Quite often when you see advertising for flight instruction or visit a local flight school, you will see and hear about the utility that being a pilot provides. A pilot certificate can be a great tool in business travel. It can allow you to get to some customers more quickly and directly than driving or flying on an airline.
Flight schools with a “career pilot” program stress the path that you must travel to get from where you are now to a pilot’s seat that pays. Their focus is often on getting you to the front seat of an airliner or corporate aircraft. They will show the benefits and perks that this type of flying can entail.
Now, there is nothing wrong with either of these types of ads. Having a pilot certificate does provide you with a great deal of utility opportunity. A career as a pilot is a lofty goal and it can be very satisfying. In addition to the airline and corporate flight careers, there are also pilot careers hauling freight, flying as a bush pilot, aerial survey, airborne security, and many others including my personal favorite, the professional flight instructor.
Let’s get back to the flight school ads and the point of my ramblings today. Think about the ads that you have seen in your flight school search. When was the last time you saw one that said “Come Learn to Fly Just for the Fun of It?” It is like we have forgotten that flying is an amazing and fun thing to do!
Certainly, you can go out for an evening of mini-golf for less money, but have you looked at the price of playing a round of “full-size” golf at a nice course lately? Depending on where you live and the quality of the course, a round of golf can approach or exceed the cost of a typical flight lesson. What sounds more fun, spending the day in the sun chasing a little ball and trying to swat it with a stick or cruising above it all and enjoying the view? My vote is for relaxing in the sky!
Take a look sometime at what you pay for your favorite leisure and entertainment activities and I think that you will see that flying isn’t that much more than a big night out on the town.
You may be thinking that learning to fly or going flying with friends isn’t cheap entertainment and you would be right, but it is a lot of fun!
Flying for Fun Alone
You may not realize this, but you can start learning to fly without ever planning to get a pilot’s certificate. Just plan to fly occasionally and pick up a few things along the way.
Career minded and other “rigid” flight schools may not be able to help you out with this type of enjoyment flight training plan. But, I suspect that you will find an instructor or school somewhere nearby that would love to have you and your enthusiasm to learn about flying as a regular customer. Make sure that the instructor and/or school know(s) that this is your plan and work out an enjoyable arrangement for occasional training.
Without the focus of a required destination, you are free to learn and try the things that you want to do. You don’t have to worry about meeting practical test standards or flying the maneuvers that the FAA says you should know. You and your instructor can fly to a restaurant or a museum or simply plan to fly over some familiar local sites such as your home or place of business.
Guess what, along the way, while you were having fun, you were also learning a few of the skills of a pilot. Not in the traditional, maneuvers based training progression but in a more natural real world environment. Your instructor may teach you about flying straight-and-level, climbs, descents, turns, takeoffs, landings, traffic patterns, navigation, radio communication, and many other “maneuvers” without spending time doing drills on them.
While the rating isn’t your focus, you may start getting closer to being ready for a practical test over time. If this comes about, and your instructor may point it out, you can always reconsider your plan to not pursue the rating. Your time, while possibly longer than that of a rating focused student, has not been wasted as long as you were enjoying it!
Along this same line, have you ever thought about taking a flight instruction vacation? You can stay close to home or travel to your favorite destination flight school and just spend a week immersing yourself in aviation. If you go with the intent to enjoy yourself rather than to meet a specific goal, it can be very relaxing.
When I took my family for a week at a particular mouse themed amusement park, I left with a rather large dent in my wallet. This same amount of money spent at a local flight school would have meant several hours of enjoyment in the air.
Fun with a Pilot Certificate
Flying without the goal of a pilot certificate, is not the only way to have fun in aviation. Obtaining that certificate can open even more doors to fun and adventure.
The Recreational Pilot certificate is one point of entry to your aviation adventure. With the Recreational certificate, you and your significant other can enjoy a romantic flight together. Fly as a couple in a Cessna 172 to your local fly-in restaurant or enjoy the fly-in breakfast sponsored by the EAA chapter at that next airport over.
The Sport Pilot certificate is another entry point. With the Sport certificate you can take your significant other for a flight in a Light Sport Aircraft. Travel to other airports is permitted and you may be able to use your driver’s license as your medical.
Both the Recreational and Sport Pilot certificates are great entry points and each has its advantages. You can fly for the rest of your aviation life with these certificates or you can use them as a stepping stone to higher ratings.
The Private Pilot certificate may be your next step after the Recreational or Sport certificates or you can use the Private certificate as your entry point. With the Private certificate, you can take your significant other and your entire family flying to any public use airport in the US and to many airports beyond our borders. Watch a sunset from the air or plan to fly a trip to an exciting aviation destination like EAA AirVenture or the Sun-N-Fun Fly-in or any of the countless smaller fly-ins held each year.
The Private Pilot certificate opens up a wide array of destinations for multi-day vacations as well as single day trips. Here in Southwestern Ohio, places like Put-in-Bay on Lake Erie, Niagara Falls, The Great Smokey Mountains, Washington D.C., and many other locations are an easy flight in a Cessna 172, on less than a tank of fuel. Plan a fuel stop or two and you can go anywhere in North America and to areas of the Bahamas well beyond the typical tourist magnets.
To make your vacation trips more relaxing and less likely to get cancelled for weather, the Instrument Rating will be your next step. The Instrument Rating won’t prevent postponement of all trips but it will help you out with minor weather difficulties that could interrupt your fun.
The Beginning of the Fun
Well, that about wraps up my ramblings for today’s entry on fun flying. I have only scratched the surface of the enjoyment that is available to you in the aviation world. If you have had an exciting adventure involving aviation or would like to share other amusing things to do with a pilot’s certificate, please feel free to share them on the Learn to Fly Here Facebook page.
Until we meet again, Blue Skies and Smooth Flights!