Joe Talks About “General Aviation”
November 13, 2016
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  • Readers who admit to rarely ever flying have told me they find aviation interesting. Recently, a reader asked me the meaning of the phrase “general aviation.”

    “General aviation” means all aircraft except military and airlines.

    From my 40 years of flying, of which 35 were in general aviation, I have some examples of these airplanes.

    I always enjoyed the seaplane flight, which I describe as a speedboat with wings. It offers the land pilot a new challenge and requires special knowledge for operation on and off water, and the seaplane rating.

    I also enjoyed flying off snow with skis. A Piper Cub was ideal for ski flying in our area. Landing on the snow was surprisingly short. I did ski flying in Alaska in big single-engine planes able to carry passengers and cargo, frequently landing on frozen bodies of water.

    Glider flying is another flight of fun. The takeoff and climb behind the tow plane is a thrill and after release, the flight is smooth and quiet — so quiet you can hear folks talking on the ground.

    To hold or gain altitude, the glider pilot circles to stay in the updraft; the landing calls for good judgement and coordination.

    General Aviation airplanes are used by individuals and companies for business purposes too. There are many other uses of the airplane in general aviation. Commercial fishing fleets use them to locate schools of fish, they are used for pipeline and power line patrol, crop dusting and spraying. There are charter flights and worthy medical flight. 

    The more recent light sport pilot rating has been attracting interest. There is no night flying approved. The flight license does not require a medical exam, but the driver’s license provides that.

    You may fly solo, but only in the light sport type of plane. Some of those models are home built. In the more advanced pilot categories, the private pilot license is typically in a single engine plane. 

    The commercial pilot license requires more flight hours and can be for a single or twin engine aircraft. Then there is the ultimate, the flight instructor rating.

    Although military trained pilots easily qualified for many of the more important pilot ratings listed in general aviation, to earn them as a civilian, we had to take extensive written exams and the complete flight courses.

    Enjoy the thrill of flight!