“By the numbers” in aviation essentially means operating the aircraft in a manner intended by the manufacturer and validated via flight test. We have numbers for takeoff power, approach speed, engine rpm, fuel flow, etc. Most of these are spelled out in the airplane flight manual and hopefully ensure safe and performant operations.
This post is more about the trip itself and addresses a question (or class of questions) that I feel like I answer frequently. If it works out, it may turn into a series.
How much does it cost to fly to …?
This question, along with “how long” and “how much [stuff|people]” can be combined to formulate a total value of a trip or experience, so I’ll give you our specs on a specific trip that we make very frequently via road and air. My time is valuable whether used for work, family, or rest, so it always weighs heavily in our personal value proposition. Yours might be different.
We are going to gloss over acquisition, maintenance, and other fixed (or nearly fixed) costs of both the aircraft and the car and just focus on this one trip. It doesn’t matter whether the car sits in the garage or the airplane sits in the hanger, it costs what it costs and the value scales from there.
Flower Mound to College Station
8 hours round-trip (average)
This is for average traffic and approx 30 minutes stop time each way to feed the baby.
3 hours round-trip (average)
We can do this reliably even during DFW rush-hour and most Texas weather.
416 miles round-trip, $3.50/gal at 17mpg for our Acura MDX
3 hours, $4.60/gal at 10gal/hr
Ability to stop more easily (esp. with kids).
Less fatigue upon arrival.
Total duration is brutal.
Leaving the DFW metro area can be brutal.
Weather can be an issue.
Lack of air conditioning during the summer.
Pre-flight adds about 15 minutes to each leg.
Carseat install/de-install is a pain.
I typically feel quite a bit better at the end of each flying leg versus a driving leg. Part of the driving fatigue is related to total duration, but I’d argue that most flights are less taxing overall than the same trip on the road.
For an extra $53 on average, I save about 5 hours of travel time for the weekend. Whether I end up working those saved hours or relaxing with the family, those are my hours and not wasted on the road.