October 08, 2012

Taking A break

I've basically had to make a decision in the last week or two that's been a long time coming: I really need to take a break from flying to be able to concentrate on the rest of my life for a while.

It's not that I won't fly as (say) safety pilot if asked, or that I'll let my medical or KOAK badge lapse, or not do my BFR when it's due, it's that I just can't afford the time and money for the foreseeable short term to fly semi-regularly the way I used to.

Basically, it's not really so much a money thing, it's a time thing. I have a new job that involves a lot more commuting, more travel, and much more extensive responsibilities than my previous job(s). It's no longer as easy to fly on weekday evenings as it used to be (I'm often still at work at 7pm, which would be when I'd want to start a flight, especially since I typically have to be up well before 7am the next day to get to work on time), and weekends are typically devoted to the other things and people in my life (or just recovering from the weekdays).

It's been a real struggle to find the time to stay current: not just instrument current, which has always been a bit of a chore, but club-current — which, at one PIC flight per 60 days, gives you some idea of how low the bar is set, and how I can't make even that bar. Given the vagaries of my life, it's turned out to be very difficult to book a plane ahead of time and not have that booking canceled because of weather or the need to stay late at work to sort out some emergency or other; sometimes I wish I could just turn up at the airport (KOAK, in my case) on a whim and just go fly the pattern on random evenings, but the current rental situation makes that basically impossible (for good reason).

And I'd say it's been even more of a struggle staying not just current, but proficient. That really does take significant time and effort, especially on the IFR side. No matter how ruthless I am about keeping my interactions with the G1000 on a "need to know" basis for single-pilot IFR, it's something that requires regular use to be comfortable with, and I just don't get that regular use at the moment.

Having said all that, money certainly plays a part: flying costs at least twice as much per hour now (for comparable planes) as when I started back in 1999, and more than three times as much for the type of plane I prefer flying single pilot IFR. Despite the apologists, GA flying really is expensive — many of my friends are (starving) artists and the like, and the amount of money I put into an hour or two's flying (for fun!) amazes a lot of these people.

Plus I do video and photography semi-professionally (as in I charge for it, but it's not my main source of income) and for more arty-farty reasons, and neither calling is exactly cheap (or at least not done the way I do it). A good piece of gear that I need for a specific type of shot or gig might cost the equivalent of a few hour's flying — and it's not hard to guess what choice I have to make for the long term in situations like that.

So it's unlikely that I'll be flying much (or even at all) in the next six months, maybe even the next year or two. We shall see….


Ron said...

Sorry to hear that! I hope you are able to get back in the saddle again soon. GA needs all the pilots it can get if its going to survive at all.

Hamish said...

Ron — thanks. It's difficult giving it up, but like a lot of GA part-timers I don't really think I can defend spending so much time and money on what basically amounts to a cross between a hobby and a calling….

But we'll see how I feel in six months time :-).

Anders said...

Is there anything sadder than realizing you're not going to be able to fly as regularly? I'm just fresh into the world of aviation, and not even learning how to fly an airplane myself, but I love and value every time I get to go up. (We shoot a lot of aerial footage.)

I hope you're able to get back up more regularly down the road. Good luck!

- Anders

Ben Read said...

I can relate to everything in this post. In my case, becoming a parent really changed my time budget. I keep flying VFR when I can. I know I'll never give up aviation, it just has to wax and wane based on what else is going on in my life.