Aircraft owner to aircraft owner, taildragger pilot to taildragger pilot, talking to William Buchanan is like chatting with a boisterous veteran pilot who has flown for decades. The joy in Buchanan’s voice as he talks about outfitting his 1950 Cessna 170A for backcountry flying doesn’t come from years of exciting aviation experiences, but from being back in the left seat after more than a decade away.
“I basically quit for 15 years,” Buchanan said, explaining that his progression from a zero-time student to a 150-hour multiengine-rated private pilot between 1995 and 2000 took a backseat to other areas of his life—marriage, children, and a house. “That kind of precluded flying for a while.”
Buchanan said he thought building an airplane might get him back into aviation but decided he just wanted to fly. He learned that an AOPA Rusty Pilots seminar would take place near him at Skagit Regional Airport in Burlington/Mount Vernon, Washington. While attending the three-hour seminar on Feb. 28, 2015, Buchanan, who said he was nervous yet excited about the prospect of getting back into flying, learned that he wasn’t alone—other pilots were in his same situation. Rusty Pilots seminars bring together lapsed pilots and present that path forward to get back into aviation while covering material required to satisfy the ground portion of the flight review.
After the seminar, Buchanan talked to his wife about flying again. It took five months for him to get his medical because he needed to gather documentation for minor surgeries he had over the years.
He returned his King Schools private pilot VHS tapes to the company to get a discount on access to their online courses so that he could continue studying. “Now I can just grab my iPad if I want a little refresher,” he said.
Buchanan also researched the cost of aircraft ownership on AOPA’s website and worked with the AOPA Aviation Finance Co. to obtain a flexible loan to purchase a Cessna 170A in Arizona. After 10 hours of instruction in a Champ, Buchanan traveled to Arizona, received five hours of instruction in the Cessna 170, and then flew it back to his home airport, Harvey Field in Snohomish, Washington, with an instructor for another 13 hours.
Less than one year after attending the Rusty Pilots seminar and receiving 34 hours of instruction, Buchanan is an aircraft owner and active pilot with a new tailwheel endorsement and fresh flight review.
With about 180 hours in his logbook, Buchanan said his goal is to fly once a week. “I’m trying to fly as much as I can, considering the Northwest winter.” Buchanan is taking advantage of the downtime during the winter to modify his Cessna 170—adding a P. Ponk landing gear beef-up kit and a climb prop through a Kenmore Air Harbor supplemental type certificate among other things—to turn it into a backcountry machine so that he can explore strips throughout Washington State and take mountain flying classes in Idaho.
“I’m flying to my heart’s content,” he said.