Why do people stop flying?

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Quitting flying

Why do people stop flying?

Why do normal, well-adjusted, intelligent people drop flying like a bad habit?

Unfortunately for our industry there are more than a few legitimate reasons:

Lack of interest
Bad experience
Life circumstances

These can actually overlap to some extent, but let us look at each in detail and maybe explore some mitigation techniques.


This is a bit of a no-brainer and has received more than its fair share of press over the years as the costs have escalated. The fact of the matter is most recreational activities are getting more expensive. Sometimes it’s a matter of have reasonable expectations about what kind of flying you can do. 

My initial thought when faced with someone who quits flying because it has become incrementally more expensive is to label them as unimaginative. Just because you can’t afford a Cirrus SRxx, is no reason to throw in the towel! I have also encountered folks who give up on aviation because they have a vision of what kind of flying and what kind of aircraft they want to own and those are unobtainable. What happened to renting? What about flying clubs? Partnerships? Again I go back to this lack of imagination theory. (related article)

The psychology is a little more complicated than that. As you find yourself have to “go backwards” in your pursuits or not reaching your goals, the feelings of defeat and resentment make the whole endeavor not worth doing for many folks.

I have seen this many times. It takes a certain personality to over come this human condition and accept your current reality. “Commitment in the face of conflict produces character.” ~ Unknown


This one closely mirrors life circumstances. Maybe you earned a promotion and you don’t have, what you feel to be, adequate time to dedicate to flying.

While I applaud this discipline to give it up if you can’t do it your way, I feel there are many steps you could take manage the time better and/or come up with a safe strategy for maintaining proficiency during this phase of your life; it won’t last forever, nothing does.

Lack of Interest

One of the most honest reasons for quitting. Truly if flying isn’t turning you on then why stay with it.

Even here I would suggest trying a new subset of flying to see if that passion could be reignited. You might be surprised. There are so many facets beyond the “normal” general aviation stereotypes. Many pilots have found a renewed love after an aerobatic lesson, or a glider flight, or trying out floatplanes, etc…


Bad Experience

This is a hard one. If something happened in an airplane that truly scared you to the point of hanging up your spurs, I’m not sure there is much that can be done.

Most suggest getting right back onto the horse. I might agree, but consider bringing along a trusted pilot or instructor to let you ease back into the groove. This is extremely situational so you’ll have to do some serious soul-searching on this one.


This is an interesting one. Maybe you flew at you local airport for years and now you find the facility closed for whatever reason. This was the case for several Washington, D.C. airports, post 09/11/01. Or you might have relocated and there isn’t a convenient place to fly in your new locale. 

Now you are faced with a long commute. That might be enough to force you to trade flying for golf. Luckily this isn’t common, but airports and businesses do close, especially in small, rural markets. My advice? Gut it out and make the drive. Maybe you’ll cut your flying back to one every two weeks if it’s over an hour each way. Again, many have faced much great hardships and continued to pursue their passions. 

Life Circumstances

Life is never static. There are an unlimited number of situations that might clip your wings. It could be medical, financial, family (personal), or professional. Whatever challenge you face, it is up to you to figure out how to make lemons into lemonade. Unless you have a severe physical limitation, everything else is fixable. If you haven’t seen Jessica Cox, who flies with no arms, check it here for some inspiration!


All of these come under the definition of,  “if you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen!” Adversity has never stopped anyone from flying. It might delay it or make it take a form that isn’t as glamorous as you would like, but flying is flying!


I need to give a shout out to our brethren on the other continents. In almost every country, besides the U.S., flying is a much more difficult proposition.

If you feel stressed about how much sacrifice is required, you might consider how good we have it here.

Final Recommendation

Maybe take a break from your relationship with flying and come back to it fresh. If it got into your blood, you’ll be back I promise!


Do you have any experience or thoughts on the matter? Comment. We’d love to hear from you!

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