Cleared to Yap

The Federal Aviation Administration is set to, uncharacteristically, relax on one of its policies. You know, that annoying, “All electronic devices with an on and off switch must be powered down at this time.” Meanwhile, you’re on the lookout for a wandering Flight Attendant, who is playing 7th grade math teacher and scolding passengers for having their cell phones on.

I’m guilty of it. When I look out the window and see that we’re relatively low to the ground, I switch out of airplane mode to see who could have possibly messaged me, tweeted me, or even, archaically, called me. Granted, I’m not a full fledged airline pilot yet and have limited experience with complex flight computers. But I have sat in my own glass cockpit aircraft and used my phone very close to the equipment. Nothing happened. The airplane didn’t veer off course, nor did it display incoherent messages. Therefore, I hardly think that my phone would cause an interference in seat 32A.


Therein lies the necessity (or lack thereof) for regulation on the matter. The FAA is strictly concerned with safety. Their principle question in this investigation is not whether Joe Shmoe is happy that his seat mate is being Kenny Tarmac and announcing that THEY JUST LANDED AT THE ATL. Therefore, the use of electronic devices should be dependent upon the airline policy.

In the court of public opinion, I’m sure the doctrine of No-one-cares-about-your-phone-conversation would be upheld, especially in such a confined space. But that isn’t the case here— the argument is based on the safe and secure operation of the aircraft, not the passenger convenience or discomfort.

Having said this, use discretion. If I’m trying to coordinate a ride from the airport or checking in with friends on the phone, I’m quiet, concise, and considerate. I even try to shield the brightness from my fellow seat mates, depending on the time of day and ambient light level.

It’s a tiny liberty for which I’ll continue to advocate under my breath. Until then, I’ll be breaking federal regulations to tweet one last time before wheels up.

Childhood Dream

“It has always been my dream to fly.”

I’m often prompted with this upon someone’s discovery that I’m a pilot. After I respond with, “It’s pretty fantastic” or something of the like, I encourage them something else.

Do it.

There’s only one way to become a pilot, and that is to start flying. But it costs too much! I don’t think I’m smart enough! Please bore someone else with your…excuses. You have not lived until you’ve experienced a crisp early morning with a graceful departure, or cruising into a metro area shining brightly at night— until you’ve seen the face of a friend who trusts you enough to burn holes through the sky for naught, don’t give me excuses.
Final for 20 at KHFD Here are some ways to get started:

  • Go on a discovery flight. Your local airport probably has a flight instructor sitting around, waiting for you to  hop in. He or she might explain a few basic things, but mostly it’s just to get a feel for flying. The flight will last approximately a half hour or so and shouldn’t be terribly expensive.
  • Be a bum at the airport. Hanging around airports is the best way to meet people; pilots are egotistic and love to brag about their airplanes, so why not schmooze?
  • Don’t be afraid of finances. Yes, flying is expensive. But most FBO’s (fixed based operators) are very flexible— I once paid off my balance at an airport by landscaping and odd jobs (it’s kind of neat to spray weeds on the side of a runway. Not glamorous, but neat).
  • In this day of technology, there is way more information on flying online than ever before. The FAA even publishes the Pilot Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK) for free in PDF format— as well as the Airplane Flying Handbook and a multitude of other resources. It may not be the most savory reading, but it’s free and accessible!

And after your brain hurts from aerodynamic concepts and common procedures, roll on over to and drool to beautiful metal.

I’ll leave you with this: aviation is a very small community, one that supports everyone involved. Someone will find a way for you to defy gravity, but only if you want it more than anything. Once you join the rank of supreme beings— pilots —you can continue the tradition of paying it forward.


Blue skies!

For the FAA publications in free PDF format, follow this link to download copies of the PHAK, AFH, and more!