Your Frugal Flight Mission

Professional pilots have flight missions. A commercial pilot's flight mission is to safely fly a specific aircraft with an identified weight to an explicit destination on schedule. Law enforcement pilots perform missions that involve highway surveillance and speed monitoring. NASA has specific flight missions and procedures to make sure their expensive flights have a purpose and expected outcome.

Private pilots also have flight missions, though their goals and descriptions are less formal. Even so, all flights should have a mission – especially those by frugal pilots who are looking for the greatest value for each aviation dollar spent. These flight missions don't have to include specific waypoints, but should include defined objectives. Here are common reasons why frugal pilots fly:

Destination flying. Frugal pilots often define their flying by where they fly, such as to specific airports, new airports, for business, for scenery, or for a great restaurant. They may also define where they go by how they go: fast or slow. Many pilots prefer one over the other.

Home flying. Many pilots would rather stay in a small geographic area, simply flying the pattern to someday achieve the ultimate goal of the perfect landing. Or they have a specific course they most enjoy flying, taking in the scenery and landmarks, but typically only landing at their home airport.

Prospective adjustment. Many pilots fly because it literally adds a new dimension to their lives. Looking down from 3,000 feet, weeds are invisible. Flying your wings in familiar surroundings can be a real stress-reducer at the beginning or end of a workday or week.

Self-discovery. Pilots have other titles: father, mother, husband, wife, partner, parent, employer, employee, professional, friend, etc. But they all are secondary to pilot-in-command. In the left seat, they are in control. All the hard work and study that brought them to this title and position gives them individual pride found in few other personal endeavors.

Sharing. Many pilots prefer not to fly alone. The fuel costs about the same no matter whether the flight is solo or with a passenger or two. So why not share the ride. Maybe it's a colleague from work, a spouse, a child or grandchild, or someone who told you they'd love to go flying someday soon. Flying is a gift to be shared.

Challenge. Not everyone feels totally comfortable in an airplane high above the ground – including many pilots. In fact, that's why some became pilots, to overcome a natural fear with the irrefutable facts of aeronautics. Once accomplished, they help others overcome similar fears. They fly for the challenge of learning and applying the rules of aviation.

Professional opportunities. Many pilots fly for a living. Their private pilot or sport pilot certificate is just the first of many. It's a worthwhile goal that motivates them to select an aircraft and fund their flying, typically on a budget, to meet specific professional goals.

Those are common missions for many frugal pilots. Most flights will include more than one mission, such as the sharing of destination flying. The important point for frugal pilots is to know why, when and how you fly, then match your needs and wants to your wallet. Logging and review your flight missions can help you get more from your flying dollars.

For example, after reviewing his log book for the past year a frugal pilot may realize that he flew a four-seater solo 90 percent of the time, primarily within an hour of the home airport. A mission review will help him decide whether his airplane is the most appropriate for his flying. Maybe a two-seater is a smarter choice. Or renting an aircraft would be a better budgetary move. A key to frugal flying is knowing why you fly and to make sure that your equipment, investments and expenses efficiently support that key element. 

In other cases, mission reviews help pilots determine that they really need – or maybe don't need – an IFR aircraft and rating. Or that they would utilize a higher-performance aircraft if they could share it with partners. Or that they are ready to start making money flying as a CFI. 

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get the greatest value you can from every dollar you spend as a frugal pilot.