Flying With Friends and How to Make New Flying Friends
By Paul Hamilton
It’s surprising how many people say, “I always wanted to fly,” or “I always dreamed of flying,” but never followed through and became a pilot. The most important step for our community is to get people up into the air controlling the aircraft while providing an enjoyable experience. Here are some tips for dreamers, wannabes, pilots, and instructors.
Dreamers – You need the opportunity to find a way to go flying. Besides the new light-sport airplanes, consider the new aircraft categories trike and powered parachute. These offer easier, less expensive, and completely different ways to fly. Compare these new categories at www.BeASportPilot.com/learn-to-fly/light-sport-flying. And now there’s a map where you can find active pilots plus approved instructors, schools, and clubs in your area for all the categories: www.BeASportPilot.com/sport-pilot-locator. Besides the instructors, schools, and clubs on the map, also contact the pilots who list themselves.
Pilots – Make an effort to take more people up for fun. Bring up flying in the conversation with people and see if they’re interested. Any pilot is allowed to let his or her passenger take the controls and fly. This is a complete topic in itself of flight training, but the basics of who has the flight controls and the process of exchanging the flight controls should be understood by all pilots who take passengers.
Remember the three-step process of handing off the controls? (You start with) you have the controls; (they respond) I have the controls; (you respond) you have the controls. Remember the similar process of taking back the controls? (You start with) I have the controls; (they respond) you have the controls; (you respond) I have the controls. Make sure you have plenty of altitude and take back the controls when necessary, but let people fly.
Taking a person up can be a good excuse to do more flying. Maybe that person will share in the aircraft expenses, which can usually cover the fuel. Maybe you’ll get a new flying buddy or get him or her started flying.
Flight instructors – Here’s where I’ve added a new tool to my toolbox for this summer. Flight instructors should add introductory/discovery flights where people can see things and cruise around like you normally would when flying for fun. The FAA is encouraging “scenario-based training” where you train like you would normally fly. Go somewhere and see something. Don’t just stick around the maneuvering area near the airport doing maneuvers. After spending five months in Hawaii doing primarily introductory/discovery flights for people on vacation, I realized this was a key to getting people to understand sport aviation and encourage them to become a part of aviation. Since my intro/discovery flights in Hawaii, I’m amazed at how many people continued on and became involved in aviation. Flight instructors, consider providing intro flights and feel free to use my HangGlidingTahoe.com site as an example.
Paul Hamilton is one of the first sport pilot instructors and FAA examiners. He writes books and produces DVDs for ultralight and light-sport training available at www.AP-Stores.com. He wrote the Weight-Shift Control Aircraft Flying Handbook for the FAA and runs a flight school near Lake Tahoe. www.Sport-Pilot-Training.com