Becoming a pilot is one of the most rewarding and empowering achievements there is, but then what? Well, once you’ve joined the elite club of aviators, you should enjoy the benefits awarded only to those who have studied, practiced, and persevered to earn their pilot certificate. Now the fun really begins…
Travel Sans Hassles
Since the tragedy on September 11th, air travel has become more cumbersome than ever, unless you can fly privately. Private air charters are luxurious and pricey, but there is another option available to pilots, fly yourself! Leave your shoes on, skip security, and pick your own schedule. Okay, it isn’t perfect, you may have weather considerations, and you can’t doze off in the middle row next to “Smelly-Talkative-Guy,” but it’s so much more fun! Trust me, you’ll become spoiled quick, muttering, “I can’t believe I have to fly commercial…” the next time you step on an airliner and wedge your knees into the seat in front of you.
Bed and Breakfast Getaway
Sweep your sweetie off his or her feet with a fly-in weekend at a bed and breakfast. Not only is flying a uniquely fun mode of travel, it opens up destinations too far away to practically drive to over a weekend. I’ve had breakfast in Longwood, lunch in Asheville, and hiked pretty trails before dinner. Most B & Bs in airport towns will arrange a shuttle for you if you mention you’re flying in.
As a pilot, you can help others in a new way. Organizations such as Pilots and Paws, Challenge Air, Civil Air Patrol, Young Eagles, and Angel Flight all need volunteers willing to donate their skills and aircraft to help both people and animals. I volunteered for the Challenge Air event at the Orlando Apopka Airport several years ago and still feel warm inside when I think of how happy we made those kids. The Young Eagles also helped with the event, giving their members a new perspective as well.
Large organizations aren’t the only volunteer opportunities out there. Years ago, I regularly flew the organizers of a non-profit drug rehab program between facilities so that they could serve more efficiently. Without this help, they would have had to spend a full day driving to just one location, followed by a day of work, then a full day driving home. Instead, they were there and back in a day, allowing them help more people. When dealing with locations un-served by commercial carriers, private flights make a huge difference.
Epic Fall Color Viewing
Autumn leaves from the air. No explanation needed!
Remote Beach Towns
When driving there is either impossible or would need to be timed with a calendar, fly instead. Flying to a remote beachside destination makes a short weekend getaway worthwhile. Here are a few destinations to consider: Cedar Key (Florida), St. George Island (Florida), Pacific City (Oregon), and Catalina (California). Do a Google search for beachy locals near you.
One of the oldest aviation traditions is the “Fly-In” Basically a party at an airport. The themes may vary, from BBQ to milk shakes, but the idea is the same, an excuse for pilots to fly somewhere and socialize. Don’t expect any alcohol, you’re pilot in command now, so that’s out. A small price to pay for an experience few get to enjoy. Check out FunPlacestoFly.com for events near you.
Imagine, a remote fishing hole all to yourself. Fly-in fishing is ideal for amphibian or seaplane pilots – ratings you may want to add to your certificate if lonely lakes and distant coves appeal to your sense of adventure.
One of the coolest adventures ever! Load your camping gear into the plane and fly either to a campground, or into the backcountry for a truly off-the-grid experience. It surprises many non-pilots to learn that there are campgrounds set up specifically for plane camping. If you opt for a backcountry trip, get some additional instruction, simply another fun way to build your skills.
$100 Hamburger Run/ Highly Expensive Breakfast/ Ultimate Date Night
Okay, the title says it all. Flying out for a good meal is another general aviation tradition. There are entire books on the subject.
Once you learn the ropes of international travel, a completely new set of destinations open up for your flying pleasure, such as the Bahamas, Mexico, and Canada. Often these areas are difficult to reach using commercial flights, but now you can arrive and depart on your own schedule.
These are only a few of the options open to you once you earn a pilot certificate. Subscribe to our blog for tips on flying safety and fun, including when to pursue your instrument rating and fly-in river rafting trips. Yes, there is much more to explore!
Have you used your pilot certificate to support a cause? Please share your experience in the comments below.
Erika Wiggins, CFII, MEI
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Hero image by Sam Bebee via Flickr Creative Commons. Parts of this post were originally published on AME High.