The situation came to my attention thanks to a post on social media. A woman I went to high school with reached out looking for comfort.
My former classmate’s post began, “Due to complicated weather conditions yesterday, flights to the northeast were all cancelled.”
That happens, unfortunately, Inclement weather can cause delays and even cancellations for the airlines, just as they do for the general aviation pilot.
For an aviation enthusiast, that may not be a huge surprise. After all, we watch the weather. We know that routes can be altered, and flights can be affected by the weather.
To an extent, we expect the unexpected. It’s in our training, and thanks to that training the possibility of an unanticipated change of plans is always present in our thinking.
That’s all well and good for an aviation enthusiast, but for a businesswoman from New England who wants and needs to get home sooner rather than later, being stuck in sunny Florida is only enjoyable for a limited period of time.
She continued to explain her predicament, “So today I am flying home in my business associate’s little prop plane!”
When you note that someone is using the term, ‘”little prop plane,” you automatically know it’s not intended to be a term of endearment.
Before this flight, her longest trip in a general aviation airplane covered fewer than 30 miles. Now, here she was facing a flight of more than 1,000. Her trepidation was evident in her post. She needed to get home, but the means of transportation available to her was less substantial than she’d hoped.
Her first travel-related post closed with the line, “Give me some encouragement!”
Fortunately, she included a photo of the airplane in her post. It was a fine looking aircraft, clean, apparently well maintained, and standing tall on its retractable gear in the Florida sunshine.
Her ride home was to be in a TBM 700.
I have often noted that perspective is important. So while I would not consider a TBM 700 to be a “little prop plane,” she certainly did. And her perspective is what I consider to be important in this case.
So I fired up my phone, got my typing finger in gear, and did my best to offer my friend the comfort she needed.
For people who typically experience flight from several rows back in the passenger cabin of a transport category aircraft, the idea of sitting next to the pilot, immediately behind a single engine, and being confronted with a dizzying array of switches, lights, gauges, and screens while wearing a headset…well it can be unsettling.
Combine that with the realization that the passenger is both nervous about the flight and aware that bathroom facilities are not available on their airplane – and you’ve got a condition that could be truly unpleasant for the passenger, and by extension, the pilot.
The weather had cleared along the East coast, so I sent her a note letting her know the adventure would be a good one. I went one step further by pulling up their flight plan and taking a screen shot of the route they’d be flying. I included that picture in one of my messages.
Words are good. Pictures are better.
Once she saw the route, she had a slightly better understanding of what was happening. The flight became less of a mystery and more of an understandable journey that would take her from Point A to Point B at a speed she already knew would be in the neighborhood of 350 mph.
That’s impressive stuff. Consider that 100 years ago this entire scenario was absolutely impossible. Now, other than having the capability to create a little nervousness in an unfamiliar participant, it’s literally an everyday occurrence.
Less than four hours after departing south Florida, my friend was back home, on the ground in Connecticut.
She posted to social media, “What a great flight!!! Safe and sound!!” The exclamation marks are hers.
She was glad to be home, certainly, but she was also pleasantly surprised to find she’d enjoyed this new method of transportation.
General aviation won a convert. No longer intimidated by what she thinks of as little prop planes, she now sees them as viable transportation that serve her needs in a way commercial carriers simply can’t.
I’ll count this as a big win. No, my friend isn’t interested in learning to fly herself. I suggested that as a possibility, but she made it clear that’s not part of her master plan for her life.
Yet, she is a believer in GA now. That is good.
Each time a business person recognizes that GA can serve their needs, as well as those of their customers, clients, and contacts, the world becomes an incrementally better place. As they continue their journey through life with a more positive attitude about what general aviation can do, our economic situation becomes slightly more upbeat. And as they share the satisfaction they feel for GA with their friends, neighbors, and co-workers, this mysterious industry feels a little more wind at our backs, and a bit less opposition to our endeavors.
General aviation won a convert this week. I’m unreservedly enthused about that, and I sincerely hope you are too.
Should I ever meet the pilot of that TBM 700, I’m going to buy the first round. He earned it, that’s for sure.
And I’m ever so pleased to know my former classmate enjoyed her flight through the air — as I have done for these many years.