Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Grounded By Default

I've flown twice since finally getting my Commercial license.  Some commercial pilot I turned out to be, huh?  The first of these was legit, a solo flight to Auburn for lunch.  The second, not so much - stayed in the pattern at PAO and did 5 takeoffs and landings.  So, technically I'm "current" though that's not much of a comfort.

While this definitely, absolutely qualifies as a "first world problem," it is still a problem, in that once again I'm at an inflection point with my aviation career - quit (for now), or double down, with the factors being time, money and other interests.

Doubling down would likely entail becoming a member of a club at RHV, because I believe part of the problem is that I simply don't make it to PAO, ever.  RHV is close to home, so at least I could get there on a nice weekend day without adding an hour drive time (combined, there and back).  And, I think I could probably benefit from getting checked out by a different instructor, to break those bad habits that always develop.  Then, my wife and I would need to sit down and create a budget, that given our other expenses would probably look like 3-4 hours/month for maintenance, plus CFI training.

Quitting for now would be basically what I've been doing (i.e. not flying), except I'd cancel subscriptions for all my IFR stuff and the club membership, saving me some money every month, and probably setting some sort of target for when I will "get back into it."  Then, have to spend more to re-establish competency, etc, and with that barrier, maybe never actually get back into it.

Effort/expense now, vs. much greater effort/expense/risk (of falling out of it entirely) later?  I still think I  could do a really good job as a CFI, and would enjoy it.


Ihab Awad said...

My suggestion is to fly, by any means necessary, even if it's not in a fancy IFR ship. Aviation will not get any cheaper or more easily available in this country (or anywhere, for that matter). The Taylorcraft L-2 at Aerodynamic Aviation at KRHV costs $63/hr to fly and will keep your stick and rudder skills in shape.

MKT said...

Ihab, I'd have to learn to fly tailwheel! ...ooooh, I see where you're going with this...

Ihab Awad said...

Well! I think a TW endorsement would take you all of half an hour of dual, given all the flying you've done....

But really, there are lots of ways to reduce the cost of staying in the air, and I'd try them all before being grounded -- again, because the costs are not going to get any better. I wish I lived near KRHV, actually -- you have an ideal airport there for the cash-strapped.

My friend is a member of EAA Chapter 338 based in KRHV:

His is the nice blue, white and gold RV-9A on the front page. Experimental aviation is a good way to keep the cost of flying down and keep up your interest in learning new things. Chapter 338 is reputed to be an awesome bunch of folks. And hey, you do have that AeroE degree....

You don't have to build your own experimental aircraft from scratch; you can buy an already flying one. An experimental can be maintained by anyone, so long as they don't change the airplane as specified by its Certificate of Airworthiness (if they do, they may be asked to enter a "test" period). The annual inspection must be done by either the original builder or an A&P, but your local EAA chapter can probably set you up with someone who'll help.

With a small experimental aircraft, you can keep flying, and maintain currency in IFR airplanes only if you need to and can afford to.

I'm partial to the Sonex line of airplanes myself:

and there are many available on Barnstormers for reasonable prices. It has the advantage of being aerobatic, so you can pursue that avenue of learning too if it interests you.

Another option is to purchase a certified but inexpensive and small airplane of your own, like a Taylorcraft or Luscombe, and again only maintain currency in fancy ships if and as you need to.

Whatever you do, and within family budget limits, I would advise that you figure out some way to stay in the air while you're still young and healthy and have the opportunity!