Every once in a while, we get an opportunity to promote general aviation, or just to expose someone to our preferred mode of travel. Some of us do that with structured familiarization flights, like those organized by the EAA. Others, like me, just take those opportunities as they arise.
And one arose not too long ago. I was visiting a friend; call him Chuck. Chuck is a pilot and an airplane owner, but unfortunately lost his medical. He has a friend—call her Pat—who is one of those rare souls who’d never been on an airplane. Pat is an educated, successful professional whose employment just never required travel.
Chuck enjoys getting out and seeing what the world has to offer, whether that’s a couple counties over, the other side of the continent, or even on another continent across an ocean.
Then Pat met Chuck, who encouraged her to expand her horizons. Pat wasn’t unwilling, but she was reluctant, cautious, with a palpable fear of the unknown. Chuck made some small inroads into Pat’s reluctance. Before I met her, Chuck had even convinced Pat to apply for and obtain a passport. Pat’s attitude was changing and Chuck began to suggest a trip “out west” from their homes in Virginia. About that time my wife and I visited Chuck for a few days.
My wife is also a pilot. So, with three of the four of us being pilots, the conversations naturally included flying and travel to interesting places. Pat began to seriously consider the options. Meanwhile, Chuck’s suggested trip became more real. We wanted to share our enthusiasm for flight and travel and offered to take Pat up for a flightseeing trip around the local area.
Initially Pat wasn’t enthused about the idea, but agreed to consider it. She ultimately concluded that she wanted to travel with Chuck, and that a local flight in a smaller airplane from a nearby airport might well be a way to break the ice. She decided she wanted to take the flight.
I planned about a 30-minute flight encompassing some nice scenery around a large local recreational lake. Weather was good and the air mostly smooth. My objective was to make the flight as pleasant and comfortable as possible. Pat, normally quiet and reserved, barely said a word during or after the flight. I was concerned that we’d overdone it and she’d just shut down.
It was just the opposite. The flight was a complete sensory and experiential overload for Pat. But that one short flight was such a positive experience that Pat committed to Chuck’s trip and took the whole cross-continent air-travel experience to the Grand Canyon and Death Valley in stride.
It was gratifying to me to provide a completely new and foreign experience to a tentative passenger that so opened her up to the possibilities that, having enjoyed the first trip, she and Chuck now plan to fly out commercially to visit us this fall.
I urge you to seize any opportunities that arise to expose an inexperienced flyer to the wonders of general aviation. You might even get some visitors in the bargain.