From a Jet to a Citabria – Something feels wrong!

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Being a professional pilot has a lot of advantages. We get paid to fly. I will say it again we get paid to fly! It was a childhood dream of mine to fly for a living, as it was for many pilots in the professional aviation industry. Those who are not flying for a living often wishes they were. I can say that I wouldn’t want to do anything else but fly for a living, it is that great. But is it as much fun as taking a plane to a cool airport, getting food with friends, and flying back home? The short answer is no, but that would make this blog post very short. Just like any vocation, when you do it for a living, it becomes a job. I never dread going to work, but being told when to fly, where to fly, how to fly, and who to fly, makes the experience way different.


professional pilot


Many professional pilots fly outside of their professional jobs because it is what we love to do. It is what I love to do, it has consumed the majority of my life, and when I am not flying, I am often thinking about flying in some capacity. However, it isn’t very often that I get to fun fly. A couple of times a year, I will make it to an airshow, and I make great efforts to make it to the Reno Air Races each year as I have friends who race, and crew on various race planes. But sometimes I will go the entire year with out flying in a GA airplane, which is nothing short of pathetic! Last week I was able to break the multi-year streak of not flying for fun. A friend who races in the biplane class at Reno each year invited me out to help change the oil on his Pitts. My schedule worked out in such a way that allowed that. He also asked if I wanted to go flying, to which I said absolutely! After changing the oil on his Pitts we rented a Citabria. It had been over 2 years since I have stepped foot in a Citabria, and about 4 years since I have flown from the back seat. Jeff added me to his Pitts insurance, so flying from the back of the Citabria is very similar in sight picture.




Flying jets for work is vastly different than flying a piston single tailwheel aircraft. It is amazing what you get used to, and what muscle memory does with regard to proficiency. Flying lower and slower was a big change in sight picture for me, but in a great way! I had to relearn what everything looked like at 100 knots and 3,500 feet. The feel of the plane came right back to me. Although it will take me a few more flights for me to feel really comfortable, I was actually surprised at how quickly the general feel and familiarity came back to me in some aspects, but also surprised at how uncomfortable some phases of flight were. For instance, my feet started working instantly.  My ”butt gauge” needs more calibration but I was impressed at how easy it was for me to get the plane coordinated after not flying it for so long. We departed RHV and headed to O13, which is a field to the south. Upon my first touch-n-go in the pattern, it made me very uncomfortable to be flying so slowly. 65 mph on final is standard practice in the Citabria, I know that, but it felt wrong. It felt wrong the entire flight. In fact, the downwind, base and final felt “funny”. The first landing in over 4 years went better than I expected. Once a tailwheel pilot, always a tailwheel pilot! After a few laps in the pattern, Jeff and I each swapping legs to get landings in, we headed back. What an amazing feeling! Just renting an airplane, no rush, no passengers, no politics, and no company BS. Just us, the plane, and the gorgeous California weather for us to enjoy.


flying for fun


Flying for fun is needed to keep the sanity. The feelings of fun flying can be felt days later, and there is no aviation job that can replace fun flying in my opinion. If you are a professional pilot who hasn’t flown GA and are reading this blog post, head to the airport on your day off, and get yourself into something fun, and go fly!

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