Aluminum Mailing Tube


There’s an old saying in the light airplane end of aviation – when you absolutely positively have to be there (overnight or otherwise) – better get yourself a ticket on the airlines! So today I find myself winging eastward from my secret mountain base on the wings of United (and its associated carriers). I’m letting someone else log the hours and worry about the routing and weather. Changed planes in Denver in the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” terminal and enjoying the ride on a Regional on my way to Knoxville to talk to their EAA Chapter.

The aluminum tube. Photo by Konstantin von Wedelstaedt [GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons
The aluminum tube. Photo by Konstantin von Wedelstaedt [GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Airline travel is, well… annoying. Lots of crowds, delays, logistics and those TSA checkpoints. Avoiding the airlines is one reason we have airplanes – right? Well absolutely! I feel that it is my duty to use my experimental airplanes as much as possible, and that is how I plan to go. But two things – it is hard to make it from the west coast to the east coast in a day, even at 170 knots. And then having to give a speech and turn around for the return the next day? Well – if you don’t have personal duty-day rules, you probably could.

The real reason, however, is that when you cross the United States, you are bound to run into a weather system. Flying with weather is educational, and a good challenge – but not when you HAVE to be someplace. External pressures acting upon your decision-making are not a good formula for smart risk management. Knowing that you have made a commitment to be someplace is a powerful incentive to break your own personal rules and push a little further than maybe you should. Like I always say – unless you can fly in icing and over thunderstorms, you really don’t have an all-weather plane.

I’ve said many times that the best safety item a single-engine IFR pilot can have is a ticket on an airliner. Plan the flight for yourself, and buy a refundable ticket. On the day of travel, take whichever option makes sense – no pressure.

Time to put the laptop away for our “final approach into the Knoxville area…” funny, my tracker says we’re still about 100 miles out. But I’m not in charge this trip…and that’s a load off my mind.

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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


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