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I enjoy being up in the air. Planes, gliders, helicopters... you name it, I like it.

What is an effective way to meet pilots looking for passengers?

I'm guessing that some pilots would like passengers to have someone with whom to share the experience, or maybe to gather hours for certifications.

I'm not looking to go anywhere in particular. Although I'm open to flying to any destination, just going up in the air and coming back to the same airport is fine.

I enjoy being aloft in the daytime as well as at night.

I simply enjoy the experience of flying and want to connect with pilots who are looking for some company.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting question, though I think pilots may be wary of the security risk. It'd probably help if you stated your general location. $\endgroup$ – Danny Beckett Nov 4 '14 at 0:55
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Well if you are in Australia I'd love to take you for a spin!

You need to find your local aviation community. Online, airport open days, the local aero club, flying schools, aviation events, and even at the fence of the airport - you'll find people if you go looking. In any aviation enthusiast group you're likely to find at least one private pilot. Build up a bit of a rapport and just ask them to take you up. Just be genuine, talk about what you love about flying, don't look shocked when they say you have to pay half (remembering that private pilots are not allowed to earn money for it, so don't let yourself get ripped off), and offer to buy them a beer afterwards or something :)

EDIT - I add the beer comment as a bit of a joke. Although it's always nice to get that bit of gratitude from a passenger, a pilot trying to build hours before going commercial would simply be thrilled to not have to pay for a full hour!

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Aviation, for me, is a lifestyle more than anything.

Some background: I'm still a college student, but I'm going into the Air Force, I am on my school's flight team, I am getting a degree in asto engineering (and astro physics). Almost everyone I know is involved in aviation or space in one way or another. We fly around the southwest part of the country all the time, but it's normal. One weekend I'll fly LA, and another a friend will take us to Vegas.

Have you considered going to flight training, yourself? If you find a good flight school, you wont only learn to fly yourself, but you will meet other people like you. And once you become friends with them you can all fly each other after you get your licences.

Honestly, I would be pretty uncomfortable flying with someone I don't know next to me. For example, If you've ever picked up a hitch-hiker you might know how it's a bit awkward and uncomfortable making small talk with a completely random person. Now imagine what that would be like in an airplane... a plane that most likely has controls in both (front) seats, and could do serious damage if used improperly.

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    $\begingroup$ Each to their own! I for one love bonding with new people with a shared passion. I'd have no problem taking up a stranger after a chat to see if their interest is legitimate. $\endgroup$ – Ben Nov 4 '14 at 6:34
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You need to be aware that the holder of a Private Pilot Certificate (the entry level certificate that permits the carriage of Passengers) has rules that prohibit the pilot from "holding out", a term that implies the pilot is soliciting passengers. So if you just blow into the local FBO and ask someone to take you up, there will be an immediate suspicion that you are from the FAA and may possibly be setting up a trap for the pilot. IT IS VERY UNLIKELY that entrapment will be happening! However, the fear of it may deter a pilot from saying yes, just as the fear of security concerns mentioned in other answers.

As suggested above, find a pilot group somewhere and build up a rapport with one or more pilots. Then ask.

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I'm assuming here that you're thinking of a 'free' or cost-sharing ride with a pilot, rather than actually hiring someone to fly you. In short, it may be possible but it depends on having a good relationship with the pilot and there could be some legal/regulatory issues (especially in the US, if that's where you are).

If you just want to fly as a passenger for the fun and experience, with no expectations at all about the route or duration of flight then the best thing you can do is to get involved in your local aviation community and make some contacts. I suspect that few pilots will take a complete stranger for a ride (see below for some US-centric reasons why not), but if you're a friend of a friend or a non-flying member of a flying club or whatever then that can open doors.

Of course, learning to fly would be an obvious way to get involved. If costs are a concern then you could consider gliding, which is significantly cheaper but would still let you make a lot of local aviation contacts. Or see if a local airport needs people to work on the line. Or maybe you have a complementary interest like photography and you can ask around at a local airport to see if any pilots would take you. But ultimately you'll have to establish a relationship of some kind with a pilot in order to go fly.

However, from the pilot's perspective there are some downsides to taking a 'random' stranger for a ride. First is simply trust and personal comfort level: do I want someone I don't know flying with me and (in most light aircraft) having access to the controls? Personally, I'd be concerned about possible panic attacks or simple motion sickness; someone trying to take over the aircraft is so unlikely that I think it's not worth worrying about.

Second - at least in the US, I don't know where you are - it's strictly forbidden for non-commercial pilots to receive any compensation for flying. "Compensation" is very broadly defined and even includes flying time itself, so if you want (or the pilots wants you) to contribute to the cost of the flights then it needs to be legal: the pilot must always pay at least his pro rata share. In most cases this isn't an issue because practically speaking the FAA has no way to know what private arrangements you've made and they certainly don't care if someone takes a friend for a flight and gets a free lunch in return. But there are limits: some companies are trying to create 'ride sharing' services to match pilots with passengers but the FAA has already said that it's illegal for private pilots to participate in them. Airpooler is the most prominent case, and their carefully worded FAQ saying that pilots are not compensated didn't persuade the FAA.

Finally there's liability: I know that many private pilots refuse to fly with passengers they don't know well because the risk of a lawsuit is so high in the case of an accident. I'm not saying that you personally would sue, but (in the worst case) your family or estate might.

So all in all, your best option is to get to know some pilots personally by whatever means works best for you given your location, interests and general access to aviation. I know that's a very vague answer, but a lot depends on your personal situation.

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