Pursuing the 100-Hour Year in Your Ideal Aircraft

What seems like a reasonable goal can become challenging when life gets in the way.

Start the year with a detailed plan for spending more time flying. [Credit: Jonathan Welsh]

Several colleagues and other fellow pilots have vowed to spend more time aloft in their aircraft this year than they did in 2023, and I am determined to join them. We all have made similar New Year’s resolutions before, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. The battle cry of “Fly more in 2024”—#flymorein24—is catchy enough to remind me of my commitment and help me stick with it, as it turns out.

A year ago, having just bought Annie, our Commander 114B, I planned to log 100 hours by year’s end—more than double my previous annual record. The goal seemed reasonable given the significant uptick in flying activity that typically comes with owning an airplane instead of renting.

During the first half of the year, I was on track to crack the 100-hour mark, but progress suffered for the remaining months as an annual inspection, difficult weather, competing obligations, and other factors slowed my pace. I wound up 20 hours short and in need of a better plan for the next year.

When you think about flying two hours per week, surpassing 100 hours in a year appears straightforward. However, most pilots know how quickly flightless weeks can accumulate when demanding periods at work, family crises, and other challenges keep us from getting to the airport. Sometimes it is best to plan and execute as many flights as possible when the weather is good and distractions are few. Perhaps there are trips you would normally make by car or on commercial flights that also lend themselves to general aviation transport. Such missions can help you build hours while keeping flying skills sharp.

I look forward to using this approach as our younger son’s volleyball club season picks up between now and early March. His team is scheduled to play in tournaments at Pittsburgh, Lancaster, and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, as well as Boston. All of these destinations have airports in town or nearby. We could rack up lots of memorable father-and-son experiences while saving time in transit and, in my case, steadily adding hours to my logbook.

Our son, a high school junior, is also planning college visits this winter and spring, potentially opening the door to more flight hours and good times exploring the nation’s network of GA airports. The California schools on his list might best be left to the airlines, but those in the Northeast are mostly within an hour or two by air, compared with several hours on the road. Annie is ideally suited for those trips.

My wife also made a list of places we have flown to for brief but lovely visits, such as Northampton, Massachusetts (7B2), and Fisher’s Island, New York (0B8). Why not return this spring for longer, more relaxed stays? To those add our long-planned summer journey along Maryland’s Eastern Shore and North Carolina’s Outer Banks, winding up on Ocracoke Island (W95), and we should be well on our way to 100 hours or more. In the process, my family might grow to love Annie as much as I do.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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