Since I learned to fly in 1976, the vicissitudes of life have removed me from the cockpit and later returned me to the left seat. As a rusty pilot, I am again at a point where my return to the sky is possible, but deciding whether to take advantage of the opportunity isn’t as simple as it was 20 years ago.
At 40 I was halfway to my expected expiration date. When it came to planning for retirement and related concerns we’ll all face in the final chapter of life, it was easy to procrastinate. At 60 the proximity of what awaits me is clear enough to see without my glasses. I imagine many among the half-million rusty pilots AOPA identified in its research face a similar dilemma.
The heart tells me to go for it, but the head raises the cautionary index finger of logical pause to think things through. My most affordable flying option is the local flying club. In round numbers, for $500 a month I can pay my dues and fly for 2 hours. Consequently, the $6,000 annual cost is roughly equal to the yearly premium for long-term care insurance, which relieved a lot of the stress of my parents’ final days.
Another question is how many flying days I have left. In good health now, I could pass a third-class medical exam. Self-certification through sport pilot isn’t an option because no one here rents a qualified airplane that safely fits me. On that front, my only hope is that the FAA trusts the good record sport pilots have accrued and extends self-certification to those of us who want to make day-VFR flights for fun in larger airplanes.
My decision is not yet made. I’m still working the numbers to see if there is a way I can continue to invest in making life’s final chapters as comfortable as possible for my wife and myself without sacrificing all of the other things we enjoy doing together. What makes this increasingly difficult are the unknowns of our future health and state of the economy. And there’s also the chance that our financial fortunes will improve, but I think the chances of that outcome are equal to the odds of winning the Powerball Lottery, so I’m stuck with the future I can safely predict. –Scott Spangler, Editor