It’s that time of year again. Time for reflection and resolutions. What did you do well this year, and what are you planning for the next?

It’s easy to race through the syllabus to pass your GST and get your pilot’s licence, and then think you’re done. That’s not quite true. You really never do stop learning, but once that milestone has passed, it is sometimes difficult to see how you progress as a pilot.

Greg Burns, of TwoTwoFly, often bemoans the fact that people rush the learning process and far too frequently, get their licence and then do nothing with it. His advice to new pilots is to get to know their own back yard really well. “Start with small flights, get used to your aeroplane and build your confidence.”

I decided to ask a few pilots, new and not-so-new, about their own progression since getting their licence, what they love about flying and what challenges they feel lie ahead.

I know for myself it took me almost a full year after getting my wings to truly feel like I deserved them. As far as challenges go, the weather has to be the most constant challenge and coping in different conditions and with passengers will probably keep me engrossed in the coming year. What I love about flying is a little more difficult. It gets in your blood, and you need that fix. It’s the challenge that you feel every time you open the throttle and take off, knowing getting down will always be different to the previous time. Above all, for me, it’s the view of angels you get while you are up there.

A windy winter’s day had instructor Ed complaining to me: “This is what winds me up about flying. People not flying on a day like this. If you don’t, you won’t get any further skills. Phah! So what if the wind is strong. You should be up here practising cross wind landings, rough weather handling and getting used to it or you never will, and you may as well take up carpet bowling.”

And in the wild winter weather, carpet bowling often seems like a great option!

My fellow club member Dan, who got his licence about six months ahead of me, has his sights on getting a new plane which means he can go further and faster. He has added as many new airfields to his logbook as he could this season. Weather was a major bugbear a year ago, but he’s now getting more and more resilient to the vagaries of the British weather. “You just need to get up and make the most of all the flying time you can get,” is his advice. “You need to keep pushing yourself, but make sure you never scare yourself. That way you stretch your limits all the time.”

John – another John – who lives further north and flies from his own strip, says: “I love flying because of its unpredictability. One can fly to a random field or indeed a field that you have visited many times before and meet new people.

“One constant challenge for me, is analysing the weather and the go/no-go decision making that stems from that. Being based at my own strip means that the decision is mine alone and I am happy with that. I have always used the maxim, “If there is doubt, there is no doubt.” It took me a while to really understand what that meant. I also use, “There is always another day.” These phrases have stood me in good stead.”

Sarah would love to go out to France to do some advanced flying and mountain flying courses. She says, “For me, listening to other pilots talk about their adventures means I learn a lot. Also not being afraid to ask questions of other pilots and instructors.

“I’d like to fly further afield and do more out-landings. Flying from East Fortune to Bagsby in Yorkshire was a great experience for me but I needed the help of more experienced pilots to plan the navigation and make sure I knew what I was doing. But I was very proud of myself for doing it.

“I’ve just done my revalidation. I was keen to practise certain things I felt I needed to brush up on, especially powered approaches to enable me to land in crosswinds and less stable weather. I really enjoyed the lesson. I’m going to do several more lessons this year in advanced training such as spot landings, low flying, curved approach, one-wheel landings in crosswinds.

“I think the best way to learn is to do it. Keep flying, building hours. Don’t always fly in perfect weather, learn to cope with more difficult conditions. It’s the only way to build confidence.”

Mark found his progress stalled in the three years after he got his licence, until he got his own aircraft. Now, he says, “I fly whenever I can, and I’ve clocked up nearly 80 hours as P1, but I still feel I need to step out of my comfort zone and fly to different airfields and spread my wings a bit.”

James, a former biker, says, “I love the freedom of moving in three dimensions – the heightened thrill that additional dimension gives. As far as challenges go, it must be how the available airspace is constantly being eroded by growing restrictions. That’s probably where I need to extend my confidence this year – in coping with restricted airspace.”

“You can’t distil something like what you love about flying into a few words,” counters Greg. “What’s not to love. When I get in that aeroplane, I come alive. As a pilot, you are part of a club and I feel privileged to belong. Nobody gets it until they do, and then they do!”

John, my instructor, sums it all up when he says, “Every flight is a challenge. And that’s what I love about it.”

So, what do you love about flying, and what challenges will 2019 hold for you as a pilot? I would love to hear your comment below.