Why learn to fly airplanes?

Being a pilot and flying an airplane is a thrill, say most aviators. It’s no wonder. History tells us that people have been fascinated by flight for centuries, but it’s only been in the last 100 years that humans have been able to take flight in order to experience that thrill. Old films show us what some people were willing to go through to empower human flight.

Today, pilots fly for many reasons. Here are a number of them from aviators in the U.S. answering the question, “Why learn to fly?”

Roy Daly in Seattle, WA came to aviation thanks to his grandfather, who was a WWII fighter pilot. Stories from those times of flying all over the world inspired a curiosity for Roy. About flying, Roy says, “Freedom makes it my passion. [It’s because of] the feeling you get when you are thousands of feet about the ground, all by yourself.”

Brothers Bill and Tom Menzel grew up with aviation in their blood. Bill of Wisconsin Rapids, WI and Tom in Hansville, WA credit their father for taking them to the tiny Stevens Point, Wisconsin airport to watch planes come and go. Bill used to buy those small balsa wood, rubber-band powered airplanes for short exciting flights. Today he’s a licensed pilot and flight instructor (CFI). Tom has an adventurous spirit and finds, as he puts it, flying gives him an “undeniable sense of accomplishment and confidence that I don’t think I could have gotten anywhere else.” Both Tom and Bill received their pilot’s licenses many years ago, but Bill says “it continues to be a passion even as I age, keeps me intellectually stimulated and challenged, [and is] a head-clearing diversion from pressures.”

John_Meagher on Twitter has hundreds of hours as pilot-in-command of his Cessna 172, which he has flown since 2002 with family out of the Baltimore area about once every week or two. Why does John fly? “I just enjoy it,” he says, “Exploring new places, spending time with friends, beautiful views.”

Kevin Conklin and daughter Rachel “harnessing the power of nature” in a Schweizer SGS 2-33 (or simply SGS 2-33)

Kevin Conklin and daughter Rachel “harnessing the power of nature” in a Schweizer SGS 2-33 (or simply SGS 2-33)

Kevin Conklin was a hang glider pilot for 20+ years when he joined the Valley Soaring Club at Randall Airport (06N) in Middletown, NY to learn to fly a Schweizer SGS 2-33. He says flying is like “being able to harness the power of nature for a few hours, rise above the earth and forget problems.” Kevin made flying into a family affair, as his daughter Rachel now flies gliders and began powered lessons after winning a scholarship from the EAA Chapter 1280 Build-A-Pilot program. See the January 2009 article in EAA’s Sport Aviation magazine.

Dan Thomas of Everett, WA, remembers a childhood fascination of anything that could fly—from planes to insects, and even UFOs. At 13, his passion was fed by a teacher, who introduced him to radio controlled model airplanes. At 17, his persistence earned him permission to start ground school. By 19, he obtained his Private Pilot License and purchased a two-seat Luscombe 8A. Today, Dan’s zeal for flying lights up when he gives back, now showing others what it’s like to fly an airplane. In fact, over the years he has given “many rides to friends and family, some their very first in a plane of any kind,” says Dan.

Russ Gelfan, also of Everett, WA inched his way into aviation at the age of 14 by taking some hang glider lessons. At a much higher age today, he remains still fully committed to flying. He flies hang gliders still, and teaches others, as well. For Russ, flying is about taking the human factor to the limit. “It takes most of our skills to fly. Barely physical, but you have to be in good physical shape. Barely mental, but your mind has to be as sharp as it can be for techniques and judgment.”

And, perhaps the most eloquently stated… Stephen Force of Airspeed Online answers “Why I Fly” with a big exclamation point here in his podcast and blog.

So, why do you want to learn to fly? Or, if you’re already a pilot, or well on your way, share your story of why you fly. Tell us in the comments section below.

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