Editor's Log

June 1999 Issue

The Spice of Life

A little variety can make you a safer pilot all around

In flying, like in any endeavor, you get out of it what you put into it. Some people consider flying a hobby, and they’re perfectly happy tooling around in a Cub or a Husky or a Skyhawk. To them, the world up there is one of peaceful vistas and three-dimensional freedom.

Some people find flying a lifestyle. They make their living at it, flying in all sorts of weather, sticking to a schedule and dealing with minor adversity before it becomes major.

Still others are consumed by the passion of flying. To them, flying is a challenge to be met, a task to be mastered and an adventure.

Many people, of course, share all of these traits to some degree. Their task is to balance the challenge with the lifestyle and still have some fun.

I have recently begun cautiously preparing myself (and my wife) for a potential foray into multi-plane ownership. Our Piper Lance is big and comfortable for those trips to grandma’s house. It’s reasonably fast thanks to a few LoPresti speed mods. And so far it’s been almost flawlessly reliable.

It can also be achingly dull to fly.

The fix for that, of course, is to get another plane for fun. Being based in Central Florida, the prospect of a seaplane has definite appeal. Chasing airboats, going fishing, exploring the hundreds of lakes that dot the local landscape is lot of fun. And there’s no substitute for the looks you get when you taxi up to a dock at a marina to grab a bite of lunch.

On the other hand, who can go to an airshow without fantasizing about flying a Pitts or an Extra or even a Stearman home? For me, getting into the competition isn’t even the appeal. Winding around the sky in anything other than the Lance’s straight and level is looking just fine.

Call it gentleman’s aerobatics – which compares to airshow flying roughly the same way a pickup game of touch football compares with the NFL.

Regardless of which way the “fun flying” decision goes, the important aspect will be to make sure the three legs of the flying stool are all in balance. Part of it is a hobby, part is a lifestyle. Part most certainly is a passion. Keeping them in balance is the way to keep your head in the flying game, to stay alert for the unexpected, and avoid the complacency that invariably sets in when we become too set in our ways.

Try it yourself. If you’re a hobbyist flier, take a trip. If you’re not instrument rated or don’t feel comfortable, bring along an instructor. Some of them won’t even make you buy their food. If flying is your lifestyle, rekindle your passion. And if airplanes are your passion, make sure it’s tempered by the realities that can otherwise hit too close to home.

-Ken Ibold