A Pilot's Perspective.

By Barry Meek.

January 2010

Return to Simple Flying

     I don’t suppose I’m much different from other pilots, particularly the ones with the private or recreational licenses, when it comes to the aircraft we’ve flown.  While some are happy to own and fly one or two planes during their entire adult life, others have a big collection in their log books.

     You could probably count me in the second category.  There are no less than fifteen different aircraft listed in my book, including a few ultralights. The bigger, more complex machines came because of my commercial license, which gave me the privilege of flying airplanes that would be otherwise unaffordable.  It’s rare to have the opportunity for a job where you can truthfully say, “I can’t believe they pay me to do this.” 

     The bigger they are, the more power they have, the faster they go and the more they can carry.  But I reckon that’s not the ultimate ambition for many pilots.  Some would rather be on their own schedule, going to places of their own choice and staying as long as they feel like staying.  Commercial pilots can’t do that.  There are deadlines, schedules, rules, commitments, and worst of all, you have to be there every morning to fly.  As unbelievable as it sounds, some days, you just don’t want to do it.

      Full time flying will usually, like any other occupation, become a job sooner or later.  I’m fortunate to be doing it only on a seasonal basis, and have not become bored or tired.  It’s still something to look forward to with great anticipation.

       Before going to work and earning money in an airplane, there were several years of wonderful, carefree adventures in the air and at destinations of my choice.  On a typical Saturday, several fellow pilots would gather at the local airport, some would bring along a friend, we would all jump in our planes and away we’d go.  Off on a short flight to the next town where a coffee shop served us lunch.  From there, it was on to sightseeing over the local mountains or nearby lakes, then to another airport for afternoon coffee and more discussions.  We would tell stories, get and give advice, compare technical information, and enjoy the scenery, both on the ground and from above all the unlucky, earth-bound souls below.  At the end of the day if anyone asked what we did, despite the hobbs meter showing maybe only 2 hours, the best way to answer the question was, “We went flying”. 

      The following day, the Sunday fly-ins and breakfasts would supply more reasons to fly.

       Nobody had a high-performance plane back then.  We were all private pilots who flew Cherokees and Champs, T-Crafts and Cubs, ultralights and 150’s.  No one seemed to care about the price of gas, the rules of the control zones, the nonsense that comes from Transport and Nav Canada.  We were under the radar, so to speak.  Nobody much cared what we were doing out there flying off little grass strips and gravel airports.  Rarely did we get into paved runways, and even then there were few control towers in our area of operations.  It was all just plain fun.  Many talk about the thrill of flying low and slow in an open cockpit plane, and how you can smell the freshly cut hay, the ripe corn and sweet strawberry fields below.  My first encounter with an experience like that was in my Renegade, over a feed lot.  Not so nice.  That Renegade often sought out the eagles and other soaring birds, then flew in close below them to enjoy the free lift of a thermal.  There was no place to go, so why not? 

Bill Ross landing his Renegade at Quilchena.

       Every pilot should have his own small airplane even if it’s just once.  Maybe an ultralight.  No, let’s say “particularly an ultralight”.  You’ll hone your skills and get the feel of seat-of-the-pants flying, which will go a long way in your flying career.  Best of all, you’ll find a circle of friends who also enjoy the freedom of flight.  Your summer weekends will forever be remembered as the lazy, crazy days when flying was strictly for the fun of it. 

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