The Eternal Question

Answer elusive to the question, Should I stay or should I go?


We all know of someone who started out as an aviation enthusiast but fell by the wayside somewhere along the way.

For some, the cost of flying became either unaffordable or too much to justify to a spouse or oneself. For others, the time it takes to remain a safe pilot was too much to ask. For others, the novelty simply wore off.

One person I know had just traded up from a Bonanza to a Baron when I met her. She was very proud of her new bird and liked to boast of its performance, especially when compared to the Mooney M20J I owned at the time.

Over time, however, her boasting lost its enthusiasm and eventually turned into sour references about the cost of maintenance and engine overhauls. Although I was tempted, I resisted the urge to parry with a comparison of my 201s cost per knot.

The final indication of her exasperation, however, came when she rented a car to make a time-critical 450 nm trip rather than fly her airplane. Predictably, the airplane was soon sold.

Another friend was a 400-hour instrument pilot when he decided to get a multi-engine rating and began using his skills extensively in his business, aided by the fact that his employer owned a Cessna 340.

Before long, however, the business relationship soured and my friend launched his own company. Cash was short, but time was even shorter. He grounded himself about two years ago. The good news is that he is cautiously talking of buying a single and putting it to work with his company.

The most disappointing example of giving up involves a man who was a student pilot at the same time I was. When we met I had about 20 hours in my log book and he had about 45. A year later, I had about 100 hours and he had about 90.

The catch was that he was still flying on his student ticket because he had never bothered to schedule a check ride. Every month or so he would rent an airplane and fly around for a while – sometimes on cross countries, sometimes on extended local flights.

When he finally stopped pretending to try to get a license, he had more than 120 hours.

These examples show that the dynamics that either bind us to or eject us from the world of aviation are complicated and ever-changing. The key is that each pilot should be able to look in the mirror and say, Where am I going?

If youre going to fly along, do it right. Fly smart. Stay proficient. Understand what you dont know.

Aviators are generally a congenial bunch and generally understand the pressures we all face to stay on top of both our flying and our finances. When someone clips their own wings, we all understand that, but for the barest of fortunes, there we go, too.

-Ken Ibold


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