Recently, I reached my one-year anniversary of aircraft ownership. I always said I’d give it a year and then look at what this is all costing me, and then decide if it was worth it. When the milestone was passed, I tallied up all the hours I flew in the 12-month period, and divided by the total outlay of money for the same period to derive a “cost per hour”, which all aircraft owners know is bullshit. I’m no accountant, but even accountants can’t agree on how to assimilate all the costs of owning and flying an aircraft and boil them down into an accurate cost per hour. I thought maybe I should look at things differently.

I flew nowhere near the number of hours I had hoped to this year, but I still managed to fly about ten times as much as I had in the preceding year. In fact, I flew more hours this year than I had in the last four years combined. So right there, I figure I’m ahead on points.

I could lay out all kinds of analyses and projections, to try and make sense of exactly what I have gotten myself into. To be honest not a day goes by that I don’t think about how lucky I am to be able to own such an extravagant toy; I also wonder if I should keep it just about every day. “Can I really do this?” has become my mantra, and every time a fair weather weekend day slips by without me flying the plane the guilt piles on. But today, I decided it has all been worth it, and as an added bonus no math was required.

I went flying today. I didn’t go anyplace, just stayed in the airport traffic pattern, practicing my takeoffs and landings. The wind was totally calm, which was not really what was forecast, which is perhaps why no one was flying when I got there. I had the entire airport to myself for most of the time, and I totally lost myself in the joy of flying and trying to nail each and every aspect of each trip “around the patch”.

Meanwhile, two hawks were circling just off the departure end of the runway today. At first, they were viewed as menaces, possible collision hazards. But after a few takeoffs, I learned where their thermals were, and I let them have them. I adjusted my upwind leg a few degrees to the left, threading right between them, watching them glide and swoop in the rising air off my wings. My wings. Working with the hawks, sharing the airspace, they became my friends, and I never felt like I belonged in their company as much as I did today. Today I flew.

Today’s experience made the cost of ownership worth it.