Tom Haines

Hard to beat GA utility

November 15, 2008 by Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief

It’s hard to believe that more than 31 years after I first soloed an airplane I still get jazzed about how much fun it is to fly general aviation airplanes–and how efficient such flights can be.

A few days ago we had a need to move an airplane from Frederick, Maryland, to Brandywine Airport northwest of Philadelphia. We were taking the airplane to Penn Avionics at OQN for some avionics work. Senior Editor Dave Hirschman (minutes after landing the Sweepstakes Archer on the 20+-hour return from AOPA Expo in San Jose!) posed that we move the airplane to Penn ASAP before the weather went bad. I agreed.

So I fired up my Bonanza at about 4 p.m. and flew in formation with Dave up to Brandywine–about a 35-minute flight. Minutes after landing there, we were southwest bound back to Frederick in the Bonanza, landing at FDK at about 5:45 p.m. after a glorious night flight.

Google Maps shows that driving the trip would take more than 2.5 hours each way, including a circuitous journey around Baltimore. So imagine if you needed something else done around Philadelphia and didn’t have access to an airplane. You’d need most of a business day to accomplish what we did in less than 2 hours.

Days later I’m still thinking, “How cool is that?”

What are your favorite uses for a GA airplane? Share them with us. And don’t forget to let non-pilots know about the Let’s Go Flying! web site where they can learn about the utility of GA flying. We shouldn’t keep this a secret.


7 Responses to “Hard to beat GA utility”

  1. David Reinhart Says:

    Traffic to, from, and along Cape Cod can be murder in the summer but the thermometer at places like Provincetown (PVC) can be 15 degrees cooler (or more) than around Worcester in central Mass. On hot afternoons, my wife and I will meet at Fitchburg (FIT) after I get out of work, load up ourselves and picnic dinner and fly out to PVC. It takes about 40 minutes in our Cardinal instead of the hours it would take by road. A short walk to Race Point Beach and we’re watching the sunset and enjoying the cool sea breeze.

    My 86 year-old mother in-law can’t tolerate long car trips very well so driving down to South New Jersey to visit her other daughter, grand-children and great-grand-children is an ordeal. With the Cardinal, we pick her up at Northampton Airport, just a couple miles from her home, and in about 1.5 hours we are on the ground at Camden County (19N) or the Flying W (N14). The airplane allows us to do a day trip instead of taking all weekend and staying overnight.

    Some trips are just impossible to do by car or airline given the time available. This past summer we started off with a flight down to Frederick for the Fly-in. We left two days early and spent the Friday before at Gettysburg. After the fly-in, it was off to St. Louis to visit my nephew. Two days in the STL area and it was time to head to Pine Bluff, AR to visit with an old college roommate and his family. Next stop was Knoxville, TN for another family visit. Then we headed home with a stop at Hagerstown for fuel. The total was about 2,300 nm in 10 days and about 25 hours of flying time. No way we could have driven that trip in that time frame and the using the airlines would have difficult and expensive since we weren’t doing round-trip tickets.

  2. Tom Haines Says:

    David–great examples of how a GA airplane can make seemingly impossible trips possible. Or, more likely, trips such as you describe aren’t even imagined by people who don’t have access to GA because they don’t understand the possibilities.

  3. Steve Ells Says:

    The best example I can think of iwill take place next week. My wife and I are planning to fly my baby Comanche to my sister’s for Thanksgiving in an hour and 15 minutes. The drive takes 3.7 to 4.2 depending on the route.
    Instead of the hassle-filled hours negotiating California’s decaying roads, the dichotomy of having to deal with both super-aggressive younger drivers and super-cautious oldsters and illegal aliens, and unending highway expansion projects of CAL TRANS, we board 85Papa, take off and fly directly there, land on a neighbor’s farm strip and are bellying up to the groaning board bright faced and hungry.
    ‘Sonly way to go.

  4. Adam Fast Says:

    I’m going to be enjoying GA for a family Thanksgiving trip as well. It would take around 3 hours with traffic, but it’ll be less than an hour in the Archer. I’d still go regardless, but the airplane adds an extra element of fun (not to mention expediency).

  5. Henry Niese Says:

    I soloed on skis, 1944, in a J-3. I did a lot of flying around PA & North NJ on skis, before I went off to Cooper Union art school.
    I haven’t seen any GA aircraft on skis in a long while. Not enough snow?

  6. car floor jacks Says:

    I have to say, I can not agree with you in 100%, but that’s just my opinion, which could be very wrong.
    p.s. You have an awesome template for your blog. Where have you got it from?

  7. Caprice DeLauder Says:

    If you are a woman, and you are entering your mid-life crisis, best cure is to get your pilot’s license! My friends think I have lost my mind, but who cares??? You only live once, right? I have never had more fun or excitement with anything!!!!

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