Over the last couple of weeks I have had a couple of brief, and a few very long, conversations with two ex-private pilots (one of which is also an ex-LAME) and a couple of ex-RAAF pilots (one of which was a test pilot and is still an active GA pilot). Basically, I have had a couple of concerns in regards to my flying ...
- Where is the GA industry going? With the increasing price of fuel (which will get worse with the carbon tax), the increasing age of the fleet and the continual squeeze on small airfields for development or reduced costs, will there be a GA industry in 10 years. More importantly, will there be a private GA industry whereby a private pilot can hire a plane for a weekend and fly somewhere. The general concencous was that it's not going to get any better than it is now.
- What sort of pilot do I want to be? I will never be a commercial pilot. I am in my early 40's and have way too many financial responsibilities to just give it all up and start again. Given what a low hours GA pilot is paid now-a-days I would do worse than halving my current salary, probably getting close to quartering it. I also don't believe it is practical anymore to fly for holidays. The weather can play havoc with your plans, you have no car at the other end and more than a day aircraft hire without a large amount of flying is not really an option anymore (i.e. you can hire if you want to fly all around the country, but not if you want to go see your parents for a week). Add to that the fact that my wife suffers rhuematoid arthritis and would find it difficult getting into and out of an aircraft, let alone walking to and from one across an airfield and fly really isn't going to be a mode of transport for us. So, I will only ever be flying for fun. The problem here, and this was the subject of my conversation with the ex-RAAF test pilot, is that I don't believe you can safely fly once every couple of months. A low hours pilot must fly regularly (the test pilot reckons fortnightly at least) to keep their hand in. I don't want to be a dangerous, low hours, once-in-a-while pilot.
So, given those two facts, my chats with the above people and a whole lot of soul searching I am going to stop flying. It's a damn hard thing for me to do as I feel like I never finished my licence and I hate to leave things unfinished, plus I am very saddened at not having the feel of a plane at my control again, but I just can't justify the money anymore for some fun and I can't justify the danger level I believe flying irregularly would create.
All is not lost though as I have recently found my interest in fishing again, as some of you may have noticed. I have joined the local fishing club and been along to an outing or two with them and am thoroughly enjoying myself. Fishing is certainly an acitivity where it is more easy to say "hey, let's go fishing this afternooon" than flying is to say "hey, let's go flying". I dare say it is more social too, as I have certainly met a lot more like minded blokes! I did however have to break the news to my wife that I need to buy a four wheel drive as the family camry is starting to suffer under some of the places I want to take it. She was all for it saying she'd feel better with me fishing than flying (I always knew it scared her a bit).
I am now in a strange state of being a little disappointed but confident that I have made the right decision. So, if you have made it this far into my little ramble, thank you for listening.