Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Learning To Fly: All About Priorities

There’s a practical solution to every barrier in aviation

The time commitment is something everybody will have to wrestle with. Flying is serious business, and there are no shortcuts. Once again, the sport-pilot certificate offers lower complexity and much less of a time commitment.

Even the private pilot certificate is within the reach of nearly everybody. Today, there are student pilots in their 70s and older whose favorite saying is, "If I can do it, you can, too!"

Flying is safer than it has ever been, and you'd be in more mortal danger engaging in recreational boating than flying. The media's infatuation with air crashes should be viewed with suspicion, because their sensationalism brings nothing but higher ratings.

Airplanes don't just fall out of the sky. The leading causes of general aviation (GA) airplane crashes remain easy to avoid with nothing more than good judgment on the part of the pilot.
People fly airplanes because nothing beats the experience of flying yourself somewhere. As pilots, things we see, the sensations we experience and the rewards we feel going from one runway to another are indescribable. The cost is just something we accept and deal with.
This brings us back to the romance of flying. During my conversation with the marketing manager, we both agreed that if people could experience aviation, they would be affected by it, even if they didn't immediately want to become pilots.

Not everybody who flies in a GA aircraft is smitten, but the experience will leave them forever changed. Some, like my high-school student, will dive right in and become "one of us," while others will learn to see aviation in a more favorable light than before, knowing what it means to us.

This "romance" is hard to quantify, but aviators—experienced or not—know it when they feel it. It's that powerful realization of climbing into an airplane and becoming one with the machine, its stick an extension of your arm.

It's seeing every runway as a gateway to adventure and the starting point of dreams and wishes. To me, the romance of flight is a leather helmet and fabric wings above a layer of puffy clouds, while to another pilot, it might be a corporate jet and the lure of exotic lands. Aviation is one of the last places where that romance still exists.

Flying is a visceral experience, and you have to do it, not read about it. If the sense of ultimate freedom doesn't move you, then the sheer wonder of it will.

Aviation writer and pioneer Wolfgang Langewiesche once wrote, "Sometimes, I watch myself fly. For in the history of human flight it is not yet so very late; and a man may still wonder once in a while and ask: How is it that I, poor earth-habituated animal, can fly?"


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