In talking with Cessna Caravan owners Jim Fox, Dave Reynolds, and Wally Fisk about how they use their airplanes (see “Winnebago on the Water,” page 84), I was reminded of the importance of friendship and camaraderie in aviation. Although all three are successful businessmen, none talked about the importance of the Caravan to their companies. Instead of business tools, the hulking amphibs allow them to bring together friends and family and dash off to places not conceivable by any other means of transportation. Weekend trips unfathomable by airliner or automobile are a simple reality by general aviation airplanes.
I’ve had the opportunity over the past year or so to fly an amphibious Caravan on a number of excursions—around Wisconsin’s Madeline Island and along the shore of Lake Superior, where some of the photos for the Caravan story were taken; to Massachusetts, where we flew low over the water along the north shore of Long Island and along the Rhode Island coast admiring the marvelous “cottages;” in and out of serene lakes in Florida.
But you needn’t burn jet fuel to enjoy GA adventures. Groups of pilots in the West meet up to explore backcountry strips in Montana and Idaho (see “Nothing Remotely Like It,” page 90), for example. More experienced tailwheel pilots flying Piper Super Cubs and Aviat Huskys pair up with those wanting to learn the skills as they launch for missions to ever more challenging strips throughout the day. Evenings are around a quiet mountain campfire with hangar flying in all its glory.
In Florida, pilots on practically a weekly basis team up for group flights to the Bahamas, an easy hop in a GA airplane—again those with experience sharing their expertise with those new to international flying. I once flew a Piper Aztec to 12 islands in five days—a pace I don’t recommend. The way to experience the Bahamas is via the Out Islands, with relaxing stays a places like Fernandez Bay Village on Cat Island—or the soft sands at Cape Santa Maria on Long Island.
Pilots in the Southwest enjoy excursions to remote Baja California, threading their way down the extensive peninsula to places that would take days to get to via ground or airline transport. I have many fond memories of piloting Mooneys out of Southern California to the tiny paved strip at Punta Pescadero, a fishing lodge on a cliff overlooking the Sea of Cortez. From there we would launch on daily fishing adventures, bringing the catch back to the lodge for dinner. Once you’ve had fresh-caught Dorado grilled that evening, you’ll never eat store-bought Mahi Mahi again.
As the 2015 flying season unfolds, now is the time to begin planning your general aviation adventures. You put it off last year, don’t make that mistake again.
Need some ideas? Check out these resources for inspiration:
Aerial Adventures: 99 Ways to Fly, an eBook from the editorial staff of AOPA.
Pilot Getaways, a travel magazine for pilots—available at a special discount for AOPA members.
The Recreational Aviation Foundation, a source for info on backcountry airports.
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Editor in Chief Thomas B. Haines routinely flies his Beechcraft Bonanza on business and pleasure adventures.