On a Paris-Bangkok airline flight 12 days ago, I read July’s FLYING magazine. Dick Karl’s column was ominously titled, “Grounded by Fuel Prices”.
Karl, surgeon and owner of a Cessna Cheyenne, compares a business trip from Tampa, FL to Lebanon, NH and back. Flight planned for 9.5 hours, vs. 13 hours via Southwest Airlines and rental car.
His fuel bill in his Cheyenne would be $3,185. Fuel.
The airline trip plus rental car would cost $470.
I’ve been asked many times why I don’t upgrade to a more “serious” airplane.
Our Cessna 152 has been fondly called an “aluminum ultralight” by a great friend who flies another Cessna.
It has also been disparagingly called a “flying soda can” by a flight instructor with more testosterone than brain cells. (Thousands of pilots around the world learned to fly in this airplane.)
My former FBO has tried to sell me everything from a Trinidad to a Beech Bonanza, and my current FBO wants me to consider a Pitts S2A (ooh!) or a top-end Cessna 172 model.
I’ve dreamed of a sexier airplane, of course. But Karl’s story of being at the brink of selling his beloved Cheyenne hit a discordant note. Some years ago Karl exuberantly put a$10,000 reservation on a Cessna Mustang VLJ, then balked at the full $2.4 million price tag. Now he is considering downgrading. Quite a swing.
Sure, a Bonanza would zip me from Manila to Hong Kong twice as fast as my flying soda can, which would need 3 hypothetical fuel stops in the South China Sea.
But the Bonanza would easily burn thrice as much fuel as a 152. What’s the sense in that speed and fuel when all you want to do is take Cool Nichole on a Young Eagle flight?
And imagine the engine or landing gear overhaul bill on a Bonanza. Or the insurance cost of a Pitts. Even a 172 would require Carlo to earn a 172 rating (Philippine pilots are required to have model ratings, not type ratings), and would burn 50% more fuel per hour. When the goal is merely to go up, instead of traveling somewhere, fuel burn per hour becomes the key performance indicator.
Nearly all of my flying is not transportation, but therapy. (Carlo flies dates 😛 ) Even joyrides to the mountains of Baguio or the beaches at La Union, our conservative round-trip radius limits, are purely for fun.
Carlo and I don’t really want to go anywhere.
When we flight plan, we ask ourselves, “Where do we want to go” just to answer each other “Up!”
Once we rotate at takeoff, we are already where we want to be. Up.
Even aerobatic flights in Meynard’s Decathlon are therapy. I pay the price not because I need the speed, but because I enjoy aerobatics, which is a fancy word for going, er, up.
It all boils down to the reason I fly. An hour of touch and gos is tremendous therapy for me.
Finessing a short-field spot landing in a 12-knot crosswind on a 10-meter wide grass strip is a great stress-buster.
Chandelles, lazy eights, spins, and up- and downlines in an imaginary aerobatic box over the ultralight field at Woodland in a strong crosswind is revitalizing. An oscillation stall, 600 feet per minute of knife-edge descent down 2,000 feet at near-zero airspeed, is great for focus and concentration.
I can do an hour of that in the 152 without breaking the bank.
Flying soda can, ha!
Ok, ok. Sometimes I do think about a Zlin, or a Bucker Jungmann, the Stradivarius of biplanes. Then I talk quietly to 1513, assuring her that’s it’s just a fantasy.
Posted from Bangkok, July 30, 2008.