Is the old dog ready for new tricks?

I have been exchanging emails and post comments with one of my readers (I’m going to call him Tom to keep things simple) who is just getting back into flying again. He  had not flown for a considerable period – measured in decades rather than years – but wanted to try it again. Tom remembered the feelings of accomplishment  and the enjoyment that he had experienced when he first took up flying and wanted to feel that again. There was a hurdle to overcome, though – all the changes to airspace, regulations and technology that have taken place since he stopped flying. It seemed like an insurmountable mountain of new information to learn and he wasn’t so sure that the time and money that would need to be invested would provide a sufficient return on the investment.

Tom decided that he’d first try auditing a groundschool class at the local airport with no intention of actually flying. It would simply be an attempt to catch up with the current flying environment. That started out well, but soon turned south…

After two interesting sessions of ground school, both modules dealing with FARs and such, the G.S. session is a bust.  Two of the four students had serious occupational conflicts.  Number three could continue, but we became subject to the minimum population rule.  I, as a mostly non-rev participant, had no vote.  We are trying to reform the group, with one or two more students, for late fall. I’m disappointed of course, but as a non-rev guest, I have no voice.  I’ve got some books and study guides and I’ll read them…   After only the two (long) sessions, it was perfectly clear to me than any returning pilot in 2011 and more than 2-3 years stale, ought to take a nearly full refresher course before flying.  Yup!  Those rules and regulations DO change quickly!

As you know, my purpose was not to fly again, but simply to understand the current methods and procedures of IFR flight a bit better.  There is a delay, but I’ll get there.  The modern toys and tools are simply amazing and I’d like to understand them a bit better.  As a funny aside, although 30 years stale, I easily out navigated my student peers (on paper) during the initial assessment evaluations.  While great fun… no one uses those old tools anymore – save an old pilot who might get lost. I still think it is fun to know how it is done.

Now Tom has changed his approach to the problem. He has found a retired professional pilot who now flies for fun. The two of them are making regular flights to ‘exotic’ breakfast locations and Tom is regaining his ‘air sense’ through actual application.

As the re-learning process progresses I’ll include the experiences that Tom passes along to me.  Perhaps some more ‘old dogs’ will realize that they can learn the new tricks in today’s flying environment.

The Key: Get out there and do it – don’t just sit there and try to remember what it was like…