By George Karamitis, EAA 144192.
This piece originally ran in the September 2023 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.
Landing after an enjoyable late afternoon flight and taxiing back to the hangar, I remain seated and just think. Out loud, I holler, “WOW!” This little airplane gives my heart an extra reason to keep beating. What a way to experience flight.
Speaking out loud to myself I ask, “George, just how long do you think you can keep doing this?” I don’t like to hear myself saying those words, but the fact is, I am 82 years of age. My life is like today’s setting sun.
I love being an older person. It allows me to be freer in expressing the thoughts developed through many years of experience. What do I have to lose? I am not alone in this mindset. I share these thoughts with many of my fellow pilots as they share their thoughts with me. Together we are on the same flight plan.
My whole life has been aviation. Even before kindergarten, the passion for flight was all-consuming. Professionally, as a young 18-year-old, I became an integral part of a U.S. Navy flight crew. I am very proud of that.
As time went on, I became a flight instructor for a major university and continued to instruct for 56 years in addition to a 32-year career as a pilot with Trans World Airlines.
I didn’t get to this point by myself. Quite the contrary. Each and every person I have flown with has molded me into the person and pilot I am today. I know my fellow pilots, and they know me.
Aviation is an essential part of our very being. Then all of a sudden, we wake up some morning and realize we are senior citizens. The short definition is that we are old. Oh, we still have the skills to fly our aircraft, and some pilots can qualify physically, but other difficulties threaten our aviation lifestyle.
The inflationary cost of maintaining and flying our aircraft has become problematic. Add to that the difficulty in obtaining insurance. For us older pilots, this may…