My company manufactures environmental safety monitors for protecting people in the workplace. I had a customer in Decatur Alabama that was having problems with a monitoring application and needed to see me quickly. Using the airlines, the closest airport was Huntsville and an American Airlines round trip ticket price was $985, with only two scheduled flights per day. With a limited flight schedule, it now required an overnight hotel stay which added another $150. Add a rental car, $95 per day, plus a few meals and the loss of my time during the two-day commute, just to have a four hour meeting with my customer.
Finally due to the nature of my monitoring systems and the current TSA rules, I was no longer permitted to carry any of my equipment, tools and supplies on a commercial aircraft, even in checked baggage. So add another $200 for UPS shipping charges to and from my account. I asked myself; What’s Wrong with this Picture?
Fortunately I am a private pilot. I was also working on my instrument rating and had a need to complete my 300 miler as part of the training to obtain my IFR ticket. So I grabbed my instructor, Al Waterloo and asked if he would accompany me on this mission to kill the preverbal two birds with one stone. He accepted but added a third mission which was, to Have Fun !
So off we went at 0545 in the Archer, from KPWK, IFR through Ohare’s Class B airspace on our first stop to Bowling Green KY. On our way we flew near Paducah, Ky. where I commented to him that three more of my customers were located there. (I wondered if they needed to see me.) I remember thinking that it sure didn’t take long to get there. This could be a reason for my next trip.
After a quick fuel stop we departed KBWG and landed in Decatur at 1100. It took three minutes to get our free courtesy car from the FBO and after driving 6 miles I was at Toray Carbon Fibers where my customer was waiting. We had our meeting, solved his problem and were done by 2:30pm! If we had decided to fly directly back to PWK, we would have returned by 8:00pm, however we now had to complete Al’s mission, to have fun.
He wanted to buy me dinner at Rendezvous in Memphis. So off we went to KMEM in the late afternoon, flying around some thunderstorm buildups on our way to land at Class B, in our 2400 pound Archer. Not only was this fun but the learning experience was an incredible lesson in using good judgment on how to navigate around weather. It also demonstrated that we could land at an airport with the big guys in a GA airplane.
After dinner we departed KMEM, ahead of 5 airliners waiting in line, and after a fuel stop at KSPI, we were back at PWK. I completed this trip in less time than using the airlines, had fun, and never once had to remove my shoes and belt. I was back at my desk at 8:30 the next day.
The total cost of my business trip, and personal fun part cost about $300 more than if I flew AA, however I did the call in one day instead of two. This trip also demonstrated how valuable the use of a GA plane could be to a small business, especially when you can’t get there from here. Well now I can.
CHECK OUT ALL THE PHOTOS AND VIDEOS OF MY TRIP HERE!!
Al Carrino, President PureAire Monitoring Systems, Inc