Staying on Your Game – Even though it’s not the game you want!

I love flying! But I hate talking about money. It’s hard to talk about flying without talking about money, therefore talking about flying can lead to talking about money….got it? So a positive can become a negative quickly.

This can be distracting and disappointing to many pilots (not just student pilots). We could clearly justify spending lots of money to get out license (officially known as a Private Pilot Certificate). It’s like graduating from college (because of the cost) and the time you put into it through thick and thin makes it all worthwhile when you pass your check ride (like a drivers test for pilots) and you fly away a private pilot!

After coming down from the “high” and taking a few friends and family up, you start asking yourself…What’s next?

Ok. You are now a pilot. Do I want to make money at it? Do I want to fly through clouds and learn “the system” like the big guys? Maybe, but the reality is that these tiers or levels of piloting are pursued by few because of time, cost and NEED. Fewer than 25% of private pilots ever earn an Instrument Rating.

These extra layers (Commercial Rating and Instrument Ratings) are worth pursuing because they help you become a Professional Pilot. Yes, I know…these guys still run out of fuel and hit mountains, but they get paid to do it…you don’t! They can talk the talk and walk the walk (usually) and then there is you…the Private Pilot.

The Private Pilot is the weekend warrior. You look for a break in the weather or a comfortable enough day to go out and kick off the rust. You do your three take offs and landing to stay current enough to take your friends or family up and you might go to an airport with a restaurant, or a trip to another state. That’s about it.

It’s not a bad existence really…so many people will never do that. The same can be said for growing up poor. Until you see how the other half lives, you don’t realize how poor you really were back in the day. It was fine when you were young, but now it’s not something you would recommend to your kids.

So how can you have a RICH aviation experience without a RICH man (or woman’s) bank account? By joining a club (or several) and flying various aircraft.

For my high-performance endorsement I flew this Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182. Yes, I joined the Civil Air Patrol to do it, but flying an over 200 horse power plane is what’s required for the endorsement.

Cessna 182 RG - High Performance Endorsement

Flight suite NOT included!

CAP Flight Suit

For my complex endorsement I flew the clubs Piper Arrow. Yes, the club sold it off after I put 10 hours on it, but flying a plane with gear that extends and retracts is what is required for the endorsement.

Piper Arrow - Complex Endorsement

What’s cool about endorsements is they are easier and cheaper to earn and they last as long as you are a pilot and have the endorsement in your log book…mine is saved in several locations.


Tired of steam gauges? Although there is no endorsement that I am aware of for flying a Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) – glass panel is here and here to stay. For the private pilot wanting to kick it up a few notches and fly like the big boys…and in some case in a more advanced aircraft than they use, this is the way to go.

Cirrus SR20 - Technically Advanced Aircraft

This year I put 5.5 hours in this Cirrus towards my transition training to this aircraft. The price jumped to $145 an hour wet/tach from $130 – still a deal, and yet still a lot of money. Is it worth the money? Hell yes! Do I hate my great grand parents for not being oil tycoons, absolutely! Thankfully I can have this plane (and the exterior color schema) in Microsoft Flight simulator, so I can fly at home and get use to pushing buttons, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.

So what am I trying to do? I’m trying to stay in the game. It pisses off my instructor when I don’t stay on the training schedule, but what he doesn’t know is that it pisses me off much more than him.

I have averaged a flight a month and I have stayed 90-day current and I completed my annual flight review (in the Cirrus) and I am going solo to the field more and switching off between a Cessna Skyhawk and the Piper Arrow Cherokee. I am doing crosswind landings, short field take offs and landings, and soft field take off and landings just to stay fresh. I have no interest in a tail wheel endorsement with the plane we have, perhaps a different one someday…the J-3 and me just aren’t feeling the love.

I’m trying to stay in the game. Even though it’s not the game I want. I want to know the Cirrus inside and out, I just can’t go into more debt…I have enough now and in this economy who knows what’s next. However, I am still trying to have a RICH aviation experience…which is priceless. You can too!

Passing Time Reading About IFR Flying

When funds are low for flight training, I always try to fill my time with something that can advance my training or knowledge of aviation. This time I focused on the book shown above, The Instrument Flight Training Manual by Peter Dogan.  This isn’t the most up-to-date book, but there are some things about IFR flight that don’t change that quickly. This book was a good one for getting a nice introduction to IFR flight training. It’s not a Gleim style book, it’s more like your CFI talking to you about IFR and “The System”. Now that I’ve read it, I should go back a review the chapter quizzes and think about taking those.