Feasibility of commuting from MD to NH via private plane

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I live in Bethesda, MD, and for the past year have been working in downtown Manchester, NH,
for 2-3 days per week most weeks. Flying commercial from BWI<->MHT with SWA is pretty
easy, but it has still crossed my mind that I could make this commute by private plane.

Some background: I'm one of the many folks who started flying lessons but didn't get all the
way to a license. I have ~60 hours from mostly 1998 in my logbook. I got as far as the first
solo cross country.

My thought process is that I'd get my license, build hours doing the trip (probably GAI<-
>ASH?) either VFR solo or with a safety pilot, work on an instrument rating, and eventually
buy a suitable plane--though perhaps not in that order.

There are several moving pieces to this idea:

- I'd need a safety pilot at first, but it would get complicated and expensive because I stay 1-2
nights in NH.

- But with a safety pilot, the trip would be more reliable because we could file IFR, if
necessary. Those would also be hours I could work on the instrument rating.

- It would be nice to have VFR solo as an option but I understand it's a long trip and that then
weather obviously becomes a huge factor. Plus I don't want to kill myself.

- When weather interferes, I could always leave the plane in NH if I'm VFR solo, since
commercial is such an easy option and I'll be back the next week, anyway. But presumably
that doesn't work well (at all?) with rental or club airplanes who want the plane back

- It would seem for this plan to work I'd really need my own plane. I'd want a plane
appropriate for the eventual IFR trips but--ideally--not so complicated that I couldn't fly it
VFR alone as an option.

- What kind of plane? I could probably swing approaching $500K.

I'd be interested in and grateful for opinions and comments on the feasibility of this idea.
How would you recommend approaching what I'm trying to do?


Matt Larson

-- Matt Larson, September 2, 2014


You would need your own airplane. And you will need an instrument rating to make the trip reliably. And a plane certified for known ice for colder weather instrument flying. Probably the best value is a used Cirrus SR22 with the TKS anti-icing system. The $200,000 SR22s will have TKS anti-icing but not a second pump and the FAA certification. So you're looking at a newer SR22 with the Garmin G1000 panel and the true known ice certification. So that might cost closer to $400,000.

The Piper Malibu or Mirage is another option. It is quieter and more comfortable inside than the Cirrus but it isn't a beginner's airplane and the maintenance costs are much higher than on a Cirrus. At $600k you can actually buy a ragged-out Piper Meridian with a turbine engine! But you would need to build some flying experience.

You could just hire a flight instructor to work with you for a year. After that you'll be ready to go solo.

-- Philip Greenspun, September 2, 2014

It's 100% doable.

I recommend a serious push towards getting your private. You can get a plane in the meantime. You want to start with fixed gear, but don't be too afraid of high performance. It's a great time to buy. Use resources like this list and instructors to get one easy to fly. I recommend a DA40 if you can afford one. Get a good AP and GPS.

If you get the plane before you finish your ticket, you can learn in it.

Learn the weather and plan all your weather what ifs. You want to prevent a case of get- there-itiis. If possible, arrange to keep your plane at the airports with commercial service.

Start your instrument ticket.

If you can afford to fly yourself and send the instructor back commercial, that makes everything easy.

Enjoy and be smug, you commute in your own plane. How cool is that!?

-- Eric Warren, September 3, 2014

As a non-pilot (at this time), I suggest checking skyvector.com and checking the "icing" box under Layers in the upper right part of the page. See how often icing comes up, and I think that you will tend to lean towards Phil's answer.

-- Bruce Greene, January 20, 2015