In May of 2016 I, along with my then 12 year old son, attended the AOPA fly in in Beaufort, NC. Since I was already there, I decided to take the Rusty Pilots program. I was of the opinion that I’d forgotten too much to get back in the air, and I was a bit nervous to go into a classroom and demonstrate just how much I didn’t know. I still had a pilots license in my pocket and as long as I didn’t prove I was clueless, I was technically still a pilot, able to impress people at parties and tell funny or harrowing stories on demand. If I attended class and proved how much I didn’t know, well then that would be more than embarrasing, it would be tangible proof I no longer was a pilot. But with the class available right there with the fly in, I really couldn’t not attend. I’ve been a consistent AOPA member since the early 90s, and I’d always considered going to MD to attend the fly in but never could justify the trip. Major kudo’s to AOPA for bringing the fly in out to the field. I don’t know how I’d have gotten back in the air if I hadn’t attended.
I’d stopped flying in mid 2004 when I had to take over our family business when my father had cancer. I’d gone from flying a King Air 200 solo to flying a desk, and I did so from 2004 to 2015 when I sold the family business. The sales process was brutal, and one of the things I told my wife as I went through the 1.5 year process was I’m going to buy an airplane when I get this done. She was always supportive, except for one time I’ll get to in a minute.
Step one for me was to get my medical back. Luckily it was a non-event for me. I’d recently lost 60 pounds and I was now farming every day so I was in pretty good health. With the medical out of the way, step two was to find a partner in an airplane. I don’t hang out at the airport or really know anyone at the airport any longer. I didn’t have a way of contacting someone like minded. There were no flying clubs near me that offered what I needed (a six seat go places airplane) so I was stuck. In desperation I placed an ad on Barnstormers looking for a pilot/partner. I only had one response, from some guy who was still getting his PPL. No way he’ll be able to get insured in the type of aircraft I need. He’s just dreaming. It turns out he has been the perfect partner and I couldn’t be luckier. He and I purchased a 1978 Lance in May 2017 and we’ve already put over 100 hours on it.
We just upgraded the panel to a GTN650 with the Flightstream 510 to let the iPad talk to the GPS wirelessly. Modern avionics are AMAZING and they are one of the reasons I’ve come back to flying.
While I was at the AOPA fly in, I also talked to the Civil Air Patrol recruiter. My son was 12, the perfect age to join. I shoe horned him into a conversation with the CAP recruiter and stood back proudly as I watched her lure him in. As I was standing there, a Marine pilot asked me what I did. When he found out I was a pilot, he put the hard press on me to join CAP as well. Have you ever tried to push someone into the pool, and ended up falling in yourself? That’s what happened to me. So in addition to flying myself and my family around, I am now 1st Lt. Moore, flying CAP aircraft in training and on missions.
Between my plane, and the CAP plane, I have over 110 hours in the last 12 months. Most of that (80 hours) is in the last 6 months. Things are picking up.
Now back to my wife being supportive. Before I purchased the Lance in May, I’d mentioned, again, that I was going to buy a plane to the Mrs. “I don’t know why you’d do that. That’s a bad idea.” I was immediately defensive, but she continued, “If you are going to get a plane, you should build a plane with your son. That would be a great experience for him and for you.” This was back in 2014 I think. Since that conversation, I’ve been to Sun N Fun and Oshkosh (both for the first time) and have finally selected our project. It is going to be a Just Aircraft SuperSTOL, which was purchased in October 2017. We start in March of 2018 with hopes to be flying by spring of 2019. I’ve already started a blog to document the build at farmerflier.com so hopefully anyone later can learn from my mistakes.
In January 2018 I am flying the family to the Bahamas for a vacation, our first aviation vacation as a family.
So from a Rusty Pilots seminar in 2016, I now fly as a volunteer pilot for CAP, fly a Lance for myself, and am building an airplane, and am in the process of being an airplane blogger. I’ve completed my EAA Young Eagles checks and am signed off as a pilot there. Once the SuperSTOL is finished, I plan on flying the wings off of it for Young Eagles flights. I’m more involved in aviation that I’ve ever been.
So what got me back to flying? Swallowing my pride and going to the Rusty Pilots program was first. I went from nervous, to excited, to actually a bit bored at one point. I remembered SO MUCH of what I needed to know. The rest wasn’t the difficult to relearn. IFR proficiency has taken a while but the basics of flying came back like they’d never left. Was I passionate about flying? I still read Flying magazine and AOPA’s magazine, but that was about it. I could have never flown again and been happy. I’d been there and done that, and I had plenty of other chores to keep me busy (I was working about 80 hours per week during all of this). What changed for me was ADS-B, in-cockpit weather, in-cockpit traffic, GPS approaches, and Foreflight. The amount of information that I have at my fingertips when flying a NORDO aircraft is well beyond what was in the fanciest jet when I stopped flying in 2004. Situational awareness is ridiculously easy and the real struggle is to still do the homework on the ground because so much is available in the air. The AOPA Rusty Pilots program was the spark that relit the fire for me, but the technology is what is pouring gas on the flame. My iPad isn’t simply a lightweight replacement for my old Jepp binders. It is a safety item that I won’t leave the ground without. As more technology becomes reasonably available, thanks to the efforts of AOPA and EAA and the FAA (i.e. Garmin G5, TruTrak autopilots, AoA, etc), I think aviation gets better and better. I don’t need an $800,000 Cirrus to be mission capable. An affordable older aircraft will give me more than I ever had before with an iPad and a required transponder. Or a SuperSTOL flying at 500 feet and 100mph has all the capability of a Gulfstream, as long as I don’t want to actually go anywhere.