Monday, April 13, 2009

Free Flight

My flying club does something smart: part of your monthly dues are forgiven if you do some flying. The idea is to encourage members to stay current. But in my mind it's still free flying.

After all this time, I still love that free flight. I love any free flight, except seat 32F in a Boeing 737 with a seat pitch so short that my knees are against the seat in front of me. A few years ago I needed to go to Salt Lake City to do some training of a pilot for the charter operator I worked for. It was a Saturday and my family had tickets to a play. I could have driven, but that would have meant having two cars in Salt Lake. I had jumpseat privileges on a regional that flew from home to SLC, so I got up early, went through the check-in rigamarole, and landed in Salt Lake in plenty of time to do the training flight. Then it was off to the theatre, with all of us in one car. And I got a free airplane ride!

(Jumpseating is reserved for personal use; if a company needs to move a pilot they are supposed to buy him or her a ticket. But the reason I jumpseated was for the play.)

With the club, I use the "free" flying for my IFR and night currency. But we had a recent change in insurance, and now club members also need to maintain currency in the Cherokee Six; if not, a flight with a CFI is required. So, I decided to switch my IFR and night currency flying to the Six. But I wasn't current.

But that's easy to fix; I headed out to the airport, knowing that there would be a CFI available, and of course I was right: the Chief Instructor was happy to ride around with me while I did some steep turns, stalls, and IFR approaches.

Maybe that wasn't a good idea? Why fly with the Chief Instructor and risk him finding out how bad I am? Ah, but I had signed him off for his CFI checkride, so maybe he owed me?

It was gusty and so the flying was fun. I stayed within ATP standards, barely. But I kept up my instrument currency and had a good time.

The bad news: the club is having some financial trouble, and we're stopping the dues discount. I'll have to look elsewhere for my free flights.

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