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Fun Flight on a Corporate Plane

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  • Fun Flight on a Corporate Plane

    Hey everyone, just wanted to share a fun experience (yes, fun) in business travel that has added to my accumulated experience since I took the SOAR course in 2006. And let me preface this by relating something Capt. Tom wrote a long time ago, which is: if you were sitting in the cockpit, you'd have a great flight with no anxiety. Folks, he was exactly right.

    Last week I was offered the opportunity to fly back to IAD aboard a corporate aircraft. This was the return flight of a business trip to BNA made on the eve of a large annual event in DC that my organization puts together. The folks hosting me in Nashville wanted to ensure that I would be able to jump right into the schedule of events with no disruption to my responsibilities. Strangely enough, I looked forward to the chance to fly back on a non-commercial flight. It seemed like bad manners to turn down such a gracious offer. So why the heck not?

    Incidentally, the commercial flight to BNA (Embraer 175, window seat) was a piece of cake. No anticipatory anxiety. Some turb on descent but no worries otherwise. The thought that I wouldn't be flying back via AA seemed more odd than scary, just because I'd never been in situation like that before.

    When the day came to fly back to DC, weather conditions in Nashville were poor, with lots of rain and low cloud cover. I was concerned, but not freaked out at all. I'd checked out the make and model of the plane we would be taking (King Air 350) beforehand. I wasn't thrilled that we'd be flying a turboprop, but if you don't have a choice, you don't have a problem.

    For those of you unfamiliar with the experience, the on-boarding process for general aviation is a welcome change. No check-in, baggage fees, TSA, hustle and bustle, or gate agents screaming over the airport p.a. system. We just drove up to the hangar and let a couple of guys stow our bags in the aft section of the aircraft. After a last visit to the bathroom, we unceremoniously boarded.

    Now this was the interesting part. The interior of a King Air is really cramped. It's far from Boeing or Airbus. But no freakouts. As a consolation, the seats were high-grade leather and comfortable as can be. I took a seat facing forward and squeezed my duffle on the floor next to me. I thought to ask the pilot our cruising altitude, and he said 260. There was some worry about turb going up, but that was mitigated by a tail wind which would significantly speed our way to IAD.

    So the pilot fired up the engines and soon we were moving down the tarmac. I felt a little squirrely because things were somewhat new, but no panic whatsoever. The plane took off smoothly and other than the noise (turboprops are loud!), no complaints. A few bumps but turb wasn't an issue on ascent. Again, it felt somewhat weird to be on such a small plane at altitudes commercial jets cruise at. But as everyone else pulled out newspapers, laptops, etc. I took out my headphones and iPod and was soon happily ensconced in a crossword puzzle. The drone of the props were soothing as I looked out across the peaceful sky.

    THEN it hit me, somewhere at FL260. The moment I always wondered about. The moment that didn't seem possible. I AM HAVING A PRETTY DAMN FUN TIME! There I was, looking over the shoulder of the pilot as the puffy clouds rolled by. Hey, I can watch him fly the plane and see straight ahead! That alone was a confidence-builder. This was the ultimate flying experience! We flew through the clouds and rocked and rolled a bit, but at no time was I ever concerned about the plane or my well-being. The turb we hit over Virginia was some ass-rockin' stuff you'd never feel on a commercial airliner, and it made me laugh out loud. The plane's not going to drop out of the sky! So bring it on! I imagined I was flying on a World War II bomber and that the turb was flak.

    Here's a link to our flightpath:

    By the time we started descent and went into the landing pattern, I was ecstatic watching the pilots line up the plane and bring us in. Beautiful landing and then, all of a sudden, the fun was over. Boo-hiss. General aviation arrival was just as nice as departing: the folks at the hangar treat you like a human being, plying you with water, soda, coffee, cookies, and clean bathrooms. I could get used to that.

    The pilot discovered that this had been my first corporate flight and took a picture of me in the cabin door de-planing. He assured me commercial flights would never be the same, and I believe him.

    So, fellow SOARers, here are a few takeaways:

    - Mindfulness allows you to take ownership of any flight. To me, that's the most crucial aspect of SOAR training

    - Fly as often as possible, regardless of aircraft size. Good flying experiences will help flood your amygdala and flush out any bad experiences you might have had. As longtime SOAR forum poster OneAnt demonstrates, flying can even become your "happy place"

    - If you can fly general or corporate aviation, give it a try. As Ferris Bueller would say, it's so choice. It's also the closest thing to being able to fly like Superman and, more importantly, it gives you that through-the-cockpit perspective missing on commercial flights

    - The only thing to fear from turbulence is fear itself

    Hope this has helped. Keep on SOARing!