However, there are other inclement conditions that are affecting our flying opportunities lately ... inclement conditions of an economic nature. With the cost of 100LL on the rise and the uncertain economic climate, it isn't always so easy to look into our wallets and know whether to continue with our planned flight.
I love to fly, but I also know that I have other financial responsibilities in my life and that sometimes flying needs to take a back seat (yeah, I know ... crazy, huh?). What do you do when tough economic and financial times put your normal flying tendencies in a tailspin? Well, I have found a few things that help me cope with a lack of time in the left seat ...
- Read, read, read: I am a proud member of AOPA and supporter of the ASF (safety foundation) and receive both of their monthly periodicals, AOPA Pilot and AOPA Flight Training. I read them cover to cover as they reach my front door. Reading about current events in the aviation industry keeps you connected to other pilots. Reviewing articles on piloting techniques and regulations keep you technically sharp even when you can't be in the left seat.
- Listen: Clear and accurate communications are essential when piloting an aircraft. Sometimes our communication skills can get a little rusty when they are not used on a continuous basis. The internet provides a great resource for staying sharp on communication skills. I own a portable scanner that I can tune into aviation frequencies. However, there are also ATC feeds online (www.liveatc.net) that allow you to listen to air traffic communication from airports all around the country. Even if you aren't the one speaking into the mic, hearing pilot/ATC dialog from a live source provides you with positive reinforcement of what it should or shouldn't be like when you are in the cockpit.
- Fly: That's right ... fly ... on your computer. Between my installed copies of Flight Simulator X, X-Plane 9, and Flight Gear, I can engage in all types of flying from the comfort of my home office. A flight yoke and a set of rudder pedals helps to add a level of realism to the depiction of the cockpit sitting in front of you on the computer screen. Of course, it isn't the same. However, with the realism in most flight models today, you can accurately practice procedures and stay sharp on all the checklists for the different phases of flight. You can even get online and fly with some of your buddies.