Actually, I think “Aviation Experience” is a pretty ridiculous notion. It misses the mark of what it’s all about. Come on, what is really an “appropriate” level of aviation experience? In order to answer that question you have to first think about another question that asks “Appropriate for what?” Flying? Are we talking about handling an airplane? Dealing with weather? Working with a co-pilot? Working with your flight crew? Working with your ground crew?
Now, one more question … Do you see where I’m going with this? It takes thousands of hours to be qualified to say that you've reached an "appropriate" experience level. Don't get me wrong I love flying and making new entries in a logbook, but there is some things that are far more important than just ink hitting the mint green paper of your Log Book.
Logbooks don’t have entries for the trust you are building with partners that help you have a wonderful aviation experience. And really, at the end of the day, logbook entries are "love stories." Not physical romance, but the romance of aviation. Aviation is very powerful. In the fact, in my life it creates friendships that are deeper than so many other relationships I find elsewhere. I’m thinking about the responsibilities you owe the other person you are flying with, and vice-versa. Whether you are a student, flight instructor, airline pilot or flight attendant you owe a level of safety and flight enjoyment to the other person. Oh, I didn’t mean to leave out the ground crew and maintenance team.
Every time I go flying now, I don't fly just for flight time in my Log Book. I fly for “Aviation Experience” which, in my opinion, is a series of trusting friendships. Ultimately it doesn't matter which airplanes you end up flying or which airport you fly out of. It’s about being able to share a story at the end of the day with your friends. I feel a serious responsibility to reciprocate that level of friendship to the people I fly with. When I look at my flying time as this series of trusting relationships it becomes much more relaxing to fly, even when I’m shuttling corporate execs to their next meeting..
What about you? Why not think about it like this … The Pilot’s Log Book is just a place to keep track of hours. Your “Aviation Experience” file is full of people’s phone numbers, memories of harrowing landings, great evenings waiting out a weather delay with crew eating lousy hamburgers and drinking non-alcoholic beverages, and memories of finding an old mini-tube of toothpaste folded up in a sectional map.
I don’t think you need to get your panties all bunched up worrying about the next step in your aviation career as a professional or recreational pilot. Aviation is meant to be enjoyed. And part of aviation is the ride! Make sure you cherish the friendships you make along the way. Friendships aren’t always entered in your Log Book, but they are sure to give it purpose.
So, sit back, relax and enjoy the flight!