Pilots vs. Pilots

birds of a different feather

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birds of a different featherIn this editorial I will attempt to juxtapose two different genre of aviators. Both are similar, yet different. Let me also say there is no right answer.


Many would think that pilots are a very structured species that goes out to the same kinds of airports and flies similar types of aircraft on comparable missions. Most everyone reading this knows that to be untrue.


Certainly folks who aren’t involved in aviation will have a very narrow view because they don’t realize the depth and breadth of flying. But I also believe there is a tendency, even among our own ranks, to homologize what it is to be a pilot. Often, we project our personal notion of flying upon our fellow aviators. In this vein we sort of forget, or ignore, a whole other population out there that enjoys aviation from a much different perspective. 


Let’s break down an example of two stereotypical types of pilots. In fact, most would recognize the difference between these two groups just by describing what kind of airplane they fly. In either case they might rent or own the aircraft in question.


Pilot Group #1:

– Private Pilot

– Instrument rated or has plans to do so in the near future

– Typically flies a high performance single engine 

– 90% of trips are cross-country trips for personal or business reasons

– Largely focused on the practical and academic aspects of flying

– Leverages and embraces technology 

– Typical currency or training flights center around instrument proficiency

– Usually based at a larger airport (could be controlled) with instrument approaches


Pilot Group #2:

– Private or Sport Pilot

– Typically flies an single engine with 150hp less (sometimes a conventional gear)

– 90% of flights are local in nature or $100 hamburger missions

– Rarely flies at night (if at all)

– Focused on the experiential component of flying

– Doesn’t interject a large quotient of technology into their operation

– Typical currency or training flights center around tailwheel proficiency (if applicable) or cutting toilet paper

– Normally operates from grass strips or uncontrolled county airports away from a metropolis


You can see they not only possess different skill sets, they also have significantly different missions. Again, there is no right answer, and in fact you will even see my biases projected onto the groups above based on how I stereotyped them.


How are the similar?

– Proud

– Always seeking to excel in their craft

– Passionate

– Conscientious

– Thinks their type of flying is the best way, of course

– They use GPS – who doesn’t use it?


In looking back at the two groups discussed above, it’s important to note that you can find many other groups, such as this partial list below:


– Warbird aficionados

– Ramp Vermin: RV guys

– Aerobatic specialists

– Antique Classic restorers

– Ultralight drivers

– Multiengine aviators

– Fast Glass crowd

– Turboprop operators

– Glider pilots


Also, there are some that flow between groups. One day they might be on an intense IFR cross-country in a Bonanza and the next they are smelling the roses on a beautiful day in a Cub. These folks are truly blessed to be able to enjoy more of the spectrum of aviation. Unfortunately, not everyone has the time or the means to enjoy every facet. 


My challenge to you. If you fall into one of the categories in this article, step out of your comfort zone and try something new, even if it’s just for a few flights. I would always encourage folks to sample aerobatics (with an instructor), learn to fly a taildragger, or get an instrument rating. All of these things WILL make you a better pilot.


So set a goal for 2014 to get your butt in a different kind of seat next year, you’ll be glad you did.


by Brent Owens <click my name to email me>

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