When Not To Plan Ahead

Tip: Don’t plan.

One of the best things about flying general aviation airplanes is the freedom it provides. You can go and check out almost any place you want, as long as you stay above regulated altitude limits and away from major tourist attractions, such as the Grand Canyon. Aside from being able to see new places from the vantage point of an airplane, some of the best experiences I've had in GA are when I have landed at places where I originally did not plan to fly.

You should, of course, always have a plan in mind, ensure that you have enough fuel to get to your intended destination, stay within weight limits and CG envelopes, get weather and notams and avoid airspace you're not supposed to fly in. But once in a while, when you have time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak, you should take a diversion and explore a new place.

Say you're flying along at 10,000 feet on your way from point A to point B and suddenly see an interesting feature on the ground. You check your chart to ensure there are no restrictions that would prevent you from flying in the area. Then you descend to take a closer look. At the same time, you realize that you are ready for a bathroom break and perhaps a snack. So you click the nearest button, find an airport with a suitable runway long enough for the airplane you're flying, give a quick call to Flight Watch to make sure there are no notams that would restrict you from landing there and you descend to that airport.

There might even be a friendly FBO on the field willing to lend you a crew car for a couple of hours while you explore the area and have a bite to eat. These kinds of diversions can be so much fun. I've been handed the keys to everything from an old Plymouth with moth-eaten velour bench seats and an engine that barely ran to a brand new Jaguar with leather seats and all the latest gadgets. I've always run across nice people and interesting places during my diversions around the country.

Next time you fly, take advantage of the freedom that GA flying provides you. You don't have to stick to a schedule like you do with the airlines and the places you can explore, from remote grass strips to gourmet restaurants, will give you even more reasons to make use of your valued pilot's certificate.

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Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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