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Learning To Fly: You're A Private Pilot, Now What?
By Kyle Garrett
As much information as there is available to student pilots during training, it can seem like once you get your private pilot certificate you're on your own. During training there's a plan;you've got to get x,y, and z done so you can pass your exam. You're not alone if you reached the summit and you found yourself asking, "Now what?"
Fly, a lot
You worked hard for your private pilot certificate, use it. Go out to the airport and turn aviation fuel into noise. Fly around and take in the sights. Don't pass up an opportunity to go fly. This is helpful for two reasons: it keeps you current and you're still learning. The more flying you do, the better. You'll build hours, which is great for many reasons, and through repetition your flying will improve.
Go somewhere fun
As an extension of flying a lot, go to fun places. Most pilots make a lot of $100 dollar hamburger runs, but there are lots of other places, like aviation museums, to see. Go to a fly-in. Starting small is advisable; there are lots of smaller fly-ins all over the country that make great weekend trips. That said, don't let the size of some of the bigger fly-ins (like Airventure) scare you off, just work up to it. You might also consider taking a flying vacation. Find an airport near your favorite vacation spot and take a plane instead of the car.
Get more ratings or certificates
Finally, even if you don't aspire to have a career in aviation, get more ratings and certificates. An instrument rating will bring a level of precision to your flying and adds a little reliability for those times when the weather isn't perfect. A commercial rating will enable you to accept compensation. That may sound like a synonym for "aviation career," but there are certain times when having a commercial certificate pays off for accountants and lawyers (or anyone) flying company owned aircraft. More to the point, you'll need a commercial certificate if you want to be a CFI. There are lots of part time CFIs that do something else for a living but enjoy teaching in their spare time. The list of options is really to much to quantify with any brevity except to say, keep training.
This list should keep you occupied for at least a few years, but if you run out of ideas, join a local pilot club and see what they have to offer. Whatever you do, stay active and keep learning.