Now what?

In about 650 hours of flying — most of it in my Warrior — I’ve seen and done just about everything I can see and do at this level and live to tell about it. I’ve flown into busy international airports and into short gravel and grass strips; I’ve fired back rapid responses to NY approach, flown over big cities day and night, carried my family most of the length of the seaway from Lake Superior to Gaspe (and beyond to Cape Breton), bounced around in severe turbulence over the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont (not fun), spent hours fighting headwinds that made me feel like I was moving backwards, logged many hours of actual IMC (both benign and nail biting), successfully flown an ILS approach where I saw nothing but a few approach lights at DH, seen other planes come way too close, blundered into a thunderstorm cloud (do not repeat), been forced down to an unplanned airport landing in marginal VFR turning to IMC (before I had my instrument rating), experienced icing first hand, been praised and tongue-lashed by controllers (sometimes by the same one), repaired or replaced a huge part of my plane, crouched in the ice and snow out on a field changing a landing light in the dark at -25 degC gripping the screwdriver with numb fingers, and watched the beauty of the light and dark world rolling beneath the plane in a long, post-midnight cross-country flight.

So now what? The plane is still a useful tool, especially for business and family trips, and I do enjoy the challenge and surprises of Hope Air flights, but there’s nothing exciting about pushing the throttle forward and leaving the ground any more — it feels almost exactly the same as backing the minivan out of the driveway. Here are some of my options:

  • learn to fly a taildragger (but once I’ve learned, there’s none that I can fly)
  • learn to fly a multiengine plane and get my multi-IFR (ditto)
  • learn to fly a floatplane (ditto)
  • learn to fly a helicopter (ditto)
  • sell my Warrior and buy a share with some partners in a high performance plane like a Saratoga (and pay a lot more for gas)
  • upgrade to a commercial license (just for the challenge — I don’t plan to leave my day job)

I know I don’t want to instruct — I used to be a university professor, and while I loved teaching, I don’t want to go back. Any suggestions? What have other people done? After my kids leave for university in a few years, I could spend a couple of months flying around the U.S. and Canada coast to coast, but that’s not practical with the demands of caring for kids in high school and middle school.

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12 Responses to Now what?

  1. Paul Tomblin says:

    If I had a Warrior and your sort of experience, I’d sell it and buy a Super Cub on floats or tundra tires and go exploring.

  2. Frank Ch. Eigler says:

    You could take some time away – a month or so.
    When you get back in after some time, the magic will relight for a while.

  3. Ed Davies says:

    – learn to fly a glider?

    Learning to actually fly it wouldn’t take much – just learning to use the rudder pedals and judge the circuit (pattern) mostly. Learning to fly cross-country effectively would give a lot more satisfaction for your money than any of the items you list, in my humble opinion (based on 800 hours gliding and 460 hours power flying). It’s time consuming, though, so maybe it’s the thing to do in a few years.

  4. ArtZ says:


    I’ll second the glider idea. I joined a local glider club in August and have had a blast. There is something magic about being aloft, without the propeller and engine noise, and the glorious view that only a bubble canopy can afford. Even better: coming down on your own terms, when and where you want to, and doing it without gasoline.

    — Art Z.

  5. david says:

    All great suggestions — thanks. I can’t go for the Super Cub for now because I still have a family of four to haul around, though it would be pretty-much as fast as my Warrior and give me a lot more landing choices. Taking time off is a good idea, and I’ll probably have a month off during my annual (which starts in a couple of weeks). Gliding is the most intriguing idea, especially since it’s relatively inexpensive and there are several fields nearby, so I might try that in the spring (another option I left out was aerobatics, but I’m not sure if my stomach would be up for that).

  6. Paul Tomblin says:

    When I was waiting for a complicated medical renewal, a friend suggested I try sailplanes. Unfortunately the only local option was a club where you were expected to spend one weekend a month helping on the field instead of flying. Since I was spending two weekends a month driving up to see my kids, spending another weekend helping so that in the unlikely event I didn’t have anything else to do that final weekend I might be able to go flying didn’t seem like a good option to me. So instead I did my instrument rating since I could take dual without a medical.

  7. Blake says:

    I was actually looking into aerobatics last week. I’m unsure if my stomach would be able to take it either… but I think the challenge of performing an aerobatic maneuver would keep me interested for a a little while.

    I think the idea of gliding is a great idea. It would give you a whole new appreciation for power management 😉

  8. WestSacRob says:

    I am still a student pilot but I am anticipating your dilemma. I am thinking of joining the Civil Air Patrol or Angels Flight as soon as I get my PPL just so I do not feel like I’m wasting all of this training. I want to do more with this hard-earned certificate than get $100 hamburgers. Good luck on your quest. -WSR

  9. You know David, I sometimes find myself in the same sort of situation. I’ve had a passion for aviation my entire life so I don’t think walking away is even a possibility. I’d love to live out my dream of being an airline pilot but that just not practically or financially feasible. So that leaves me with Hope Air and Young Eagles. Something else I’ve taken on is becoming the social director of the Brampton Flying Club. We schedule flyouts monthly to places like Boston, Cleveland, etc. (among other events, like a flour bombing we’re organizing for 2008). This usually gives us the excuse to fly there once on our own to check things out then do the flyout as a group. I really look forward to these longer trips now. I really can’t get geared up to pull the plane out for a couple of circuits or to mess around in the practice area for an hour.

    Now, of course, this isn’t the be all and end all but it IS just one other thing I do that requires the use of the plane. I’m open to other ideas too so I’ll be keeping an eye on replies. It does sound like you may have outgrown your Warrior though. I had one for a short while and loved it but it just didn’t meet my needs (mainly 4 adults). If you were able to move up to a 182 or a low wing equivalent you’d find the added power and speed could really expand you mission profiles. It’s amazing what kind of a difference 25 knots and 200 pounds can do for you!


  10. Nick says:

    I’ll second the gliding recommendation. On the subject of aerobatics, a few hours of aerobatic instruction is exhilarating and will sharpen your stick-and-rudder substantially, but any more than that requires a devotion to aerobatics that very few people have. A multi-rating, while useful, won’t substantially enhance your skillset and it costs a lot. I would however encourage the taildragger conversion, and once you have that it makes picking up ski-planes a lot more practical (which might be an option in Ottowa). Having a few taildragger hours will also make it easier when you decide to buy one once the kids graduate, because then you can jump right in to the offstrip stuff.

  11. Tony Hunt says:

    David, I started in 2000 by buying a Cardinal to take flying lessons, then after two years sold it and bought a Baron for family travel. Three years later, the children left for University and I found I was only flying the Baron on Hope Air missions. I bought the Husky in 2005 and am really enjoying the places I can take the taildragger and the people I meet. Warning – a Husky/SuperCub or similar are an acquired taste and not necessarily spouse friendly. My spouse never forgave me selling the Baron and has never flown in the Husky.
    Along the way, I picked up the Commercial license, then Multi-IFR and recently my Instructor rating. After 900 hours, I am now trying the part-time instructor role but I will not quit my day job. Anyways, we all go through these phases and there is always some fresh excitement around the corner in aviation. Try the gliding thing, I was going to take the conversion course at Pendleton this past summer but never had time with the instructing job on Saturdays.
    There are a few taildraggers in the area. I hangar the Husky at CYRP. If our paths cross at RFC next summer you can join me and try some real short takeoffs and landings.

  12. David Fox says:

    David, I went through this when I owned my Archer III. My mission profile was changing, I wanted to go to higher elevation airports, and I wanted to be able to carry more people, more stuff or both. My solution was to partner up and get a more high performance aircraft. It has been the best thing that I have done in regards to my flying. I am no longer bound by the limited performance of the Archer and I can fly the missions that I have always wanted to. For instance, there is no way I could have stuffed 3 of my friends, all of our golf clubs and luggage, and flown off to Bandon Dunes in Oregon for a weekend with the Archer. But it was no sweat in the Cherokee 6. And I continue to push the kinds of missions I can fly.

    Also, with partners I have been able to buy a way more expensive plane than I ever would have alone. Are there scheduling conflicts? Far, far fewer than you would imagine, at least with us. And I get to share the maintenance, annual, oil changes, repairs…….. And I kid you not, with the power of the partnership we are looking to upgrade already. We have our eyes peeled for a 6XT. We’ll see how that goes, it is territory I couldn’t have imagined looking into.

    Be safe and happy flying to you!

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