Today, I got something I've been wanting ever since I left a dear old friend behind in New Jersey 18 months ago. Actually, I've wanted this thing ever since I acquired "niner three foxtrot", my old beloved airplane. I wanted an air-to-air shot of the old bird, and today I got one.

Jake -- 93F's new proud owner (and also recent proud owner of his very own private pilot certificate) -- sent me a pic of my old plane in its natural habitat: loitering a thousand or two feet above the lush, green western New Jersey farmland:

93F, air-to-air

Rob W. took the shot, from the open door of his Piper Cub, another plane I flew way back when, when I was connected to a very cool little group of pilots who gave me access to all kinds of cool planes.

Do I miss having my own plane? Yes and no. Do I miss flying? Yes, absolutely. But aircraft ownership is expensive, and I did it the cheapest way possible. My old Cessna 150 cost less than my car, and my good friend John maintained it for free, basically. But for the amount I flew the thing, it still made more sense to rent (sadly, I now live within walking distance of a local airport and theoretically would have flown my plane far more out here, but little, underpowered niner-three-foxtrot would not have fared well out here in Colorado's high country, so it really made sense to sell her back east).

The cost of flying -- already pretty high, as hobbies go -- has only increased with the rising fuel costs, and $115/hr to rent a Cessna 172, the going rate at my now-local airport, is just too rich for my blood these days. Besides, I can see the same views by walking to the top of Bear Peak. So, for now, my aviation hobby is on hold. I've even sold my aviation GPS.

But the allure of aviation will course through my veins forever, just as it did before I ever took a lesson. I will fly again, and hopefully someday will once again own an aircraft of my own. For now, I have plenty of activities that supplement the thrill of flying, but none will ever replace the unique feeling of taking a heavier-than-air machine into the air and controlling your own destiny for a couple hours. Jake's picture reminded me of a great time in my personal history, a time when I owned and flew my own airplane, and I will never forget that time of my life or the person (hi John!) responsible for making that dream a reality.

I can head over to Boulder Municipal Airport anytime I want and go fly, and I'm checked out in a couple of their aircraft. But I want to be good, and being good requires practice -- expensive practice. So for now I'm on an aviation sabbatical. Jake's picture just reminded me of the beauty of aviation and the joy of flying, particularly the unique joy of flying your own airplane.

Congrats on passing the ride, Jake! Glad to see old 93F is spending lots of time in the air, where it belongs.