Flying for Fun

As always, I woke early. Most of my students can’t believe I wake up so early – and without an alarm. I set my phone to sound at 6:05 and it is a rare morning when I sleep past 6 a.m. Usually I wake between 0530 and 0550, sneak out of bed to keep from waking my wife, and get the day going. Sometimes I sleep beyond 6 a.m., but only when I stayed up writing or working late into the previous evening, something I try to avoid like the plague.

One of the things I tell my family members and all my students is that to get the best performance from your mind and body, you must have discipline in your life. This means eating properly, drinking water instead of carbonated beverages, and getting rest. The getting rest part is really important. The critical aspect of that is getting up at the same time ever morning. Doing so will naturally lead to going to bed appropriately on time the night before. Most college students have not figured that out yet. When I was their age, I had not either.

But there was one thing that helped me. And that was flying Cubs and Champs early in the morning, about the time the sun was rising. Stephen Coonts, Navy pilot, lawyer, and author of Flight of the Intruder, also gets it. Here he is explaining and talking about the particular joy found only in flying little airplanes early in the morning (

So, back to the classroom and the question I always ask: Have you ever gone out by yourself to flown for fun? I am amazed at the number of responses indicating no.

The number of pilots who have never really flown for fun amazes me. Oh, sure, there are pilots who fly all the time. They have climbed into their airliners, their attack jets or fighters, their corporate jets or turboprops, and technically by the definition, flown. But they have never flown for fun. For the passionate flight of abandon – Just. For. FUN!

Too many pilots today fly simply for the paycheck rather than the sake of flying. Every one of my hours aloft has been for the passion of flight. Every minute airborne, I enjoyed. (Well, maybe not so much the times I was in the middle of an emergency, but it was okay once I was safe on the ground again.)

The point is that I still maintain a passion for the art of flying. And the best flying I have done over the years I have held pilot certificates and NATOPS qualifications have been those incredible early morning flights – especially in the little airplanes, in which the mission was nothing more than going out to have fun.

I cannot describe the anticipation and pleasure of sitting in a Cub or Champ listening to the little Continental 65 chugging away at 600 rpm as it warms up prior to takeoff. The thrill of starting the takeoff roll and watching the dew spin off the wheels with acceleration over the grass. Feeling the flight controls come alive in your hands as you ease the stick forward to get the tail off the ground and then feel the ship go light on the mains as the wing develops more lift.

And then that moment she comes off the ground!

The air is so smooth at that time just before the sunrise. There is not a bump in the air. The plane is so stable and she does whatever bidding you ask of her.

If you are one of those pilots who have only flown professionally, or you’re a low-time student pilot who has only been on training flights, you owe it to yourself to check out real flying for fun.

For more ideas about flying for fun, check out Dale “Cap’n Pinetree” Andersen’s website, Low N Slow Pilot at and for more great photos of the country from coast to coast, see


©2015 J. Clark

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