Plane & Pilot
Monday, December 5, 2011


The great American road trip...or is it?

Driving is disturbing and kind of creepy. Like most people, being stalked is something I avoid. When driving, you're constantly being stalked. Unless you're driving a Winnebago, every motorist on the Interstate cruises at least 20 miles above the posted speed limit. Enjoy the freedom of the open road, but be aware that around every corner is a potential Highway Patrol Officer ready to pounce and "make your day." Even with a good radar detector, you have to be paranoid. This is simply something that just doesn't happen when you go by air. There are no stalkers up there, and once you know your airspace rules, you can go as fast or as slow as you like. Amen.

Driving is expensive. Time to spare, go by air? Let's talk about time and money. It not only takes less time, but it doesn't cost any more to fly than it does to drive coast-to-coast! According to my calculations, a Cessna 182 cruising direct from LAX to St. Augustine, Fla., takes about 14 hours, three or four fuel stops, two days, and burns just over $1,000 of 100LL. You might spend another $200 on a hotel room and meal, tiedown fee and a quart of oil on the one night you have to spend on the road for a grand total of $1,200. You arrive relaxed and ready to enjoy your destination.

Driving the Mini took more than five days, $400 of fuel, five nights in hotels and meals worth $750, or about $1,150. I arrive in St. Augustine $50 richer, but have wasted three days, and I'm exhausted and fatigued. You can have the 50 bucks! My time is more valuable than that.

The open road has possibilities, and is the only way some can get around, but let's face it, it's just not as cool as flying. Flying is faster, funner and less expensive! Cruising above terra firma is good for your head. Perspective changes priorities, and mundane cares drift away when we can see the contours of the land unfold in front of us. Flying is the magic carpet ride, and when I'm flying cross-country, I never fail to wonder why more people aren't up there doing it with me.

You can make anything into an adventure, but the next time I leave Fort Stockton at dawn with the dark of night in my rear-view mirror, I plan to be flying.

Air show pilot Patty Wagstaff won the U.S. National Aerobatic Championships three times and is a six-time member of the U.S. Aerobatic Team. She's also a flight instructor, consultant on television and movie projects, and flies an OV-10 Bronco for Cal Fire as an Air Attack Pilot during California's fire season.


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