Cost vs Distance vs Time

At which travel distance does flying in a GA aircraft become more practical than driving given the amount of time it will take to get there, the cost of fuel, etc?

For instance, I live in Salt Lake City. It is about a 5 hour drive to Las Vegas. At 150 knots cruise, it would be around a 2.5 hour flight (310 nm). That halves the time, which, to me, would be worth the extra cost of flying vs. driving. (Remember this is for travel sake, not just for fun…Flying to Vegas would ALWAYS be more fun than driving!)

Using the same airplane, what is the minimum distance you could fly (for travel purposes, not just for the fun of it) without it taking longer to fly than it would if you were driving if you include the drive to the airport, prep of the airplane, takeoff, landing, etc?

That a hard ? to answer. how long is your drive to the airport? do you rent or own?

If the airplane is ready when u get there i would say approx. 20 min. on the departure end. If you do your flight planning that morning or the night before. And on the arival end just a few minutes to grab your bags and hop in your rental car or shuttle.

For us we make a three our drive into a 45 minute flight. And it usually ends up being at least three times more expensive to rent the AC than it does to drive it.

Whenever I start to think about that stuff I stop myself because to me I would gladly pay more than the auto costs to fly.

If you fly a jet or other costly bird then I can see your point. But if you are flying a Skyhawk or Arrow, (etc), the costs will probablly be more than an auto trip, but not substantially, sice you get there 3 times faster (average speeds) and thus have the hobs running that much less than your cars engine.

It’s fun to figure out the per mile cost of your bird. If you really want to get a true figure though it’s not just fuel for the auto v. fuel for the bird. You have to consider insurance, maintenance, hangar costs, etc. to arrive at a true per hour cost of operating your bird. Don’t forget to figure in the COOL factor of flying your self palces as oppossed to driving and sitting in traffic with the ground bound. That’s Priceless.

No doubt that flying will always be more fun, and cooler to others than driving somewhere. That’s another aspect of flying I’m super excited about…Utah will get a LOT smaller since I’ll be able to get places a lot faster (and it’ll be more fun! Utah has some pretty spectacular scenery in places)

Here’s a tricky question for you guys…(Not hijacking my own thread here, I promise)

If I am flying for my OWN business (i.e. flying to a client’s location as a 1099 contractor, no business passengers, and not charging my clients for anything related to transportation.), do I have to have a commercial license? Just so you know, I’m guessing YES is the answer on this one. Not trying to get away with anything here :slight_smile:

No you don’t need a commercial license.

Nope as long as your not charging them anything. you do not fall under the rules and regulations of a FAR 135 operator. The moment you collect a payment from them then you do.

For me, it was around a 1 1/2 drive time or more for it to pay for me to fly my own plane.

I lived 20 minutes from the airport, and figured 20 minutes to preflight, get situated in plane, taxi, runup to take off. 10 more minutes from landing to locking the plane at destination which adds up to 50 minutes time without flight / commuting time consideration.

While it was always cool to fly from KMBO to KVKS (50 NM), it took longer for me to get there on a “good day” door to door by airplane.

Flying from KPOC to LGB cost more. Flight time - approx 15 minutes. Door to door - 1 hour flying or driving. However, priceless to fly due to stress reduced not having to fight traffic and being able to watch the sunrise and sunsets. I was fortunate though because my boyfriend and I shared the cost since we both worked near each other.

Now flying from KONX to KBDR. Flight time - approx 2 hours. Door to door 2 1/2 hours. Drive time 12 hours in a diesel car - cheaper to drive. But fighting traffic, especially in NY - I prefer flying.

I have a daughter in school that is a 2hr drive by auto. I am 25 min from the airport, 20 min to pull from hangar and preflight, 55 min flight and 5 min to school. I use it for a reason to fly the plane.

I usually figure that it is quicker/more convenient to drive up to “something around” 400 miles. Beyond that the Skylane begins to win.
Beyond about 1000 mles the airline speed advantage begins to overtake.

There are so many variables in all three modes that a hard and fast rule is impossible, but these are my rules of thumb.

Oh, and I live in the Wide Open Spaces of Wyoming.

We charge a “rapid response charge” and fly part 91. It is a charge to get to the job fast, however we do it( Full fare airline,Charter,Fly or drive)! and the client pays. No one from the client can be on the plane because then we would be a charter, also we use it a lot in the 200-600 mile range but have done some jobs in the 800 to 1000 range.