Top 5 questions and answers for flying with youth

3 min read

There’s nothing more inspiring than sharing aviation with youth.

We’ve all been there.  After many months, or possibly years, of hard work, you’ve finally received your pilot’s license.  Inevitably, you will want to share the wonders of aviation with friends and family members.  There is nothing more awe-inspiring than seeing the look on children’s faces the first time they fly in a small airplane.  Giving that experience to youth should be high on your list of aviation accomplishments.

As with all things in aviation, this experience doesn’t come without risk.  As pilots, it’s our job to recognize and manage this risk.  Here are the top 5 questions Sporty’s receives when pilots ask our opinions on flying with youth.

Do I need additional insurance?  

The short answer is maybe.  Take a look at your current insurance policy.  Almost all owners and renters policies have a provision for passengers.  The level of coverage will vary greatly depending on the plan.  If you are concerned that you are under-insured, you probably are.  As inexpensive as additional liability coverage can be, it may be worth it to ease your worries.

How young is too young?

You’ll want them to remember the experience.

This is probably the most common.  Think back to your first flight.  I can remember the first time my parents purchased a flight for me in a small airplane.  It was awesome!  My rule of thumb is that I want children to remember their first flight forever.  Depending on the individual, that might be anywhere from four to seven years old.  If it’s your own child, you might consider the younger side of that age.  For obvious reasons including safety, I consider diapers too young.

How high can I go?

Pressure changes can have more of an effect on children than adults.  My daughter is one of those.  On a flight a few years ago, we were climbing through 3,500 feet on a one hour flight from a field elevation of less than a thousand feet, and I hear her say that her head is starting to hurt.  

As any concerned parent would do, I leveled off and descended.  The discomfort subsided and she was fine for the remainder of the bumpy flight.  

If it is their first flight, try to stick with relatively low altitudes.  The traffic pattern altitude plus 1,000 feet is my normal maximum on first flights. After several flights getting acclimated, slowly try the higher altitudes.  Before long, you’ll be at normal cruising heights. To be safe, always do a slow descent with kids on board and discuss the various techniques available to relieve the inner ear pressure.

Are special headsets needed?

Depending on age and head size, some headsets might not fit well on youth.  The smaller the child, the more fitting issues you may have with headsets.  Several headset manufacturers make youth size headsets. These are similar to the adult counterparts, but with smaller headbands. David Clark and Sigtronics offer youth models in the $200-$350 range. Personally, I’ve used Bose headsets on both of my children as young as age four and they worked great.  The overhead cam mechanism is ideal for small heads, and the ANR provides excellent hearing protection for their sensitive ears.

Should I demonstrate maneuvers on the first flight?

Strive to keep them interested for a lifetime.

You’re striving for an enjoyable ride that will keep them interested in aviation for the future.  I try to keep turns shallow with only slight changes in attitude.  Advanced maneuvers might sound like a good opportunity to showcase your skills, but you don’t want to scare off newcomers.  The focus should be seeing grandma waving from the front porch and the lightning-fast speed of a Cessna 172.  In other words, no floating pen tricks.

What to share the magic of flight with more youth?  Connect with your local EAA chapter and volunteer for Young Eagle Flights.  It is a lot of fun and a wonderfully rewarding way to give back.