Is Hangar Flying Really a Dying Art Form?

25 April 2016   |  Updated on February 05, 2024

Hangar Flying, every pilot knows about it. But where does it come from and does it still exist? Or is it really a dying art form like Todd McClamroch wrote on his blog?

The term Hangar Flying is a phrase often used in aviation to describe sitting around the hangar and talking about aviation. Hangar flying is all about sharing stories. Storytelling is what makes us humans who we are and what we become. When we are still a child, we long to hear stories before we go to sleep.  When we are older, this doesn’t change, although the stories might become a little more spectacular and wild and it becomes harder to convince our parents to read for us before bed.

The National Storytelling Network explains storytelling as follows:

  1. Storytelling is interactive;
  2. Storytelling uses words;
  3. Storytelling uses actions such as vocalization, physical movement and/or gesture;
  4. Storytelling presents a story;
  5. Storytelling encourages the active imagination of the listeners

When you think about how this relates to hangar flying, it actually makes a lot of sense. They describe it as an art form, a way to encourage the listener’s imagination. Who hasn’t dreamt away while listening to stories from experienced pilots? Who hasn’t thought about having the chance to experience your own adventures, go on a flying trip and come home with the most incredible stories to tell?

I like to think hangar flying is, besides the real flying itself, the most important part of the aviation community. It’s what makes aviation great and the people involved in aviation part of one big family. When I arrived at my local aero club for the first time almost 7 years ago, someone told me ‘Feel free to come by anytime you want, people talk here about one thing and one thing only: aviation’. Every time I’m sitting in our clubhouse, listening to people discuss and talk about flying and everything related to it, I have to think about that and how true it was. People really only talk about one thing at an airport. As a student pilot, this can be incredibly helpful and motivational to keep going and keep learning. I noticed it’s not really only about the flying. It’s about meeting new people, sharing experiences, learning from each other and having a good time.

Hangar Flying
Photo: Recreational Aviation Foundation

During the winter period, when the amount of time you spend in the air is significantly less, you spend more hours inside. Instead of just staying home, I often found myself spending hours at the airfield, just hanging around and talking. Hearing stories from the good ol’ days, long before I was even born, I would imagine how life and flying must have been those days. I would dream away and just sit there, listening. Hangar flying.

While writing this article, an interesting fact comes to my mind. I’ve thought about it before and started wondering if there was an explanation for it. At our aero club we have two sections; a gliding section where members enjoy the beautiful sport of gliding, and a section with only motorized airplanes. What I noticed is the difference between members of both sections. Gliding is a sport that demands a lot of time. You arrive at the airfield in the morning to prepare everything for the flying day and it’s only in the evening that you go home again, after a whole day of being active on the airfield and flying. It really is a team sport and people just enjoy being there and spending their time at the airfield. When you compare that to some of the members of the other section, the one with only motorized airplanes, you notice a remarkable difference. More and more, people just arrive at the airfield, go flying and go home again. They usually don’t stay anymore hanging around the airfield like other people or like they used to. I don’t know if that’s a trend other people see on their airfield as well, but it’s something I noticed and wondered how it comes.

Should we encourage people in aviation more to do this? Should we encourage young people, the aviators of tomorrow to keep the spirit and art of hangar flying alive? I don’t know. But what I do know is that for me it is what makes aviation what it is, a beautiful way of life.

And maybe building this website could be my effort to keep this art form alive. So, let’s keep telling stories, let’s keep inspiring people and let’s protect the joy of aviation.

What do you think, is there still plenty of camaraderie around the airports you fly at? Or is hangar flying really dying? We would love to hear your opinion about this in the comments!