Is it possible to use your GA aircraft to commute? Certainly! In fact, it is a great way to get around, saving time and in some cases, even money.
Here’s an example of a journey (we’ve done many times) – St.Catharines, Niagara to Parry Sound – Ontario, by GA and by road as a comparison.
The time by car is quoted at 3 hours and 7 minutes – but let’s face it, that’s unlikely with seven reported roadworks. We have found that travelling at any reasonable time in the day, this journey takes 4 hours. It is reasonable to assume with a larger car that this journey would be $50-$70 in fuel.
The flight, as shown on the planning app, is 154 nautical miles and assuming an airspeed of 110 knots (pretty standard) it would take 1 hour 30 minutes. In realistic terms, with routing and climbs etc, we usually do it in 1:45. Fuel costs change all the time but if we guesstimated this fuel cost (mid 2015), it would be $100.
A day trip to see friends in a car is not therefore possible – 8 hours is too long without argument or injury ensuing in a confined space. A 1:45 flight in the morning and one in the afternoon is lovely though – that’s where GA can increase your options.
Is is cheaper? – not in this instance, but there are some places (like lakes) which are almost impossible to get to without GA (float-planes in particular but small grass strips with wheels are used all the time too). In these cases it’s cheaper, easier and better all-around.
Now – comes the flip-side. There are weight restrictions. There’s review and planning of navigation and aircraft which takes time – you don’t hop-in your plane and “go”. There’s also the big one – weather.
So here’s the thing about travelling with GA. If you have to be there, don’t fly (or fly commercial). If you push through weather, you may well regret it (or worse). If you would “like” to be there, GA is just fine. Mistakes are made by those in a rush – it’s not worth it. I have been stranded for days in places (a famous 6-day “socked-in” at Sudbury (YSB) in 2013) – it’s all part of the game.
To demonstrate this, here’s a weather shot of the same route – and in this case, we’d be driving! The weather was moving east incidentally!
So – again – Is it possible to use your GA aircraft to commute? Absolutely with the caveat that you are weather-dependent and that can change. If you plan your time, review the weather (which you should do regardless) and you have contingencies – GA is great to get-around.