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"Learning to Fly"


Into the distance, a ribbon of black                          
Stretched to the point of no turning back 
A flight of fancy on a windswept field 
Standing alone my senses reeled
A fatal attraction is holding me fast,
How can I escape this irresistible grasp?
Can’t keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted,
just an earth-bound misfit, I

  Pink FloydLearning to Fly” (Click for video)


With the boat now sold, I have turned my attention to the next great life adventure, and I am trying out going back to flying. I do not exactly need to “learn to fly” because I have been licensed since 1970. I have an instrument and a multi-engine rating, and nearly 1,000 hours of flying time. But, I sold the last plane I had in 2001, and have not flown anything since then.

So last Tuesday I found myself in a doctor’s office in Savannah getting an aviation medical exam. I got through it without incident but now I am required to wear “corrective lenses” when flying, and I had to request some medical records to be sent to the FAA so the records would be complete. Wednesday, Medical Certificate, license, and 40-year-old logbook in hand, I drove out to the Reidsville airport just over an hour away to take off with an instructor and see if I still have the right stuff.

It was a great flight in a little Piper of the same airframe (and vintage) as the plane I owned in 1971. In good weather just flying around, it was like riding a bike. We flew over to Vidalia, Georgia and landed, and then flew back to Reidsville where I did an instrument approach. It all came back pretty quickly, the landings were smooth, and the instructor signed me off for what is called a Biennial Flight Review, a requirement that pilots prove they can fly to an instructor every two years. So just like that, I am a legal pilot again. But there is a difference between what is legal and what is safe, and I have some work to do.

Today I went back to Reidsville and we filed an instrument flight plan and went down to Hinesville, GA to the Mid-Coast Regional Airport. We spent some time with the airport manager and the Army manager of the shared military/civilian facility learning about the effect on civilian flying of the new drone training facility being built there by the Army. They are putting in a whole building of consoles similar to Microsoft Flight Simulator where trainees will fly drones the size of a King Air right outside off the runway. Best to get out of their way I think, until they have completed their training and the drones are deployed to Afghanistan or to fly around and spy on all of us.

So now I’ve got a total of 976.1 hours of flying time, 2.3 of which is in the last 10 years. I’ve got a ways to go to get back to the skills I once had, and I fly again Monday to begin some work on instrument flying where you wear goggles to simulate flying where you can see the instruments but can’t see anything outside the plane. Should be an interesting day. I am fortunate to have found an experienced instructor to keep me out of trouble.

Our trip to Hinesville today had a purpose. I have searched high and low and, if I buy a plane, there is no hangar space in the Savannah area available. Believe me, you do not want to leave a nice plane parked in the sun in South Georgia in the summer. It will melt your leather seats. I found one “T Hangar” in Claxton, GA but it is an hour away and not an ideal place to keep a plane. Driving an hour from Richmond Hill, GA to fly two hours to Birmingham doesn’t make a lot of sense.

As we discussed the lack of hangar space with the manager at Hinesville, the City Manager dropped in and when I asked if new hangars might be built, he suggested I build some myself under a ground lease from the city/airport authority. We discussed a deal where I would enter a ground lease and build a string of 12 T-Hangars to be leased out to other aircraft owners. It might not make much money, but may be an economical way to get a free hangar and a little return on the building. I’ve already decided to form an LLC for the project which will be called “Sky King, LLC”.

I’m taking this one day at a time, and still not sure where it will lead, but at this stage in my life, getting around to see (and pick up) grandchildren at 150 knots seems more interesting than cruising the ocean at seven knots, so perhaps this will be the next great adventure. I’ll keep you posted.

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