come Fly with me
(If you’re brave enough)
One of the more exciting post retirement activities I tried was learning to fly.
There are many advantages to learning to fly in the US. For a start there is a much more relaxed attitude to “private aviation” without any hint of envy among US air traffic controllers, all of whom seemed to me to treat novice pilots with as much respect as those with hundreds of hours in their logbooks. I may just have been lucky as I only spoke to those who were extremely helpful.
Because the country is so vast, many people, salesmen for example, travel to their customers by light aircraft. Petrol at about 35p per litre for cars is much cheaper and so, I suppose, must that for aeroplanes(AVGAS) be. I’m not sure if UK private airfields still charge landing fees each time your wheels touch their runways. No such charges existed in the US though this may have changed since I was there.
In the eighties I had read about two London Business School graduates who had won a prize offering a flying training course for novice aviators in Texas. The fixed price for the 4 week course, return fare to the USA included, was reasonable.
Our course was given at Redbird Airport on the outskirts of Dallas, Texas. We flew Cessnar 172s, a high winged monoplane, which seemed to offer all that a novice aviator could want.
A memorable event occurred during the second week, just after take-off. I had understood (or misunderstood, as it later turned out) that we were to practise stalling procedures that day. As we climbed away from the runway, I pulled up the nose, expecting the ‘plane eventually to stall. Then I noticed my instructor (half my age) was fiddling about beside me so I abandoned my plan and continued to climb. I then realised we had been far too close to the ground for what I was planning and for his peace of mind. At a sufficiently high altitude, he said: ‘Jesus, Julian, did you see what I was trying to do? I thought you were trying to crash the plane and had my hand on the door handle. I was trying to get out!’ Luckily he was laughing but we didn’t do any more stalls that day.
In spite of this I received my private pilot’s licence at the end of the course.
30th November 2015