Mission trip

Hawker jet
The author's ride--a freshly painted Hawker jet.

Earlier this year I traveled to Florida to attend the Annual Sun ’n Fun air show. I attended the event on a Saturday and flew my daughter in on Sunday so that we could go to the Universal Studio’s Harry Potter theme park in Orlando. The air show was great but I will save those stories for another day. After investing a significant portion of my life savings on theme park tickets, my daughter Alex shuffled me into the extremely dense mass of Harry Potter fans. Once assimilated into the masses we waited in line for nearly two hours just to spend 5 minutes on the Harry Potter ride. We exit the ride, Alex looks at me and says “Okay, We can go now.” Really? You flew all the way from Texas just to stand in line for two hours and ride one ride?

Yep, that was pretty much it. Alex’s mission was to ride one ride (and buy a cup of butter beer, whatever that is). All those hours sitting in the airport, going through security, getting a hotel room, rental car, and waiting in lines were totally worth the effort to Alex. Spending quality time with my daughter was totally worth it for me as well but I just shook my head in wonder and have enjoyed sharing the story of what I call Alex’s “Mission Trip.”

Fast forward a few weeks and I get a call from my friend Todd who, when not teaching me how to become a better pilot, flies a Hawker jet for a living. Todd invites me to ride along with him to pick up the jet from an East Texas paint shop that had done some work on the aircraft. Of course I was extremely excited about the opportunity to ride on a corporate jet and told him I would love to go. The only catch: we had to drive almost four hours to pick up the plane and we had to make the trip on a weekday. No problemo (as we say in Texas). I was up for the drive and was willing to cash in a vacation day. After all, how often do I get an opportunity to fly jump seat on a jet?

We made the trip and the new paint on the Hawker looked fantastic. The last time I had seen the plane it was torn apart for repairs/inspection and was in desperate need of a redo. After returning the rental car and a quick conversation with the guys in the paint shop, Todd, another pilot, and I hopped aboard and were quickly on our way back to Houston. I had a front row seat for all of the action. I squeezed into a jump seat in the aisle mere inches from the pilots and just feet from the controls. This was great! I fly on a lot of jets but usually I sit in row 19. This time I am front row for the action.

Hawker panel
Making sense of the complicated Hawker panel.

Once we broke the bounds of gravity, I took a quick look at the vertical speed indicator and noticed we were ascending at nearly ten thousand feet per minute. That is a far cry from the five hundred I see during climb out in the Warrior. I could do this every day! Sadly, though, this was just a one time opportunity.

Todd did a great job of explaining all the avionics and controls. At first I was perplexed by the massive amount of instruments but after taking everything in for a few minutes and having Todd explain things, my feeling of being overwhelmed by the complex instrument panel began to wane. I found that the plane had all the same instruments as the Warrior. There were just a few extra gauges here and there that were critical to operating the jet engines.

The trip home took 40 minutes. It would have been faster if we hadn’t had to navigate around a few thunderstorms. The paint guys didn’t want us going through any unnecessary rain. I was okay with the detour. It just meant more time for me to experience a magnificent machine.

As you can imagine, I was very excited about the experience and shared it with friends, family, and anyone else who is browsing through my Facebook. Someone asked me why I would drive four hours just to take a thirty five minute ride back home. I just smiled and thought of Alex’s trip to Universal Studios. I guess this was just my “Mission Trip.”

3 Comments

  • You are not crazy or at least you are not alone. I recently drove 10 hr round trip and skipped 1.5 days of work to ride in the jumpseat of a brand new Boeing commercial jet during its 19 minute delivery flight to the airline that ordered it. Yes it had the “gee whiz” factor (I am a PP with only SEL certificate) and was a lot of fun but at the end of it I am a better pilot and better advocate for aviation due to my exposure to the thoroughly professional pilots and maintenance folks who flew the jet and performed the prep and management of the delivery process.

  • Definetely not alone. My first flight at age 14 came about after hitchhiking 40 miles to the nearest airfield in Langley BC and then spending 2 hours cutting grass with a scythe around the hangar. The owners wife then took me and my buddy up in a PA-12 for half an hour. Coincidentally, my first owned plane and the one I spent most of my first couple hundred hours in was a 12. After the plane ride we were lucky enough to have a pilot offer us a ride back home,saving us from hitchhiking again. It was a Sunday and I made it home in time to get the cows in for milking.Needless to say, the next two hours milking, my mind was not on my job. My father never understood my passion for flying until I took him for a ride in the 12 years later.

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