A lot of people think that airplanes are very expensive, and in some cases they are correct, but many airplanes flying today cost less than the vehicles people use to actually get to the airport. If you’re willing to do a little bit of hunting you can find a vintage airplane in perfectly sound condition that is much cheaper than renting a plane from a FBO, plus you get to fly whenever you want rather than whenever there is an opening on the schedule.
So goes the story of how I found my 1964 Cessna 172E. After finding it online, conducting the relevant inspections, and arranging for my airline captain friend to help me ferry it home, I found myself at Williamsburg Jamestown Airport in southern Virginia signing the FAA paperwork to make this bird mine. We checked the fuel, jumped in the plane, taxied to the runway, and took off over the James River a little after 4:00 on a Saturday afternoon before Easter.
The weather was wonderfully smooth as I became acquainted with this new machine which was especially important considering I’d never flown a 172 before, having done my training thus far in a 1968 Piper Cherokee 180. Luckily my friend was very well versed with 172’s and so we chased the sunset west in a race we knew we would lose in a few hours. We passed over Danville, Virginia and looked down at Virginia International Raceway where we both had raced sportbikes many times before. As the afternoon turned into twilight we decided to land in Martinsville, Virginia at Blue Ridge Airport to top off with fuel and stretch before the night time leg over the Appalachian Mountains.
We took off and climbed to an altitude that would let us clear the mountains with several hundred, if not over one thousand, feet to spare as the sun dipped below the horizon and the moon appeared brightly behind us. We checked in with a very bored controller at Tri-Cities airport; apparently we were the only aircraft in his sector that night. We finally made it to Morristown, Tennessee for a fuel stop which led to an extended stay for a bad battery. A few days, and a few dollars, later we were able to escape Morristown and finish the final leg to home base.