Table of Contents - Top 10 Career Hobbies for Aviation Buffs

Introduction

Aviation is a fun and exciting profession for dreamers. In reality though, long working hours are common place and  can detract from the luster of what should be an enjoyable practice. Recent unfortunate events have troubled our industry, and, inevitably, those whose livelihoods depend on it. If there is a silver lining to this dark cloud, then it is the free time to explore all the hobbies in aviation.


Reading Books and Watching Movies (Price range: Free – under $40)

If you are an aviation junky at heart there is a good chance that one or more of these books and movies about flight will intrigue you. Pilots from the World War II era pioneered some of the technologies we improve upon today. Their testimonies and recounts about flight adventures are nothing shy of legendary. I promise you can pass some time listening to their stories and make an inexpensive, enjoyable hobby out of collecting and reading their books. The same goes for movies.

It was hard to know where to finish this list, but you won’t miss the mark if you start with any of these. I would like to hear from you if any of your personal favorites didn’t make it on this list.  If you’re more of a movie ‘gal or lad” or would simply like to share the experience with your family here are a few movies to check out.

  1. Amelia (2010)
  2. Top Gun (1986)
  3. One Six Right (2005)
  4. Sully (2016)
  5. The Right Stuff (1983)
  6. Airplane (1980)
  7. Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
  8. Airforce One  (1997)
  9. Memphis Belle  (1990)
  10. Pearl Harbor (2001)
  11. The Aviator (2004)

Solving Puzzles and Collecting Posters(Price Range: $20 – $300)

Putting Jigsaw puzzles together is a relaxing way to reinforce the connection between brain cells, improve mental, and boost short-term memory. Depending on age and preference you might just find this one more addictive than you expect. Especially with the holiday season approaching, consider this a last minute gift tip for kids, parents or spouses in aviation.


Wall art and posters are a great little way to decorate your space with what makes you happy. Depending on what field of aviation interests you, you could add a personal touch to every room in your home or home office space with one of these posters. I couldn’t possibly give you an exhaustive list if I tried so, instead here are a few different ideas.

  1. Royal Canadian Airforce Pilot -Country
  2. Dreamliner Fabric Canvas– Popular
  3. F-15 Eagle Fighter – Fighter Jet
  4. Sunset Take-0ff – Scenic
  5. Airplane cowboy– Funny
  6. Boeing 777 – Patent

Creating and Collecting Aviation Art (Price Range: $20- $500)

(photo credits to aviation artist Barry Franklin)

A number of the items from the previous sections were created by aviation buffs like you, who obviously have a knack for drawing and painting. It’s a hobby that combines one’s passions for art with the love for aviation. You could earn some money reproducing your pieces for sale or simply enjoy creating personal master pieces for yourself. Brooks Aviation Art is a good place to start; they have a list of leading names in aviation art and lots of samples to draw inspiration from.

To get started oil painting you need four things:

  1. Paint and something to put it on and mix it with
  2. Brushes
  3. A support
  4. A way to clean up

To Learn more visit this website or others like it.


Plane Spotting (Price Range: Free – $1000)

 

Aircraft spotting is a great hobby as it entails watching, and often photographing, airplanes as they take-off or approach for landing. In what is becoming something of a fast growing community of nerds (just kidding!), you’ll be in the company of other aviation enthusiasts who will share amazing photos or rare aircrafts they have captured. It takes a great deal of discipline, an eye for detail, a keen attitude towards learning facts to identify planes.  Some Plane spotters enjoy keeping a journal of the various aircraft tail markings and registration, while others like to just take it in while parked outside their local airports during peak traffic hours.

Here are a few things you may need to get started:

  • A means to get within watching distance of the airports
  • A pair of binoculars
  • A digital or DSLR camera to take quality photographs with great zoom and a spare battery
  • Flightradar24 or similar tracking mobile apps let you monitor incoming and outgoing flights from gate to gate.
  • LiveATC is an app that lets you listen in on communication between Air traffic control (ATC) and the pilot in command (PIC)

Assembling and Collecting Aircraft Models ($75 – $300)

Assembling model aircraft is an interesting and engaging hobby. This one is absolutely ideal for aspiring professionals especially if you like working with your hands and putting stuff together. In my opinion, this is one you can do with kids as well. Plastic model airplane builder kits come in a snap or glue version. The 1:72 scale is highly recommended for beginners as it’s neither too complex nor small. There are many manufacturers of these kinds of kit but in my experience the really good ones to look for when you go shopping are:

  1. Academy- P-47D Thunderbolt Razorback model kit
  2. Airfix- Focke Wulf Fw-190A-8 WWII
  3. Italeri- UH 1D iroquois Helicopter
  4. Tamiya- Mosquito MB k IV
  5. Revell- MH 47 Chinook
  6. Eduard- Messerschmitt

A few things you’ll need to get started include:

  • Glue or thin cement
  • Paint- oil or acrylic
  • Cutting pad
  • Grinding tool accessories
  • Hobby knife, a pair side cutters, some sanding sticks or an all-in-one Builder Accessory kit

Useful how to, video and tutorial.

Also check out this video about “largest model aircraft collection in the world


Building, Flying and Collecting RC Jet Models (Price Range: $80 -$2500)

This hobby is more complicated and expensive than the others we have discussed for a good reason: it is truly exhilarating. Radio Controlled (RC) jet airplanes are built to scale with precision. The aerodynamic similarity between the real and zero passenger mini aircraft is impressive and you might actually find it hard to tell the difference from some distance. It is understandable if you are hesitant to invest a lot of dollars on something you could  suddenly lose in a crash on the first try. You don’t need to be afraid of the complexity of building, because most of the kits are 95% complete out of the box. It’s important to note that you must consider the local air regulations where you intend to fly your RC jets, especially if you decide to equip them with a camera for implied security and privacy reasons.

Please watch


Designing and Printing 3D Models (Price Range: $800-$3500)

In the past, 3D printing was a fantasy as the prices were outrageously high while the print quality remained functionally poor. Today, however, the printers have become affordable for both schools and household hobbyists to enjoy. The community of 3D printing hobbyists continues to grow on various platforms where people share their struggles, success stories and give each other advice on how to get the best out of what is available.
 
3D printers essentially exist in two kinds for hobbyists; namely D.I.Y assembly kit and preassemble enclosed box printers. The former is less expensive, but comes with the added opportunity or responsibility of building and tinkering depending on how you look at it. As an aerospace design engineer, designing and printing aircraft models really unlocks my potential to create and test ideas. As a hobbyist, it can be very satisfying to fine tune the printing parameters until you get the desired results, but can also be extremely frustrating when you don’t. Moreover, I believe 3D printing is the future of design and testing because the possibilities are limitless as prices continue to drop while quality, availability of materials expand. This leads to conclude that it is a worthwhile learning investment for any “makers” out there.
 
Beginner Best Bang for Buck 3D Printer is the Comgrow Creality Ender 3 Pro
N.B you will need to purchase printing filament separately.

Flying Drones (Price Range: $100-$3500)

Less than a decade ago, flying drones was somewhat of a close niche activity but right now it is wide open with applications not only in construction, aircraft wing inspection but also in almost any kind of photography you can think of. Have you ever wondered how aerial shots in movies, music videos or some modern documentaries are made? The answer is using drones. Using single or multiple drones you would be amazed at the incredibly scenic shots that are made possible even in tight to reach, unexplored spaces.  There are different types of drones in the video capture industry; the most popular for hobbyists being DJI drones. The drones range from light weight quad copters like the DJI Mavic mini, the Mavic pro quad copter to heavier drones like the Phantom pro 4.

Camera drones are also custom made for different functions, from military surveillance to agricultural effective drone designs. Drone technology has advanced so much in the past two decades that you could assign a target and instruct the drone to follow that object.

It’s important to note that based on drone size and application of use, new safety laws require that a pilot be trained and licensed to fly drones. How to become a certified drone pilot.  Some more affordable options to practice your maiden flight in this hobby are listed below.

Useful video


Building and Using a Flight Simulator (price range: $400- $2900)

Warning! This is not a game but it’s just as fun. 2020 is a good year in terms of the release of the long awaited  Microsoft Flight Simulator with many exciting features. I am apprehensive to use the word play when it comes to the flight simulators because of the effort put in to making this as realistic as possible. Practice, though, does indicate something other than a hobby so play it is. You can play the flight simulator on your computer on different FPS settings depending on what your system is able to handle.

In the world of aviation hobbyists there is little doubt what the talk of the town is. Simply put, the fans feel nostalgic about this one. Even though it has taken 14 years for Microsoft to put out this new title and the fans are glad, it has not disappointed.

Flying is where the thrill lives and I believe that is the main attraction that keeps the industry alive in tumultuous times. Immersing yourself is the next best thing to the feeling of the landing gears beneath you lifting off the runway. It goes without saying that this option is cheaper, not to mention the fact that it is risk free and can be enjoyed from the comfort of your home. You can practice take-off landings, communicating with ATC, engine failures, stall recovery and more.

You’ll need a moderately powerful PC with Windows X operating systems, internet connection with good download speed, a screen or two for display, a yoke for the flight control surfaces, a set of rudder paddles and a comfy seat.

Useful video


Recreational General Aviation (Price range: TBD)

The last on my list is certainly not the least. Recreational flying is the oldest of the aviation hobbies and one that is going to be around for a long time to come. General aviation recreational pilots are the true “die hard” fans and heroes of the world of enthusiast, they sometimes assemble their very own kit airplanes, carry out  modifications, maintenance, testing and ultimately bare all the risk of their hobby. For most it is more of a lifestyle than a hobby; they prepare in the winter so they can fly in the beautiful summer months.

In all fairness, this one deserves a separate article in order to really give you a glimpse, but since there are many books on the subject already I am not going to bother. They say once you experience flying you will forever look to sky and perhaps that explains why many are drawn to this activity in spite of known risks.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about the various hobbies for aviation buffs, professionals and aspirants alike.