Riding on a Corporate Jet

As a regular, average, everyday person, there are some things that we could never hope to be able to do.  I have accepted the fact that (baring winning the lottery) I’ll probably never live in a mansion, won’t own a mega-yacht, and I won’t be zipping around on a private jet anytime soon.  However, as my musical idol Prince once said, “Here we are folks, the dream we all dream of…”, I was able to make one of these things happen.

As an airport manager in Middle America, I meet all sorts of people who are coming and going.  Some I keep in touch with more than others, while others I’ll see once and never again.  One of the former types owns a plastic injection molding company here locally, and flies in about every two weeks onboard a Hawker 850XP business jet.  I’ve known him now for nearly nine years, and we continue to connect through the world of aviation.

Recently, on one of these visits, I was hanging out with this gentleman awaiting his passengers to arrive, and we got to talking about what was going on in life.  I disclosed to him that I’ve been working my butt off trying to get my aircraft back in the air to make an appointment for avionics work in Sarasota.  I informed him that I’d been so stressed out over the whole thing that I hadn’t even booked an airline ticket to come home yet, and this was with five days to go before our appointment!  Without missing a beat, he told me that they would be leaving Orlando that day from the NBAA (National Business Aviation Association) conference, and that if I could get myself from there from Sarasota, he would be happy to drop me off.  How could I pass up this opportunity?!

We kept in touch for the rest of that week, and I was able to get our Seneca ready for the trip to Sarasota in time.  All I had to do now was complete the trip while making it over to Orlando before their scheduled departure time of 2:00 pm local.  With a little mental gymnastics, I realized that I needed to be in the air around 4:00 am to make this deadline with a little wiggle room to account for inevitable delays.  Luckily, the flight that morning was beautiful and uneventful. Plenty of time to take in the view and play with new gadgets in the plane.  I dropped the aircraft off in Sarasota, spent a little time with the folks at Sarasota Avionics, got my rental vehicle, and made it to the Orlando Executive Airport (ORL) with about an hour to spare.

Although I’ve been near them before while living in Las Vegas, I’d never been to an actual NBAA conference.  The sheer amount of corporate aircraft all over the place was extremely daunting!  Also amazing was the difference between my small town airport office building and this mega-huge FBO. There was so much going on that I admit to being a little bit envious.  I dropped my rental car off at Sheltair and waited for everyone else to arrive.  I didn’t have to wait long to start seeing familiar faces.  After preflight, we were all taken to the plane via a golf cart as it was down toward the end of a long ramp, and we quickly boarded the aircraft.  Including the flight crew, there were ten of us on board, and although that was max seating, I never felt cramped or out of room.  I settled in, met my fellow passengers, and took pictures of everything I could without being intrusive.

Before I knew it, we were cruising along at 34,000 feet and at over 420 knots.  The people onboard were extremely friendly.  We talked nearly the entire flight, and before I knew it, just like that, it was over.  We touched down at my home base of Winchester, TN (BGF) barely one hour and twenty minutes after we’d taken off.  I could not thank my friend enough while I was deplaning.  Sure, I could’ve hopped on an airline flight in Sarasota or Tampa, but this experience was not to be missed.  Besides, there’s just something about stepping off of a private jet aircraft right in the town you live versus schlepping it on an airline, only to then drive another hour and half from the closest major airport back home.

To put the whole trip into perspective, when I owned my Skyhawk that flight from ORL to BGF would’ve taken about five hours.  Even in the Seneca it is still nearly three hours. To quote another idol, Ferris Bueller, “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.” I guess it is true…regardless of what you have, you always want something bigger and faster. What a condition to have!