The last time I posted, we looked at flying just for fun and some of the fun things that you can do with your pilot certificate, now let’s take a look at what I would call some of the “fun ratings” available to you. These are ratings on your pilot certificate that you may not use on a regular basis but are a lot of fun to pursue.
The first fun rating that I personally obtained was the Glider rating. I did my training in Sporty’s Academy’s own Diamond Xtreme motorglider (no longer available) but there are many other options available. If you obtain your Glider rating in a motorglider, your pilot certificate will indicate “Glider” and your logbook will specify that you are approved for Self-Launched Gliders. You can also obtain a Glider rating using aerotow or ground tow launch methods. You will only need a bit of additional training to transition to another launch method (vacation idea J); no additional checkride is required.
Basic glider flying is purely about fun and enjoyment. Searching the sky to find some soaring lift is a real challenge and provides a real sense of accomplishment as you climb away without an engine. No lift, no problem. The view from most gliders is nevertheless amazing and it is still an enjoyable flight!
Quite a bit of Glider flying is done in a “club” environment. This adds a social aspect to the program while on the ground between flights. If you want to get serious about your fun, soaring contests are held throughout the country.
Do you like boats and airplanes? You might want to pursue a Seaplane rating to combine both of these joys. I did this over the course of a couple days while my family visited a mouse near Orlando. I think it was a good trade! Places like Jack Brown’s Seaplane base in Winterhaven, Florida, specialize in this type of accelerated training.
If you want to use the Seaplane rating to take your crew on a wilderness lake fishing trip, an insurance company may want you to get some additional training but you are still in an airplane, on the water. Loads of fun!
Another rating that falls under the fun category is the Gyroplane rating. Gyros look like a cross between an airplane and a helicopter. Most Gyroplanes in the air today have a propeller mounted in the back of the aircraft in the pusher configuration. The rotor attached to the top of the aircraft provides lift as it rotates. The rotation is driven purely by the wind flowing through it as it flies through the air.
Many Gyroplanes have an open cockpit. If the idea of flying lower and slower with the wind in your face appeals to you, perhaps the Gyroplane rating is for you.
If you want to fly in calmer winds and you like the idea of going with the flow, perhaps a Balloon rating is in your future. Balloons come in the gas and airborne heater varieties. Airborne heater is FAA speak for a Hot Air Balloon which is by far the more popular variety.
Flying a Balloon is all about the view. There is also the challenge of understanding and navigating the winds as you float across the countryside seeking out a place to land. After landing, you and your crew will gather up the balloon and equipment for return to your home base. You may also have the opportunity to interact with the land owner where you landed and share your joy of the flight on a social basis.
For more information on the ratings mentioned above, check out the following organizations.
- Soaring Society of America
- The Seaplane Pilots Association
- Popular Rotorcraft Association
- Balloon Federation of America
The two most recent additions to the fun rating opportunities are the Weight-Shift Controlled and Powered Parachute certificates. These types of aircraft are designed purely for fun flying. Many pilots who fly these gather together in groups to take treks across an area; low and slow and great for sightseeing.
The Fun Continues
As I mentioned in my last post, I have only scratched the surface of the enjoyment that is available to you in the aviation world. If you have had an exciting adventure involving aviation or would like to share other amusing things to do with a pilot’s certificate, please feel free to share them on the Learn to Fly Here Facebook page.
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