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There’s always something to howl about

Flourishing, Flying, and the FAA

Greg has a nice post on mastering something difficult this year. I’m not sure it counts as a truly difficult task, but I started taking private pilot lessons in August, and was hooked. It turns out that flying in a small plane is fun, especially when you can fly most places you want with comparatively little hassle.

In October, I bought an airplane – a Piper Cherokee 140 that was built in the 1960s, and refurbished in the 2000s with new avionics and electronics.

It’s not particularly speedy. It flies about 130 to 140 mph in calm weather. With a headwind, you’ll get no better speed than a fast car, though you do always have the advantage of flying directly from point to point and avoiding traffic.

There are two aspects of flying. There is the purely intellectual and mechanical task of operating the plane, and of inspecting it and fixing it (which I’m looking forward to learning.) That is exciting. I started landing the plane well, consistently, last week. Something just clicked and I’ve got a good sense now of how to fly the plane to a stop.

I’m also excited about mapping routes, avoiding hazards, making sure the plane is operating safely.

What is a terrible bore is that flying has got to be one of the most regulated ways to travel. I am able to avoid most of the TSA because I can walk right out to the plane on the ramp.

But everything is highly regulated, from the actual certification of the plane and all repairs, additions, improvements and modifications, to restrictions on where you can travel, to licensing restrictions.

I am going to have to take my private pilot check ride, which is a ride with an FAA examiner to make sure I can operate the plane safely and perform certain maneuvers. I’m not too worried about that.

But I also have to read, memorize, and regurgitate on a multiple choice exam a ton of useless factoids about aviation regulations that are irrelevant to safety or to proficient flying.

So much of our life is regulated – from the fishing license, to the boating certificate, to the pilot’s license, to the driver’s license, to the license to start this or that business. It’s a wonder you don’t need a license from the government to launch a new website.

That is so very sad.

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