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Piper Cherokee Warrior

What’s Next For Me As A Private Pilot

The SECOND thing that most friends and family ask, once they hear I got my private pilot license, is a variation on this:

What will you do next, as a private pilot?Friends and Family

Well, first and foremost, I simply want to enjoy my newfound freedom. I want to go on fun flights with my wife and with friends, or, heck, whoever wants to go flying with me. I want to explore the Northeast in a way I’ve never been able to before. (In fact, we haven’t done much exploring at all outside of NYC, since we don’t own a car.) I want to find fun destinations for a day trip to the beach or the mountains, or to great airports with restaurants.

And while scenery and restaurants are fun, what I really want is to meet people who also have a passion for aviation. Flight training can be a lonely hobby, especially at an airport like FRG, which is extremely busy but is not conducive to hanging out or meeting people, like more rural fields can be. I think the key to this is attending as many fly-ins and other aviation-related gatherings as possible. There are the larger events (AOPA is having a fly-in in Connecticut this fall, and Oshkosh I’M COMING FOR YOU SOMEDAY), but dozens of airports within reach have smaller hangouts on the weekends. Sometimes it’s as simple as a breakfast, or some burgers on the grill, but the point is to meet people who are also afflicted with this aviation addiction.

As far as my continuing education, well, the saying goes that your private pilot’s license is a “license to learn”. I’ll continue to be a sponge and soak up any and all aviation information and education I can.

I’m not sure what my plan is regarding further official ratings and licenses yet, but here are my options:

  • Instrument rating – This is a tough one and takes a good bit of training, but if I had this rating, I would be able to fly in clouds and on days that are not-so-perfect. This makes your license much more practical and allows you to accomplish more missions more reliably, instead of only being able to buzz around on gorgeous days.
  • Commercial license – This license allows you to fly for hire. I’m not in a place right now where I want to go back to making entry-level wages, though, so I’m not sure about this. Plus, it requires 250 hours of flying experience, which I definitely don’t have yet.
  • Certified Flight Instructor – I think my answer for this is: someday. I love teaching in general, and I really think I’d love teaching people to fly. This license is pretty difficult to get though (the final test alone can last a brutal 6-8 hours+), and I’d need to get my instrument rating and commercial license prior to it, so I’ll leave it for a few years down the road.

Those are the standard ratings and licenses that someone advancing through an aviation career would obtain. But, as I said, I’m not looking to make a career out of this (yet), so there a few extra items on my to-do list that fall more on the “fun” side of things:

  • Seaplane Rating – Well, this is exactly what it sounds like. I currently have a Private Pilot Certificate with an Airplane, Single Engine, Land rating. Adding a Seaplane Rating is not that difficult! It generally only requires 6-10 hours of instruction, and there a lot of flight schools that specialize in seaplanes/floatplanes, serving up a sort-of vacation/flight school/resort experience. They have cabins or B&Bs at their facilities on rivers and lakes, and you simply head down there for 2-3 days and have a blast!
  • Tailwheel Endorsement – Also exactly what it sounds like; training for this would teach me how to fly tailwheel aircraft, rather than just airplanes with tricycle landing gear (like most small planes you’ve probably seen). This would allow me to fly cool older airplanes like the Piper Cub and (my personal favorite) the Stinson 108.
  • Aerobatics – WHEEEEE! There are plenty of schools offering basic aerobatics courses that make for a fun weekend, including one run by the indomitable Patty Wagstaff (look her up, seriously, it’d be like learning golf from Tiger Woods). These classes aren’t just for tumbling around the sky willy-nilly, though, their true goal is to improve your aircraft handling skills in all situations.

So, basically, I’m going to fly as much as our checking account will allow, have a blast, and share my love of aviation with as many people as possible. If I start finding myself restricted by the limitations of the private pilot license, then I’ll maybe start thinking about further ratings and licenses.

But for now, to quote Saint-Exupery:

I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things.