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Want To Go Flying?

Before climbing into a small airplane and launching into the sky, it's understandable that many people have lots of questions. This page attempts to answer many of those questions and provide an orientation to your first flight. Here's what you can expect.

Is this for real?

Yep, it's true: I am a licensed pilot, and I went out and bought an airplane so I could go flying anytime I want just for the price of gas. Most of the time I end up flying by myself, and I welcome company when I can find someone who wants to ride along. So if you would like to go flying sometime, I'd be delighted to give you a ride, just let me know when you want to go.

This page is primarily designed for those who are not very familiar with the odd little world of small airplanes (which is almost everyone) and who might have a bunch of questions before they agree to climb into some strange little machine and leave the ground (which is entirely reasonable).

For those who have not been exposed to small airplanes much, it might sound like a crazy thing to do, but I assure you, it's done every day by thousands of people who enjoy it quite a bit. I think it's lots of fun, and hope you will too. For what it's worth, everyone I've flown has enjoyed it and said they would like to go again.

Here is some info that I hope will tell you what you want to know.

Is It Safe?

The first thing most people think (even if they're too polite to actually say it out loud) is..."Yikes -- That sounds dangerous! Are you sure we won't be killed?" Yes, I am sure we won't be killed. Nor injured. Not even a little bit. Honest.

Flying in small airplanes, like many things, is exactly as dangerous -- or as safe -- as you make it. I take safety very seriously. I simply value my butt too much to take great risks, and I take the responsibility of flying my friends around and returning them safely to terra firma very seriously too. Here are some things to consider:

But what if something goes wrong? Wouldn't we be doomed?

My airplane is a very simple, basic machine (you will probably be surprised at how basic it is!). There just aren't a lot of very complicated things on it to break. And in the unlikely event that something does go wrong with the plane, it's highly unlikely that it would cause a very dangerous situation. All pilots, including me, are trained to handle virtually every emergency situation that might occur, and I'm confident of my ability to deal with any situation that might arise. Throughout the flight, I'll be checking things to make sure everything's working (you may or may not notice). And even if something important were to go wrong, there are plenty of things the pilot can do to get the plane down safely. We practice these things regularly so we're ready for even a "worst case scenario."

I make these two promises to you:

  1. You will be safe, and you really need not worry.
  2. If things do go so horribly wrong that you actually are in danger, I will tell you. So unless I specifically tell you it's time to panic, you can leave the worrying to the pilot and enjoy the great view.

OK, so what's it like?

If you've never flown in a small airplane before, you might be surprised at the intensity of the experience, especially in the first few moments after we takeoff. People describe flying in small planes variously as "thrilling", "intense", "exhilarating" -- and yes, a few people call it "terrifying". You will feel everything. You will be very aware of every little breeze and bump in the air that the plane encounters.

I try to fly gently and only take first-time passengers up when the air is nice and still, but even on smooth days, you will feel a lot more "bumps" that you are used to feeling when flying in airliners. The view will be incredible. The world is right there in your face and the landscape surrounds you -- you can see an incredible amount of detail!

The Pacific Northwest is an especially scenic area to fly in. If you've ever seen one of those "Over Washington" videos on PBS....that's exactly what it looks like. It's really beautiful up there.

How long will we fly?

As long (or as short) as you want us to. We'll take off and see how it goes. If you are uncomfortable or just feel like you have had enough, all you have to do is say the word and we can go back and land (or land somewhere else if we've ventured away from home). We can fly for as little as 2 minutes, or go for up to four hours before needing to refuel.  For most people, on their first time out, an hour seems about right.  Keep in mind that the airplane's cabin is fairly small and the seats are not the most luxurious and comfortable in the world, so most people are ready for a break after an hour, even if they've been having fun.

Where will we go?

That depends on how you like it, how the weather looks, and other factors, but mostly it'll be up to you.

The plane is kept at Boeing Field, conveniently located on the south side of downtown Seattle. The scenery right around Seattle is quite nice, and there's good stuff in just about every direction. You may not realize it, but there are small airports all over the place. We can, if you like, visit most of them.

On your first flight, especially if you're not real sure about the whole thing, we will probably just do some local sightseeing.  We can fly over your house and/or workplace, look down and laugh at the poor suckers stuck in traffic on the ground, maybe stop at another nearby small airport. On subsequent flights (or if you're already feeling quite confident and ambitious), there are plenty of cool places one can fly to with a few hours to spare: the San Juan Islands, the Olympic Peninsula, over the Cascades, down the Washington or Oregon Coast, up the Columbia River Gorge -- all are an within a few hours.

Tell me about the airplane

It's a basic, older plane: a 1965 Cessna 150. You might be surprised to learn that most of the small planes flying today were built sometime between the 1940s and the 1970s. This was the "golden age" of aviation, and for a variety of reasons, few small airplanes are made anymore (and those are pretty expensive).

My plane is the aerial equivalent of a Volkswagen Beetle (the original "classic" beetle, not the new one). One of the most popular airplanes ever built, the Cessna 150 is what most of the world's pilots learned to fly in. It's a simple, rugged airplane designed for basic flight training. So it's not big on creature comforts, but it's built strong enough to withstand lots of abuse at the hands of new student pilots learning to fly. It's small -- the seating is "cozy" -- and doesn't have a lot of fancy accessories.

But it's a real airplane, capable of flying far and high (as long as you're not in a big hurry). It cruises about 100 miles per hour, and handles very responsively, somewhat like a sports car. There are two seats, side by side. I sit on the left, you sit on the right, in the "copilot's seat." There are two sets of controls (remember, this was built as a training airplane), so you will have a control wheel and rudder pedals in front of you.

If you would like to try flying the plane, you will have the chance to take the controls for a bit (but only when I tell you it's OK). Flying the plane is fun and not difficult.

Here's more information about the plane and some photos...(click here).

The plane has a bunch of instruments that tell us all sorts of things; most of them are pretty obvious but a few will probably be unfamiliar to you. We also have several different radios for communication and navigation tasks. I'll provide a brief explanation of all this stuff before we go. If you have questions about any of these (or anything else, for that matter), feel free to ask and I'll be happy to explain things. Just please don't touch.

Coffee, tea or ???

This will definitely be a non-smoking flight. In-flight refreshments will be limited to whatever you are able to sneak on board. We'll bring along some drinking water. There are airport restaurants at several of the local airports if we want to stop for a snack.

For in-flight entertainment, we do have AM/FM radio or CDs available, but you will probably find that the experience holds your attention well enough that you won't be interested in any audio entertainment.  Every seat is a window seat!

No cell phone calls are allowed once we are airborne, so if you have a cell phone, please turn it off before we take off (it won't cause a problem for the plane, but could get you in trouble with the phone companies and/or the government).

Dress is casual

It's a very informal activity, and I recommend you dress for comfort. If it's a hot day, it'll be warm up there. If it's cold out, it'll be cool up there. It's typically a little bit cooler at altitude than it is on the ground, although usually not dramatically so. The plane has a lot of window area, so if the sun is shining it can get warm in the cabin. We have air vents to let in fresh air and if it's very warm outside we can fly with the windows open. There is a heater although it's only partly effective. It's often breezy at airports so consider bringing along a windbreaker or sweatshirt for layering.

You should definitely bring along sunglasses and probably a baseball-type cap to help deal with the sun in your eyes (I should have a spare in case you forget).

You're welcome to bring along a camera or other toys if you like. However, we're limited in how much weight the plane can carry, so please don't bring along a lot of heavy stuff (e.g. golf clubs, a palette of concrete blocks, etc.).

And Now, A Word From The Federal Government

Federal Aviation Regulations require that I provide all passengers with a basic preflight safety briefing. Here's some information you should read: (please click here for your pre-flight briefing).

A Few Words About Security

Unlike when flying the airlines post-September 11th, you will not have to stand in a long line, answer dumb questions, take off your shoes, or let some creepy stranger cop a feel before boarding. You just need to convince me that you are really you. You may not bring any of the following items on our flight: firearms, explosives, flammable or hazardous materials, or nuclear devices of any kind.

Alright - Let's Go Flying!