Jamie Crandall, a pilot who hadn’t flown in 17 years, is crediting an AOPA Rusty Pilot seminar he attended in San Marcos, Texas, with getting him back into the skies. He sent a letter to AOPA President Mark Baker praising the organization for creating the program.
Crandall owned a lead battery company in Austin, Texas, in the 1970s. “My wife would always say that there was an interesting guy who bought batteries regularly and he owned an airplane,” he said. “One night when I was working, he came in and introduced himself and said he had a complaint. He asked why he bought batteries from me but I didn’t fly planes with him.”
So Crandall started taking lessons and earned his certificate. “A few years later, I was doing a lot of flying for my business, so I got my instrument rating,” he said.
But then Crandall sold his battery company and started a new one. “I needed money for a new building and said I wasn’t flying as much as I used to, so I sold my plane,” he said. “My wife told me not to do it, saying I would be unhappy. She was right.”
After dealing with some medical issues, Crandall got his medical back about a year ago. “At that point, I wanted to see if I was smart enough to fly again. It was around the time I learned about the Rusty Pilot Program, and the seminar AOPA was holding in San Marcos, only a few hours away from me.”
Crandall wasn’t sure he wanted to attend. “I thought it was going to be 10 old buzzards like me, but there were actually 80 people, all kinds. Pat Brown was the teacher, who did a great job,” he said. He realized that Brown was from Houston, where Crandall’s business is located.
“I told him that I wanted to start flying and I wanted to spend my money with him,” said Crandall. “We did three sessions at Pat’s airport, Houston Southwest, then one session at mine, Navasota Municipal Airport.”
It took Crandall about five hours to get up to speed again. “I thought it would take a lot longer, to be honest. I did a lot of reading and visited flight schools before I met Pat,” he said. “The rule of thumb I was given was an hour for each year you were off.”
Crandall’s advice to other rusty pilots: Make up your mind to do it. “It’s a lot more expensive now than it was years ago, but that’s not surprising,” he said. “Find a small cheap aircraft to start out. I bought a Cessna 150.”
And Crandall is paying it forward by funding flight lessons for two young men at his airport. “All they have to do is pay for the gas. I think a lot of them. They knew I was interested in returning to flying,” he said. “So when I decided to do this, I said they had to do it with me. We’re hoping they will be finished by the end of the year. That’s our goal.”