As a mechanical enthusiast, I’ve discovered endless ways to fill my free time. Flying aircraft, although extraordinary, only occupies a small piece of my extracurricular activities. I also fill my schedule with a variety of restoration projects, ranging from aircraft to motorcycles. My latest project has been an antique BMW airhead rejuvenation, which was conceived as a barn find in late 2012 and has worked its way up my to-do list.
After hours of parts hunting, sandblasting, painting, and wiring I’m on the home stretch of boasting a brand new 50-year-old motorcycle. So what’s so special about these old, outdated toys? Do I just have a passion for bi-yearly valve and point adjustments? I truly enjoy the novelty accompanying the days of yore, but my interest stems from a deeper root. I love the process of breathing new life into a dream forgotten years ago.
This passion for igniting old sparks has always had a tendency to surface in my day to day activities. As a flight school owner some of my favorite students, and years later very close friends, were lapsed pilots that wanted to get back into the left seat. Life is full of excuses for aviation remittance, time, money, family, and lifestyle. Occasionally a pilot will put his aviation interest on the back burner to make room for all the opportunities and responsibilities that build up day to day. Those with deep passions will always gravitate back to the airport, maybe for coffee or an airshow, and sometimes to log just one more hour of PIC.
Last year, at AirVenture 2014, I was asked to help co-present AOPA’s Rusty Pilot program along with AOPA CFI veteran Brittney Miculka. The Rusty Pilot Program was designed by experienced CFI’s to accomplish two goals; to reduce the barriers that lapsed pilots experience as they consider flying again, and to provide an interpersonal experience between lapsed pilots and flight instructors.
The program covers the areas that we expect from a typical refresher course, and meets the requirements of the Flight Review outlined in Far 61.56. The gem here is that any AOPA Rusty Pilot participant receives their endorsement for the ground portion of the BFR, now they just have to fly! When I was offered this opportunity, I jumped on it. Together, Brittney and I presented to more than 100 lapsed pilots, of which dozens have sought out a school or club to help them fly again.
One of the unique aspects of the Rusty Pilot program is that it must be held in person. This ensures that these pilots get back to the airport and socialize. AOPA teams up with Flight Schools and Flying Clubs to present the program across America, and reaches out to tens of thousands of Rusty Pilots to encourage their participation. The goals of the AOPA Rusty Pilot team is to help acclimate pilots back into aviation, provide a motivational support infrastructure, and to encourage the growth of flight schools and flying clubs. Last year the AOPA Rusty Pilot program brought 2,800 pilots back to the airport and logged more than 8,000 hours of ground instruction. Personally, I truly enjoyed being part of the Rusty Pilot experience, and urge my AOPA Network Flying Clubs to become Rusty Pilot presenters. This is a unique opportunity to give back to General Aviation, and a chance to reignite the passion of a fellow aviator. Whether you’re a club seeking new membership, or an established club with a desire to give back, I urge you to participate in this successful program.