As an English major in college, I was saddled with an enormous reading load — sometimes four books a week. And the likes of Thomas Hardy, Hermann Hesse, Cervantes et al does not make for light reading. I have loved books since I was a kid, but during this time, if I wasn't slogging through something that I really needed to read for an upcoming exam, I felt as though reading for pleasure was wasting precious time. After graduation, it took me years to shed that feeling of anxiety when I curled up with something to read; just because I wanted to.
With so much demand on our flying time to stay current and meet our training needs, I fear many pilots might be lapsing into that same sense of obligation. Even if they began flying as a source of challenge, excitement and wonder, the responsibility of staying on top of everything in today's demanding flying environment may have sapped that element of pure joy from the simple pleasure and relaxation that flying brings.
So here's my advice: budget some of your airport time as fun time. Call it a mental vacation, if it makes you feel better, but do something that harks back to those early days in your flying career when it made you feel good just to leave the ground. When was the last time you tried a few chandelles? Or steep turns just for the fun of it? If it's a day for puffy fair-weather cumulus clouds, climb up on top and circle around the buildups a few times to get to know them better (not too close, of course, in case the cloud has some aluminum filling). Maybe you'd enjoy following a winding river just to see where it goes.
If the airplane you usually fly is not exactly practical as a fun machine, consider buying time in something a bit more simple. Or maybe swapping rides with a trusted pilot on your airport who owns a basic taildragger or a sleek homebuilt. Some pilots who've been flying for decades discover a love for soaring after a hop in a glider. In the end, only you can decide what form of flying fun will help recharge the early enthusiasm that got you started in the first place. But it's certainly worth the time to try it.
And if you have some experiences that stand out in memory as helping rejuvenate your flying passion, click on the 'comment' button above this article to share them, or send an email to email@example.com. Maybe we can take up a collection of fun-flying suggestions that just might help recharge someone else's lagging spirit.