From the Cockpit Part 1: Ready for Takeoff

Ryan Flies


New year’s resolutions come in all shapes and sizes. For some, it’s a vow to eat better and hit the gym more often. For others, it’s to face their fears and go skydiving or eat a hot dog. But for Ryan Rankin, an active-duty United States Navy pilot stationed in Pensacola, 2017 means taking off on a yearlong, globetrotting adventure to fulfill his passion for aviation and fly 52 different aircraft in the span of a year—one for each week. As Rankin embarks on this quest, SRQ will be manning the radar safely on the ground with weekly updates in the ongoing series From the Cockpit.

To reach 52 aircraft, Rankin’s endeavor will span a wide berth, from vintage, open-canopy planes of a bygone era to ubiquitous workhorses like the Cessna 172 or Piper Warrior—planes that most every pilot has trained on at some point or another. It’s a trip through the history of aviation more than a high-altitude joyride—although it certainly is that as well—and Rankin says the point is to not only fly the flashy planes but highlight the significant if not exciting ones as well. Still, for his part, the World War II-era planes hold the most draw and he hopes to land a P-51 Mustang before the year is out.

To find flight schools and collectors with available aircraft, Rankin will crisscross the country throughout the year, as well as make trips to Poland and the UK, where a few old fighter planes await takeoff. Many of the planes will be completely new to him—some only seen before in pictures. “There’s going to be an adaptation phase,” he says. “There are no surprises, but there are differences that I need to be prepared for. All aircraft fly a little differently.” For this reason, Rankin will fly with a copilot who knows the plane well whenever possible. It’s not about trying to show off as a hotshot pilot, but being a student of aviation looking to learn. “I’m going to make mistakes,” he says, “and I’m very much going to be instructed throughout the year.”

Each week, Rankin will check in with SRQ to discuss his latest flight for continuing installments of From the Cockpit. Additionally, as Rankin conducts his flights, he will be creating videos to document his experiences. These videos can be viewed on his website at the link below.

Pictured: Ryan Rankin. Photo courtesy of Ryan Rankin.

Ryan Flies

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