For decades, individuals and organizations have focused attention and effort on rebuilding the pilot population. But for the first time in memory, AOPA is drawing attention to—and doing something about it with its Keep ’em Flying Challenge—an equally important number: hours flown. And it asks pilots to push themselves beyond the hundred-buck burger run.
Like the pilot population, the hours flown by GA and Part 135 pilots has been in bumpy decline since 1980, when they logged more than 41 million hours. In 1990 it was 32 million; in 2000 it was 29.9 million; and in 2010 is was 24.8 million hours, up from 23.7 the year before.
AOPA elegantly shares the wealth and benefits of getting airborne and motivates participation with a random drawing that will award a $2,499 grand prize, $1,000 to second place, $500 to third place, and four $250 fourth-place awards.
There’s one entry per pilot, and qualification is on the honor system. Between April 1 and July 31, 2012, pilots must fly at least five hours as pilot in command of an aircraft to five destination airports more than 50 nautical miles away, and complete an Air Safety Institute online course.
That sounds like more fun than the prosaic burger mission to the same old airports. Aviation is about adventure, so add your own challenge. Fly to five never-before visited airports or seek all available runway options: grass, gravel, asphalt, and concrete, short and soft, wide and narrow.
And don’t forget to invite your friends. Making your challenge a social event with passengers (prospective or lapsed pilots you may know) and more than one airplane adds to the fun! Let me know what personal challenge you come up with, because flying is also about sharing. –Scott Spangler