At the conclusion of October’s Copperstate Fly-In, held at Casa Grande Municipal Airport (CGZ) in Arizona, I attended the annual awards banquet. As luck would have it, I sat at a great table. Seated with me was Chris Christiansen (and his parents), designer/builder of the award-winning Savor, Dave Edwards from Las Vegas, who turned me on to a resolution making its way through the Nevada Legislature to make sure North Las Vegas Airport remains open to experimental aircraft , and Bill Harrelson, a retired airline pilot and efficiency expert from Fredericksburg, Virginia.
What a table. Great conversation and some amazing stories. I learned that Bill came to the Copperstate Fly-In to compete in the FuelVenture 400 efficiency race. (He won his class, by the way). He and his flying partner ducked out early, as they were hoping to make a non-stop flight home the next morning, and needed to get some rest. A few days later, I received the following e-mail, which tells the story of the potential of that fuel efficiency much better than I could. Enjoy.
“It was nice to meet you at the awards banquet. We might have mentioned we were going to try to make it home from Casa Grande to Fredericksburg the next morning. Here are some brief facts of the flight home. Unfortunately we landed 40 miles short of home at Orange, Virginia, for a shot of gas.
Great Circle distance: 1,700 nm; Route flown: 1,749 nm; Yahoo Map driving distance: 2,353 miles; Time to Orange: 9 hrs, 40 minutes; Total time: 10 hrs, 15 minutes; Total fuel burn: 51 gallons; Number of people: 2; Payload: 380; Cost: Less than $100 each
This was a pretty remarkable flight any way you look at it, but when you compare this flight to driving a car or commercial airline service, you really get an appreciation for the Lancair 320 and GA in general.
A short scan of commercial flights shows one direct flight on USAir, which gets us home near midnight and would cost each of us over $1,000 round trip…$2,048 for two round-trip tickets equals $1,024 for the return portion or $512 each. This direct flight would take about eight hours from Casa Grande to home. Cheaper options would be about half this cost and would be scheduled to take about 11.5 hours, hotel to home, if all goes well with connections.
The trip wouldn’t happen if we had to drive, with at least three days and two night in hotels to make it one way. If you do the conversion to car speed and mpg, it comes to the equivalent to 230 mph@46 mpg with no hotel costs and no speeding tickets (east bound). Going out (west bound), the numbers are 196 mph@38 mpg (12 hours/62 gallons) with a 12-hour layover midway because we left Thursday at 4 p.m. However, because we were able to leave Fredericksburg with our tanks filled with premium auto gas, the fuel cost west bound was about $160 or $80 each.
We all know that to make this trip possible it took a finely crafted machine, reasonable weather, more than a few years of aviation experience and living on or near the airport. On the other hand, there were no heroics required for this trip. We have all done big road trips that required way more stamina and nerves than this flight. Maybe you could use this example to demonstrate what general aviation can make possible.
Bill Harrelson (owner, PIC, efficiency expert)”
Bill, I couldn’t have said it better myself, so I won’t even try.
Ben Sclair is GAN’s publisher.