A few years ago, a survey was conducted among thousands of well-to-do, mostly professional and business adults. The primary question was this, “why have you never learned to fly?” There were three primary answers:
- It is too expensive.
- It is too dangerous.
- I won’t put up with being treated as I was when I began to learn to fly.
So… let’s put the negatives behind us before dealing with the positives. First, times change. Today, you can own and operate an entry level, cross country airplane for less money than a used luxury car. An entry level, cross country, instrument equipped single engine plane starts at about $30,000. Expenses on this plane will run considerably less than operating a luxury car per year, and planes do not wear out. On the contrary, they increase in value. (For example, a million dollar insurance policy will run about $750, compared with twice that much or more on a comparable Lexus and the value of a common Cessna goes up about 3-6% a year.)
Second, consider that risk is more a matter of perception than anything else until you know the facts. Folks who would not even hesitate to scuba dive or snow ski might balk at flying, even though when compared realistically, both sports are right much more dangerous than flying. (The old joke, which comes close to the truth, is that the most dangerous part of flying is the drive to the airport.) The truth is that we do not pass other Cessnas up there in the sky ten feet away driven by drunks. Yet, we do it every day in our cars and strive not to think about it. Perception again. Also, consider that the government’s figures indicate that half (yes, half) of all light plane “accidents” are substance related, just as with cars. The insurance industry estimates that another 10% are intentional one way or another. Here is the truth. In the hands of a sober, well trained pilot, single engine flying is much, much safer than any other form of personally operated transportation, and when compared correctly, much, much safer than almost any “action” sport, such as snow skiing, scuba diving, or climbing.
And third, the Windsong program offers intensive, accelerated training which eliminates the old way of learning to fly. What characterizes most flight training is very young, inexperienced instructors who only instruct as a means of getting experience to lead to an airline job. The usual schedule is an hour or two a week (for forty weeks or more), weather permitting, with the attendant loss of knowledge in the off weeks, resulting is repeated lessons. It is two steps forward and one step back. The Windsong program increases learning and retention, eliminates needless and expensive repetition, and increases safety through instruction from a basis of real world knowledge and lifelong experience.
So… what are the positives? Primary is the considerable expansion of the possibilities of your life. For example, I used to live near Nashville, a seven hour drive from Chicago. Recently, my wife and I went to Chicago to see Lion King and visit the impressionist museum on the lake. We left just after lunch in my Cessna and arrived with plenty of time to go to our hotel, eat a light dinner, and make the play at 7:30. The next morning, we slept late, had breakfast, spent several hours at the museum, ate pizza, turned in the rental car, and was home well before dinner. Total flying time both ways will be just over four and one half hours. I might add that my rental car was waiting with the keys in it at the Fixed Base Operation (FBO) and turning it in is simply a matter of handing the keys over the desk. Here is what I will not do. I won’t drive to the main airport in Nashville two hours in advance. No one will herd me like a steer or talk to me badly. I won’t worry about what I take with me. I won’t stand in line and wait. No one will “randomly” select me for a good going over with security equipment.
I will not wait for my luggage at the destination, and it will not be damaged or lost. I will not wait another 45 minutes for my rental car.
Here is what I will do. I will drive 15 minutes to my local, small airport. I will do a 15 minute pre-flight inspection and fire up the engine. Nine times out of ten, I will pick up my clearance and activate my flight plan in the air a few minutes after take off. I will proceed to my destination in a straight line (which cuts 20% off the driving distance) at 130mph. When I get there, I will get out, put my luggage in the golf cart provided by the FBO and carry it and myself to my rental car. I will pause to fill out my name and address in the FBO along with my fueling instructions. Then, I will drive away. Man, have I ever come to hate airliners.
The possibilities are endless. Gulf Shores is nine hour drive or a 2.4 hour flight from my home. With a Cessna or Piper, a long weekend is perfectly doable, with a 3:00 PM Friday departure after I sneak away a couple of hours early from work and arrival for dinner. I will go directly to the Gulf Shores airport, not to the nearest big city served by airliners nor will I drive into the wee hours. Departure on Sunday needn’t be before 4:00 PM in the Summer. Again, departure means driving 9 miles to the local airport and firing up the engine and coming home. Arrival at home means tying down the plane and walking away. Did I say that I really hate airliners?
Here is the conclusion. Your life expands when you come and go at your leisure, directly to your destination, with no obstacles, at a very high rate of speed, in safety.
NOTE: Please notice that I didn’t even mention love of flying. Personally, I do love flying. Fact is… I think it is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. But this only applies to a minority of pilots. Most of us who fly single engine planes do it for business or personal transportation. That is… a fast, convenient, safe way to live more fully and experience much more out of life.