Gosh, how far we’ve come. I recall laying in the tall grass at the edge of the small sod strip across from our home when I was a lad of just 7 or 8 and watching local pilots making circuits in the air. It was a big deal when Unicom first came along and many of the pilots based at our little field added battery powered radios to their Cubs and Champs and Taylorcrafts in an effort to enhance their safety in the pattern. They loved flying every bit as much then as we do now! Travel for them was limited to pilotage and dead reckoning and the farthest most of those flyers ever went was a Sunday morning cruise to the neighboring field and back which was a round trip of probably 30-40 miles. In those days that was plenty of flying to feed the need.
Here I am, fifty-some years later driving my Mooney back and forth to Lexington KY on a fairly regular basis to visit my wife’s daughter at the University of Kentucky, (Go Wildcats!). Where the weekend flyers I used to watch at my small field had Unicom if they were lucky, I now have more radios and displays than anyone ever dreamed would be possible back then; as do many, many pilots across the country. I vividly recall taking one of my early training cross country flights in a worn out Cessna 150. I was tracking the VOR from Greenville, MI to Muskegon, MI and although the route followed a major highway directly to the destination; after twenty or thirty minutes I had convinced myself that I was lost! Everyone has been in that spot. The truth is that we have all grown up in an era of rapidly expanding aviation technology. “Lost” just isn’t the fun it used to be as it seldom occurs anymore! Just scroll in your destination and a bright magenta line appears to guide you flawlessly to your happy landing. Use of an airplane for personal travel has certainly gotten easier since my childhood and I am (as are many others) truly fortunate to have taken advantage of the aviation freedom we enjoy in this country. Personal air travel is a bit like a time machine to me. I get in the airplane at my home base and depart; and when I land, I can be hundreds of miles from home enjoying seafood in the low country of the Carolina’s, or marveling at the fall colors in Maine, or visiting Indian ruins in the desert of New Mexico! And, all along the way I find myself meeting folks who are just as glad to have me stop in as I am to be there. The aviation “family” is an indescribable wonder.
Still, I am haunted by what I often hear from pilots at airports all around our country. My friend in the adjacent hangar recently remarked that he envied me for taking all the trips my wife and I (and dogs) take in my Mooney. While it is true that I probably make more flights to destinations rather than burning circuits in the sky, (typically several long weekend trips per year) I don’t consider my travel something for anyone to be particularly envious of. This pilot has a perfectly serviceable 172 with decent radios, encoding transponder and a modern panel mounted GPS. His aircraft even sports an auto pilot! So why, I wondered, doesn’t he take his wife to Nashville for the weekend at the Opry? Or St. Louis for frozen custard at Ted Dawes? Or Dayton to the Air Museum? “Too far,” says he. “My airplane is too slow.” I doubt that it really is too far and will go on record as saying that I have flown a modestly equipped 172 and even a PA-20 to “Floriday” and back several times and always found it to be a great adventure. It seems more likely that it is simply easier for him to stay close to home than it is to “slip the surly bonds” and fly off into something or somewhere unknown.
So what if you have had enough flying for one day and decide to spend the night somewhere around Knoxville? There are plenty of good airports and nice folks down that way. Like the old saying goes, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey! If my friend would make but one trip in his 172 to anywhere out of the comfort zone and back he would probably discover that that route is no longer a mystery and that flying to anywhere is the same as flying to nowhere, it’s just much more fun!
So all this got me thinking about how to empower these pilots who are always looking for a destination but never venturing forth; and that is part of the Pilot to Pilot Network mission. I believe that there are many pilots just like me scattered across America who have stories to tell about flights they have made, places they have stayed, people they have met and destinations they have visited. I believe that many of these stories should be shared in an effort to pass on the knowledge lots of us have to the pilots like my friend who looks at personal air travel as a learning curve that is just too steep. Maybe, by sharing our tips, knowledge, “how to’s” and favorite destinations we can encourage those who seem to be a bit home bound to enrich their aviation experience by expanding their horizons.
So, I am asking you, the reader of this piece, to join the Pilot to Pilot Network and contribute what you have to offer to other aviation minded folks who have joined and contributed what they have to offer.
It really matters not what your aviation experience level might be. I believe everyone in aviation has something to contribute or a story to tell all the other “brothers of the air.” Maybe your niche is flight training, or maybe you restore antique aircraft; maybe you fly for your business, or maybe you fly aerobatics. Maybe you were once petrified of having to talk to ATC, or perhaps you have knowledge of upcoming legislation that will affect us. Maybe you have tips for traveling with dogs, or kids, or the elderly. Everyone has a story and if yours is interesting and informative we want to pass it along to all the other P2PN members.
But it’s not just your stories we want. We want your links to all good aviation stuff! We want your input and contact info for; dawn patrols, restaurants, FBO’s, lodging, crew cars, attractions, medical examiners, check rides, maintenance, weather, ATC, training, destinations, airplanes, services, avionics, and especially the people you meet, as well as anything else aviation related that will assist our members of the brotherhood and make it exciting and enticing for them to fly. We want to know how you got there and what you did!
P2PN also offers you a chance to connect with other members through the P2PN message board which is open to all members. We also provide a classified ads section for members who have airplanes, goods or services they would like to sell or swap to other members. Attractive advertising rates are also provided for the commercial or corporate members who wish to provide commercial or professional services to the pilot membership.
Most importantly; P2PN is “member driven,” meaning that we exist for the membership and our content and services are provided by the membership. This isn’t a case of one man with a dream running an organization. This is many voices helping one another to enjoy a unique and special ability that all we pilots possess and love.
So c’mon . . . . Join us. We want to hear from you whether you fly 767’s daily or pilot an Aeronca Champ on weekends; we welcome your input, information, photos, stories, knowledge and comradery. Together, we can all put the passion back in flying!