Time to spare – go by air!

December 13, 2012 by Bruce Landsberg

Go by air!

Had a business trip scheduled to the Northeast. The first meeting on Tuesday was scheduled for 1100 near the GA airport. There were additional meetings throughout the day and a breakfast meeting on Wednesday. The return was planned for midday to make a Wednesday afternoon commitment back at the office—the perfect use of GA aircraft! Our schedule was for an 0700 Tuesday departure to arrive at 1000 for an 1100 meeting.

The aircraft we were supposed to fly developed a nasty prop seal leak three days before. I like oil and grease as much as anyone but much prefer them on the inside of the engine. No alternative GA aircraft was available, so grudgingly it was over to the airline alternative. You know where this is headed.

The schedules into Boston pretty much required a night-before departure to be sure to get in for the Tuesday morning commute from downtown to our outlying airport meeting location. This meant extra hotel nights and meals, but all those loyalty programs must be worth something. The irony is that by the time you’ve flown enough miles or accumulated enough room nights, the last thing you want to do is get on another airliner and spend another night in a hotel!!!! (Although the affinity programs often let you go to undesirable places at times you’d never want to go.)

Our flight was scheduled to leave at 1930 for a reasonable arrival time. At 1300 the airline very nicely called to say that our departure was now rescheduled for 2220 and a midnight-something arrival with a one-hour drive to the hotel. Plan C: try a different satellite airport—Manchester, N.H. Well, the earlier flight has only one seat—sorry, how about the 2100 flight? Wellll, that one was also delayed. Again, you know where this is going, so we arrived at 0000 anyway.

I’ll spare you more gory details and the usual TSA indignities, but even we, as pilots, sometimes take the tremendous benefits of GA for granted. It’s good to share those with non-pilots, and perhaps a few may be interested enough to try it themselves. We all know that GA doesn’t always work especially with smaller weather-limited aircraft, but some of my really serious delays have been on airlines where it took the system a day or two to unsnarl because of the interdependent nature of hub and spoke. I’ve never been delayed more than a day when flying GA (after getting instrument rated and proficient).

One last thought—every one of the presidential candidates during the primaries relied on GA. In the general election, both the president and Mitt depended on aircraft to cover vast distances in short periods of time to see who they needed to see. Government executives and generals use taxpayer-funded GA to conduct the nation’s business. Why aren’t some of the non-government economic drivers of the economy given a bit more understanding?

We need to do a better job in conveying this story to the public at large—I’m getting a picture here. I hope you are as well.

A gentle reminder that your AOPA Foundation needs support. Currently less than 10% of the AOPA membership is making a tax-deductible contribution to help save GA. We need to do better than that!  Putting my money where this mouthpiece is, I have been a Hat-in-the Ring society member for 20 years. Not everyone can contribute at that level and some can do far more, but everyone should be in the game. Are you in the fight?

Be sure to tune in next week for our special holiday blog post…with a prize!


Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • George

    I like the phrase “taxpayer funded GA.” What percentage of GA is taxpayer funded or taxpayer subsidized. Break it down in terms of dollars as well as hours and aircraft type.

  • joe

    My wife and I frequently travel from West Texas to Milwaukee to see kids/grand kids. We can beat the airlines by up to an hour but at twice or three times the cost. You can’t take it with you and besides those airplane mechanics need a job. Let’s go flying!

  • joe

    My wife and I frequently fly (Cessna 310) from West Texas to Milwaukee to see kids and grand kids. We can beat the airlines by an hour but at twice to three times the cost. You can’t take it with you and besides, those airplane mechanics need a job. Let’s go flying!

  • D Kartofel

    Bashing the airlines is fun I guess. Next time stop and think about how many AOPA members reading this might be airline pilots who pay dues. If I understand it the problems started when your GA plane developed a “Leak”. Better maintenance next time?

  • James

    Yeah. As much as I love GA, it’s a bit ironic to bash airlines and their delays when the whole adventure started because your GA plane developed a leak. And doubly ironic that you specifically say you’ve never been delayed more than a day — your plane’s leak was found 3 days before!

  • Bruce Landsberg

    D & James…..

    Fair points – but mechanical things happen to the airlines as well and sometimes with no suitable replacement aircraft with an open seat – There was that day in Grand Forks….

    Guess I should be pleased that the shop was so busy that they couldn’t get to our aircraft for several days and to my point that when we have such time machines usually available one should be thankful.

    Point to point is always preferable to getting “hubbed and spoked” and GA usually allows that on a flex schedule.
    We also need to have an alternative to flying light GA if schedule dictates a “command performance.”

    Appreciate your thoughts….

  • Steve Rozier

    It is that time of year to count our blessings…… and some of our blessing include being able to afford our own plane to get around the country and also to live in a country where airline travel is affordable and pretty reliable. Like all businesses the airlines have bad moments and good but all in all they provide an affordable way to get things done and that includes business and pleasure travel. I know there are some of our service men and women in other countries laying behind an M-16 protecting our freedom and the things we can do here in the United States. Our hearts and minds could be on them for the next few weeks instead of an inconvenience that our service men and women would gladly accept if they could change places with us at home. Happy Holidays and be safe where ever you are !

  • Stephen Hammers

    I am very thankful for GA. I wish I could be more of an advocate (ideas?). I fly my Beechcraft Baron 250 to 300 hours a year primarily for my business meetings. I even went to the effort of installing a glass cockpit for extra situational awareness and a known ice TKS system. In my 29 years of experience flying GA, I have become more appreciative of our flying freedom. We all need to spread the word and be thankful. Merry Christmas!

  • Scott J. Smith

    I don’t think the article was specifically bashing airline travel per se (though I am sure those closer to the industry see it differently), but rather a response to the perceived threat current attitudes in Washington have against general aviation (through a general disdain for general aviation or ignorance of how general aviation works).

    Both airline travel and general aviation travel have earned their place in the world, and especially the United States; however, many suggested changes to the airspace system under the auspices of safety, manageability, convenience and efficiency all come at a cost.

    As it has already been noted, airline travel, for the most part, is much more affordable than charter or renting/owning and flying yourself. Airlines can absorb this cost (though not happily) and pass it along to their customers via increased fares, and still be the more affordable option. John and Jane Pilot must take out a second or third mortgage on their house AND tell their children they won’t be going to college if they choose to continue flying their general aviation aircraft in the same manner as they have, and the increased cost will make flight training even less affordable, making for fewer general aviation and airline pilots all around.

    Gone are the times when you could depend on the military to provide a sufficient number of well-trained, well-experienced pilots for the airlines, as more military aviators are remaining in service longer, or seeking other careers after retiring, and more operations, especially reconnaissance, are being delegated to unmanned options.

    General aviation and airline pilots should stick together, and promote open discussion and thorough education of the various types of aviation and their specific needs among policymakers for what is best for all aspects of aviation…not just the ones that get more air time on television, radio and other media outlets.