Nothing to do with Hobbits, dragons, dwarfs, elves or men. Just an example of how owning an airplane can allow you to do something otherwise either very costly, or not even possible.
Thing 1 is now a senior in high school, here in our suburb north of Dallas. It's time to look at colleges. Once we get over the shock.
She's (or rather, her Mom and I are) looking at a mixture of large state schools and small liberal arts colleges. She doesn't want to go far, and with Texas being the size it is, that means we're restricting our search to schools within "easy driving distance". But that means 5 hours drive, or about New York City to Maine or London to Edinburgh.
One school on our list in the University of Arkansas. It's big (around 25,000 students), but it has a strong marching band, and marching in a band is one of the few things that Thing 1 is enthusiastic over. Band kids are universally nice, smart and always friendly. Going to a big school with a good band will help make the experience manageable and human. The other choice is a small school with lots of small class sizes and strong interactions.
From here to Fayetteville AR is just over 5 hours in a car, about the same as going to San Antonio or Houston. Or just over 1.5 hours in a Bonanza. Last Monday was a school holiday (Columbus Day), so we decided to make use of the free time to visit U of A and see what we are dealing with.
If we'd driven, it would have either been a long, long day, or a 2 day trip involving a hotel room or two. Our booked time for a tour was 12:30pm, so rather than leave at 6am by road (or leave the night prior), we took off from McKinney at 9:30am, into a clear blue sky with no winds after a cold front came through on Saturday. A local dentist and pilot crashed his Turbine Bonanza on Saturday, killing himself, his brother and their 2 sons from Southlake TX. Since they were on their way to the Texas A&M football game and were involved in Southlake high school football, it's very likely they were at the opening day football game for our local high school, which was against Southlake in our new stadium. Weather was probably the main factor, and possibly fuel exhaustion.
But not for us. We climbed to 5,500 feet in clear skies and requested VFR flight following to KFYV (Fayetteville-Drake Airport). The only real challenge was that with 30 or 40 miles to go we started to overfly some low clouds near a mountain lake surrounded by forest. After a quick check with Kansas City Center who confirmed that Fayetteville was still reporting clear skies, I decided to stay VFR rather than switch to IFR in readiness for a descent through weather. Fortunately the clouds cleared 5 to 10 miles before we reached our destination.
We were able to take a taxi to the university and get our tour, meet some of the band kids and watch a practice. We were all quite impressed with the school, despite it's size. Around 4:30 we got a taxi back to the airport and were wheels up on the return flight about 5:15pm, landing just before 7pm. Not only was it quicker, but by removing the need to drive up the night before and stay in a hotel and eat meals out, most likely cheaper too. I won't claim that flying normally saves money compared to driving (or taking the airlines), but in this case it did.
Woooooooooo, Pig ! Sooie!
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