This is directed to the Doper pilots. (I’ve been inactive for a few years, but General Aviation is never far from my mind.) Now that I live where I want to live, I don’t fly on airlines as much as I used to. But when I’ve flown recently I’ve found it to be a hassle.
Years ago I read articles where one pilot flew a GA aircraft to a destination, while another flew commercially. IIRC it was concluded that GA is faster for trips up to 400 miles. The reasoning is this: For a commercial flight one must go to an airport where there are commercial flights. Passengers must check in and go through the security checkpoint. Once in the boarding area, they usually have to cool their heels for a while until boarding occurs. At the other end of the trip, the passenger must then get to the destination, which is often far away from the major airport. By contrast, the GA pilot only has to go to the local municipal airport, check the weather, possibly file a flight plan, preflight the aircraft, and take off. At the destination the municipal airport is often much closer to the final destination.
The articles found that even though a jet flies 500+ kts, all of the driving (to and from a major airport) and the waiting around negates the speed advantage on shorter flights. Disadvantes of GA include higher cost (though this can be offset when more people are in the plane) and weather issues.
Let’s assume good flying weather, or that you are IFR rated. Assume your typical ‘flying Ford’ – a Cessna 172 or Piper PA-28 or something similar – that will go 120-130 kts. Assume a rental rate of $100/hour, or that you own your own plane and it costs, say $75/hour for fuel, maintenance, insurance, etc.
When I lived in L.A. I was 7 miles from LAX. With no traffic it would take 20 minutes for me to get there. With traffic it could take longer. Many people have a much farther drive. Let’s assume 30 to 60 minutes to get to a commercial airport. Assume a similar length of time to go from the destination airport to the final destination. And let’s assume that it takes an hour to check in, go through security, get to the boarding area until they open the gate. In my experience, it takes at least 20 minutes to get everyone seated (people don’t seem to know how to efficiently sling their bags into the overhead compartments and then bend in the middle to fit into their seats) and to get the aircraft moving. Then there is an interval between push-back and actually getting on the runway.
I live 20 miles from the nearest municipal airport. (OK, it’s an international airport, but there is GA activity there.) It takes me half an hour to get there. If I lived in town it would take me 10 minutes. So let’s assume it takes the GA pilot 20 minutes to get to the airport. Again, let’s assume a similar time to get from the destination airport to the final destination. Allow 20 minutes for a weather briefing and to file a flight plan. Ten minutes to preflight the aircraft, and another ten to get to the runway and do the run-up.
What is the longest distance given those rough parameters that a GA flight would be quicker than a commercial flight? In much the same way as we trade airspeed for altitude or vice versa, how much time would you add to your trip in exchange for the pleasure of flying yourself and to avoid the indignity and burden of dealing with commercial preflight procedures?