From the Cockpit Finale: What Kind of Flight Has It Been?

Ryan Flies


Editor’s Note: This is the final installation of an ongoing series documenting the flights of active-duty US Navy Pilot Ryan Rankin on his journey to fly 52 planes in 52 weeks through the year 2017.

As the year ended, Rankin climbed from the cockpit of his final aircraft, bringing the final count to 52 planes in 52 weeks—hitting his stated goal. Starting out a year ago, he had little idea what to expect from the project. Would he hone his technical skills? Make new friends? A little of both? After a few days to reflect on the completion of this personal mission, Rankin opens up on the experience.

“The aviation community is full of incredible folks who are incredibly generous,” says Rankin, right off the bat. And though he enjoyed flying all sorts of different aircraft, it’s the people he met who have stuck with him the most. “I can probably name everybody I flew with,” he says, “but I’d have a hard time remembering every plane I flew.”

He did become a better pilot, he reckons, but even that is due more to the people he flew with than the mere fact that he flew these planes. The breadth of experience has given him confidence, and he doesn’t understate that importance, but it’s from observing the techniques and perspectives of more than 40 pilots of various backgrounds that has affected him most. “I’ve taken a little bit from all of these people,” says Rankin, “and as a result I’m a better pilot.”

And the experience has given Rankin a good foundation for wherever he wants to take his aviation career in the future. He plans to get both his seaplane and helicopter ratings in the coming year, and maybe more. The FAA has seven categories that pilots are rated in—helicopter, fixed-wing, seaplane, glider, etc—and though Rankin may not hit all of them this coming year, he has a better idea of where to start and what interests him. “I want to be able to go to an airport and not be limited,” he says.

But perhaps most importantly, Rankin recaptured his love of flying. It’s a danger, no matter the industry or skill, when making a living out of a passion, that the demands of the former will sap the enjoyment of the latter. And flying for the Navy had taken its toll on Rankin’s spirit, and he needed, for lack of a better term in this case, a pick-me-up to reinvigorate his love of flying. “And I recaptured that this year,” he says. Still taking calls for more flights and filling up his schedule in the coming weeks, he even bought a plane just a few days ago on Dec. 31.

A Stearman, just like the plane he flew in week one, Rankin plans to take people flying, just like the people who took him up this year. “I need to give back,” he says. “I want to share aviation beyond these videos. I want to take people up.”

To look back on Rankin’s year of flying, follow the link to his blog below.

Pictured: Ryan Rankin with his newly purchased Stearman airplane. Photo courtesy of Ryan Rankin.

Ryan Flies

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