The Meaning of “General Aviation” Explained
April 5, 2016
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  • Readers who admit to rarely ever flying have told me however, they find aviation interesting. Recently, a reader asked me the meaning of the phrase “general aviation”. It means all aircraft except military and airlines. From my 40 years of flying, of which 35 were in “general aviation”, here are some examples of the latter types of aircraft.

    I always enjoyed seaplane flying, which I always refer to as a speedboat with wings. It offers the land pilot a new challenge and requires special knowledge for operation on and off water, and the seaplane rating.

    I likewise enjoyed flying off snow and ice with skis. A Piper Cub was fun for the learning pilot during early flight experiences. Landing on snow resulted in a quick stop. I did ski flying in Alaska in big single-engine planes able to carry passengers and cargo, frequently landing on frozen water.

    Glider flying is another flight of fun. The takeoff and climb behind the tow plane is a thrill, and after release, the flight is smooth and quiet — so quiet you can hear folks talking on the ground. To hold or gain altitude, the glider pilot circles to stay in the updraft, and the landing requires good judgement and coordination.

    There are many other uses of the general aviation type airplane. Commercial fishing fleets use them to locate schools of fish; they are used for pipeline and power line patrol, crop dusting and spraying. They are practical aircraft for charter flights of passengers, and helpful for some types of medical flights.

    Dave Hall, of Heritage Aviation, flying out of Selinsgrove and Williamsport airports, brought me up to date on the pilot ratings for general aviation.

    The more recent Light Sport Pilot Rating has been attracting interest. There is no night flying involved, a medical exam is not required, but a U.S. driver’s license is a requirement. Some of the planes are home-built.

    The more advanced pilot categories — the Private Pilot License is typically flown in a single engine aircraft. The Commercial Pilot License requires more flight hours and can be for a single or twin engine aircraft. Then there is the Flight Instructor ratings.

    Although military trained pilots easily qualified for many of the civilian pilot ratings in general aviation, to earn them as a civilian, they must take the written exams and flight courses.

    Learn to fly and enjoy the thrill of flight.

    Joseph A. Diblin, of Northumberland, was a four-engine pilot during World War II and has worked as a test pilot and civilian flight instructor. He is also seaplane rated. If you are a veteran — Vietnam, Iraq, Korea, World War, etc. — and would like to share your story, please contact him at (570) 473-2594.