I suspect many of the aviators who will venture to Lakeland for this year’s Sun ’n Fun might have “airplane hunting” on their agenda. Hey, everybody wants to own an airplane, but many pilots are still in the dreaming stages. There are those, however, who have reached a point where they can afford to buy their own.
When you see the statement, “Flying versus Driving”, what is your first thought? For most, the obvious comparisons of time, fun, and convenience of general aviation flying to the alternative of driving probably come to mind first. But this time my intention is different. I want to discuss the mechanics of flying and suggest that all too often, pilots stop “flying” their aircraft and fall into a mode of just “driving” their aircraft. Go sit in view of a general aviation runway for an hour or so and you’ll see what I mean.
As a Cessna C177 Cardinal RG owner, I belong to a “type-club” called Cardinal Flyers Online. As the name implies, the organization depends heavily on the benefits of the Internet, although the organization’s reach is far greater. One of the major attractions of membership is the near daily e-mail digest that acts as a forum for the membership to discuss a multitude of issues regarding Cardinals.
The route to fulfillment of a dream took this helicopter school owner to a destination he didn’t expect.
The single most consistent mistake I see first-time owners make is that they buy too much airplane. Learning about airplane buying should be like learning about airplane flying. For example, let’s say you know that your goal is to be the pilot of a corporate, twin-engine airplane. You still go to school and learn to fly in a small single engine plane. Then, as you gain experience, you can move up to the twin. Yes, I realize that you could learn right off the bat in the twin, but only the most affluent could afford that. And not withstanding money, it would also be a formidable undertaking to use that approach.
I suspect that most of our readers, like me, took flying lessons after the first couple of try-out flights because it was just plain fun. Who can forget the first solo, first long cross-country, private pilot check ride, and first passengers?
Ask someone what comes to mind when the state of Texas is mentioned and the answers will surely be varied: Cowboys (both real and football players), Dallas (both the city and former TV show), the Alamo, cattle, oil, you choose.
One of the pluses of owning your own aircraft is you have the opportunity to really get to know the machine, its characteristics, and its quirks. The operative word here is “opportunity.” Just because you own the aircraft doesn’t automatically mean you will be any more aware of its operating parameters than a rental aircraft. You must be willing and able to take advantage of the ownership opportunity and put forth the effort.
I joined the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) in 1973. I had just received my flight instructor’s certificate and the solicitation came in the mail. What caught my interest was that, with my paid new membership, I would receive a small “transistor VHF receiver radio.” I already knew of AOPA but hadn’t got around to joining. Now, not only would I finally make the move, but I’d get a great little radio with which I could listen to my students when they were in the pattern of our controlled field while on supervised solos. For years I used that radio to monitor students while standing alongside the taxiway at Morristown, N.J. In similar fashion, for the past 19 years AOPA has been returning to me far more than the dues I’ve paid.
The final part of my series on upgrading the avionics in my Cardinal RG is elsewhere in this issue. For as many aircraft as I have owned over the past 27 years, this was my first experience in a complete avionics upgrade for myself and, as you may recall, the decision to part with the cash and who got the cash didn’t come quickly. But it was one of those aircraft ownership experiences that I feel truly blessed for being capable of accomplishing.