Monday, October 29, 2007


I needed to go to Richmond, Virginia, for "business" yesterday. So I took the plane. (That sounds so cool to say!) I had to be at the Richmond Convention Center by 10:30, in a suit. Mapquest said that it would be a 2-hour and 10-minute drive.

It made neither economic nor schedule sense to fly. If I could have flown directly to Richmond, it would have taken 45 minutes, so it would have saved time. Due to the paranoia of those in downtown Washington who have alienated and are therefore afraid of most of the world, however, I could not fly a direct route. Instead, since my airport is North of Washington and Richmond is to the South, I had to fly East or West all the way around the city. That made the flight about an hour and 15 minutes. When you add in the time to do the preflight inspection, do a thorough weather briefing, etc., it took me just as long to fly as it would have to drive. And the plane is a heck of a lot more expensive than driving our Prius.

But this was not about practicality. It was a beautiful day. And I'm a pilot. And I'd never flown anywhere for anything work-related. When you put these things together, the equities weighed heavily in favor of flying!

It was a beautiful, clear morning. I flew East through the corridor, then turned South and flew along the West side of the Chesapeake Bay for a while. There were almost no clouds in the sky, except for one thin line of cumulus puffs, strung out like misshapen pearls along the coastline.

An associate from my firm also needed to be in Richmond for the event, so he drove. Let's compare. He drove for two hours, I flew for an hour and 15 minutes. He listened to his music, I listened to my music. He looked at the car in front of him, I looked at.... Well, here, I'll show you.... This is another boring video of scenery "slowly" passing by (at 135 mph).

I landed on Runway 34 at Richmond and the tower directed me to the Richmond Jet Center. I caught this next photo as I was taxiing. That's the Richmond control tower, with the moon in the perfect blue sky above. This photo really doesn't do justice to what it really looked like, though, because the moon appeared quite large at the time, but looks small in the photo.

When I pulled onto the ramp (that's pilot-speak for "parking lot"), a man waved me into position with those hand signals you see them use for jetliners. I shut down the plane, got out, and strolled into the building. I stopped at the desk and asked the lady to have the plane topped off with fuel. She asked if I had radioed ahead for a cab, and when I told her I had, she said it was waiting for me at the front door. As I headed out the door, she asked if I was the pilot or the passenger. "Both," I said over my shoulder, then stepped into the taxi and arrived at the Convention Center five minutes later.

Four hours later, a taxi dropped me off at the front door of the FBO. I went in, sat down for five minutes to use their computer to check the weather, then paid my gas bill and walked to the plane. I sat on the ramp in the afternoon sunshine and checked my email via Blackberry, made a few calls, then took off to head back home. The flight back was almost as beautiful as the flight down, but nothing compares to morning sun on the water.

When I called Jodie later and told her about my experience, she said, "It's like you were a movie star!" The truth is, it really did feel like I was some sort of celebrity. The people at Richmond Jet Center took care of everything, and I just stepped from the plane into the "waiting car." I've always wanted to "step from a plane into a waiting car." It was pretty cool, and I think it may be addictive as a means of travel.


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