Weekly tips, technique and training from IFR.

Remarks March 2018 Issue

Do That on the Airlines


General aviation pilots take grief for their spoiled-rich-kid activities. In some cases that’s appropriate, but in others it isn’t.

Last month I briefly mentioned an extended trip my wife and I took in our gratuitously excessive Cessna 340. (Read last month’s Remarks for context.) I didn’t mention that the series of legs we undertook probably couldn’t have been accomplished as readily via the airlines.

Our travels started at home in Santa Fe, NM. On a Tuesday we flew to the San Francisco Bay Area for family needs. On Wednesday, we flew back to Santa Fe. Thursday afternoon we departed for the east coast and stopped in Ohio for two nights on the way. I’ll stipulate that this stop for maintenance needn’t count in the GA-versus-airline comparison.

Saturday morning we continued to Danbury, CT and attended to personal business that afternoon and evening. Sunday we flew up to Portland, ME for the business and personal lunch I mentioned in last month’s column. Late that afternoon, we flew back to Danbury to have a long-delayed business-meeting dinner with Larry Anglisano, editor of sister publication Aviation Consumer.

Monday morning, I had business meetings, first over breakfast then at the Belvoir Media offices in Norwalk, CT. After that, we flew from Danbury down to near Savanna, GA for personal family purposes. As planned, we spent the rest of the week there, returning home on Friday for must-do business over the weekend in Santa Fe. Whew!

Our commercial air transportation system in the U.S. is remarkably capable, safe, and often economical. What it’s not anymore is particularly time efficient. Sure, single-leg times are as quick as it gets, but adding the time to get from your home to the major commercial airport, the need to arrive at that airport over an hour before flight time and the same on the other end and, well, it’s not so time efficient anymore. Add connections through the hub-and-spoke system they use and even modest distances can take all day.

Sure, the GA-is-better-than-the-airlines argument is quite tired. Unfortunately, for single trips it’s usually, well—yes, Baxter (another reference to my Remarks last month)—gratuitous. However, start condensing your schedule and combining many different purposes in many different places as I did, and GA becomes a legitimate enabler. No, it’s certainly no cheaper. But oftentimes fiscal considerations are less important than schedule demands. That’s where GA shines.

Could I have made those same travels without flying my own airplane? Perhaps, but barely, and with even less time on the ground for the various activities. Plus, the likelihood of at least one delay, one missed connection, risks crumbling the whole house-of-cards schedule.

Plus, let’s not overlook the stress factor. I enjoy flying. To me, it’s recreational. Commercial air travel, on the other hand, beginning with the security theater of being herded through TSA’s Nude-o-Scan, is a frustratingly stressful experience.

I know I’m preaching to the choir. You all understand and believe what I’ve said. However, from time to time we each need a couple weeks like I had to reinforce the value of our preferred mode of transportation. I enjoyed my reminder; I hope yours works out as well. 

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