Gulfstream Treatment, Piper Style

11:18 PM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

There is one thing about our GA community that never ceases to amaze me. This one single phenomenon happens all over the country, at FBOs from Maine to San Diego, Key West to Seattle. And each time it happens to me, it reaffirms that being a licensed pilot flying your own private aircraft is about as good as The American Dream gets. What I'm referring to is this:
A few years back, we flew the Katyliner on a business trip from Eugene to Fresno. It was a four-hour flight that relieved us from the grueling 12-hour grind by car - a savings of 66 percent. Even though Oakland Center casually told us while splitting the difference between Mt. Shasta and Mt. Ashland that some guy at our six, same altitude, same direction was going to overtake us (prompting an expedited climb), we made it unscathed to FAT and taxied to one of the two remaining airport FBOs at the time. I was parked next to a very large, very expensive, long-range business jet, and before I could even get the baggage door open, the Line Guy had the rental car alongside Katy with the a/c cranked up. He helped me unload, helped me put the cover on the plane, and made sure every need was take care of. We were treated with the same level of professionalism and respect as the people who came in before me in the Gulfstream, but we were flying a machine that cost about as much as one of the gold-plated cup holders on the G-V.
See, that's what GA is all about. It's not so much the machine you fly, but that you FLY. When wind forced over wings becomes lift and a craft takes flight with humans inside, it is a beautiful thing. But in our world, it really doesn't matter what shape the flying machine takes so long as it flies somewhere and delivers pilots and pax to their $100 burger, or in our case, business meetings and photo shoots.
I believe GA separates those who cannot fly from those who do, and for us lucky ones, we are in a very small brother/sisterhood. Yes, the Gulfstream driver has a ship that is a tad faster than my vintage Cherokee, and yes, it holds more souls and has a nice fancy Champagne cooler. But the advantages we enjoy by flying a private aircraft – any private aircraft – are still fantastic, and regardless of make and model, we can still avoid the headaches and hassles of flying the airlines when we fly our own bird into that small strip at the edge of town where we plan to make a buck. When a business flies their own aircraft, it earns a competitive advantage over those who make their people straddle the spokes on the airlines' "wheel of misfortune" as they try their luck at actually getting somewhere on time.
Sure, the airlines do get lots of people to their intended destinations every day. But personally, I get screwed around somehow on about 50 percent of commercial flights these days. Overbooking, cramped seats, and cranky gate agents who can't coordinate their stories when delays happen are just a few things that can trip up the airline flyer today. But even if they do manage to get you to Omaha for a meeting, you had to go LAX-ORD-JFK-MIA-FAT to get there. You have to stay in a hotel the night before the meeting and the night after too, in hopes of snagging a seat on a morning flight out. Three days to deliver you to a one-hour meeting to close the deal.

But with the Katyliner, I can manage a biztrip like this:
You wake up in Eugene, answer a fair amount of emails, pack the car and deliver the dog to the kennel on the way to the airport. Four hours later, you are in your rental car in Fresno headed to meetings. Sweet, hassle-free, and efficient. On the trip home, you wake up, meet with clients in Fresno until noon, depart FAT and an hour later, stop at Grass Valley/Nevada County Airport for early dinner with friends. Three hours later, you are pushing your GA plane back into the hangar in Eugene just as the sun sets. Sweet, hassle-free, and efficient. Try this kind of trip on the airlines, I dare you.
I must however close by saying this: While I fully recognize GA as the leader in business flying, the airlines do beat my Cherokee 235 on some missions. For a jaunt over to Kauai for a week of beachcombing or Vienna for galleries and the symphony, the nice comfortable A-380 kills the Katyliner every time.

But schedule a multi-stop business trip into a bunch of small airports all in the same day, and my GA ship will do what the airlines cannot. Yes, they can fly at FL380 and let people use a potty the size of a shoebox, but try to land a 737 on a municipal airstrip 3 minutes from a client's front door, and you will see...the GA advantage.

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