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Renting An Airplane: (From somewhere other than where you learned to fly.)

Let’s face it, your old flight school pretty much had to let you rent a plane. After all, they had to let you solo, and rent to you when you were doing your solo hours, so you kind of slid by on the first check ride.

But now I’ve come to a point in my flying where I want to be able to rent a plane anywhere that happens to be convenient to me. That’s one of  the biggest good points about being a renter. I always try to support my home field, but sometimes I can’t get a plane when I want one. Someone else got it first, or something on it has to be fixed, etc. See, my small FBO has three Cessna 172M’s, and only one 172SP. They have some Tomahawks, and an Archer too, but I haven’t been checked out in any of them. I mostly stick to the Cessna’s. since they are the most common of rental planes. Trouble is, as with many small FBO’s the planes are getting a little older at mine, and have seen better days. I really only feel comfortable flying the 172SP, which is a 2003, and is in extremely good shape. Until last week, it was also the best price on a 172SP around. Now they’ve raised the price a few bucks and it’s about the same as anywhere else now.

So I called around a little, and visited a few other local airports to get an idea of what’s available around here. I’ve got about 75 hours now, and have my VFR license. I’d rent the SP from Peter O’ and fly over to the other airports and check them out. Plant City, Vandenburg, Tampa North and Lakeland are all reasonably close by.

I went over to Plant City one Sunday and met the guy who runs the FBO. It’s a friendly little operation and has a 172M and a 182, and several 152’s. They probably have a few other planes too, I just didn’t happen to check them out. The guy behind the counter was very nice, and the place has a very friendly atmosphere. We hopped in a golf cart and went over to the hangar and looked over the 182. I’ll probably use it to get my high performance endorsement. Right now I’m looking for another very nice 172SP to rent as an alternative to the one at Peter O., though, so I kept looking.

I had been to Vandenburg when I was in Ground School, and had been treated badly by one of the instructors. In addition to this, the 172 SuperHawk that I saw there was kind of a beater, so I haven’t checked with them yet. If I find out they actually do have new planes to rent, I’ll probably go back over there and check them out. I figure they steered me away from there when I was starting, and it cost them $6,000.00. I’m willing to give them another chance.

I have a friend who lives at Tampa North, and he mentioned that they were renting planes and had a pretty good FBO. I gave them a call, and asked what I needed to do to rent a plane. Some places make you take a chack ride, others just check your credentials. Tampa North requires a check flight.

A check flight is a short trip up with a seasoned instructor who determines if you are a good enough pilot to rent from the FBO. If you get the nod from this guy, you’re in. I didn’t know what to expect, so I read up in my maneuvers book on slow flight, stalls, and take-offs the night before. I was glad I did, because we did all of those things. Here’s what happened:

First, you book an hour for the plane and instructor, when you show up you’ll have to show your drivers license, your pilots license, and your medical, as well as your log. You sign some stuff and get the local advice. This strip is very narrow and has no taxi ways. Right pattern on 14, left pattern on 32. Got it.

I did my preflight while I waited for the instructor to come back from his previous lesson. We got it topped off at the pumps and re-sumped the tanks, then climbed in. There was some guy in another plane behind us acting like he needed to take off in the next six seconds or the world would end. I still followed procedure and started up and taxied out of the way. Safety first. Anyway, the guy took off, then we taxied out and into position. He asks for a standard takeoff, and we’re off. They have a 1999 172S (which is what we’re in), a 2002 172SP, a 2004 172SP and a 1980 172RG. The 180 HP motor runs perfectly, and we head over to Hernando County to do a few touch and goes. It’s about 12 miles away, and we climb up to 2600 feet. He has me do a couple clearing turns and take us into slow flight. We do a couple turns, then he has me put it into a power-off stall. This, I do, and then we fly on and announce our approach. I always go pretty much by the book in the pattern, and announce my position dutifully. We do a couple touch and goes on 04, which is right pattern, and then swung around and entered left downwind for 09, and did one full stop and one touch and go. On the way home. We did some hood work. I had to do a climb and level on heading, and then perform a 15-20 degree bank and turn 180 degrees, then 360 degrees while holding altitude under the hood. Then we went back and picked out landmarks to spot the airport, which is very hard to spot from 2600 feet.

After we did our landing, and he showed me the preferred method of approaching the pattern here, my check ride was complete. I even got him to log the hour as instruction given, so it’ll count when I apply for my next level of FAA Safety Wings, and for insurance purposes.

Now I can rent a plane there any time I want. There are three to choose from, and one that will be a very inexpensive solution for my complex aircraft endorsement! The FBO people were very nice and professional, and I met the owner, who seems genuinely concerned for the quality of her planes and the safety of her students. I may pursue my IFR here.

As an added bonus, the guy that I flew with is actually also an ATC down in Sarasota. He offered to take me into the tower down there in a couple weeks. I am very eager to do so. Every time I’ve ever been into Sarasota, it’s been busy as hell and a little intimidating, so I’d like to see who I’m talking to and what it looks like from there end.

If I can find one more FBO to rent from in this area, I’ll be in pretty good shape to have a plane whenever I want. Plant City or Vandenburg would round it all out nicely.

Until next time, fair winds and blue skies,



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