But some people like to fly just for the fun of it.
"Sport aviation" is the theme of this weekend's Celebration of Flight at the Lumberton Regional Airport. The event, which will climax with air shows Saturday and Sunday, is part of the state's Centennial of Flight celebration.
Bobby Jones is organizing ultralight aircraft for the air show.
"It's just getting out and flying and having fun," he said of flying an ultralight, which generally have open-air cockpits. "It's not for business, and it's not to go anywhere in particular, just from one grass strip to another grass strip, where you have someone to stop and talk to. It's like any other club you get into. The more people get involved, the more fellowship you have."
Herb Sanderson, president of local Chapter 1118 of the Experimental Aircraft Association, describes sport aviation as "grass-roots flying."
"It's the only way to go," he said.
The Experimental Aircraft Association was founded in 1953 in Milwaukee for people who wanted to build their own airplanes. The term "experimental" suggests risk, but actually means that a plane is modified or built from scratch. Since then, the organization has expanded to include aerobatics, antique, classics and contemporary manufactured aircraft, as well as helicopters, ultralights and warbirds. It now has more than 170,000 members.
Chapter 1118 meets once a month in Bladenboro. There are about 60 members from Robeson, Bladen, Cumberland and Hoke counties, many of whom will be volunteering at the air show this weekend.
"Our motto is to learn, build and fly, since the factory-built airplanes are so expensive." Sanderson said. "Cheap is $200,000, but we can build something much better for half the price."
Sanderson said he built his Glasair TD 1 for less than $30,000,.
"It took about seven years to do it, working part-time on it," he said. "It's so precise, if you're not in the mood, the best thing is to not touch it."
Jones said ultralight flying is the cheapest form of sport aviation. Ultralights, which he said can be bought for as little as $2,000, are similar to hang gliders, but have a motor. The basic guideline for an ultralight is that it can only have one seat and must weigh less than 254 pounds.
"Don't fly in one unless you want to buy one, that's what I tell people," he said.
Jones said he gets high on flying.
"Some people are on drugs, I'm on flying," he said. "It's just a thrill you don't get with anything else. The ultimate high."
Learning to fly in ultralights is also cheaper, since a pilot's license isn't required. Training can run around $50 to $75 an hour, Jones said.
"Some people get four or five hours and catch right on," Jones said. "Some drop off after 15 hours. Every person can learn to fly within 10 to 15 hours."
Locally, the U.S. Ultralight Association Club No. 97, called the Carolina Sport Plane Club, is the organization that prospective ultralighters can turn to.
According to the club's president, Gary Sealey, while there is no FAA mandatory license to fly ultralights, instruction is highly recommended. The U.S. Ultralight Association offers an FAA-approved training program that involves five hours of dual instruction, around 40 hours of classroom time and a ground test. After the training and another five hours of solo flight, students can get an association ultralight license. The license is required to join the club, as well as to get insurance, Sealey said.
"You need it to be involved in air shows and fly-ins," Sealey said. "Most air-show organizers won't let you in if you don't have insurance, and you can't get insurance without a license."
Local pilots are hoping that some of the people who come to the air show will want to join their number. Sanderson will be greeting people and answering questions near the display aircraft, and Jones is organizing an ultralight display.
"We're trying to get as many ultralights in here as possible," Jones said. "Different kids, from 6 wings to power parachutes to trikes." A trike is a powered hang glider.
Jones, who is a past president of the ultralight club, said he has also lined up some ultralight vendors and hopes that some flight instructors will be there to give instructional rides for a fee. Depending on the instructor and the length of the ride, the cost might range from $20 to $30.
Sealey believes the event might spark some interest in the club and ultralights.
"People usually get involved in flying through having seen something at an air show or word of mouth," Sealey said.