Introduction to Flying

Thirty years ago, as I wrote my best-selling book, Budget Flying, private aviation was in a surge of growth. People were having loads of fun learning to fly. But just five years later, many pilots were grounded by a round of burdensome regulations, higher insurance premiums, and other rising costs. Some of the biggest names in small planes were facing layoffs and even bankruptcy. For the next two decades, growth in private aviation leveled off. Even the addition of ultralights and the recreational-pilot certificate couldn’t quite get things moving again.

Then, on September 1, 2004, everything broke loose. More pilots went flying. More low-cost planes became available. More people were having fun flying again. What happened?

The Sport Pilot and Light-Sport Aircraft (SP/LSA) regulations happened. The culmination of nearly 10 years of hard work by aviation associations and aircraft manufacturers, the SP/LSA rewrote the book to make pilot certificates easier to get and a new type of safe aircraft easier to buy. It was a new way of thinking about flying.

The premise? Not all pilots even want to fly high-performance aircraft in crowded airspace. Using common sense, the new rules make it much easier for noncommercial pilots to get trained and certified to fly plenty-fast planes under visual flight rules (VFR)—if it’s clear enough to see, well, it’s nice enough to fly. No flying at night and stay away from clouds. And you don’t have to buy a plane that costs as much as a new house! Based on this common-sense concept, private aviation leaders develop a full-blown proposal that, after much hard work, is now the law of the land.

Unfortunately, though the cost of new light-sport aircraft is lower than that of new standard aircraft, flying isn’t cheap. So pilots on a budget still have to be frugal. That’s okay! You can still earn your private pilot or sport pilot license on a budget and even own your aircraft — if you’re frugal about it. That’s what this website is all about: frugal flying.

Where to start? Start with 10 Tips for Frugal Pilots, my suggestions for ways to earning and spreading your wings. Then read Frugal Pilot Guides based on your interests: Requirements, Instruction, Aircraft, and Flying.

Along the way, practical sidebars show you the safe and smart way to do things, define words and terms you might not be familiar with, point out any dangers or pitfalls, and give you other bits of helpful information.

Wing Tips

Here are some valuable tips from pilots, manufacturers, officials, and other aviation folks on how to get the most from your flying experience, as well as other related information you need to know.

Flying Words

What does that mean? Here you’ll find a concise definition of important flying terms in context. Also check the Glossary for more definitions to make things clearer.

Stall Warning!

Sport planes are safe[md]if you pay attention! Here’s how to fly safely and keep others safe as you discover the many thrills of sport flying.

Knowledge Test

You knew there would be a test! As appropriate, this site includes concise tips specifically aimed at helping you pass your FAA sport-pilot knowledge and practical tests. You’ll ace it, ace! offers more than 100 Practical Flight Guides to help you discover your wings!