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ALTERNATIVES TO COMMERCIAL AIR TRAVEL

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The latest bad news from the airport is that the TSA folks have now been caught doing, what we all know they have been doing for some time, and that of course, is stealing computers, watches, wallets etc., from the passengers. I have frequently challenged the TSA reps regarding the security of my very important personal items and was invariably was rudely told “not to worry about it.” It is very clear that the opportunity for theft in the chaos at the checkpoint is extremely high, yet there are no firm procedures to prevent this theft.

The first and best solution to this problem, if you don’t already own your own airplane, is the wide-open world of on-demand jet charter. Drive your vehicle directly to the airport, out onto the tarmac, watch the ramp personnel load your bags in the aircraft baggage compartment, enter the aircraft, and be airborne 10 minutes later, while sipping some Dom Perignom champagne and nibbling on lobster tail. There is of course a small caveat that comes with being a jet- setter: It will be many thousands of dollars to go on a relatively short flight. If you fill the airplane up with traveling passengers the cost is still more than a first-class ticket, but in most instances the convenience will justify it.

If you can’t afford the jet, it is possible to charter a smaller propeller driven airplane at perhaps less than half the tariff of the jet. Needless to say there are downsides: It will likely be noisier and you’ll fly lower and slower which usually results in more turbulence; you will be flying with less experienced pilots, thus diminishing the safety factor. The aircraft maintenance is likely to be poorer than airline standards and the pilots are more likely to be fatigued. The rate of fatal accidents in on-demand small airplane charter is extremely high, but, it is infinitely safer than battling the 18-wheel “semis” on the interstate.

Now we will take this transportation equation to a much higher level. There are numerous aviation entrepreneurial people who are designing automobiles that fly, or if you prefer, airplanes that can be driven down the road. Furthermore, the ICON amphibious air machine is getting very close to production (http://www.iconaircraft.com/). This fun little bird allows you to tie it up at your dock, take off down the lake, and land on nearly any hard surface runway, other than the major hub airports, as well as a lake. Of equal importance is the fact that it can burn standard auto gas (nearly half the price of avgas) at an extraordinarily low rate of 4 gallons an hour while you cross the terra firma at 110 miles an hour.

At this year’s EAA Air Adventure extravaganza at Oshkosh, Wisconsin the Terrrafugia was a highlight. It was not just a static display, it actually flew. This aptly named transportation device appears to be the real deal. This roadable airplane is gaining some traction (http://www.terrafugia.com/) The Switchblade (http://goo.gl/HNh6cJ0) is another air/highway machine-in-the-making that has some viability. Two years ago I flew the above-mentioned ICON simulator at the Oshkosh Air Show and became infatuated with the ICON; an amphibious flying critter, it is getting close to production. If you live on the water it is the ultimate “boy-toy.” The Flintstones/Jetson family’s flying car is now out of the realm of fantasy. One can also consider getting from A to B with their jetpack. Hooray for creative, entrepreneurial engineers—and their financiers. Roadable airplanes will soon be as ubiquitous as drones.

This blog is prepared by Allen Morris, aka Ace Abbott, a retired commercial pilot, and aviation author; The Rogue Aviator (www.therogueaviator.com) and Dead Tired (http://www.deadtiredpilots.com/). The “Ace Abbott Aviation Affair” talk show is available at http://webtalkradio.net/

OSHKOSH-THE ULTIMATE AVIATION EXTRAVAGANVA

STILL HANGING AROUND THE FABULOUS PHANTOM

All roads— and many airways— lead to Oshkosh, Wisconsin where the greatest aviation show on earth is in full swing. The EAA AirVenture is an experience that no attendee will ever regret or forget. If you are not there now, start making travel plans. One need not be an aviation aficionado to enjoy the biggest and best air show in the world. I have been to Sun ‘N Fun in Lakeland Florida and it was kind of like the county fair in Central Illinois compared to EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh. Furthermore I have been to the Paris Air Show—at Farnborough, England (the alternating site)—and that event pales in comparision to Oshkosh.

If you have not been there, immediately Google EAA Air Venture and you will be provided with a good overview of this fabulous gathering of aviation—and non-pilot-people as well—soaking up more airplane encounters than is barely imaginable. There are numerous webcams on site which provide a current view of the festivities. The static displays of aircraft alone, is worth the price of admission. Expect to see: numerous military aircraft such as the C-5A, the F-16, an array of helicopters; antique airplanes such as the old Ford Tri-Motor, gussied-up DC-6s, P-51 Mustangs, and of course, the fabulous “Douglas Racer/ Gooney Bird/DC-3 (still operational throughout the world, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean). You will have the opportunity to get up close to a Blue Angel aircraft and its pilot at a static display—a great photo-op scenario.

The many hangars are filled with aviation-oriented products that will amaze and entice. Every form of aviation paraphernalia imaginable can be purchased. Last year I took a simulator flight in the ICON amphibian aircraft and I could have ponied up a few thousand dollars for a “purchaser’s slot.” If you did not bring your platinum American express or MasterCard, fret not, for you shall be able to accumulate bags and bags of vendor, give-away “swag.” One could spend the entire week perusing the cool aviation products. It is the ultimate cornucopia of pilot goodies.

THE FORD TRI-MOTOR AT EAA (2011)

If you are mechanic of any sorts there are more seminars than you can attend relating to many aspects of aircraft building and repair. When you leave the highly informative seminar you can go outside and watch one of the many aerobatic events that will leave the average viewer slack-jawed in awe. Some of the maneuvers that are performed by these world class aerobatic pilots seem to defy all elements of physics. Many of the basic tenets of aerodynamics such as angle of attack, stall, lift, drag, yaw, and gravity appear to be defied.

For a more sedate experience, The Warehouse, (adjacent to the control tower) will provide a wide variety of souvenir items but more importantly, you can access author’s corner where nearly every aviation book ever published is available for purchase. You can also interact with some of these authors as they provide signed copies of their book along with free “hangar-talk.” Ace Abbott (yours truly) will be in attendance for the third straight year selling and signing his book, the third edition of The Rogue Aviator: in the back alleys of aviation, as well as his just released book, Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue: Aviation’s Insidious Killer. Aviation literature can provide the surreptitious joys of aviation while sitting in the recliner.

This blog is prepared by Ace Abbott, the author of The Rogue Aviator and Dead Tired (www.therogueaviator.com)