Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cessna / Carolina Liar / Show me what I’m looking for

In this part of the story, I am roughly 43 or 44 years old and CEO of a rapidly growing computer forensics company.

I have to go to Washington, DC for a series of meetings with my clients. They are large federal agencies, like the FBI, IRS, even the Secret Service, perhaps the....

I am under enormous pressure to grow revenue and increase profitability.

As usual, I book travel to Washington DC through either Delta or Airtran Airways. Both of these carriers have routings to DC which hub through Atlanta. This looks simple: a quick trip to Atlanta, a quick flight change, and I’m on my way to DC.

Except, this time, the trip takes a detour. My flight routes to Atlanta, and is very late. I miss my connection to Dulles airport. Instead of arriving around 10:30pm on my scheduled flight at Dulles, the carrier ‘graciously’ reroutes me to Reagan National on another flight. This alternative gets me to DC much later, and at the wrong airport, perhaps 25 miles from my hotel.

The flight arrives DC around 12:50 in the morning. We are probably the last flight of the day to arrive at Reagan.

I trudge to the rental car kiosks, across from the arrival concourse. They are closed. I have no rental car.

It is 1:15am. I am tired.

I go to the cab line location. There is no cab line. Reagan airport has gone dark, it is a virtual ghost town.

I pull out my cell phone and start calling 411 for cab phone #s. All have answering machines or answering services. They are booking cab rides for early morning rides; but none are operating now.

I call my wife. We have friends in the DC area; she calls them and they are willing to put me up.

I pray. Please God help me.

I cry. Literally. I am a middle aged business man, sitting in a dark airport, with no one around. I am crying.

A police officer approaches from nowhere. A cheerful black woman, I ask (beg) her to help me. Does she know of any cab companies which operate at 2:00am? Yes, she does.
20 minutes later, a cab pulls up.

I am on my way to my hotel. I arrive there at 3:00am. I had smartly prepaid for my hotel room (Priceline, I think.)

As luck would have it, Priceline had put me into a Marriott (Fairfield? Courtyard?) property. It would be a nice room, if it was waiting for me. But it wasn’t, my room has been sold; there is no room. The fact that my hotel room is prepaid is irrelevant. The hotel clerk is probably shocked that I showed up. But NOT TO WORRY, another cab is ready to take me to another motel, perhaps 6 or 7 miles south of Dulles area hotel. (Many hotels are full).

I check into my new no-brand motel. I see an insect move across the floor of my room. I call my wife; I settle into bed at 4:00am in the morning. I rise at 7:30am to prepare for my first meeting of the day. I am furious, beyond tired, and pissed.


Now I am one or two years older.

I purchase a nearly new Cessna T206H airplane. It hauls me, my sales people, and 300 pounds of trade show gear direct from Wichita to Dulles (940NM nonstop). I never again miss a flight. I always arrive when I want, where I want, and I never again go through security. My dispatch reliability is excellent, and I always found a way around bad weather. When I needed to, I delayed my own departure to accommodate safety. I exercised my instrument rating, and flew in the flight levels. Once, I cruised along at 300 knots groundspeed, in part due to a 130 knot tailwind.

I flew the plane 900 hours over a 3.5 year period.

I often arrive at Signature Flight Service at Dulles. I enjoy free ice cream, the serious, professional atmosphere in the lobby, and the fact that I am rubbing shoulders with Gulfstream drivers.

Once, I see Harry Reid (Nev – D) from 15 feet away in the Signature lobby. He is with private security (or Secret Service agents?). He does not seem to mind the fact that he is preparing to get on a jet and head home, while converting thousands of pounds of Jet A into vicious carbon. I will not remember this when the auto companies are pilloried for flying their jets to DC, so they can testify before congress.

Mostly, I enjoy the freedom and convenience of flying my efficient GA airplane.


Now I am 48 years old.

Kathy and I sold the business. 4 months later, I looked at the airplane, and realized that I had flown the T206 less than 2 hours in 120 days. Two months later, I spot my plane on an internet tracking website (www.flightaware.com) and it is running around the Bahamas. The wholesaler I sold my bird to told me it was headed to South America.


Now I am 51 years old.

I arrive at IAD, on a commercial flight which routed through Chicago. The flight was over an hour late, because of a mechanical issue. Thankfully, I am not rerouted to Reagan. My flight arrives Dulles late. I get in the cab, and provide the driver with my destination hotel in downtown DC.

The cab driver turns left, and we pull directly in front of Signature Flight Service. A lone Cessna is parked on the flight line. It is surrounded by dozens of jets, of all sizes. The tarmac is thick with jets.

I sigh.

7 comments:

xaminmo said...

If you have the means, you should assess your mission needs and pick up a new bird. Maybe something a little smaller than a 206 to save on fuel. Composite planes and diesel planes tend to be pretty efficient too.

chrisw10 said...

Love stories like this.

Brandon said...

Xaminmo's comment got me thinking. The December issue of Sport Pilot and Light-Sport Aircraft had an article about a couple who sold their larger aircraft and picked up a nicely-appointed (and IFR-rated) Flight Design CTLS. Might be worth looking into, if you have the need.

xaminmo said...

I saw that article, though really, I like the SportCruiser, er I mean, PiperSport for LSA.

If Jim's doing 950nm treks, that would be tiresome at 120kts and 10kft or below.

If it's just for local or low-cost, then he could close up a Belite with the full-sized engine and an experimental certificate and get similar performance to LSA without paying retail markup. His initial bird was pretty high function.

James Wiebe said...

Another problem: Back when I owned the company, of course I had my flight expenses paid for. When I sold it, the new owner would reimburse commercial fare, but not cost of operating a T206H. Hence the business decision to sell.

LSAs are not practical for cross countries to Dulles from ICT. You have to be able to guarantee that you can fly around or over 95% of the weather, and the T206 could do this because of its 27K service ceiling.

I do own a CTLS. I rarely fly it.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it is to late at night, but how does 'Carolina Liar' relate to this post?

James Wiebe said...

The musical accompany to this post would be the song, "Show me what I'm looking for", by the group 'Carolina Liar.'