25 Items Every Pilot Should Have On Their Bucket List
30 April 2016 | Updated on September 29, 2023
The joy of flying is a unique feeling. But there’s so much more to explore in the world of aviation. Remember the movie The Bucket List from 2008? It’s all about making a list of things you want to do before it’s too late. So, we thought, why not make a special bucket list just for pilots? We’ve put together a list of 25 fun and exciting experiences every pilot should try. From trying out daring aerobatic moves to exploring remote destinations, this list has something for every adventurous spirit.
Each adventure is a chance to learn something new, test your skills, and enjoy every moment in the sky. As you get ready for your next flight, why not add a few of these fun adventures to your own bucket list?
25 Items Every Pilot Should Have On Their Bucket List
Now let’s dive in; here are 25 items we suggest you put on your bucket list! How many can you tick off?
1. Fly Gliders
Of course, gliding had to be on this list. As a passionate glider pilot myself for over 14 years, I can only recommend flying gliders and getting your sailplane pilot license. For me at least, it is without a doubt the purest and most fulfilling form of flying you can experience and it will absolutely make you a better pilot. You learn to become one with nature and feel the airplane you’re flying like never before.what’a
Welch and Irvin explained it beautifully in their book New Soaring Pilot:
“The soaring pilot is flying one of the most beautiful products of modern technology, relying on his skill to extract the necessary energy from the atmosphere. The process involves a remarkable spectrum of skills: planning, calculation, inspiration and physical coordination. It requires a knowledge of terrain, weather, the machine and its instruments; above all, it demands initiative and self-discipline. The rewards are immaterial but great: delight in a task well done, self-discovery, or perhaps, simply the contemplation or beauty.”
Welch and Irvin
Want to become a glider pilot? Read our definitive guide on everything you need to know about becoming a glider pilot!
2. Fly a Warbird
Take control of a piece of history by flying a warbird. These vintage military aircraft have a rich history and offer an unparalleled flying experience that takes you back in time.
A few years ago I had the chance to fly a WWII P-51 Mustang, and it was incredible.
3. Fly a Radial Engine
Step into the golden era of aviation by flying an aircraft powered by a radial engine. The distinctive roar of the engine, paired with the classic design of the aircraft, offers a nostalgic experience. It’s a hands-on way to connect with the rich heritage of aviation and appreciate the progress made over the years.
4. Get your Tailwheel endorsement
Earning a tailwheel endorsement hones your flying skills as it requires mastering a traditional stick and rudder technique. It’s a nod to the heritage of flying and an enriching learning experience.
5. Get Your Sea Plane Rating
Expand your horizons by obtaining a sea plane rating. This allows you to land on water bodies, opening up new destinations and adventures. It’s a skill not many pilots have, making it a rare and exciting endeavor.
6. Get Your Night VFR Rating/Go Fly at Night
Flying under night VFR introduces you to a whole new ambiance of calm skies and twinkling city lights below. It’s a surreal experience that also improves your piloting skills as you learn to navigate with fewer visual references.
Note to US pilots: Flying at night is not part of the initial EASA Private Pilot License training. The NVFR is an additional rating that can be achieved.
7. Go on an Airplane/Helicopter Camping Trip
An aircraft, camping gear and some good company, all you need for the best airplane camping trips.
Fly-in camping is an exciting blend of aviation and wilderness. Reach remote camping sites with your aircraft, and enjoy a unique camping experience. It brings you closer to nature, while showcasing the utility of your aircraft in reaching unexplored terrains.
Planning on going airplane camping? Check out our airplane camping gear guide.
8. Go Mountain Flying
Navigate through the towering mountains and experience the thrill that mountain flying offers. It’s a test of skill and a chance to view breathtaking landscapes from above. Always ensure proper training and safety measures to make this a memorable adventure.
9. Go Aerobatic Flying
Defying the traditional bounds of flight by diving into the realm of aerobatics is a thrill of a lifetime. The rush of adrenaline as you execute loops, rolls, and spins is unmatched. Aerobatic flying not only challenges your skills and understanding of your aircraft but provides a fun, exhilarating way to experience flying from a whole new angle.
10. Fly Through the Grand Canyon by Helicopter
The Grand Canyon, with its majestic, rugged beauty, is a sight to behold from any angle. But viewing it from the seat of a helicopter as you navigate through its grandeur is an unmatched experience. The vastness of the canyon, the dramatic landscape, and the skillful maneuvering it requires present a thrilling and visually stunning adventure.
11. Visit the World’s Greatest Airshow: EAA AirVenture Oshkosh
Being a part of the world’s largest fly-in event, Oshkosh AirVenture, is a must. It’s a celebration of aviation where you can meet like-minded enthusiasts, see vintage and modern aircraft, and attend workshops and forums.
Don’t forget to take your camping gear with you, put up your tent under the wing of your airplane and tick off item #7 of this list!
12. Take Someone on His/Her First Flight
Sharing the magic of flight with someone for the first time is a truly rewarding experience. As you ascend into the skies, watch their eyes light up with wonder at the world unfolding below. It’s a gentle reminder of the magic that drew you to aviation, and the joy it brings to others.
13. Fly for Charity
Utilize your flying skills for a noble cause by engaging in charity flights. Whether it’s flying in supplies to remote areas or offering flights for medical patients, your skills can significantly impact others’ lives. It’s a fulfilling endeavor that marries the joy of flying with the joy of giving.
14. Get Your Instrument Rating
Obtaining your instrument rating is a monumental step in advancing your piloting career. Mastering the skills to navigate through the skies solely with instruments during adverse weather conditions not only makes you a safer, more competent pilot but opens the doors to new flying adventures.
15. Go Skydiving
Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane might seem crazy, but skydiving offers a thrill and a view of the sky like no other. It’s an adrenaline-packed adventure that gives you a new perspective on the airspace we traverse and a free-falling experience that is unforgettable.
16. Fly a Jet
Experience the power and speed of jet flight. Flying a jet is a benchmark of advancement and skill in a pilot’s career, and it’s a thrilling glimpse into the realm of professional aviation.
17. Build Your Own Airplane
The endeavor of building your own airplane is the ultimate hands-on aviation project. It’s a test of patience, craftsmanship, and engineering that results in a creation you can take to the skies. The satisfaction of flying an aircraft built with your own hands is unparalleled.
18. Get Your Multi-Engine Rating
A multi-engine rating propels you into a new realm of aviation. Mastering the coordination and the knowledge required for multi-engine flying is a notable milestone that opens up new horizons, aircraft, and job opportunities. It’s a significant step towards becoming a more versatile and marketable pilot.
19. Go for a $100-Hamburger
The term “$100 hamburger” refers to the aviation tradition of flying to a distant airport for a casual meal. It’s a fun excuse to log some flying hours, explore new airports, and enjoy a meal at a different locale. The journey, the meal, and the experience – it’s a casual adventure that encapsulates the joy of flying.
20. Go Bush Flying
Bush flying offers an escape into the wilderness, often landing on unprepared surfaces amidst rugged landscapes. It’s about the raw essence of flying and self-sufficiency in remote settings. Bush flying is not just about reaching remote destinations, but appreciating the journey and the skills honed along the way.
21. Go Fishing Off a Seaplane
Combine the tranquility of fishing with the adventure of flying by heading out to a secluded fishing spot in a seaplane. This unique experience allows you to access remote waters rich with fish, away from the crowds. There’s a particular charm in landing on water, dropping a line, and enjoying the peacefulness that surrounds you, broken only by the occasional splash of a catch.
22. Land on a Glacier
Landing on a glacier is a surreal and adventurous endeavor. The untouched beauty and the technical challenge it presents make it a thrilling bucket list item. Remember, this task requires thorough preparation and knowledge about the terrain and weather conditions to ensure a safe adventure.
23. Take Part in a Flying Competition
Taking part in a flying competition is a unique blend of camaraderie and friendly rivalry among pilots. Whether it’s a precision landing contest or an air race, you’ll test your skills against others and learn from the collective experience. It’s an arena where your piloting skills are honed, and long-lasting friendships are formed.
24. Take Your Family on a Flying Trip
Share the joy of flying with your family on a personal flying trip. Whether it’s a short scenic flight or a weekend getaway to a nearby city, the experience is bound to be memorable. It’s a chance to share your passion for aviation with your loved ones, making memories from a vantage point many only dream of.
25. Become a Flight Instructor
Share your passion for aviation by becoming a certified flight instructor. It’s a rewarding way to give back to the aviation community and to refine your own flying skills.
What’s more beautiful than sharing your passion and knowledge of aviation with other people?
Each of these experiences contributes to refining your skills, understanding, and appreciation of aviation. They also promise a load of fun and an accumulation of unforgettable memories!