If you hang around the aero clubs and smaller flying schools of Australia, you'll hear the private pilots of this country doing what it is they like to do second only to flying: talking about flying. And after a while you will realise that often the conversations are very similar; the attitudes are very similar, the likes are very similar and so are the dislikes. It enables you to build up a picture of the typical private pilot, and why they tend to flock together for no other reason that just for a chat. But being very focused, enthusiastic people, aviation is very much a part of their lives and they see the world very differently to other people. Aviation is in their blood and often their first idle thoughts turn to flying, which quickly takes care of the idleness! So here are 10 things you might hear in conversation with regular people that you just will never hear from the lips of a private pilot.
1. It's a beautiful day; let's go to the beach
Not a chance! Although the average person might think of clear blue with gentle breeze the opportunity to get outside, the pilot thinks only in terms of how good it would be to be up there right now ... and is often plotting an escape from domesticity that inevitably ends up at an airport. Great days are for flying; why waste one at a beach!
2. Isn't it dangerous having only one engine?
The great "normal person" misconception: two engines are safer than one. It's hard to explain to someone the aerodynamics of asymmetric flight, or that the second engine is there for more power not safety, but the average PPL is more than aware that an engine failure on a twin can be harder to deal with than it is on a single!
3. It must be so cheap having your own plane and not paying for seats on a commercial flight
Nowadays you can get to Sydney and back for around the cost of one hour in a C172. The general public doesn't understand the operating costs of an aeroplane: the fuel, the insurance, the hangarage, the maintenance. More than one flying school in Australia has been approached over the years by someone wanting to learn to fly to save on commercial air fares. They generally leave very disappointed.
4. An aeroplane? Who cares? Seen one you've seen them all
We can't help ourselves! All aeroplanes aren't the same; they have different models, different regos, different avionics and they are going different places. Why would you not look up? You might even recognise the rego underneath the wing. They are our passion and the thrum of a prop-driven aeroplane is our symphony. Don't even try to explain to those that don't already understand.
5. You're a pilot too? Have you tried these delicious canapes?
Damn the canapes, when you find a fellow pilot at a party there is so much you have to find out about each other. What do they fly? Where do they operate from? How many hours do they have? Do they know Whats-er-name? It makes for a couple of hours of in-depth and interesting conversation that totally excludes all the other people at the party. Why change the subject when you are already on the most interesting one in existence?
6. I'm not really interested in your aeroplane
Oh, yes we are! We need to know what model it is, what year it is, what does she TAS at, how does she handle, is she easy to land? It is only through the grace of aeroplanes that private pilots are able to fly, so we want to know as much as we can about every aeroplane that our eyes encounter. It's all part of feeding a passion.
7. It's still raining. Oh, well, the garden needs it
They just don't get it. Rain falls from heavy overcast, which generally means poor vis and no height above the ground in which to play. Showers we can deal with because it means broken or scattered sky and we can always fly through or around showers. Can't the roses do with just showers? They're pretty and all, but they're not aeroplanes!
8. Only really smart people can fly aeroplanes
Not true; anyone can, they just have to have the burning inside. General public think that pilots are some form of super-intelligent beings, when in reality flying an aeroplane is easier than driving a car ... there's just a lot more studying involved. The myth around the super-intelligence probably stems from the secondary school marks needed to get into the RAAF or the fact that aviation is for many something they just can't fathom, so they brand those who can fly as smarter than them. In reality, the intelligence needed to fly comes from discipline and decision-making. But, you know, if other people want to think we are super smart then we really shouldn't pooh-pooh their belief systems.
9. That airport land really is needed for housing
No, it's needed for an airport! The endless appetite for housing developments around the capital cities has already seen several airfields sacrificed to the bulldozers. Airports are part of society as well, and directly or in-directly they benefit everyone. The issue is that general public can't see that benefit, and they all they know of general aviation is that planes fly low and make noise.
10. I wish I had another dimension to my life
This is the crowning glory of a private pilot's life: we have that extra dimension, both physically and spiritually. The ability to fly shows us a world and an experience that beats off the "normality" of everyday life. Geography to us is more than maps; it's the environment in which we move, it's knowing how the mountains, the rivers and the valleys all fit together to make up what we call Australia. That's not something you can get from driving a car across the ground for your entire life; your scope of environment is too small to really appreciate what's around you. We are also up there where the clouds are our peers, and there are not a lot of things more inspiring than cruising high above a broken layer in illuminating sunshine looking at the shapes and rolls of the cloud below; the art that nature created specifically for pilots. Others could have that extra dimension too if they came flying with us.
Got anymore? If there are other things you think you'll never hear private pilots say that the general public could, let us know in the comments below.