The Let’s Go Flying website is, among other things, designed to appeal to those thinking about flying but who need that last bit of information or inspiration to get them down to the local airport and behind the controls of an aircraft.
But it probably comes as no surprise that many of the visitors to the site are already head-over-heels in love with aviation and would be student pilots in a heartbeat, but the magic circumstances simply haven’t come together yet to allow them to initiate or complete flight training. This post is for them.
Folks, you’ve come to the right place. It’s okay to hang out here and read about aviation and exchange ideas with people who are beginning to fly, who are training, or who are pilots doing very cool things. Even if you’re not able to chase the dream in a more hands-on way right now. Especially if you’re not able to chase the dream in a more hands-on way right now.
Let me introduce you to the most excitable aviation enthusiast I know. His name is David Allen. He lives in Florida with his growing family. He was an active Civil Air Patrol cadet in his youth. He has accumulated a couple of dozen hours in single-engine airplanes. But life just hasn’t (yet) handed him the circumstances that will let him pursue flight training as actively as he’d like.
But Dave is as active as any non-pilot as I know in the aviation world. He’s regularly at NASA Tweet-ups at Kennedy Space Center. He co-hosts The Pilot’s Flight PodLog, an aviation podcast. He’s a regular volunteer for Sun ‘N Fun Radio. And he came up to Michigan and served as camera and tech crew for the Acro Camp movie shoot in May 2010 (during which he spent an hour in the Acro Camp Pitts S-2B with Don Weaver doing aerobatics – and flew some of the acro himself). Dave knows more about warbirds than many who fly them. I’d have to have to compete with Dave in a make/model recognition contest.
Dave is as involved as any non-pilot I know and more involved than many pilots I know. So I use Dave as an example to anyone who’ll listen. Through his new-media and social-media connections, he’s been up with several airshow performers and others in a wide variety of aircraft. And Dave has a far-flung network of pilot friends. Friends are important when you begin your training. I did a lot of my training in isolation without a circle of pilot friends with whom to share stories and ideas. Dave won’t lack for a network of experienced pilots and other aviation enthusiasts then it’s his turn at the yoke or stick.
My friend Dave is living proof that not being a pilot (yet) doesn’t mean that you can’t get involved.
In fact, now is the best time to get involved. You have the luxury of picking up aerodynamics and regulatory information and the other book-learning at your leisure. Whatever interests you. So, when it’s time to actually knuckle down and study for your FAA written exam, you’ll have a great base from which to proceed.
It’s okay to bum rides from pilots. Find an airport and hang out there. Get to know the locals. If there’s anything that pilots love more than giving rides to enthusiastic people, I don’t know what it is. It might surprise you to learn that even fully-certificated pilots do exactly that. We bum rides, too! It’s fun and you’ll get experience in a wide variety of airplanes and with a wide variety of pilots.
If you’re under 18, consider becoming a Civil Air Patrol cadet. CAP cadets get to go on orientation flights (called “O-rides”) and actually get to fly the airplane. Under the supervision of an experienced pilot who remains pilot-in-command, to be sure. But they get to operate the flight controls.
And, if you’re over 18, you can rapidly find yourself wearing a flight suit as a mission scanner (the skilled eyeballs in the back seats) or mission observer (the commander of the mission, who sits in the right seat) in a CAP aircrew, even if you’re not a pilot. Truth be told, if I’m in the left seat in a CAP aircraft, if the weather is nice, if the air is smooth, and if I need a few minutes to check charts or fiddle with the panel, I like having the person in the right seat – rated pilot or not – fly the airplane. It’s all completely within the regs and I like knowing that my right-seater can hold a heading and an altitude if I need him or her to do so.
The bottom like is that you need to keep the fire burning. Whatever barriers are keeping you from flying now probably won’t be barriers forever. Do whatever you need to do in the meantime to be ready when the time comes and you can launch your aviation adventure in a more hands-on way.
David Allen and others like him (like you!) are absolutely essential to the future growth of the pilot population. We need you. We write stuff like this because we want you here and excited about aviation. So, when the time comes, you can think of the huge smiles that we’ll all be wearing as you tool around the pattern on your first solo.
Keep the fire burning!