Flying with Family – If you have never been to the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho, in a small backcountry airplane, then you need to make a point to do so. It’s simply stunning. One beautiful morning up in those very mountains at a fly-in ranch I sat and listened to an older pilot explain to me how devastating it was that his son never shared his passion for flight.
When we first started this website, we called it “Skypark.tv” and in order to get some pilots attention we put together a fly-in at Atlanta, Idaho. We invited the entire group of Utah Backcountry Pilots Association as well as the Idaho Aviation Foundation to come on out free of charge, land at the private strip on the property, and stay for the weekend for food, conversation, and fun.
We met SO many cool aviators and saw a bunch or really neat aircraft. And a lot of the great pilots that came out brought family: Sons, wives, wives brought their husbands, some brought dogs, and, of course, everyone had their mistress there (their airplane). But some came alone, and although many were fine with that it became a theme to discuss how to share this great passion for aviation we all have come to appreciate so much.
I know we all like to say that “we don’t care” if no one else “gets it”. That’s a necessary attitude to have when the truth is that we care for nothing like we care for the people close to us and I think it’s one of life’s great experiences to be able to share the things that excite you with the people we care about the most.
In light of that, here are some tips on how to share your passion for aviation with only one disclaimer:
It’s perfectly fine if someone does not share our enthusiasm for flight. It’s also “A’ok” to be afraid or uncomfortable with flying in any size aircraft. Pushing someone into doing something they are not comfortable with, is something we discourage.
Good, now that I got that out of the way, let’s go over some alternative methods to growing interest or sparking enthusiasm about aviation.
Flying with Family – Idea #1
Try a little mystery: If something is always available and you can access this thing now, later, whenever, then it’s hard to feel strongly that you should seize the opportunity. Create a little mystery around your aviation habits. Head out for the airport and don’t announce that you want everyone to go flying with you or that you are going flying at all. When asked, say only as much as you must. Personally, I like to stop, look the person right in the eye and state “I am going to go have some fun” then turn and leave without another word.
Think of how things work with children. When a child has a toy, that child doesn’t usually go around TRYING to share it. They usually just do their “thing” having a great time on their own. It’s when the other children see the good time that the first child is having that they approach and want to partake. The child with the toy is then forced to share by adults.
If something is rare, it’s special and if something is common/easy access it’s not. It’s a basic of human psychology and it works with aviation as well.
Flying with Family – Idea #2
Ask for help: Even if your partner, friend, or child doesn’t ever think they will get into the plane with you, there is no reason why they cannot be helpful to the pilot in some relevant way. I have a friend who is deathly afraid of becoming a pilot. One day I asked this friend to fly with me because I could use some help. I needed to add some weight to the plane to practice some off-field technique and he was (no lie) the only one available whose company I would also enjoy. He agreed. Once in the aircraft, I made sure NOT to discuss his getting a certificate, but rather I assigned him the task of looking up frequencies on the sectional and putting them into the radios so I could make the calls. I used flight following to our destination (which was near bravo) and further assigned him to listen for ATC addressing us and let me know since I was going to be looking at environmental conditions at the landing area.
He did a great job. ATC gave us several traffic advisories and asked us several times if we still wanted radar services. I, of course, kept requesting that they keep an eye on us all the way back to Bountiful Skypark where my friend switched me off Approach and onto local advisory. He was a big help, and he enjoyed the day.
This strategy has the added benefit of making them a little more comfortable with the idea of being a passenger. Increasing your relationships knowledge of how the plane works and giving them a useful role in the flight will help to soothe some of the general anxiety they are feeling.
Flying with Family – Idea #3
Location, Location, Location!: Go on a sweet trip to a location they might be interested in. It’s no secret that people generally become enthused about flying once they realize the freedom and access they have to nearby locations. I live in Northern Nevada and the west coast is chock-full of great destinations to take people who are a little trepidatious about flying.
No biggie, I let the allure of going with me to hike the black sand beaches of “The Lost Coast of California” do the convincing. Or how about a trip to Napa Valley with me? (Click here for a great, comprehensive guide to Napa Valley.) Once the person experiences the destination aspect of flight, they sometimes find it in themselves to overcome their fear of flying. Slowly but surely they will become familiar with the process and it may just open the door to becoming certified themselves some day.
Flying with Family – Idea #4
Flight simulator: It can be even more difficult to convince your children to join you on a plane when they are scared, and frequently their fears are increased when your partner is unsure about you taking the kids out. Sometimes, the best way to get kids interested in flying is through things that they would consider to be a game. A flight simulator (or a virtual reality game) might be helpful there because it is a way to experience the feel of a plane without being up in the air. Most of the time adults don’t choose this option because it seems silly, but it can be a fun adventure and a calming tool for your children. Many different pilot training companies will offer classes on their flight simulator to individuals who have a phobia for flying. These classes are specifically designed to get people used to the sounds and feel of a plane, plus it’s a fun adventure for kids while being incredibly educational.
Flying with Family – Idea #5
Parasailing: This option only works if your family has fears that are centered around plane crashes and less around heights, although it can be helpful for those who are scared of being up high. This is a great family-friendly option that everyone over the age of six can participate in, and it helps to familiarize your loved ones with the feeling of being high up. What usually happens is that after the adrenaline wears off a bit they are able to enjoy the feeling of the wind on their face and the great views from such a height. They will usually come down from their adventure excited which will help them feel more comfortable about getting into your plane.
Flying with Family – Idea #6
Teach them Interesting Tricks: If you have decided to take your family to watch the sunset (a bold move) then you can show the kids how to click the mic to turn on the runway lights at the airport when you land. In fact, depending on how much research your kids did or how much attention they paid in the simulator, they may request the opportunity to practice their skills. Little tricks like this tend to keep kids happy and distracted from their nerves, so use everything in your arsenal at this point.
After the landing, we can all keep our fingers crossed that your family spills out of the cockpit over their fears and with the same airplane passion as you. However, be prepared for the possibility that they did not enjoy themselves and they never want to go up with you again. Some people are not meant to be in the air, and while that is unfortunate, you will have to find someone else to share your passion with. Luckily, there are tons of plane enthusiasts clubs that you can join!
I do hope that by the end of their first flight experience they are itching to get into the air again, finally understanding John Gillespie Magee Junior’s ecstatic poem:
“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .”