Optionally Piloted Aircraft


Owning an airplane always was a dream of mine, one I recently was able to realize. Like so many others, I spent many years renting, and borrowing or participating in flying clubs, as I learned to fly and use an airplane both fun and travel. But there’s no free lunch, and owning an airplane brings responsibilities and hassles. They’re mostly worthwhile, of course.

One of the biggest hassles is not having your own airplane standing by at the airport when it’s in maintenance. I recently suffered through such a temporary loss when my airplane went into the shop for some major upgrades and modifications, which took several weeks. While the airplane wasn’t available, I met my business and personal travel needs the old-fashioned way: with other people’s airplanes, OPA. In the process, I learned how spoiled I had become.

Over time, I had become familiar with my airplane, how it flies and handles, and how everything works. I’m not fanatical about maintenance, but the airplane I own doesn’t seem to break very often. I can’t say the same of the OPA I flew when it was in the shop.

One airplane I flew on a multi-leg trip averaged some find of failure 50 percent of the time. Literally, every other flight, something would break. I got to where I didn’t trust it. Another airplane—with similar equipment to mine—didn’t break, but was just different enough in panel layout to force me to work harder than I do when flying something to which I’m accustomed.

On the other hand, I enjoyed some new capabilities and found myself appreciating various equipment decisions that differed from my ideal but which made sense after I spent a few days with the airplane. I’ll carry those discoveries forward for later implementation on my airplane.

All in all, I learned lots from the experience, but I’m glad to have my airplane back from the shop, with its new equipment working fine. If nothing else, I now appreciate my airplane and its capabilities more than ever. It still fits me like a glove.

— M. Stevens


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