A continuation of “Getting into Flying Part I: Who can do it”. In this article we will discuss different activities within aviation.
Most aviation enthusiasts get started by simply watching planes. Whether it is sitting by an airport fence line or your own backyard, this is the simplest and most inexpensive way to get involved. If you happen to live by a smaller airport (often referred to as ‘General Aviation’, ‘Regional’, ‘Municipal’, or ‘Local Airports), this is extremely easy to do. There are usually benches just outside the fence line that separate the active apron/runways/taxiways that allow people to sit outside and enjoy the view. More active airports will usually have a restaurant that is open on weekends; this is the best place to talk to other enthusiasts, pilots, ramp personnel and mechanics. Usually the pilots are easy to spot, you can hear them from across the room boasting about their flying, and we are always looking for more people to tell our tales to (especially if there was a ‘dangerous’ element to it…). So don’t be shy and feel free to sit beside anyone and ask him or her whatever questions you have. Aviation tends to attract some pretty friendly and they are all willing to help you get involved. In fact, if you start asking questions, they may even give you a tour of the airport and planes they have access to, giving you an “insider’s view”.
If you do not happen to live near a smaller airport and instead live near a large international airport, the environment is a little bit different. I’m going to use Toronto Pearson International Airport (CYYZ) as an example. There are plenty of places to watch the planes come and go, along the airport perimeter are several stores and restaurants where you will see crowds of people standing in parking lots watching the planes go. In order to not get hassled by the management of said parking lot, you should really be a customer of whatever business is there. For a closer view of the airplanes, you can also park at the airport and sit inside where they usually have large viewing windows. This can be a good way to relax and have a coffee and it even works for dates.
In addition to the unorganised groups of people standing in parking lots, there are also several “Airport Watch” and “Planespotter” associations. YYZ Airport Watch (http://www.airportwatchcanada.com) is one such association and in addition to being an aviation enthusiast organisation, they work with local and federal law enforcement agencies to help airport enhance airport security. They hold regular meetings and often have airport staff give speeches as well as provide behind-the-scenes tours of the airport.
Museums will also have their members flying vintage aircraft, usually on weekends and at airshows. In order to raise funds to maintain those aircraft, they usually offer discovery flights.
A discovery flight is an introductory flight that many flight schools and museums offer. They are usually 30 minutes to an hour in duration. If the flight is done at a flight school, you will have one of the flight instructors take you up and show you what flying is like and how the aircraft operates. It’s almost like having a “mini-lesson” and in fact, does count towards your pilot licence if you decide to pursue it. The costs of these flights are about 50-60 dollars for a half hour flight and 100-120 for an hour.
This is something that I will develop into a full article later on, but taking flying lessons are a big step that can have some great rewards. If you have taken a discovery flight, you can talk to the flight instructor or school that did the flight and figure out what your goals are. You do not have to do this as a career; flying can be and is an fun (albeit expensive) hobby that creates a lot of memorable experiences.
Stay tuned for the next article in this series ‘Making a Career out of flying’!