Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Pilot’s View

There are many wonderful experiences to be had in Key West, and it's not possible to cram them all into one evening. We only have time for a small taste of island paradise before returning to Daytona. After four hours on the island, we take off and turn north for a climb over the open waters separating the Keys from the mainland of Florida.

The weather for our return is good. The storms have mostly dissipated, but there's a solid overcast above with no moon or stars visible. Except for the lights of an occasional boat, the world outside is black until we reach the coast of the mainland. The ride remains fairly smooth as we fly in and out of the clouds all the way home, and as often happens at night, the first indication that we're flying in light rain comes when one of the passengers notices we have a hundred fireflies hovering around our wing tips, all blinking in unison. The multi student in the left seat is happy to log some actual instrument time, but will have to settle for a simulated approach because the weather at our destination is VFR.

Our conversation on the return flight revolves around how the flight itself brought as much pleasure as the destination. We feel fortunate to be counted among those who are able to enjoy the benefits of personal flying. We agree that a light plane isn't only a safe, time-saving means of transportation, but it also makes the journey part of the adventure. Our airplane not only made it possible for us to have dinner in Key West; it also showed us beauty we couldn't have experienced in any other way.

As a flight instructor, I learned a valuable lesson from this flight. Over the following weeks, I found myself with three highly motivated students eager to finish their rating so they could introduce their friends and family to the joys of flying. In today's flight-training environment, often too much emphasis is placed on pushing students through the course in the shortest possible time at the lowest possible cost. As a result, many students lose interest before finishing their rating. Successful students are always highly self motivated, but flights like this one are an effective tool an instructor can use to remind students of why they wanted to be pilots in the first place.


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