Saturday, January 22, 2011

Route Selection for X-Country Trips

One of the great things about general aviation is the freedom and flexibility to pick the "best" time and "best" route. 

Tomorrow I need to go to Houston.  While I know all too well that Continental flies there direct.  That would definitely not be as satisfying as going in the Cirrus.  So the flight planning begun a few days ago.

The route I settled on is as follows:

I showed this routing to a friend and he asked "Why such an odd looking route?" 

I thought it was a great question and worthy of a blog post.  So I have tried to describe my thought process below:

1. General Aviation certainly enables you to fly DIRECT TO almost anywhere.  So I always start there.  Direct Tampa Executive Airport > Houston Hobby Airport is 687 nautical miles, which is well within the range of my Cirrus.  However, the route is entirely over water, which does not leave a lot of options in case of emergency.  While the plane is certainly capable of doing this, I also tend to get hungry and ready for a break in the 450-500 mile range.  Lastly, several hours over water with absolutely no "photo opps", might also be a bit boring.

2. So with Direct ruled out for safety/boredom reasons, I needed to find a good fuel/food stop.  I have some real favorites for food/fuel when heading northbound.  However, when heading westbound, I am still searching for the "perfect" fuel stop.  I have stopped at Destin airport many times, and that was my first thought.  The FBO staff there is wonderful... But I wanted to try something new... So I checked on 100LL for some options in that area with good fuel prices.  I came up with Bay Minette Airport in Alabama.  According to 100LL the fuel prices are good. More importantly, according to Airnav, which is my trusted source of airport/FBO quality, the FBO has absolutely rave reviews!  Now the trip is coming together.  Fuel stop found!

3. From Alabama to Houston is a short direct flight.  However, Houston is rather close to Galveston, which I have heard is a VERY scenic destination.  Since I have a penchant for island airports, I couldn't resist a tiny detour and decided to land in Galveston airport before continuing on to Houston.

So in the end, the planned route is Home Base > Bay Minette, AL > Galveston > Houston. 

While this route may not look all that "intuitive", I am confident the experience of the journey will be worthwhile.

Stay tuned... Hopefully, I will be able to post some cool pix tomorrow night!

== T.J.==

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