How to Get Back Into Aviation & Flight Training — AviatorCast 135

Have you had a long hiatus from flying? Did you stop your training years ago? In this podcast I’ll define those that have fallen out of aviation, and talk about how you can get back into flying with a handful of simple steps.

In this podcast we will discuss:

▪ Evaluating whether or not it’s your time to get back into aviation.
▪ Having the courage to talk to people about what it takes to get back into flying
▪ How following aviators on social media can give you a huge boost
▪ Why emphasizing the ‘social’ part of social media is very important
▪ A deeper discussion on the fav four; medical, time, money and work, and steps to take now
▪ How to create a plan the “SMART” way
▪ Some final quick wins you can do almost immediately to boost you in the right direction

And by the way, it’s all too common a thing to fall out of aviation for a while. You’re not alone. But the journey back is not as difficult as you may think.

Jump in and enjoy this bit of inspiration and direction to getting back in the cockpit.

Episode Transcript

On this episode of AviatorCast, how to get back into aviation.

Welcome, aviators, to another episode of AviatorCast. Load up your flight bag with useful flight training topics, interviews and aviation passion. Let’s kick the tires and light the fires. Coming to you from Angle of Attack headquarters in Homer, Alaska, here’s your host and flight instructor, Chris Palmer.

Welcome everyone to AviatorCast. Once again, Chris Palmer here. Hope you guys are doing well no matter where you are and I hope you are working toward your flying dreams. That is what this is all about, encouraging you to go for your career, take a step forward to just achieving that dream of becoming a pilot and that is what this podcast eventually does. You can find this podcast on YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, wherever you go. Join the community and comment, participate. We’d love to have you there and hear from you about how you like this podcast. All right. And please leave a review if you like it.

But we’re going to get into an interesting subject today. I want to talk about how to get back into aviation after you’ve been out of it for a while. I know that this is something that a lot of people face at one point or another. People go many years between training sessions and eventually find themselves in a better life situation where they can get back into aviation. And that’s going to be what I talk about today, more some actionable steps to go for it if it is in fact your time. So if you’ve been out of aviation for a while, maybe you were an active pilot at one time and you don’t know quite how to get back into it or you’re eager to pick up where you left off because you stopped training, whatever it is. Even I’ve gone through this myself a couple times. It’s kind of odd because we find ourselves in the same spot as a brand new pilot where it’s tough to approach new people at a new airport in a new area and start all over again and there’s still that same apprehension.

So we’re going to be talking a little bit about that today and just as a preview, we’re going to talk about whether it’s your time or not to go for it. We’re going to talk about finding the courage to talk to people that can help you and give you information about what you need to do. We’re going to talk about people to follow on social media and YouTube that could inspire you and encourage you to move forward. And then we’re going to create a plan by evaluating your finances and your life, figure out if it’s time to go and then quickly get some wins, some quick wins to move forward. So that’s going to be what we’re talking about today. If you’ve been out of aviation for a while, this is going to be a good podcast for you to listen to. If you need a little extra encouragement or some ideas to maybe light your passion on fire, your process here, then this is also a podcast for you.

So let’s get right into it. Is it your time right now? I think we go through these parts of life where we fall out of certain things, and because aviation is one of those things that is a hobby in a certain way, people tend to fall out of it for a while and then need to come back. But if it’s your time, some signs of that may be that you’re obsessing about getting back into the air again and you can’t really think of anything else except for flying an airplane and experiencing that again. Maybe it’s moving forward in some sort of way, adding a rating, but you’re obsessing over it. That’s a really good sign that it is your time to get back into it. And sometimes aviation even fills a need of some kind. That need is different for all of us, but I think in general it gives just a completeness to life and a perspective of life. We are our best selves, in a lot of cases, when we are flying and doing it well. So maybe you feel that void. You feel that need to fly again.

So when it’s your time and you have all that passion behind you, you’re going to find a way to get back into the air. You’re going to need to do it, in other words. So recognizing first that you want to do that, that you are in a position where it’s something that you need right now is really important to identify and then you need to pivot to action always. And that is are you going to do what it takes to get back into aviation, to get current again after all these years, to pick up your training again after all these years. Are you willing to do what it takes?

If you are in a position like that where you have the passion. You have the desire. There’s that void there that you want to fill and you are willing to do what it takes, then it’s time to start to take action. So now we’re going to talk about some of the action items you can do, some of the biggest things you can do to actually get back into aviation. Now, this next one is not going to be a surprise for anyone and that is finding the courage to simply talk to somebody. Go to the airport and talk to somebody. Now when we first get into aviation, obviously we’re ignorant to what it takes to get into it. We don’t necessarily know how it works or who to talk to or what a flight school’s role is or what an FBO even is, and so it takes a bit of learning to go through that process. In that process though, we meet new people, we find the businesses in our local area, and we start to get a sense of how that is shaped up for our local area.

Now, that’s learning it for the first time, but when we come back into it after many years, surprisingly we kind of have to start over. Unless you have the same people at the same airport running the same margins on their business, which is very rare in aviation, then things are just going to be different. It can even change after just several years, so everything’s going to start new again. You’re going to need to talk to people again to find out how things are working in your local area. This same exact thing happened to me in Alaska when I moved here. I moved from Utah where I knew quite a bit about the community. I was very involved there, kind of a mainstay at the airport, one of the most active pilots at the airport, but then I come up here and I know nobody, and I don’t know how it really works up here. I don’t know where to rent airplanes. I don’t know any instructors, and so I experienced that myself and got out of aviation for several years because of it.

And the thing I wasn’t willing to do at the time was simply to go and talk to somebody, anybody, to make it happen until I was really ready to make it happen. When I was ready, it all fell into place. I just started talking to people and it all happened. So people in aviation, what you need to realize is that first off there’s a bit of a shyness factor in approaching an airport. Talking to somebody, sounding dumb, getting rejected, they’re all those things that even stem from when we’re children that kind of hold us back from just going and talking to people. And if we can get past those initial things, then we’ll find that people in aviation are typically really helpful. This is a community. I think that the majority of people want to help others and, and help them improve their position in aviation and certainly willing to share local knowledge about what is available in the area.

So just know that right out the gate that people are really helpful. And if you do find a grump, it’s not going to take long to find someone that’s really helpful and is willing to tell you all about it. So be an adult. Get over those things that held you back as a kid if you’re shy or whatever, and just go talk to somebody. Step out of those emotions and just go talk. Okay? It’s really that simple and I encourage you to do that, really, to go to your local airport, wherever you think you may want to start to learn to fly or pick it up again or get back into it. Just man up and go do it, okay?

So here are three simple questions that you can ask when you go and talk to different people in your local area. Now, soon enough you’re going to build this network and kind of the idea is to find out how things are working and who’s who and who does what and where you rent an airplane and where the instructors are, all that stuff.

So here are three simple questions that I kind of came up with quickly to ask. “What flight instructors or schools do you know about in this area?” It may not be at your local airport. This next question is big too is, “Who else should I talk to?” That helps you kind of build that picture of the network around, so who else should I talk to to learn about this local area? And this is another big one, “Are there any organizations or clubs I should know about?” So, other things that are going on outside of flying, say like EAA chapters, Civil Air Patrol, WINGS programs, flying clubs, et cetera. Asking those questions, that might seem obvious, but that’s a great way to connect with a lot of people and really boost yourself. Those are typically free, at least a handful of those, to go to. Flying clubs is more of something that you pay into, but it’s affordable.

Anyway, what you’re doing here, again, I’ll repeat the questions in a second, but what you’re doing here is you’re building that network to find out where people are, what they do and then you can go and talk to the right person, so maybe you end up getting a list of five instructors eventually and you go and you talk to each instructor and feel out a where they’re at with your situation and share a little bit and see what they have to say. And you’re going to get a good feeling about one of them, and that’s going to kick you off right away. You might even find that, going to one of those clubs or meetings or something with some of those organizations, you could get invited to go fly with someone, just ride along, and that could spark your passion even more.

So again, the questions are, “What flight instructors or schools do you know about in this area?” Because they are such a good connector to getting back into aviation. “Who else should I talk to?” and, “Are there any organizations or clubs I should know about?” So again, find the courage to go talk. Be an adult about it and make it happen. Just go talk. People are willing to help, I promise you.

Another way in your everyday life to stay connected to aviation, to be inspired to learn about what’s going on right now, to feel like you are involved, is to follow people on social media and YouTube. I know this helped me quite a bit in just feeling like I was still in the aviation community when I was out of it for a little while is simply connecting to people through social media. And I think sometimes we forget, in social media, the social aspect of it, and that means that it’s almost like what we just talked about with going and talking to someone at the local airport. Actually talking to people or commenting or messaging on social media is a really powerful way to learn about people in your area, be inspired, and actually view or learn something in aviation, which is kind of a byproduct of viewing that stuff. But really the social aspect of building your network and learning about others in your area. And I know for me this has been a very powerful tool when I want to go to a new place and I want to fly with somebody.

So for example, I’m going to be going down to California here in a few days and actually going through Salt Lake, Vegas, California, and I want to fly with people there, followers. Now I have the pleasure and ability and I guess the blessing of having quite a few followers, and so if I put some feelers out there, I get a lot of people that would like to go fly. So I feel like I am going to be able to do that. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t do the same thing. It doesn’t mean you can’t find pilots in your local area, start to message them, start to talk about riding along and sharing a little bit of the cost for that experience or places to go. And feel them out too, maybe they have the coolest instructor in the world and that is your connection there.

So use that social part of social media. Obviously the media part of that is really important too, which is just enjoying it and seeing what people are doing these days and learning something along the way. It is very inspiring to see that other regular, everyday folk are out there aviating, committing aviation. So that is my advice is, focus on the social part of social media and really connect with people there. Make an effort to do that. And then the media part of it, actually absorbing that passion, energy, knowledge, et cetera, that will kind of move you along step by step.

All right, so now that we’ve talked about actually going and talking to someone and then using social media as a way to connect in an even greater way in today’s day and age, let’s talk about the fab four. So as we go along here, I’m going to share some of the biggest hold backs or aspects that are going to hold you back when you’re getting back into aviation and some quick steps that you can take or some things to consider as you’re getting back into aviation. Now, just as a really quick preview, those would be medical, finances, time, and support. So those are the fab four I want to talk about. Take notes if you can, if you’re driving along, if you’re watching or sitting or whatever, maybe you can take notes on your phone fairly easily, even if you don’t have a pen and paper.

Take notes on those things that are specifically applicable to you or how these things are applicable to you on how you can take action and the things you can do, because these are going to be things that can hold you back to get there. But remember that they aren’t necessarily in a step-by-step format, meaning there might be some big ones in here that take a while to figure out, something like a medical issue or something or finances or getting time off work. But identify it first and then you can find out where they fit, in terms of the chronological order of how you need to tackle them. So take notes for now, you can reorganize later. And let’s just go through them.

So first medical, are you eligible or current? So eligible, meaning are you healthy? Is everything good? Could you go and get a medical today? Are you still current, meaning is your last medical already or still active? If that’s not the case, what’s the status? What do you need to do to do that again? Do you need to go to a local medical examiner and simply get your test? If you’re healthy, do you need to subject yourself to … You know that something has come up recently and do you need to subject yourself to some tests or something? So what’s the status there?

And then another caveat that can help people that are flying just for pleasure is do you qualify for BasicMed? BasicMed is a new type of medical. Before we just had three types, the first, second, and third class. BasicMed is a new class of medical that, if you’ve had a medical in the last 10 years, you can enroll in a program with your local physician, your personal family physician, whoever they are, and go through a process there. Now, there are some other details, some online testing of things you need to do and some regular updates there, but that can be a really good way to take care of the medical situation very quickly if you’ve had a medical within the last 10 years. You can’t get BasicMed if you haven’t had a medical within the last 10 years.

So, are you eligible or current? If not, what’s the status? I think there you need to be very careful if you have something you know needs to be handled with the FAA. Approach it very carefully. I don’t mean to say hold things back or don’t tell the truth. We always need to tell the full truth. That’s always the best policy, or “Honesty is the best policy” I guess is the rhyming way to say it. But find a doctor. Here’s my quick advice. I’ve said this a handful of different times on this podcast and elsewhere cause I have something that I have to deal with each year. Find a doctor that is a pilot or understands the passion for aviation. They know the power in their hands because of that and work with them off the record about what it may take to get you eligible before you actually start the paperwork.

Because once you start the paperwork, if your ducks aren’t in a row and you have the type of doctor that’s just going to send everything to Oklahoma City, which is where the FAA, the FAA has kind of their head offices there, then it’s going to be a long and arduous process. But by having a teammate on your side, with a good AME, aeromedical examiner, then you can work some things behind the scenes and make sure everything’s presented well when you start. So that’s going to be quite a big barrier for those of you that do have a situation like that. But again, there are some other options here. Those of you that can just go get a medical right now cause you’re healthy and that’s not a big deal. Or if you qualify for BasicMed in some way, shape or form. If you’ve already been a pilot or had a medical.

So some different things there, hopefully you wrote some of those down, you know where you kind of stand. If you have any questions about that, let me know. Especially those that feel like they have a special situation. I have to go through that each year. My medical only lasts a year and I have to renew it every single year. In fact, interestingly enough, my aeromedical examiner is a pilot, but also the neurologist that I have to go to also was interested in flying at one time and did some lessons. So he is interested in aviation and so I get good reports from both of them or at least a perspective of what really matters and everything works out. Not saying I leave anything there for interpretation or I’m holding anything back. I’m just saying that we know how to present it and we know what works best.

That’s medical. Now to finances. Finances are obviously one of those things that fairly commonly can push people out of aviation. Finance is often wrapped up into changing life situations, growing family, things like that, so finances can definitely hurt people when they are falling out of the aviation. It’s not always the case, but it can be. So do you have a little extra cash that you can apply to aviation, if you really think about it? Imagine where you’re at now, and say you haven’t been flying for a number of years and you really have wanted to. You’ve been looking at airplanes at a local airport. Maybe you even go there and have lunch or just enjoy it. You enjoy actually watching the airplanes and kind of long to be back in an airplane again. And you think of what it would feel like and what it would be like to go up again.

Now rewind, or not rewind, but fast forward a little bit and say, “Hey, what if I went through the process, I got everything up to snuff, I got everything ready, and I just dedicated money and time to fly once a month once I’m all ready to go?” Now once a month is not the level that you’re going to be a really proficient and amazing pilot, but it’s once a month. I mean, think about flying 12 times in the next year just by doing that one sort of goal of saving a little extra cash and dedicating a little bit of time to put toward this. That’s cool.

That’s way better than where you’ve been, so I think that’s kind of an encouraging perspective, that one hour of flight time, especially if you are current and the only one renting the airplane, you’re talking about a couple of hundred bucks, several hundred, really not a lot. It depends on the airplane, but a typical older Cessna is going to just be a hundred or so, $150. Maybe more if you have a nice one. But anyway, that’s pretty affordable. Look at all the other things we spend our money on. That’s pretty affordable. So yes, it might take some effort and some money up front to go through with an instructor and get proficient again, but then to keep up at it in one time a month, that’s really not that bad.

So really that goes down to how often you want to fly. That’s just one scenario I kind of came up with here on a whim, to talk about flying once a month, but maybe you want to fly several times a month. Do you really have the money for that? It’s really not that bad. And could you share flying with someone else? Maybe you’re not in a position to pay for everything yourself, but you have a friend that’s in your same position where they’re kind of hurting for cash, but you both could split the costs, enjoy aviation together, split costs on renting, and go for a hundred dollar hamburger once a month. And that’s what you do with your buddies and you do it now until you’re 80 years old, I don’t know. I just know that there are people out there that have been doing that all their lives.

In fact, when I was in Ohio in October, we saw some guys that had been doing that. They were these old-timer dudes in this old Cessna and you could tell that every Saturday or a Saturday every now and again, these guys would just hop in an airplane together and go somewhere. I just imagine them having done that for years. So think about the finances of this, dedicating money each month, putting money aside to aviation, and just have an hour or so that you actually get to go up. Maybe it’s more than that. Or whatever it is, whatever you’re wanting to put into this, think about how that could work. Now I’m not even going to breach the subject of buying your own airplane. That’s a whole different subject, but that can open up a lot of doors as well.

Okay, so that’s medical, finances, now time. Obviously time is one of those things that I think probably out of the other two pushes people out of aviation more than anything. Life gets busy, we start having families, those take a higher priority. We may feel bad about going out and having fun in an airplane when we can barely make ends meet. And yeah, that’s perfectly legitimate and there are legitimate reasons, I guess, in a lot of cases to fall out of aviation. So you need to think about that. Do you now have the time to dedicate to that? Do you have the support of your family? We’ll talk about that next, but do you have the support of your family to do that? Are you at a point where you can dedicate a little bit of time to do that? Think about the leisure things that you do in your life and what just focusing a little bit of that leisure time on aviation could do, and just refocusing where you spend your time.

Because I know for me, I feel like I’m always out of time, but I know that I watch plenty of Netflix or Disney+ and play video games here and there and I know that that’s wasted time that could be spent on something else productive. So there’s always these pockets of time here and there that we could be spending on aviation or something that we claim to be very passionate about, so just think of that. Make sure you’re not being a hypocrite about your time and if there is actual time then you could do that. So maybe your work is lightening up, maybe your workload, whether you’re self-employed or you’re an employer, you have found a way to maybe make some time for aviation. That’s another thing. Or the family time is lightening up. Whatever it is. If this is the time and you are dedicated to making it happen, you will find the time. You will create the time.

And that pushes us into the next one, which I think is very important, is finding the support you need to make that happen. So getting the support of your family and with all of these things, finances, time, if you have to go through some medical stuff to get cleared, do that. But having the support, that’s the cherry on top, you really need that. And for those of you that are married or have significant others, you know that that is in fact the case.

So you’ve written down a bunch of things may be for you here or some thoughts here that are applicable to you. If you want right here, you can pause and write down kind of your situation for medical, finances, time, and support, and maybe write down some action items that you could do or what you need to do in order to make those fall into place.

Let’s talk about creating a plan. Creating goals is something that I do every so often. I tend to go through seasons throughout the year. It’s not necessarily just at the beginning of the year, but I tend to go through seasons and breaks where I start to make new goals and go through things. And the best goal measurement process that I’ve heard and have adopted is the SMART method. this is an acronym. It’s pretty straight-forward and I’m just going to spell it out for you really quickly. So if you’re going to create a goal, if you’re going to create a plan, and you’re going to stick to it, this is one of the best methods you can use to do that.

So it’s SMART. It’s an acronym, again. So, “specific”, the key goal you’re trying to accomplish, So being very specific about what that goal is. “Measurable”, so ways to track progress that you’re actually working toward that goal or the steps that it takes to work toward that goal. So, “measurable”. “Attainable”, so is this realistic? Is it too big? Is it too small? Usually this is a too big one. So is it attainable? “Relevant”, so do you really need to be doing this right now? One thing that I think of, and I just touched on it a second ago is, if you’re getting back into aviation, you’re just trying to get back into the air, is it relevant to have a goal to buy an airplane to do that? That’s a big hurdle to jump across, when really you could have some quick wins elsewhere, getting an instructor and getting up to snuff in a different airplane that didn’t have all these other roadblocks in the way.

So is this relevant to where you’re trying to get? I’ll let you define whether or not it’s relevant, but making sure that that is in fact this specific goal relevant to your eventual plans. And the T, “time-bound”, so an actual date for this completion of this goal, a target of some kind. Be specific about that as well and have a time that you shoot for. So maybe your goal is that by the end of May, May 31st, that you are going to be current with your medical and be able to take the local flight school airplane solo by yourself. So a goal like that and then you’d measure the steps to getting there in kind of writing out a plan. Yes, it is realistic and attainable based on whether the medical, time, finances, and support work out for it. Seems pretty relevant because you’re here listening to this podcast and you have that date set to it.

So that’s just an example of how something like that could work. So quick wins, really fast before the end of this podcast. I know this is a lot of information. I’m just trying to find little nuggets here to inspire you guys that if you’ve been out of aviation to get back into it, but some quick wins you can get right now today. So talk, go talk to someone right away. Go to your local airport and talk to someone. And once you do that, this is a bit of a step up from that, go fly with an instructor. You literally need nothing to do it. You just go and fly with them. You don’t need a medical. They might do a TSA check on you, but you really don’t need anything. They are the pilot in command. They can absorb all those responsibilities. You can just go jump in an airplane pretty much. That’s a little bit of an overgeneralization, but seriously, if you really just want to go up, you can go up with an instructor.

Set some goals using the smart technique. So you’ve heard some stuff from today, you’re inspired to move forward, you want to do this, you want to get back in the air, set some goals. So talk, fly, and set. Talk to someone. Go fly as soon as you can. Just really simple, do a simple flight. And set some goals that are going to get you to a higher level of flying an airplane by yourself or getting licensed or whatever it is. All right, so I have one big last header here. It says, “No excuses.” You guys are here because you want a little bit of inspiration. You know that you have that passion for flying and you want to get back into it or you want to do more of it, whatever it is.

Especially here in the United States, which is typically the audience that I talk to, we have amazing opportunities in aviation. We have such abundance. We have such waste because of that abundance. There’s so much that we can put toward aviation if we just discipline ourselves a little bit, that you really have no excuses. So look at your life, shape it a little bit, figure out how you can do this, and move forward. Write me and tell me about your experiences. I’m excited to hear what you are thinking, how this played out for you, but I really hope that you take action. The biggest thanks you can give me is to take action. Really want to hear from you guys, but most important thing is that you actually go out and do it.

All right, thanks for coming in on this episode of AviatorCast. You can leave a review on iTunes or some of the other podcast platforms. If you’re on YouTube, please subscribe and give us a thumbs up. That helps this podcast get more popular there. If you want to support us in some sort of financial way or something that’s mutually beneficial, we do Online Ground School here at Angle of Attack for private pilot instrument, soon coming, commercial, CFI. We also have Checkride Preparation for those of you that are further down the road in your training. So we have Checkride Preparation for private instrument and commercial. That’s called Checkride ACE, we want you to ace that Checkride. And that’s the way you can support us while also supporting yourself.

I just want people out there to achieve their aviation goals and dreams. I’m trying to do that in small ways every single day through this podcast, through the other things I do through social media, so I’m happy for you to be a part of that. Let’s make it a conversation. Let’s become a friends and colleagues in that process and I wish you the best of luck. And as I always say, until next time, throttle on.

We sincerely thank you for joining us on AviatorCast. Please subscribe through your favorite podcast service and leave a review. Check out more flight training resources at angleofattack.com. There you can find this podcast, many free aviation training videos, as well as Online Ground School for private instrument, commercial and CFI. Got a Checkride coming up? Checkride ACE from Angle of Attack is your ultimate companion, guiding you through the process so you can conquer your big day. Thanks once again for joining us on AviatorCast. Turn left, contact ground point niner.

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