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Play with Your Peers
While you need to enlist a certified flight instructor once every couple of years for your biennial flight review, you don’t need to pay a CFI to learn new things about flying. If you connect with other pilots at your flight school or at neighboring hangars, you are likely to learn new things and find helpful procedures and tools that can make flying more enjoyable and make you a better pilot.
When you fly with somebody you have never flown with before, it’s worth having a chat before you take off to maximize the chances of a positive flight experience. You may both enjoy being instructed or critiqued while flying. But if you are the kind of pilot that doesn’t take criticism well, you may want to tell the person not to make comments on what you are doing unless it compromises the safety of the flight. In many cases one way may not necessarily be better than another — it may just be a matter of personal preference. It is worth seeing and learning how other pilots approach flying tasks and procedures. But, if you see something that the other pilot could do better or differently, it may be best to take notes and make suggestions when you are safely on the ground, perhaps even over a beer or two.
Rather than just enjoying the view on the way to the next $100 hamburger, use the time wisely by doing something productive. Whether you are instrument rated or not, you can wear a view-limiting device when you are flying so that the pilot in the right seat can also log the time. During times when you’re both looking outside, you could talk about the best emergency landing sites within possible gliding distance. Perhaps your flying buddy uses different procedures for no power approaches that can help make yours more consistent. You can also talk about other potential problems, such as smoke in the cockpit, electrical failures or hypoxia, and how you would deal with them.
Flying with new people will also inevitably expose you to the many different apps and gadgets that are constantly emerging. It is one thing to read about these new tools, but quite another to see them in action. By seeing how new technology is used you will learn what equipment makes most sense for you before you go out and spend money that could otherwise be spent on fuel.
There are many benefits to flying with a lot of different people. Not only can you share the ever-increasing cost of flying, you can learn something new, have more fun in the cockpit and, if you are lucky, create new, strong friendships.