How does one get more involved in general aviation?

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Chris M
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How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by Chris M »

Can anyone give me suggestions on ways that someone who works typical weekday hours can get more involved in the aviation world? I love flying, love airplanes, love hanging out with pilots and learning from them, but aside from when I take up the company 172 I get almost no exposure to general aviation. Ironically I work in one of the major aircraft manufacturing centers in Canada (Bombardier Toronto, former de Havilland) and get to see Globals and Q400s being built all day long. Unfortunately my position doesn’t exactly immerse me in how these machines operate (not yet anyway) and a Global has about as much in common with a 172 as a Maybach does with a moped. Maybe even less since car and bike both have piston engines…

So any thoughts on how a weekend warrior can spend some more time around airplanes and airplane people in the Toronto area? I’d honestly be fine with sweeping the floors at a maintenance facility. When I was getting my license I used to hang out with the AME’s and pester them with questions whenever they were free, even got to help a homebuilder install a wing leveler in his plane. I miss that sort of thing tremendously.
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Ki-ll
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by Ki-ll »

Is there a restoration shop at Downsview museum? I am sure they would not mind an extra pair of hands.
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Broken Slinky
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by Broken Slinky »

Never flown into Downsview so I'm not sure of the general aviation presence there. Head out to Brampton Airport for sure. A nice sunny weekend makes that place a very happening spot.
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Shiny Side Up
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by Shiny Side Up »

Can anyone give me suggestions on ways that someone who works typical weekday hours can get more involved in the aviation world?
Aviation doesn't just happen on weekends. If you want to be more involved, its a simple matter of dedicating more time to your obsession. Warning: This may cause AIDS.

Here's some suggestions though:

Live closer to aviation. If you have better access, then you can spend more time at the airport.

Join a club or group, as many as your free time permits. Get on mailing lists. I highly recomend being a part of EAA and AOPA.

Attend flying events.

Volunteer. Don't give work away for free, but there's lots of groups that jump on aviation related things. Kids groups and schools in particular. If you can arrange access airside, airport tours are loved by these groups.

Find the small airports in the area. These tend to be more interesting to me than big airports. You never know what you're going to see hiding away. Or who you're going to see for that matter.

Be a letter writer. Jump on any anti airport, anti aviation sentiment that constantly creeps into local papers and news sources. GA needs your support!

Take pictures, start a blog. If you're interesting enough, people will come to you. The intardnets are full of aviation. Maybe set a goal to become "top poster" here. :wink:
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ahramin
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by ahramin »

EAA
RAA
Young Eagles
Local Flying Clubs
Local Museums
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PilotDAR
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by PilotDAR »

You have to be where it is happening, or there is no hope. Once you are there, you have to hang around, and be welcomed by the group.

It's virtually happening here, so you can virtually be involved here. But, you probably would like more. Pick a general aviation place, and frequent it..... Coffee and doughnuts might help....
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Chris M
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by Chris M »

Ki-ll wrote:Is there a restoration shop at Downsview museum? I am sure they would not mind an extra pair of hands.
Unfortunately it's looking like the museum's future is in jeopardy. We're already storing a few of their airplanes over here at Bombardier and their website indicates that they aren't open to the public or bringing in volunteers right now :(
Broken Slinky wrote:Never flown into Downsview so I'm not sure of the general aviation presence there. Head out to Brampton Airport for sure. A nice sunny weekend makes that place a very happening spot.
GA in Downsview is limited pretty much to the 150 and 172 owned by the company flying club, plus the media/traffic and medical planes/helicopters passing by. Unfortunately the group isn't too much of a social club, we only have a handful of active members. I only started there recently so I'm hoping to get the group together on a more regular basis. It's definitely a hell of a privilege having planes to fly at the office. Where else could I go flying on my lunch break?

Brampton sounds like a good spot to visit and start flying. I would love to get checked out on the Super Cub and maybe the 172RG.
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by PilotDAR »

GA in Downsview is limited pretty much to the 150 and 172 owned by the company flying club
This has been an unfortunate reality for a few decades. I had special permission to fly in and out when I worked for Bombaridier in the '90's, but it was only arranged because I made it a contractual requirement for my work. It is a sad lack of use of a very nice airport.

The immersion into GA will not happen there for anyone. Brampton, or any of the other small airports around are a much better start. On a nice summer weekend, Orillia Lake St. John is a happening place. A long drive up from Toronto, but worth it if you're going to spend the day.

Unfortunately there is no marked "waiting area for would like get more involved" at airports. You're going to have to be there, and there after engage the pilots and owners. Obviously some are just going about their business, and would rather keep to themselves, and you must not be put off with their exercising their privacy. But others will often stop and chat. Chatting them up is your best way to learn more, and perhaps get a ride - I have certainly taken people on the spur of the moment.

One of the things which makes Brampton or the Island a less good choice, is the necessary layout of the airport. It does not encourage people standing around where the planes are. Orillia, as an example, is less "secure" and you can merge with the planes. Indeed, if you hang around the dock, incoming float pilots love to have a strut grabbed to assure neat docking. That's how you get to know people.

I began pilot life as an airport rat. It is very much less easy these days, but the persistent can still make it work in some locations... If you see my plane, in the avatar (though now with a pretty orange band) at Lake St. John, introduce yourself, and I will fit in a quick flight for you. I stop there for fuel from week to week. I'm always happy to encourage a new pilot.....
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piperdriver
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by piperdriver »

Check out some of the smaller airports and participate in annual events that are hosted there. For example Lindsay airport usually hosts an event in August or September. These events usually have a variety of aircraft and lots of people like yourself that are passionate about GA. Its certainly a great way to meet people and see some different types of aircraft.
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ScreaminBanshee
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by ScreaminBanshee »

You need to meet people.

Give SOSA a shot. If you haven't been gliding I'm sure you will find you enjoy it plus it is a very relaxed social feel. You will meet people there who flight powered aircraft as well. Getting involved in GA is about networking. Join a COPA chapter but be warned it takes about a year of going to meetings in a big city for people to remember who you are and to start warming up. But the more people you know the more opportunities you have.
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by iflyforpie »

There are lots of challenges to getting into GA. I've been immersed in GA with minor breaks for well over a decade now and even I have trouble connecting with the fun side of things.

Most little GA airports that would have been bustling back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s are deserted 95% of the time. Hangars with roofs coming off, wasps nests, and in need of paint; planes sitting in knee-high weeds with flat tires forlornly waiting for their next annual inspection--if they are lucky; and a flying club building with back issues of Plane and Pilot and EAA Sport Aviation from the 90s or earlier... shag carpet and and 1960s couches and chairs, and faded photos of unrestored Harvards and Piper Cubs from a day where a guy with a manufacturing job or a small business had a shot at owning one.

But activity begets activity. I seriously think the best thing any GA organization could do is hire extras to generate noise and activity... because every time there are looky loos around here... we are swamped. The best thing anyone can do for GA is hang around the airport.

Next is the generation gap. Young people aren't into aviation, except as a career heading to a pressurized turbine twin as fast as possible. I used my free membership at the Penticton Flying Club well... got experience for free in lots of different airplanes--including my first taildragger, a Tayorcraft BC-12D, and generally had an awesome time. But other than my fellow alumnus and a few kids that got dragged along.... everyone there had decades on me.

Now, it is absolutely awesome that there is this wealth of experience (both good and bad) to learn from... from the guy who flew Halifaxes during the war (but made sure that you knew it every single time you talked to him), his wife for whom everyone cleared the sky when she made her initial call, to the former CP of AirSpray who related getting an Electra that hadn't flown for decades out of South Africa, to the retired banker who spun his SE5a replica in and survived after doing an unauthorized tail mod.

But the trouble is it seemed like it was all looking backwards. Today wasn't as good as yesterday... the poker runs were better, the flour bombs had a higher yield, there were more people and more planes (for which they are right) and less rules and regulations (again, also right).

Finally are the successful GA airports and operations. There is no time for fun, no time for chit chat. A four foot (or higher) chain link fence and coded gate separates you from the aircraft, and the only way you are going to gain access is with copious amounts of cash. That's what I did... took a few night courses at BCIT so I could go and play with planes and helicopters at the old Boeing hangar, went and became an AME, got my PPL at busy college in YLW where I didn't get a bucket of water dumped on me for my first solo, nor my shirt cut, not even a certificate..... it was just business. It wasn't until I got into Penticton that I found a more relaxed and social flying scene... and of course here in Invermere with the Soaring Center (even though I am one of those f^&*( power pilots) and the tons of people who fly over here from the flatlands.

I'll admit that I get like that sometimes here too. Middle of summer, I've just done four scenic flights and I am headed out on a five hour fire patrol... I'm probably not going to spend too much time with looky loos. But I've got lots of time here with nothing to do and I welcome everyone here to join me for a cup of coffee and talk shop or airplanes.... :wink:

Most laymen who I've worked with in aviation get their in by doing general labour on weekends for small operations.... bucking rivets, installing interiors, cleaning, waxing, even ferrying and test flying, as well as spotters for surveys and patrols. Lots of times it seems that there isn't enough work to hire another person, but we could always use a hand for a couple of days. Even if it's something like mowing grass or painting that flying club door... I'm sure someone will offer supplies and a ride in a unique machine if you volunteer to do it.
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Chris M
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by Chris M »

PilotDAR wrote:The immersion into GA will not happen there for anyone. Brampton, or any of the other small airports around are a much better start. On a nice summer weekend, Orillia Lake St. John is a happening place. A long drive up from Toronto, but worth it if you're going to spend the day.
I'm in the process of buying a house in the Bradford area, so I'll be partway there already. If I still rode motorcycles that would be a perfect trip on a nice day, but alas, too many expensive hobbies. Had to give the bikes up. Either way I'd love to take you up on that offer.

BA is pretty strict about usage of the airport which is a shame. Where else will you find a 7000' strip that gets almost no use? I've seen a Cessna taildragger, possibly a 170, here a few times last summer parked beside the club airplanes.
piperdriver wrote:Check out some of the smaller airports and participate in annual events that are hosted there. For example Lindsay airport usually hosts an event in August or September. These events usually have a variety of aircraft and lots of people like yourself that are passionate about GA. Its certainly a great way to meet people and see some different types of aircraft.
Thanks! I'll do some research and see what's coming up this summer.
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by CpnCrunch »

Usually if you just go to one of the smaller GA-friendly airports, you'll end up chatting to other pilots just by walking up to them and asking them about their planes. Try joining a local flying club, or go to a fly-in. See if you can find someone on this forum to go flying with, so you can share the costs and get introduced to more people. There are lots of people building amateur-built planes and most of them would be happy to show you the build process - try joining the RAA if you're interested in that, or post a message in the homebuilders forum here.

I think we should have a group flying forum here for fly-ins, meetups, shared flying, flying clubs, etc.
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by co-joe »

If your name's Chris------tina ayou could try dating a pilot, I'm sure by week two you'll be sick to death of hearing about airplanes. I suppose if it's Chris----topher you could do the same but odds aren't in your favour...
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Chris M
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by Chris M »

co-joe wrote:If your name's Chris------tina ayou could try dating a pilot, I'm sure by week two you'll be sick to death of hearing about airplanes. I suppose if it's Chris----topher you could do the same but odds aren't in your favour...
:lol: :lol: :lol: Definitely a Christopher. Unfortunately my fiance isn't a pilot, so I get little sympathy when it's a day like today and I miss dinner because I was out flying. (I suspect many of us are in a similar predicament. I add $10/hr to my flying budget and buy her flowers whenever she's feeling the plane gets more love than her)
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by PilotDAR »

I add $10/hr to my flying budget and buy her flowers whenever she's feeling the plane gets more love than her
Better put a florist on retainer.....
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by Snare_TS »

If you are interested in doing a cross country, I'm with the company too and always looking at going airport hoping to different airports in the GTA. I end up flying alone most times just for currency sake anyways. Our club isn't so bad, decent number of members and we just need to organize a few more club events ourselves!
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by New_PIC »

PilotDAR wrote:
I add $10/hr to my flying budget and buy her flowers whenever she's feeling the plane gets more love than her
Better put a florist on retainer.....
This is good stuff ... I'm taking notes. :)
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xysn
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by xysn »

GA in Downsview is limited pretty much to the 150 and 172 owned by the company flying club, plus the media/traffic and medical planes/helicopters passing by. Unfortunately the group isn't too much of a social club, we only have a handful of active members.
I think you just answered your own question -- Company flying club?

Maybe you can just grow a community around the company club. Is there a way to get some of the public involved? With Buttonville closing soon it would be nice to have some GA activity that doesn't require driving too far away.

I suspect there may be some wariness or 'company policy' around non-employees in the club, but if you could set it up such that one or two existing members could 'vouch' for a non-employee, that could work.

I'm moving to the area soon and it'd be nice to have a GA community close by.
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Re: How does one get more involved in general aviation?

Post by Chris M »

I'm afraid it isn't quite as easy as that. Downsview is basically closed to the public; the only things that land on the runway are Globals, Q400s, the flying club Cessnas and the occasional billionaire coming to take a look at his jet on the assembly line (I have a picture somewhere of a GV parked in the middle of 7 or 8 Global 5000/6000s).

Getting people in is basically impossible. I can bring direct family members in to go flying but that's all. The company is VERY strict about access to the site. The senior members of the club have pleaded our case to every level of management but haven't been able to get very far. As an example, to take my fiance flying tomorrow I have to fly over to Buttonville and pick her up there. Oh well.
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