Wondered if there was some value in listing here the various reasons to be a PPL? It's a basic question but actually one that I'm quite often asked.
Perhaps by compiling such a list here, a potential pilot or one considering throwing in the towel might be inspired/re-invigorated?
To kick it off, my immediate list:
1) Visitng new and often less-accessible places like islands. 2) Sharing the experience of flying with others 3) Interaction with people who have a similar interest
My aspirational list:
a) To somehow use my a/c and skills to assist e.g. SAR (disappointed with e.g. Skywatch though) b) Instrument rating maybe (don't really fly enough to warrant it currently) c) Formal learning about formation flying d) Eventually - learn to glide and even better to fly tugs e) Take part in some mass-participation world record attempt (or if I can think of one within my capabilities, some kind of solo world record attempt)
Oh - and staying alive of course . . .
This is a really good idea.
I got my PPL in 1985 and up until the last few years regularly flew 25+ hours a year, dropping for the last two years to around 10 hours a year. As I have flown less both my motivation and confidence seem to have dwindled. The former because I now don't tend to make flights that challenge as a result of the latter. By challenge I mean dealing with cross winds, complex airspace, going to places that I haven't been to before; not thrill seeking by pushing the safety boundaries.
It also helps to be in a group where members fly with each other (especially if you have a partner who doesn't really like to fly).
I will make my 'Aspirational list' for 2013!
For me, it is to do and see things that most others dont. Even taking off from the local airfield and seeing lots of open fields and greenery, whereas everyone else is stuck in cars crawling along whatever urban road they are on, is a privilege.
I occasionally take up friends and let them do a bit of flying, and almost everyone has a massive smile on their face. There is just something fantastic about being up in the air.
But I also like to say I am pilot. Not to brag or anything, but to be recognised for the hard work it takes to be a pilot, and do something that is a little different from most other peoples hobbies. I admire those who have done bigger and better trips than me, and it inspires me. I have a passion for Concorde (I even got married on one recently), and even if I look at my 'steam gauges' and pretend just for one second I am also in something devoid of fancy MFD's, and this is 'real' flying then I feel happy :-)
I learnt to fly to see Europe and to go to places not easily accessed conventionally.
But it certainly wasn't my idea from birth!
I did have a flight c. 1965 in a Morava twin (in Czechoslovakia, LKPM, where I lived then) and a few trial lessons in the UK in the 1980s.
In ~2000, a year or so after I got divorced, I was out on a date and saw a little plane flying overhead. I looked up at it and said I might like to learn to fly, but I couldn't see the point. She said why don't I just get on with it and stop talking about it!
She rapidly turned out to be a bunny boiler but the suggestion stuck and I booked my first lesson on 31st July 2000, and despite the frequent frustrations involved in this game I never looked back.
I do a lot of local hacking and cloud hole drilling for fun but the real icing on the cake is the occassional long foreign trip.
One does get to see a lot of lovely places which, while obviously accessible conventionally, one would never bother to go to otherwise. Let's face it - how would you get to even Le Touquet? For most, it would be an all-day trip just getting there. Flying holidays are a whole different thing.
But just flying is great. It's a great privilege which much of the world (most of the world, if you go by population numbers) doesn't even allow. One also meets a load of really nice people.
From time to time I like learning new things that are difficult but rewarding. Some 10 years ago I decided to study the Russian language and see to which level I can take it.
A few years ago I thought learning to fly would be a nice challenge as it appears to be very difficult from an outsider's point of view with all the instruments and the permanent danger of crashing etc. Well, PPL turned out to be not that difficult after all. So I decided to continue and go for the IR. That was a challenge and still is. There is still much to be learned until I can consider myself to be a proficient instrument pilot.
In the beginning I was appalled by the primitive technology and poor manufacturing quality. Later I realized the beauty of this: simple systems that I can thoroughly understand and work on. My father used to spend his weekends working on his car, that is neither possible nor necessary with modern cars. With airplanes it's still like in the old days and I enjoy very much working on my aircraft (with proper A&P supervision of course).
As for using the aircraft, I do pretty much all of it: seeing foreign countries, taking the whole family for vacation, business travel, training, etc. Having a family with small kids limits the travel opportunities so I can't compete with Peter's trip reports (yet!).
If I had a sea or a big lake near my home, I might have a boat instead of an aircraft
Trains, cars and roads have gotten so much better over the last few decades that in most cases it's difficult to come up with an utilitarian argument for flying in the UK. Ditto for transport links.
There are exceptions - I'd like to take my mum from Welshpool to see my aunt in Penzance and this would only take a fraction of the time we'd need by road or rail. Probably cheaper too. But it's hard to justify the effort and expense needed to maintain a license for the occasional trip of this nature.
At the end of the day, other than people living in the Outer Hebrides, most of us fly for fun. It's quite something to take friends and family up flying too. It's still a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most people.
Imagine what a luxury flying must have seemed in the 1920s when you'd be hard pushed to make more than 30mph by road and you'd be welcomed into the kitchens of any stately home where you happened to land (according to the book I've just been reading).
I fly to look at the landscape. A to B navigation is occasionally needed, but I'd soon get bored if I did it often, and wouldn't continue flying just for that. I've tried aerobatics, but can't afford it
I have enjoyed flying since I was a young'un. If I had to pick one inspiration to be airborne, I would attribute it to the Thunderbirds. (I still watch with my 9 year old, though her interest seems to be waning).
I expect that we all start flying simply to escape earth, feel the freedom, and see the view. Some of us have aspirations to gold stripes and the big iron, I never did. after 36 years of flying, I still enjoy the view. I sat in awe at 3000 feet flying home last night, appreciating the beautiful islands in Georgian Bay, and knowing that I could fly over there if I wanted to.
Now, I more enjoy seeing the smiles of my passengers, inspiring new pilots, and using aircraft for good. Two weeks ago I flew an hour and a half of search for a boater in distress, and found him! He would otherwise have been many hours from safety, and drifting the wrong way in a swamped boat and a big wind. I fly about 10 searches or fire spotting missions a year, and it really feels great to help the community with the planes (and it stifles any community complaints about noise!).
I did this on a private license for 30 years, and really no one ever cared that I was not a commercial pilot - until I got heavily into test flying - that was work, and then it mattered... Sorry PPL's, I had to leave the ranks, and get a CPL. The term whoop di doo comes to mind, but it's the regs... (the only time I ever wore epaulettes was while ferrying in Africa - you just gotta present the image there - even if are just a PPL!)
Now my flying is about a quarter certification test flying in all kinds of modified aircraft. It's lots of fun to fly something which demands skill and attention, and practice extreme precision. Otherwise, it's flying back and forth to work, a bit of fun in the amphibian with my wife or daughter, and a bit of training and mentoring flying.
My satisfaction in flying comes from seeing someone else suddenly really happy about flying. Last spring, a non flying friend told me he was going to Kissimee, Florida to buy a warbird flight. I said, well then you better get a bit used to being upside down then. The look of fun/fear on his face a moment later, after a loop, was a hoot! After a minute of panting to recover his composure, he said: "..... okay...[pant, pant]... Do it again!.. [pant, pant]". I did some type training for a new Lake Renegade owner last summer. After an hour, he turned to me and said "that's the most useful training I've done in a long time."
It's those things which I find most rewarding about flying. They keep the momentum going for me. Then, as has been pointed out, those of us who are free to fly are somewhat honour bound to do so. There are so many people who live in a society which will never enable them to fly. I can, so I must!
Well for me, the aviation bug got planted when my father managed to sneak me into the KLM maintenance hangar at Schiphol (East) back when I was just an annoying little pre-schooler (at least I am bigger now). What I never will forget was that hazard tape blocking the hole where the door`s supposed to be on the upper deck of, what I imagine was a B742; and oh, that distance down to the hangar floor seemed Gianormous back then.
Reality kicked in over the years, I was not to go to a commercial pilot academy due to the fact that I wouldn`t want to study being a lazy adolescent, but I somehow managed to land me a nice job after all.
Luckily, this job includes flying helicopters and occasionally drinking with chopper pilots and mechanics and all that got me thinkin......what if? For a while I tried remote controlled stuff but I wasnt good at it and it didnt fulfill me in any way so I knocked on the door of the local "Ultra Light" club, expecting nothing but canvas & tent tubes with lawn mower engines doing 15 minute flights, tops***....but how wrong was I? I saw real "Cessna looking" planes, that flew all over the country and some of the stuff appeared to be within my budget too!
***(To clarify, nothing wrong with the old Quicksilver type ultralights; but it was not what I was looking for).
Fast Forwarding a few years, I am still loving it: we fly the beaches, sometimes in group, sometimes "alone" with a friend and I`m slowly starting to concentrate on flying in the clouds (VFR style) and eventually the mountains!
I love it because, like Peter said; you come (and sleep!) in places where you normally wouldn`t have gone, the views are excellent, my plane is a joy to fly, and since I picked up aviation photography; visiting crop dusting airfields gives me hours of fun at home afterwards.
The hundreds of uncontrolled airfields we have at our disposal is a bit of a privilege compared to many countries I guess. Light Sports Aviation gives you loads of freedom in South America (still)........
Ultra Long Hauler
I do pretty much what I want to do, and flying light aircraft never seemed particularly unusual to me. Suitably difficult, for sure, and that was an attraction. That, plus the enjoyment of owning interesting machinery... machinery still largely protected from the abhorent government controls and planned obsolescence that have overtaken other vehicles and most of our lives. I'm happy to do what I want in opting out of that, emotionally and financially, and spending my money in aviation. The FAA helps a lot in shielding aviation from the irrationality that is the so-called modern world.