Throughout my life I have benefited from people with more experience and knowledge who have been generous to share what they have learned so my learning curve may be steeper with less setbacks due to mistakes.
Learning from others applies to the pursuit of all goals whether financial and personal. The following is my recent experience of pursuing an outlandish late in life goals in aviation. I want to share this by way of encouragement to you to pursue your lifelong goal or passion if you haven’t already. More importantly, this is a testament to how supportive people can be and the power of taking the first step. Let me know your thoughts on this and please share your experiences of pursuing your lifelong goals.
In 2014 my wife gave me a gift certificate for an introductory flight. This sparked an aviation interest from my young adult days when I hang glide for years along the San Francisco shoreline. After a year mulling on my intro flight, I decided to try and get my pilot license. Even though everyone in the flight school and my instructors were 30 years younger than me, they were very encouraging and never a hint of my obvious senior age among the group. After 18 challenging months that admittedly was a lot harder than I thought, I obtained my pilots license on November 10, 2016.
With this success I wrote out goals I ambitious goals that included instrument rating, multi-engine endorsement, acrobatic certification, and tail wheel skills to name a few. After attending the 2017 AirVenture in Oshkosh Wisconsin, the largest weeklong aviation event in the world, I added a whole list of planes I wanted to fly or get type rated including bi-planes, warbirds (WWII planes), historic, and retired commercial planes. However, learning advanced flying skills and type ratings on planes was only the path to my real goal of sharing flying experiences with family and friends and flying around this country and to other countries.
It didn’t take long to realize my goals were unrealistic. I was very late to the party and many of the veteran pilots I met have forgotten more than I will ever learn. I was surprised how many people got their license in high school, joined the military, and followed that with years flying for a commercial airline. At the time I had maybe 100 hours flying time compared to many with over 10,000 hours.
I didn’t know where to start and realized I had neither the skills, money, relationships, contacts, or time to achieve these ambitious goals. Not knowing how to accomplish the bigger goals I started with required smaller goals. Over the next few years, I got type rated on nine different basic Piper and Cessna airplanes including those with advanced complexity including retractable landing gear, advanced avionics, and fixed speed props (typical of faster planes).
More importantly, I introduced flying to many family and friends with flights around San Francisco, Napa, Pacific Coast, Sierra Mountain areas and even over the Golden Gate Bridge. I memorialize each flight with a selfie photo and emailed it to them.
Despite this progress, after a couple years I was still more years away than I had time to achieving the bigger goals. The more I learned the more I realized how unrealistic my aspiring goals were.
Then, without even recognizing it, key events and circumstances were developing that could make it possible to achieve a few of my grandiose goals. The breakthrough was not by my efforts but from fellow pilots who were generous in sharing their experiences, knowledge, support, and some even their planes. None of whom I would have met had I not gotten my pilot’s license and grinded out the prior year’s learning the basics.
The slow progress in the early years morphed into an upward trajectory like a parabolic curve. The next year I had the opportunity to co-pilot a commercial turbo twin to Arizona and around the Grand Canyon. The next year I met Ken Dwelle in his hanger as he was changing the oil in his Hawker Sea Fury, one of 14 flying in the world. He and his family have a legacy of generations of pilots that have flown fighter jets for the air force and commercial airlines. Flying in his Texan T-6, that he still holds the speed record at Reno Air Races, has introduced me to the world of warbirds and historic aircraft. He has been one of many that have encouraged me to keep pursuing my aviation goals.
In 2021, I landed at Stinson Airport south of San Antonio and saw a flyer in the pilot lounge about a membership opening of an LLC that owns a historic 1955 T-34A Mentor, one of maybe 250 still flying in the world. Within three months I became a co-owner with three other very experienced pilots who generously are training me for a type rating.
Last year, I began preparing with my 14-year-old grandson as co-pilot for the longest flight I have ever taken. On July 26, we departed in a four seat Piper Cherokee from San Antonio to fly over 1100 miles to Oshkosh AirVenture. My wife and family were there to watch us take off and felt like we were embarking an around the world adventure. We joined a small group of pilots to have landed at famed Wittman Airport inside AirVenture and camp for a week by our plane with 100’s of other pilots and families. This experience with my grandson was unforgettable and now he is studying for his pilot’s license. He and his brother are cadets and active members in our local Commentative Air Force chapter learning to fly and restore warbird planes.
This September, if all goes well with my multi-engine and tail wheel training, I will be taking lessons to become certified as Second In Command in this DC-3 historic commercial airline.
What Does This Mean to Me?
The saying is true that there are no million-dollar ideas, only million-dollar execution. Most people have long list of life goals including building their investment accounts to become financially independent. However, like me with my aviation goals, most have no idea how to accomplish these goals or even where to start. As we age we start to discount our ability to try. My mother was not discouraged to pursue her college AA degree at age 60. She thoroughly enjoyed college despite the significant age difference and received her diploma with my youngest sister at the same graduation ceremony.
My past three years in aviation have been very exciting with too many to list experiences, destinations flown, and people met. All these experiences started with my wife’s gift certificate for a 45-minute intro flight followed by the decision to pursue a pilot’s license.
The same is possible for you. What is your big audacious lifelong goal?
Rarely is it possible to know every aspect of achieving specific goals. However, the first step is taking the first step.
Write out your goals and meet with people well ahead of you in these areas. Learn from their experience and gather as much advice as possible on how to get from here to there. In my opinion, almost every reasonable goal is achievable. Run a marathon, hike the John Muir trail, become sports photographer, be elected to political office, sail the Mediterranean, learn to play an instrument, or become a pilot. In America, the one great blessing I appreciate the most is the freedom to pursue anything.
It’s never too late to start something new. My mother graduated in her 60’s. Once you get started, I can assure you there are people and experiences waiting for you that will happened if you do not get started.
Let us know about your experiences of pursuing your lifelong goals or passions. We welcome the opportunity to hear about your adventures.