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You Can Fly: Can I still land an airplane?You Can Fly: Can I still land an airplane?

A rusty pilot shares his comeback story

May 2019 Preflight
Photography by David Tulis

It was August 1989 when private pilot George Gillett took time out from his flying to concentrate on graduating from college. The flying was going well. He was working on his instrument rating, and was only five hours short of eligibility to take the practical test. But there wasn’t enough time or money for school and aviation. Graduation day came in May 1990. A new job, relocation, and family responsibilities came along, as did “life in general that got in the way of returning to the cockpit.”

In September 2018, after retirement from a law-enforcement career, Gillett, a Knoxville, Tennessee, resident, hit the internet to see what was going on in aviation. The information he found online got his pilot juices flowing. He learned the FAA would mail him an updated pilot certificate for the asking. And he discovered AOPA offers a Rusty Pilots Online course, the web-based version of the popular AOPA Rusty Pilots seminars that have helped thousands of lapsed pilots get back to flying.

“Because it had been so long since I flew, I figured that I would never pilot an airplane again,” Gillett said. “I felt I was too old and was out of currency for so long, that it would be like starting all over as a student pilot.”

But he forged ahead, celebrating the 115th anniversary of powered flight on December 17, 2018, by passing his instrument-rating practical test.

“For anyone that is considering a return to the cockpit after any length of layoff from flying, I say go for it!”



AOPA’s You Can Fly program supports flying clubs, encourages best practices in flight training, gets lapsed pilots back in the air, brings AOPA’s resources and expertise to pilot groups across the country, and helps high school students learn more about careers in aviation. AOPA’s You Can Fly program and the AOPA Air Safety Institute are funded by charitable donations to the AOPA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.

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