Ticket to Adventure (The Dilemma of the Licensed Pilot)

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By Peter Schlieck, Aviation News Journal, January 2011

Remember the days when you were a student pilot? Your instructor had changed your life as you knew it, given you the flying bug, made bookings for you, told you where to go and what to do. 

Air work in the training area, circuits, cross country flights. You were busy and, hopefully, had lots of fun in the process. That all changed after you passed your flight test. You were now a licensed pilot. After a mountain check and – maybe – a night rating your school re-labeled you as a “renter”. It was up to you to decide where to go and what to do. Of course, for the first little while that was not a problem since you had promised all your friends and family to take them up once you got your license. But you can circle the Lower Mainland only so many times before the challenge fades away and even the pie in Chilliwack loses its appeal eventually. And the days where you drove to the airport in anticipation of a new adventure became fewer…

A friend recently told me that his mind is set on circumnavigating the globe with a small plane within the next 2 years. I admire him. He hasn’t flown that many years and he “only” holds a private license, but all his flying has been very intentional to become the best and most experienced pilot he can be – and he had a lot of fun with it!

Since then I thought a lot about my flying and - as the owner of a flying school – about the flying opportunities that are out there and that we may have neglected to provide. We should all decide to circle the world – even if our world may be a lot smaller than the entire globe.

Over the years I had many great opportunities to further my flying – and I’m not talking about the conventional training, acquiring a commercial license, multi and IFR ratings, eventually becoming an instructor. I’m talking about opportunities that are available to all of us every day.

Most aircraft in our leasing division have been imported from the US and I had a chance to experience the world of ferry flying. I have since shared the fascination of it with a number of my students and fellow pilots. Bringing a couple of Cessnas home from Upper New York in temperatures of -15 Celsius, flying across the deserts of Nevada and Arizona, crossing the Rocky Mountains in a Citabria or Cessna 152, meeting interesting like-minded people on the way are just some of the fond memories.

But the best flights have been those that I was able to share with other pilots. The IFR training flights in the Seneca to Sacramento, the time building flight to Alaska, flying with a plane full of IFR pilots to Castlegar to experience some of the scariest IFR approaches in BC, the trip to Vergas Island with 3 planes to practice beach landings or some practice circuits in Hope. Even flights that are normally considered unaffordable, like some advanced IFR training flight to White Horse in our King Air looks not so bad if the cost is split between a group of pilots…

A fellow instructor recently reminded me that our job is not just teaching people to fly but to share the excitement and fascination of flying – let’s make it our New Year’s resolution to circle the world as we know it, to expand our horizons, to finally do the flights that we always wanted to do – but never did.

As a flying school, Canadian Flight Centre is committed to help. This year we have a variety of flights on our monthly calendar on which we would like to take other pilots along – opportunities to not just build time but new experiences like our January trip to the Boeing plant in Everett. But don’t wait for your favourite school to come up with ideas. You can take the initiative to your school, offer them to get involved with the planning and they may be happy to help advertising your dream trip. At one school that I know, some pilots have taken on the initiative for offering cross country flights and they had some great successes.

However, cross country flights are not the only option to keep the dream of flying alive. Even if your goals don’t go beyond your PPL, there are lots of training opportunities to add the sizzle again. After 30 years of flying –from gliders to turbine – I finally caved in a few years ago to get my float rating. It was one of the greatest experiences of my my flying life.

Sometimes it’s a matter of some loops and rolls in a tail dragger that put me back in the right mind set after a rough day in the office.

The opportunities are out there for some fantastic flying – it’s up to us to seize the moment!

If you have always thought about exploring the world with the privileges of your license, let 2011 be the year when you make it happen!

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