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Published: Sunday, February 26, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Pilots strive to learn new skills

A passion for flight keeps them active, encourages them to keep improving

  • Barbara Tolbert, the mayor of Arlington and executive director of the Arlington Fly-In and Sport Aviation Convention, stands in front of the plane she...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Barbara Tolbert, the mayor of Arlington and executive director of the Arlington Fly-In and Sport Aviation Convention, stands in front of the plane she and her husband own at the Arlington Airport.

Being a private pilot recreationally is actually a lot of work.
You've got to make time to be in the air to practice and keep up on the latest technologies and safety rules.
So imagine trying to maintain your pilot's license while maintaining a full-time job.
It's the passion that makes that possible.
Charles Hower, who lives in the Clearview area, works full time at Boeing as a quality engineer. He got his pilot's license in 2005 and now is looking ahead to retirement where the sky is wide open to possibilities, such as becoming a certified flight instructor.
"My goal is that or to be a charter pilot and do scenic tours," Hower, 52, said.
Hower got the flying bug in the Army where he was a helicopter crew chief mechanic. After getting married, raising a family and settling into a Boeing career, now Hower has some leisure time to pursue his passion.
"I've always been wanting to get my license. It's always been a passion of mine to learn to fly," Hower said.
Meanwhile, Hower is training and anticipating becoming part of a Federal Aviation Safety Team or FAASafety, a group of volunteers that provides training to pilots.
And Hower flies locally, renting a 172 Cessna four-seater from Snohomish Flying Service at Harvey Field.
"It's a peaceful and quiet freedom," Hower said of flying. "It's fun knowing you are up in the air. It's just a different type of freedom."
Barbara Tolbert's day job is executive director of the Arlington Fly-In and Sport Aviation Convention. She recently won another job: She was elected mayor of Arlington in November.
At 53, Tolbert believes in continuing to challenge herself with learning new things, taking on new tasks and setting new goals, such as becoming Arlington's first mayor on Facebook.
Becoming a private pilot who flew her own plane across the country can already be checked off the list of goals.
Tolbert, who got her pilot's license in March 2002, found a plane she wanted that was in Harrisburg, Pa. -- a Grumman Tiger. She traveled there, was weathered in but eventually flew the plane to Kansas City, Mo., where she get more training on this plane.
Tolbert said she was so obsessed with this mission of getting her plane that she forgot it was almost Christmas. She took a commercial flight back to Washington to spend the holidays. She and a friend returned to Missouri and Tolbert took her plane home.
"I flew it back. There was no one else piloting my plane," said Tolbert, who is trained as a visual flight rules pilot
When Tolbert was 9 years old, her dad took her and her two sisters to the airport after church, like he used to do, to watch the planes fly. But this time, her dad bought the girls a ride in one of the planes.
"We were thrilled and frightened and all those things and I blame him for planting the seed," Tolbert said kiddingly.
Tolbert knows that the more you fly, the more you hone your skills. And those skills have to be practiced. So after running a campaign for mayor that "severely impacted" her time, Tolbert said she's now looking for more time in the air.
And now she uses her husband's plane, a French-made Socata Trinidad.
"Aviation for recreation purposes, it's not just you take up the activity as a sport, you become involved in the whole community. It's one of the major appeals of it," Tolbert said.
"It's social and fun and being able to find people you like who have similar interests to you -- people who are really vital," Tolbert said. "So having a good social network is one part of being vital and also taking on things that challenge our skills a bit."
Story tags » PeopleSenior activities

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