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  • Writer's pictureThe Thrifty Pilot

Hurry up and wait - What to do during downtime

My little Piper Warrior is going under the proverbial knife! Recently, while in flight I noticed that my engine had been running a little rough and that there was a general sense that it was running a little too rich. After having my local mechanic poke around, it was determined the best thing to do was to have the carburetor sent off and replaced with an overhauled one. So, this means that I have not been able to use the plane for about two weeks :(

To a lot of people this doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, to be without your aircraft for a couple weeks, however for myself and others the thought of not being able to fly for an extended amount of time is terrifying.

So, what do you do!?!

Here are a few ways that I am coping with my bird being in the ER -

Perform other needed or neglected maintenance - if your plane is sitting around waiting for a particular part to arrive for install, now might be a great time to get that other maintenance completed. If you are close to an oil change or have been neglecting the interior overhaul of your aircraft now might be the time to jump on that. I know personally, I would rather spend my time flying than cleaning or re-painting however I also know that spending the time to do these things will increase the life of the aircraft. So, having down time awards you that time to make sure these items can be checked off your list.

Start studying... again - I know there are a lot of pilots out there that want to obtain the next level of their training by obtaining a higher license, rather that be private, instrument or beyond. Like me, a huge factor in not being able to do this has always been time. Well, what we have here is a block of time that has freed up! There is little excuse now to not start down that road and crack open those books. Sometimes having downtime is a blessing in disguise as it gives up the opportunities to adjust focus on other things that we have been putting off.

Get moving - There are many pilots who are grounded now due to medical issues. Due to new medical legislation however, a lot of these pilots are able to fly again. This is a huge win for the aviation community and truly amazing that these pilots get an opportunity again to do what they love. So, as responsible pilots one of the best things you can do is maintain yourself as you maintain your aircraft. Take care of yourself and take your downtime as an opportunity to work on you! If you need to re-adjust the way you are eating, drinking or exercising now could be just the time to do so. Hey, no one can say that working out and staying healthy is a bad thing - so take advantage of this time to work on some goals and get started being as healthy as you can :)

Discover a discussion group or forum – during your down time, why not join up with a few groups and see what the newest topics that are circling the interwebs are. This is a great way to meet new people and see what everyone is talking about. You can share your stories and totally geek out with other aviation lovers without having to worry about the confused stares that you normally get while talking about density altitude changes to your non-pilot friends.

Go virtual - If your plane is down for the count, the most inexpensive method of getting that real world fix is...virtually. Jump on and try to do some technical flying. Just going around the patch on your PC through a flight simulator gets boring quickly and not working on specific techniques really doesn't help out much. However, by working on navigation, emergency procedures and other more technical flight scenarios virtual flights become very beneficial. Not to mention you are not burning gas performing that missed approach!

Get involved - Something that will give you a lifetime of satisfaction is to give back in some way. Having that feeling and being able to fly is a double dose of amazingness by volunteering with an organization that needs aviators. There are many organizations that need aviators to transport rescue animals, patients needing medical care, transportation of supplies, etc. Looking into these organizations and pairing with another pilot can both help you serve a lot of people by giving back and with you getting your flying time. You can partner with another seasoned pilot to help fly legs, or you join up with your local civil air patrol. The possibilities are vast in aviation volunteerism. Take the time to check it out!

Rent a plane - If the downtime timeframe gets too long it may behoove you to rent an aircraft for a period of time. Having too much downtime can potentially pose a safety hazard by not allowing you to work on your real life skills. One of the most helpful ways to continue to be a safe pilot is to...pilot! A great way to reduce cost is to go in half with a buddy. Having a flight partner that is a pilot is great fun and allows both of you to practice skills while helping each other out.

IMPORTANT - Make sure to get renters insurance! It is very inexpensive and can save you TONS of money. I have seen it first hand where a rental sustained damage and the renter was responsible for thousands of dollars of repair bills. Check out AOPA to get a quick on-line policy before you step out the door.

I started the Thrifty Pilot for a few different reasons. First, to give back to the aviation community by sharing what I have learned and hopefully help others in avoiding my mistakes. Second, to keep learning. As a pilot the ability to remain humble and continue learning is the most valuable tool in your flight bag. However, as any tool it must be maintained and kept in good condition. Having time off from flying doesn’t mean that you should take time off as being a pilot. A friend told me that his DPE told him that when he passed his practical for his license, that he was getting a license to learn. This has always stuck with me. As pilots, we have a responsibility to continue learning and be safe. To learn about our passion and continue to be the best we can be so that we ensure the safety of ourselves and others is always paramount.

So, what do you do during your downtime?

Have fun out there and stay thrifty!

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