True instrument flight, i.e., safe flight solely by references to the aircraft instruments lagged behind the development of aircraft by several decades. In reality, there was only one prudent choice—fly only when visibility allowed the pilot to see a horizon. A World War I Army pilot, William Charles Ocker—“the father of blind flying’—nearly died in 1918 while testing an early Sperry turn indicator. He ended up in a steep spiral and only narrowly escaped when he broke out of the clouds with room to recover.
The weather that had been preventing me from completing my solo cross-country while in Navy flight training had finally moved on. The cold front had passed bringing with it beautiful blue skies, one hundred mile visibility, and pristine flying conditions. I could not wait to get in the air and enjoy the performance of the taxpayer-funded T-34C Turbo Mentor (quite a hot rod actually) that I had been training in. What could go wrong?
In the 1970s, the Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) was like college with airplanes. Over the 53 weeks of UPT, at least half of each day was dedicated to classroom academics—typically six-week courses in everything from aerodynamics and navigation to weather, or more properly, meteorology. It was that course, meteorology, specifically the section on thunderstorms, that probably saved us.
Aircraft ownership can be amazing—there are few other purchases that will shrink time and space like an airplane can. Whether you are looking to go on amazing adventures across the country and beyond, make your business day more productive by reaching clients with speed and ease, look at the world upside down in an aerobatic aircraft, or just go cruising around the patch on a nice spring day, there is an airplane that is right for you.
Aside from actually buying an aircraft and maintaining it, one of the largest fixed costs you will face in owning private planes, or any aircraft, is the insurance. Insurance isn’t an option—it is a necessity. If you are financing the purchase of a new or used aircraft, there will likely be a minimum amount of insurance that you will have to carry. And while the cost to ensure your aircraft may seem excessive at first blush, it pales in comparison to the cost associated with covering a loss—especially if the loss injures a passenger or damages property on the ground.