Air Ferry

So I was thinking, what if someone wanted to get from Miami to Chicago very quickly by air but didn’t want to rent a car when they landed because they want their car and all the homeiness that comes with their own car.

So has it ever been attempted, tried or thought of to create an air ferry service and just haul cars by C130?

Would it be too cost prohibitive to do?

If so could you run a C130 on vegetable oil (I’ve heard of some smaller planes such Cessna 172 being able to convert to alternative fuels such as ethanol base or even vegetable oil) and save money on regular fuel?

My guess is that it would be too expensive. But Amtrak does run a train from the Washington, DC area to the Orlando area that carries passengers and their cars. (They can’t run it north of Washington because of low tunnels.)

A C130 costs about $14,000 an hour to operate and it doesn’t go as fast as a jet airliner so a trip from Chicago from Miami would take about 3 hours for a total one-way flight cost of about $42,000 . It can carry a few cars but not very many so the cost for such a service would be at least in the $10,000+ range for a one-way ticket. It is possible but not very economically viable.

It has been done in the past; seems to have been most popular between Britain and Europe but went out of business as other cross-Channel ferries were more economical. You can see one in Goldfinger; after the golf game when Bond follows Goldfinger they both have their cars shipped on Carvair aircraft.

Consider that the average person, plus luggage, weights let’s say 250 lb. This says the average car weight seems to be 3,000 to 4,000 lb. So, you need to charge the equivalent of roughly 15 airline tickets to ship a car. What’s that? about 1/3 the retail value of the average car? Say $10,000 for a typical trip? My parents paid substantially less than that to ship their car (by ship…) to Europe for a sabbatical.

However, the devil is in the details - if an airline overbooks a few seats, well, no great loss - they pay a few people a bonus, they usually get on the next fight. How many ferry flights would there be from, say, Chicago to Miami? being bumped with car would be a far bigger inconvenience - so they’d only sell guaranteed spots. the people who are paying $10,000 or more to have a car at the destination probably don’t appreciate being made to wait. meaning there’s a good chance the aircraft would fly partly empty, so the price for the rest goes up comparatively. People who can afford to spend $15,000 to have their car present, can probably afford a very good car and driver hire instead. If it’s an extended stay, a car service will drive it down for a helluva lot less.

Then there’s handling - a ferry plane is not easily converted to passenger only, so it’s dedicated to that . A 737 for example, holds 150 people. Can you fit 10 cars in it? Would need somewhat of a redesign. (IIRC the 70’s series “The Magician” featured Bill Bixby as an independently wealthy prestidigitator who had a private 737 with a one-vehicle drive-in garage.) Then there’s the issue of gasoline fumes and fire risk, tie-downs, etc.

You better have a really expensive car if you want to pay so mch to have it on hand for a short trip.
I see this only as an option for really rich people on awkward travel legs- let’s say, England to Dubai. Rail or self-drive don’t really work as options, shipping would take a much longer time. but then, those guys can afford a Rolls at each end and long-term parking.

Here is some old film of a cross channel air ferry:

The others have talked about the no-hope economics. I’ll address this bit about fuel.

The C-130 has turboprop engines & so burns jet fuel. Which is basically fancy kerosene or diesel. It’s chemically plausible to convert veg oil to jet fuel just as it’s chemically plausible to convert veg oil to diesel.

But it’s not regulatorily feasible. Billy Bob can cook up a mess-o-diesel from old French fry oil & drive his pick-em-up truck whenever & wherever he wants. Nobody puts anything not FAA-approved into an aircraft, and especially not a commercial aircraft.

There is a considerable industry effort underway right now to create a bio-jet fuel that would be chemically close enough to current petroleum fuels. If it’s close enough, a so-called “drop-in replacement”, that would mean there’ll be no need for a hugely expensive process to recertify each individual model of aircraft engine to burn it. All they’ll need to do is certify the fuel as identical-enough to traditional jet fuel.

Any such fuel will need to be made from scratch using industrial chemical stocks, even if it’s bio-processed or bio-originated. There’s no way recycled materials would be consistent enough, or available in large enough quantities, to be part of the feedstock stream.

Right now bio-jet is available in test quantities only and costs about 15x what ordinary jet fuel costs. The hope is to get it down to about 1.5x and then when carbon taxes hit fossil fuels hard they’ll be ready to scale up with a product that’s price competitive once the tax differences are factored in. See for more.

Bottom-line: No savings to be had burning FF oil in your C-130.