As the new year rolls in, it’s a great time to put the past behind us and take some positive steps toward an even better flying year ahead. It’s a time when we can get clear on how we can be better pilots and better people. Honestly, I think the two go hand in hand. I’d like to make some suggestions for your own personal flying plan to make your flying year ahead safer, more robust, and impactful.
Fight the contraction
Many you may be saying, “life has taken this turn and I’m going to hunker down and wait it out. I’ll pick up my flying when this is all over.” That’s the conservative thing to do. I’m going to suggest you do just the opposite. When people are moving in one direction there are opportunities going in the exact opposite direction. This is a hard thing to do as the herd mentality can be strong and playing it safe seems like an easy decision. Life as a pilot may at times be risky but we do what we can to mitigate that risk and we get in the airplane and go flying. Do the same in life it will pay great dividends. The very reason I fly so much is because I took advantage of a contracting real estate market in the early 1990s when people said it was insane to expand.
Make improvements to your airplane
For those of you that have taken that huge step of aircraft ownership you know there is so much you can do to make your ride safer and more capable. During a slower economy, this may be the time to get a better deal on labor and even aircraft parts. Some of those projects that are time-intensive are perfect for your list of things to do in the new year. The Citizen of the World is getting painted now at Art Craft Paints in Santa Maria, California. I’m taking this time to get the upholstery upgraded and we are replacing various bushings and other parts that are easier to get to with the control surfaces removed.
Work on your survival kit! I wrote an article for AOPA that detailed a simple kit to carry if you wanted slightly more than what Rambo might carry. See (https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2018/march/pilot/travel-always-prepared) I suggest that you consider expanding it a bit to include all of the environments you might fly in and then practice with the gear. I’ve now taken four survival classes through CAPS and Survival Systems but never got to use my gear out in the country. Doing things like building a shelter, hunting or fishing for food, or pulling out the medical kit and practicing with it are good ideas.
Try something new, mix it up
Keep your mind engaged and learn something new. If you need some ideas, peruse the list of courses that are available to you through companies like Gleim Aviation and King Schools. Get your tailwheel endorsement, floatplane rating, or for me—it’s time to give helicopters a try. I built and flew many radio controlled aerobatic helicopters even before learned to fly. As a child, I remember being excited to get my Whirly Bird model. It flew around in circles connected by a tether and could land, take off, and even pick things up. Maybe it’s time to explore the area of aviation that has been calling out to you since childhood.
Explore somewhere new
Pick somewhere new to explore. The nature of flying is exploration and there are so many places to go in our state, country, and world if your ambitions pull you in that direction. Canada, our neighbor to the north, is on next on my list this year. The country is vast, the people are friendly, and the air traffic controllers are wonderful. I have been there a few times already and really liked the Klondike in Yukon territory, and specifically the city of Dawson where the gold rush started. It’s steeped in tradition and great for the soul.
Share the adventure
This is a critical thing for each and every pilot to do for the community of aviation. Participate in or develop your own program to inspire others to become excited about flight. For 2021, I have been working with Redbird Flight Simulations and written 5 flight simulations that will allow anyone to fly the south and north poles, dodge a cyclone out of Madagascar, and experience the chilling test flights of the Citizen of the World after the installation of countless new systems. This combined with the 12-part docuseries and a 30 to 45 minute Air and Space Live Chat with the Smithsonian we hope will inspire people to take more interest in flying. For you it might simply be taking a kid flying. Do what works for you. The critical thing is to share your passion!
Find the solitude
Flying is the best medicine for the challenges we are now experiencing in life. Taking that hour or two to disconnect from the grid, leaving your cell phone behind and the chatter of life to connect with nature and just be in the silence is so important. Remember silence is oxygen for the soul. One of my favorite things to do here in San Diego is to fly out to Catalina Island and go for lunch and a walk. It’s like combining the challenges of flying, nature, and a nice meal all into one. It’s the best of all worlds and makes for a relaxing and peaceful afternoon.
Dream a little bit bigger
And finally, I encourage each of you to step a bit outside your comfort zone. We get used to defining ourselves in limiting ways. Sometimes we believe what others and even we have told ourselves. If we listen to this chatter, then it becomes part of who we are. We are growing and expanding human beings and each day we are given the opportunity to be anything that we want to be with enough focus and persistence. When the Universe directed me towards flying around the world now twice—first West to East—and then South to North—I never thought I could even do that, but I chipped away at it until it was done. Writing and public speaking were a great concern but with time and persistence I grew to find my voice. You too can find yours.
We get another crack at life in 2021. Why not take full advantage of it and just go for it? Everything we need is available to us. Yes, there are challenges, and there always will be, but they make us stronger and wiser. 2020 was a year to count our blessings and to reflect on life. 2021 is the year to make your boldest step forward, to find the opportunities that are present and to be the great pilot and person you have always wanted to be.