Do You Really Need To Go Flying?


A couple of weeks ago we ran two stories that illustrate—well something—about the ways in which recreational aviation is being affected by COVID-19 in different countries. One story talked about the virtual lockdown of non-essential flying in the U.K., enabled largely by obliging weekend warriors, who complied with their government’s polite request to please hang up their headsets until this blows over. British authorities didn’t see any need to issue any orders or rules to accomplish the mass grounding. Pilots just did as requested with little fuss.

In the same issue of AVweb Flash, we told the story of a pilot who took advantage of the eerily empty skies over his native New Jersey and did low-and-overs (really low) at Newark, LaGuardia and JFK. Although always the consummate professionals, you could hear the levity in the rapid-fire delivery of the controllers and their ready participation in the rare event.

A few readers noticed the juxtaposition of those two different realities and it got me thinking about my own occasional flying activities in the face of a global pandemic. A beautiful Cessna 140 with a fresh annual awaits and my home airport, a non-towered but beautiful facility that is rarely busy on even the nicest of summer weekends, is at my disposal. I’ve had a little time on my hands so there’s really no practical reason for me to stay on the ground. There is actually a compelling case for me to slip the surly bonds. It was a brutal winter here and I haven’t spun a prop in months. The plane needs to fly and so do I.

A few weeks ago, many pilots were bragging about “social distancing” flights on the social media of regional flying associations in my part of the world. It’s been a beautiful spring and it would be fun to go flying today. But a heated debate grew on those social media accounts about whether flying for fun was the right thing to do under the circumstances. It created enough conflict in my mind that I decided to plant a big patch of asparagus instead, not just because it was something else to do but because we’ve wanted asparagus for years.

Planting asparagus is a leap of faith and an investment in the future. In a few weeks, perfect spears of delicious asparagus will spring out of the sandy soil. We can’t touch them because they are the future of a bountiful crop that will feed us and many others for 20 years or more. A little patience goes a long way.

As we dug and raked and sweated in the strengthening spring sun, the retroactive rationale for the decision to stay on the ground became clearer and I’m fully aware that this train of thought will be anathema to a lot of people who have read this far. Keep those cards and letters coming but please try to be constructive and polite.

For me, it came down to answering two questions.

First, would it hurt anyone if I did pattern work for an hour? The answer is an unequivocal No. Flying solo is the essence of social distancing, the gas pumps are self-serve and I would take hand sanitizer with me to wipe them down after fueling up. There are a couple of specious justifications for pausing recreational aviation. Authorities have said such flying will put an unnecessary burden on ATC and that a crash or other emergency would divert essential services needed to cope with the pandemic. Both are a stretch in the context of my modest flying proposal.

Perhaps the larger question, however, is whether or not it would help.

That is also an unequivocal No. Other than the slightest shred of reassurance that extra practice might give my next right-seat victim, there is no benefit to be derived from my hour of delight for anyone but me. Given what others are going through and giving up, such an indulgence seems to be the very definition of selfishness. And the $100 it would cost me for that little bit of self-gratification could be more beneficially used by a food bank or on a gift certificate at a local merchant or restaurant.

A couple of trite slogans are heard everywhere in the COVID world. People are saying “we’re all in the same boat.” That’s not true. We’re in the same storm but we’re in very different boats and we’re all riding it out much differently.

“We’re all in this together” is also not precisely correct. A few of us can literally rise above the earthbound mess for a time and for now that just doesn’t seem justifiable or frankly, very nice. 

By the time we’re able to enjoy that fresh asparagus (we can pick a few spears next year about this time). It will be worth the wait.

This should all have passed by then but I suspect it will be fresh in everyone’s minds. I’m looking forward to seeing that garden from the air for years to come and I can be a little patient to smooth that process.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Well this idea of self grounding yourself because other people can’t indulge also, makes no sense. Those people can’t indulge in flying anyway, during or after covid 19. If you need to relieve guilt for being able to fly while others usual activities are not 100% available is way overreaching. I fly locally just as much as before. There’s no sense in curtailing that. I have the same situation, a self-serve gas pump where there is no one around when I’m using it. And I use an uncontrolled airport. No tower personnel needed. And when I’m in my hanger there’s no one around. That is one place I can go and be totally alone behind a security fence, and the only others who can get in are other aircraft owners. And they never stop by.

    • TED,

      I’d like to say…
      1. Russ didn’t suggest he was grounding because other’s aren’t pilots.
      2. I agree with you with regard to everything else, with two provisos:
      a) as long as you’re practising perfect hygiene;
      b) as long as nothing goes wrong with your pleasure flight (i.e. you don’t need to land off-field, or land at a different airport, or experience a mishap that leads to your requiring medical intervention…).

      Do you see my point? Finally, in a time where small actions carry potentially grave consequences, why not play it safe, for your and my sake, and for everyone else’s? Why?

      • Weak arguments, I’m still flying. That idea that if something should happen requiring the use of emergency equipment is so far reaching, it’s ridiculous. Those with attitudes like that would keep us grounded for every reason they could come up with. The state I live in hasn’t curtailed aviation, so I intend to avail myself of that freedom. If state lawmakers decide to close airports, I’ll be happy to stay on the ground. To worry about what impressions we might make on others is too much to try to put on our backs to worry about.

    • That’s not a very coherent response. Please flesh it out for everyone’s benefit…if it’s worth saying at all.

      • You have no concept of what’s going on. When the politicians realize that the aviation community itself is calling for grounding what do you think they’ll do?
        They are mad with power and we are in real trouble. Wake up!

      • You know exactly what that means. I’ve found from experience that those who wish to believe something will, regardless of facts. Personal freedom is rapidly disappearing in this nation and your kind is facilitating it. No one seems to want to stand up to this and we all will suffer for it. When all your personal freedoms are gone and you wonder how it happened look back to this.

  2. If the author has decided not to fly his C140 that was his decision, not the government. Do I agree with it, no. People are losing patience with the “stay at home” orders and in some cases need an outlet outside of the house to remain sane. Several news outlets have reported the divorce rates have recently skyrocketed. More people are protesting or filing lawsuits. Some ignore the orders altogether. I demonstrate my contempt for the governor’s orders when the weather allows I go for a bicycle ride on public bike paths, much safer than on public roads, and in other legal ways I will not put in print. I know of several drop zones that are looking for any technicality to allow them to operate. If you have ever been at a drop zone you would know there is nothing worse than a bored grounded skydiver! If I owned my own plane I would not hesitate to fly it either. Already flew a short trip in our club airplane. As Richard C. said, “This silliness has got to end”.

    • Do me a favor?
      Spend a day watching overflowing hospitals with people gasping for breath as they die, then describe the origin of your use of the word “silliness “

      I don’t like it any more than anyone else, put I see the humongous danger – even if MY family isn’t dying yet…

      • Well said, sir. I believe that the epidemiological consensus holds that there ARE, in fact, worse things than “a bored grounded skydiver”..

  3. In the UK, the vast majority of private pilots have decided that recreational flying is not right for the following reasons:
    1. The ground trip to and from the airfield (if applicable) would contravene the travel guidance as it does not comply with the 4 permitted reasons to leave your home. A home-based strip would not include this factor.
    2. An aircraft engaging in recreational flight would fly in the face of the spirit of the community lock-down, and the public sight of an aircraft thus engaged would be detrimental to public attitudes to GA.
    3. Should emergency services be required at any stage, this may compromise their availability for pandemic requirements and require that social distancing be compromised.

    In my opinion #1 is not rationally likely to make any difference to the pandemic provided the flights are solo or within the household, and #3 is statistically dubious.

    However, it is often the soft issues that are more important in the long run, and the community spirit both to the wider and GA communities in #2 has kept me on the ground.

    Russ’s moral arguments about how we spend our own money when others are in need may be an indication of a growing empathy for those poorer than we, and this surge in philanthropy may prove to be the silver lining to emerge from the whole pandemic lock-down.

    • “ An aircraft engaging in recreational flight would fly in the face of the spirit of the community lock-down”

      I don’t know about yours, but the spirits in my rural community are pretty low.

      When do our spirits lift a little? Every afternoon, taking all necessary precautions, many of my neighbors take a afternoon walk. Others sit on their front porches. We wave, talk (from a distance) check in on people, and all this activity lifts the doldrums of being trapped inside all day.

      You really want to lift our community sprit? Let a lone, Piper Cub lazily fly overhead during these walks. For a moment, you can imagine looking over the crisp green down below, the cool air over the wings and the smell of fresh cut grass. That feeling is better than a bacon-double cheeseburger and an ice cold beer.

  4. “ And the $100 it would cost me for that little bit of self-gratification could be more beneficially used by a food bank or on a gift certificate at a local merchant or restaurant.”

    It could be more beneficial.. Is your local airport not a local merchant? Does your local airport not have any overhead, expenses? Nobody is employed at this airport?

    “Given what others are going through and giving up, such an indulgence seems to be the very definition of selfishness.”

    I had a burger for dinner and watched some NETFLIX on a very comfortable couch. My job does not have me on the front lines battling COVID.

    Given what others are going through and giving up (some their very lives), my dinner, NETFLIX and couch are shellfish indulgences. Taking your argument to its logical conclusion; I should divorce my wife, sell the house, and donate my body for use in experimental drug treatments to find a cure.

  5. Pilot proficiency is recognized, among my flying community, as it also is in the good State of Colorado, as an essential activity. No need to fly daily. Keep up proficiency and, at the same time, keep the aircraft fully ready to fly.

  6. Thank you Russ for this well written piece, I fully concur with you.

    In my view, there is just one aspect missing in your text and the subsequent discussion – it should be added to the overall consideration: that of “impression”.

    What is the impression we as (recreational) pilots create when we freely circle “for fun” over the heads of those in lockdown who can not meet their friends, pursue their hobbies, or may even have lost their job and are struggling to make ends meet?

    Frankly, it’s what is commonly called a “PR disaster”.

    For many reasons – the vast majority of them unjustified – private pilots have a bad reputation with parts of the population – be it out of envy or otherwise. Let’s not unnecessarily make it worse.

  7. I see plenty of motorcyclists out and about these days here in Wisconsin. Due to the local weather the vast majority of these riders also have available some sort of four-wheeled, closed vehicle. Should they be discouraged from taking the long way to work? Should the bikes remain in the garage until the pandemic is officially over? I don’t see any sense in imagining every other person outside one’s self as acting the role of Fun Police. How would you know? Have you asked how they feel or was the conclusion purely your own?

  8. The author is free to choose to fly or not. Acting as PIC remains one of the few areas of life in the U.S. where our authority for the safe operation of our flight exceeds that of the government. I follow the regs and willingly comply with ATC instructions because it’s required and it’s safer and it’s also usually respectful of others to do so. But when I don’t think compliance is possible or safe I get a little thrill every time I can key the mic and say “unable”.

    I also love flying for the mental and physical focus required. Part of the mental focus involves analyzing data. I’ve analyzed the data relating to the lockdown measures and they do not pass the test of safety and efficacy. They are a greater threat to the health of more people than COVID-19. Maintaining currency in my aircraft is more important to the safety of me and my passengers than not doing so. My flying poses no material threat to the health and safety of others, including those who fuel and tow my aircraft or even ATC given the fact that some commercial flights are still occurring and my hour of air work and approaches doesn’t require any more controllers than are already on duty.

    Even if I were to require the assistance of EMS or an emergency department in a hospital, they would probably welcome the opportunity to maintain their proficiency since literally 99+% of hospitals in the U.S. are empty of patients due to the lockdowns and the dearth of (wrongly) predicted COVID patients.

    The argument that the money I spend on flying could be better spent on charity has as little validity today than it did 3 months ago as it applies to every single activity of every single person not directly necessary for securing food, water, and shelter. My family and I are generous in our charitable giving because doing so is important to us every day. We have given more to help those unduly harmed by our government’s unwarranted actions. My flying helps keep some people employed. I think that’s even better than charity.

  9. I am in a large hangar community where there are a lot of aircraft builders. Generally speaking, these guys exemplify the spirit of American ingenuity and grit it takes in getting difficult things done. I have also observed none wear masks, and they fly often. These traits might be summed up as rugged individualism, which typically resists overreaching suppression of their freedoms. Not violently or even conspicuously, but quietly just going about their business. Incidentally, none have COVD19. Of course many things have a double-edge aspect. The very strengths mentioned above, which are virtues in most situations, can be considered by some to be not good in other situations. In this case, the arguments against flying seem very thin. It should be pointed out the author himself dismissed the objective arguments against flying, and left with a vague and intangible objection about “all being in it together”, a sort of penance for having fun while others can’t have this particular fun.

    • Whole heatedly agree. Great comment. I guess you would put me in the camp of rugged individualist. I hate being told what to do. I was raised to take to responsibility for myself and to make my own decisions based my assessment of the risk. There is no way some government bureaucrat master mind knows what is best for me. Does this sound self centered? Yes it does and it is good for humanity. Individual decision making is far better for a society than communism. I could go into all the reasons but luminaries such as Hume, Locke and others have already provided the philosophy. I’ll continue to go flying. The risk is, that if I have an accident, there will be no doctors in the hospital to render aid because the hospitals have furlough thousands of nurses and doctors. Covid-19 has convinced me more than ever that what President Reagan said is true. “Government is not the solution to our problem, government IS the problem.”

  10. Flying is a risk assessment – right? So is life. And by extension we are going to be making risk assessments about opening up states and future vacations, movie going and sports event long into this and probably next year. Just like choosing to get in the car and go to work on any “normal” day. The parameters have changed but we still need to make a risk assessment.

    Interesting example from WWII – which I bring up because last week London experienced more COVID 19 deaths than the same week during the WWII blitz. When war broke out the UK authorities blacked out the country to confuse German bombers and closed all cinemas and theatres to prevent mass casualty events. The “regular” death rate went UP as people were mowed down by unlit cars on the streets and civilian morale plummeted (as well as communication with the population – a portion of which was carried out in those days with informational movie shorts). After a few month the cinemas and theatres were reopened. Morale improved and there was the odd mass casualty event as cinemas, theatres and air raid shelters were hit. But it was accepted. It was the “new normal”.

    Got news for you – we are not going back to the way it was before. The “OLD” normal. We didn’t after the crash of 1920, after WWII, after 9/11 (if we had – there would be no TSA) and we didn’t after 2008. We are going to have a “NEW” normal as we adapt and learn to live with and possibly defeat COVID-19.

    So the longer you sit on the ground, the more your skills erode. And when “lockdowns” are lifted and everyone rushes to the skies again – how much bent metal (replaceable) and hurt and dead bodies (not so replaceable); balanced against the risk of continuing the odd “regular” accident on the continuum of “regular” flying by folks who fly through the pandemic.

    And though we are not supposed to count the inanimate stuff – planes sitting unused, rot as quickly as ships and crews tied up in port – so the risk of aircraft failures also rises when folks go flying again.

    Personally – I’m trying to continue to maintain about an hour a week – airwork and a semblance of acro in the practice area stepped out over the water with a glide to a deserted beach. If I really screw up – I’ll make a final splash. If I make a glide to the beach – well – I guess I get to self quarantine for 14 days when I get back to my home state.

    And for the neighbors at the ends of the runways – I’ll skip the pattern work and use the runways that have grass safety areas or fields at the ends.

    Welcome to a version of the new normal.


  11. Sign up for Angel Flight or Patient Airlift Services. I did a mission yesterday flying a cooler of test kits from central Georgia to a North Carolina lab. That should allow you:
    1. to go flying anytime to stay current
    2. fly missions to help people


  12. Thank you Russ for a lesson in living for the common good, a truly foreign concept to many comfortable Americans looking for ways to be defiant of their governors.

    • Hear, hear. Well said John K. and also thanks to Christopher R., Bob G. and Jan A. for standing out from the self centered mob.

    • If Russ does not spend that $100 at the airport, helping to provide a job, so that someone can purchase food, so that the farmer doesn’t have to fallow his field…

      All this “common good” has lead the WFP to calculate that 300,000 could starve to death every single day for the next three months.

  13. Forget the asparagus and the cost of flying and maintaining proficiency.
    It is quite obvious that anyone referring to this “silliness” has not been around a hospital recently and could not possibly have an acquaintance who has died from this illness.

  14. Opinions are like … navels … everybody has one. Russ made his choices and has a platform to explain them .. I make my own choices and continue to fly .. solo for now out of caution. Spare me from the atruisms and implied accusations.

  15. > Given what others are going through and giving up, such an indulgence seems to be the very definition of selfishness.

    This has ALWAYS been true. People have been suffering depravations since the dawn of time. If you must deny yourself an “indulgence” because others are going without then where do you stop? Should you not enjoy your asparagus after it’s reaped because others did not have the foresight to plant?

  16. This article made me feel yucky. There is something inherently evil embedded in the philosophy of this article, although I won’t attempt to articulate it. I’ll leave the articulation to Ayn Raynd, who does a nice job in Atlas Shrugged.

  17. Aviation enthusiasts enjoy flying, maintaining, socializing, and many times just watching and listening. How often do you hear an aircraft flying and not look up? My farm is below an airway and for decades we have looked for most aircraft we can hear.
    For the pilots/passengers there is the difficult to describe satisfaction of being airborne. The effects can be therapeutic. My Air Force aircraft was the F-4 Phantom II. A group of us going through new guy orientation at RAF Bentwaters, England were addressed by a chaplain. He looked at our roster and commented, “Well, you guys being aviators get above the clouds and enjoy the sunshine. I probably won’t be seeing many of you for counseling”
    So spend a hundred dollars flying and find another hundred for charity. Everyone will be happier!

  18. Russ, feeling your pain and conflict I’m compelled to action. As a doc testing for COVID I would like to make available to you the first “fly-through” testing service here in Southern OH. When you arrive I’ll NP swab you for acute infection, and we’ll eat the $100(?500) burger for lunch, your treat. As I don’t have a tail wheel endorsement perhaps we can work on that after lunch, and I’ll provide the PPE. I’ll be certain perfect hygiene is practiced during your refuel before departure. By the time you roll in over the asparagus you will have contributed to the COVID response via testing and social distancing, the restaurant industry via the burger(s), GA safety via instruction and avgas taxes and obviously charity. You will have set an an example for all conscientious pilots while avoiding any guilt for indulgence. Text me tail your numbers when ready to depart.

    • “ As a doc testing for COVID I would like to make available to you the first “fly-through” testing service here in Southern OH.”

      Wait a sec…is that someone providing a unique, novel, out-of-the-box solution?

      Sounds like someone not keen on cowering in a basement, wondering what the neighbors think.

      • The offer is as stated. The test was created, and will be processed and validated by one of the major, publicly traded lab companies. The neighbors think the lab collection box on my front door is cool. Same testing offer extended to you, Robert O. 🙂

        • That’s what I’m talking about!

          We’ve got Tesla making ventilators, Cirrus making face shields and Girl Scouts sewing mask-all out of the box thinking-that’s what’s going to get us through this.

          Mark L., your idea of fly-in testing is not a bad idea…And might be a better idea that driving to the hospital for testing. A local airfield might be closer than a “local” hospital in some rural areas.

  19. The current restrictions on social interaction, commerce and entertainment are impacting all of my friends and acquaintances. Everyone I know is struggling in one way or another. Most of my friends are old enough to be in the high risk group for consequences from Covid-19, so we are all being careful while we are slowly driven to distraction by so much time alone. Everyone I know is looking for safe ways to expand their meager horizons. You can only do so much gardening and home repairs before you long for some other form of distraction. Some friends find solace in solo mountain biking. Some are out kayaking by themselves, many go for long hikes. Those of us that are still solvent are trying to find ways to support struggling businesses and individuals in our local community. It’s all hard, and having some avenue for release helps immensely. My avenue for release just happens to be flying. I have my own plane. I ride my bike the 3 miles to the airport and I check out the local environment from the air for 30 – 40 minutes and I feel refreshed afterwards. My kayaking friends say the same after a brief paddle in the bay. My hiking friends say the same after a long walk in the woods with their dog. Anything you can do solo without touching things other people touch and that provides some mental relief from the scourge that has put our old lives on hold seems worthwhile. What that activity is doesn’t matter. I flew one leg of a Pilots and Paws rescue flight for a dog last week and that provided a way to escape my own doldrums and help someone else in the process. Even without such a noble purpose, flying clears my head and there isn’t anything else that helps me as much so quickly. So yes, I’m still flying and I hope everyone has some safe mode of escape from the unremittent monotony of life in the time of this Coronavirus.

  20. Russ, you need to add rhubarb to your garden. There is no better way to live large than to take off early in the morning and watch the sunrise with a thermos (vented, of course) of good coffee and a couple of homemade biscuits with rhubarb marmalade.

    I understand and admire your willingness not to fly out of a sense of unity and imagined camaraderie with those less fortunate but even in the best of times there are still billions of people in the world who live on the edge and are no less deserving of the $100.

  21. I’m based at a medium sized towered airport in Texas and it’s been business as usual for local pilots.
    In fact, I’m finishing up a week long owner assisted annual today with mechanics in their busy hanger.
    I’ll be doing the initial test flight after annual here in just a few hours. I can’t wait.

    Do I really need to go flying?
    I believe that is the wrong question to ask during peacetime.

  22. If you choose to stay home instead of going out and flying, then by all means, do so. I don’t know what’s best for you. But I know for 100% certain that you do not know what is best for me, so climb down off that judgmental high-horse. There is absolutely nothing more selfish that attempting to dictate to others the choices they should make for themselves.

    • BT. You are being selfish, paranoid and insecure by reacting so self righteously against someone simply advocating being considerate of a common problem. Don’t put words in his mouth.

  23. Oh my Russ, you have yourself very tangled up in what we used to call a “guilt trip”.

    So, instead of spending the $100 for the flight, who did you give the $100 to? You did donate that money, right? Unless you did that, or donated that time helping to “battle” the pandemic, denying yourself that flight does absolutely no good whatsoever.

    Please see Jamey C.’s post above, and give it a little thought. If you are able to figure it out, you will realize that it’s wrong to NOT go flying.

    PS as an aside, it’s certainly interesting to see this story next to the one about the 4-ship Bonanza flight. That flight was not only entirely unnecessary, but nothing more than a narcissistic display of guys needing to see their pictures displayed online and their egos stroked – all so common these days. Russ, what is your opinion of their contribution?

  24. Thanks for sharing your perspective Russ. The photo of that Cessna 140 reminded me of the first time I ever actually touched the controls of an airplane. That was in a Cessna 140 owned by a neighbor here in rural Nebraska. I was about 13 years old. But, one thing I would mention and that is about the twists and turns that life can throw at us when we least expect it. Some years back, I was well on my way to finishing the flying requirements for my commercial flight exam. I had passed the written at the time, so I was well on my way to getting my commercial license. To make a long story short, I never got that commercial check ride. I developed a brain tumor that had to be removed. Fortunately, it was non malignant and turned out fine. But, I lost my medical. My point is this; don’t feel too guilty about taking that hour to enjoy flying. One never knows what tomorrow may bring. Enjoy every moment here and now.

  25. I live on a residential airport in a rural area of Colorado. If anything we are flying more now, with so many other areas of life curtailed. The local community already thinks we are a bunch of rich snobs, so no harm done there. Everyone has been harmed by this virus in one way or another. The damage to aviation as most areas of life will be long lasting. If you want to deny yourself an enjoyable activity such as flying during these times, that’s fine, but don’t advocate that others follow your example. We have enough examples of government overreach and tyranny as it is.

  26. “Spare me from the atruisms and implied accusations.”

    LOL. Always remarkable to witness the unaware reveal the limitation of their states of consciousness. Instead of thoughtful, respectful responses, arrogant demands are made of others to fill the vacuum of their inadequate minds.

    I offer that any action in and of itself is neutral. Driving to the airport, flying an airplane, planting a garden – all neutral actions. Through our individual values, morals and senses of social responsibility we’ll make our decisions for these neutral actions. None are right, none are wrong. What’s in the heart carries the day.

    Refreshing, though, to read a caring, considered blog in this challenging time and that yet another crisis – or opportunity as I see it – always serves many purposes, one glaring one being the revelation of individual character. Thank you Russ. And indeed, ‘a little patience goes a long way.’

  27. The “scientific” or “practical” arguments against solo flights for fun or proficiency are all total you-know-what. What is left is a pure moral argument, AKA a guilt trip over having something that others don’t. Dealing with this, IMHO, should be left as a personal decision, not a mandated policy.

    Personally, I long ago came to grips with the fact not everyone has, or can have, the same level of everything in life. It brings to mind a somewhat related personal peeve from some years back. There was a fad of sporting bumper stickers which read “Live Simply So That Others May Simply Live”. The philosophy that was being expressed always irritated me. Basically, you were being implored to live a bare-bones subsistence existence, presumably so that it would spread out resources to squeeze a few billion more subsistence-level people onto the planet. A questionable course of action, species-wise.

  28. Well said Dave M. Seems like a lot of judgement over what is in the end simply one guy’s thoughtful introspection. My own processes and decisions have resulted in a different outcome, based partly but not wholly on my own unique circumstances, but I don’t take umbrage with someone who decides to explain his own process in a pretty neutral way.

    • “Given what others are going through and giving up, such an indulgence seems to be the very definition of selfishness.”

      Doesn’t sound very neutral to me. It sounds condescending and judgemental.

      This reminds me of when your parents told you to eat all of your food because there are starving children in Africa. It had nothing to do with them – it was an example of manipulation through guilt. Russ is allowing his guilt to illogically alter his decision making.

  29. Wow! Clearly we all at least enjoy free speech!

    I have been pretty minimal in my flying over the last seven weeks, and when I do fly, my takeoffs and landings show that. My aircraft are tailwheel airplanes, and proficiency is important enough for me to justify escaping my house occasionally to simply go fly solo (I would fly with someone else, but that would not be right in the current situation). I try to be courteous and considerate when flying anytime, so I really don’t feel that now is special with regard to that aspect of flying. Do I feel guilty when I fly? Not really, since my impact on others is minimal. My wife and I practice social distancing when we walk around our urban neighborhood, as do all of our neighbors. My rationale when flying solo is that the nearest other human is usually about 1000 feet or more away. Our state has not said we have to sit in our house like hermits except when shopping or doing other “essential tasks.” I consider that staying proficient as a pilot is essential if I am to continue to remain an active pilot. Period.

    That said, when refueling I wear a facemask and nitrile gloves and stay 6 feet away from the line personnel. That is simply common sense, as like it or not, Covid-19 is a highly contagious disease, and not just for old people (er – “senior adults” – like me!). Some people are obviously in denial regarding that, and that is not just their problem – it is inconsiderate. I work hard, and when I can, I play hard. Without risking my health or the health of others.

  30. We should all be responsibly enjoying life to it’s fullest and wishing well on on others doing the same. Who knows if they will be here next year? Any guilt about the less fortunate should be reserved for the real victims, and certainly not for the envious or the busy bodies. Give those people no mind. They are thieves who want to steal your life much like this disease will do if given a chance.

  31. So quick to fall for the “guilt trip.” This is what they all signed up for. It’s their job. Get over it and do your job.

  32. Here in the Peoples Republik of Massachusetts, our governor just issued a “mandatory” order to wear a mask whenever in proximity to non-intimate others. At work, in the park, at the gas station, etc. The order goes into effect on Monday (the virus apparently has the weekend off).

    I ordered some masks from Amazon. They told me that they’re “in stock,” but that they’ll be delivered between May 18 and June 1. Hallelujah. (The local Amazon fulfillment center is 4 miles from my house.)

    In between endless household projects (you’re welcome, wife), I’m wasting time designing a high-density rigid-flex circuit board. The old-fashioned way. No autorouter software; just plain old AutoCAD. Still better/easier than doing it the REALLY old-fashioned way: with colored pencils and a good memory. Yeah – I’m that old.

    I’m enjoying the nostalgia as much as the jigsaw-puzzle aspect of it. And no one is calling me every two days, to ask when it will be finished. Joy to the world.

    I haven’t gained any weight. Haven’t lost any, either. Fewer peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch; more tomato soup. Canned. Yum.

    Anyone who wants to forego flying out of conscience has my support. Anyone who safely satisfies their urge to fly has my support, as well. Millions of pilots; millions of reasons.

    Time to mow the lawn. Again. Be well!

    • LoL Yars.

      I’m installing long range fuel tanks in the homebuilt during this time. But only from 6am to the I’ve-had-it-hour as natures’ blast furnace is being stoked up here in the desert.
      Be well, you and yours too.

  33. From his article, “ flying in the U.K., enabled largely by obliging weekend warriors, who complied with their government’s polite request to please hang up their headsets until this blows over. British authorities didn’t see any need to issue any orders or rules to accomplish the mass grounding. Pilots just did as requested with little fuss.” subjects do that automatically. Citizens are free to make their own decisions. The whole “pandemic” hoax, yea, hoax, was the socialist/communist wet dream. Was the virus lethal? Yup. So was ebola, sars and swine flu, which, by the way killed hundreds of thousands more than this latest chicom bioweapon. Hate on me all you want folks but this has been bullschiff from the start. I fly as much as my budget will allow taking all the usual precautions.

  34. A very thoughtful and eloquent article Russ. The responses above say a lot about the character of the people responding and reflect many current attitudes prevalent in US. I greatly respect your sense of empathy towards the greater community, and as layed out in the comment articulating UK guidelines, there is a lot of common sense in your choice to stay on the ground for the time being. To the folks throwing snark at Russ: Well, of course we have the choice to personally fly at the moment, or not. We are incredibly fortunate to have this choice. If you disagree with Russ’s decision that is just fine. But if you feel you must denigrate him with your vitriol that reveals an awful lot about you. Russ wasn’t making political proclamations, he was merely articling his feelings during this time. Please disagree, but c’mon folks, show a little respect.

  35. Do I really need to go flying……well no. Do I really want to go flying yes !

    I get into my private car and drive to my private hangar and pull my airplane out onto the private ramp and go flying.

    My only interaction with a public space is the self service fuel station. When there I wipe off everything I touch and maintain social distancing.

    I would suggest my risk of contributing to the spread of the COVID 19 virus is effectively zero.

    I may not agree with everyone’s opinion but I respect them. Russ Niles has made a choice. That choice doesn’t work for me but conflating that as evidence of moral turpitude is just wrong.

    I find it disappointing and discouraging that it seems impossible to talk about anything virus related on this site without it being filtered for in the viewers perception, of having the “right” political slant

    As an instructor I told my students that there were many things in flying that had more than one “right” way to safely accomplish. I just wanted my students to make an informed decision based on a rational risk reward calculation for everything they did.

    I would respectfully suggest that the same concept should be applied to the decision on whether or not you should fly today. If as in the case of Russ’s choice it is no flying, then I understand his argument and respect it even if I don’t agree with it

  36. I never realized how many liberals we have in aviation until I read this article and the associated comments…

  37. As I said before if the author decides to not fly that is his choice. Today my wife and I went for a bicycle ride on a local bike path. She has not been happy about the lockdown any more than I am. As we were riding an airplane flew overhead. My wife’s comment as we were riding was “boy it is sure nice to hear a plane in the air these days.”

    To bring back a saying I first heard after 9/11,

    Airplane noise, the sound of freedom!

  38. Thanks so much Russ- well thought out and no inflammatory language- a rarity these days.

    I’m still flying but I will claim no superiority; it is something I can get away with as you said and while it does no good it also does no harm. Your article makes me think twice about going up as much as I do- thanks.

    The irony though is the AvWeb placement of the four-ship formation flight to LGA,JFK,EWR right next to this article. It ain’t black and white, its shades of grey.

  39. Wow, Russ. Seventy two responses must be a new record! The wide disparity of responses shows the obvious dichotomy of attitudes of those who fly. It also accentuates the wide variation of circumstances we all face in this pandemic. In the congested cities of the northeast, where many people live in high density housing and do not own a car, the thought of flying seems to be selfish and irresponsible. Even the idea of taking public transportation or going to a nearby park is not in the public interest. But, out where public transit is the family car and most of us live in single-family houses, the risk paradigm changes. Going for a solo flight is no more of an issue than piling the housebound family into the car and going for a drive in the country to restore some sense of normality.

    Due to various issues, I have not flown during the pandemic, but if I were able, I would have done so. I feel the occasional small plane flying overhead carries no more impact than cars on the freeway which still has plenty of traffic. We have contributed to several charities involved in helping the less fortunate, not out of any sense of guilt, but as a desire to help those more effected by the pandemic. We would have done so whether I flew or not. I would gladly help in person, but being a high risk individual, prudence dictates that I stay home and not add another casualty to the local hospital. I respect your position and thank you for sharing it. To those who feel compelled to criticize, disagree if you wish, but let’s keep the judgements and name calling to a minimum, okay?