AOPA’s new Rusty Pilot initiative is a great move to bring lapsed flyers back into the fold and help boost general aviation, according to attendees interviewed at the recent 2014 Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In and Expo in Lakeland, Fla.
Jackie Smith said he was a rusty pilot until about six years ago. “I had not flown for 10 years, and I had to do it all on my own. There was no one there to motivate me to fly,” he said. “It was a big hurdle to cross, so I think that any program that helps folks like me would do a good job in bringing back more pilots,” he said.
The initiative says it could take an hour for every year a pilot has been away, said Smith. “It took me about 20 hours to get where I felt pretty comfortable,” he said. So it’s really hard to get back in, but with AOPA’s support, we can get more rusty pilots flying again.”
John Grieff is the AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer at Smith Mountain Lake Airport in Moneta, Va., and serves as a flight instructor for Southwest Airlines. “I think it’s a really good initiative and I wish it success. We just need to promote it more,” he said. “If you can get some of these old guys back in aviation, that will spark their interest in flying again. Maybe they can teach their grandchild or encourage others to start flying and promote general aviation.”
AOPA member Jack Repass said that thanks to a program at the fixed-base operator where he rents, there’s no such thing as a rusty pilot. “The program is that renters have to fly at least once every 30 days. Because of that, I’ve noticed that my flying is better,” he said. “Before, I’d say I don’t have time to fly this week so I’ll do it next week, then next week, then next week. Now I’m forced to fly every 30 days, even if it’s just one takeoff and landing. I understand the initiative, and I think anything that forces you to fly more often is a great idea.”
John Krug is an instructor at AOPA Premier Partner Pilotworkshops.com, and he called the Rusty Pilot initiative a great idea. “There are a lot of people out there who for one reason or another, like finances or personal commitments, haven’t been able to fly for a long time,” he said. “And it can be a little intimidating to get back into flying, so a program like Rusty Pilots will definitely help to ease that transition, and give people confidence and a structure to get back into doing the thing that they love.”
And general aviation benefits from their return, said Krug. “People coming back will need training, so there will be an increased need flight instructors,” he said. “And once they get comfortable, they will want to rent or buy aircraft, so it works for everyone.”