  2. Steve, well done! I only wish this existed when I was learning how to fly!
    I plan to follow your blog here.


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