Thursday, December 3, 2009

Flying the Mustang into JFK

Yesterday, two co-workers and I had business meeting in mid-town Manhattan at 8:00am. There are only three ways to do this when starting from Boston: leave the night before, drive really early in the morning, or use private aviation. I obviously flew with my co-pilot, Neil. It was a great example of the utility of General Aviation. Besides the convenience, it was also cheaper than putting up three people in Manhattan overnight.

We opted to try JFK instead our usual TEB because the meeting was near Penn Station. The public transportation connections were better and more reliable during rush hour.

The last time I flew into JFK was five years ago in a 182 and then a week later in a Cirrus when a family member had to make an emergency overseas trip. At the time, slot reservations were required for landings or takeoffs during 3pm-8pm. Since the FAA lost their court case a year ago, slots are no required at any time for JFK or EWR. This has worked out better for pilots, the FAA and JFK. A pilot can file and fly into JFK like any other airport as the high density rules effectively no longer apply.

Starting with a pre-flight at BED before dawn is a special experience. It’s tranquil, yet filled with anticipation of the coming day and the excitement old Sol will bring, hinted at by a glint in the east.

The flight was easy and uneventful. After landing, there was only one concern. While taxiing, a 767 rotated a few hundred feet directly in front of us. In anticipation of wake turbulence, Neil pushed the yoke full forward but felt nothing. We completed the rest of the 3 mile long taxi in only half the time it took for the entire flight.

A van picked us up right at the airplane and brought us to the nearest AirTrain stop to Jamaica Station. From there, it was a few minutes on the AirTrain, a connection to the LIRR and arrival at Penn Station with time to spare. Along the way were extremely useful and polite ushers in bright red vests helping with any question, including the best MetroCard value for our trips that day. Overall, this was 10-15 minutes faster than a limo from TEB, significantly cheaper, and didn’t rely on the often clogged Lincoln Tunnel.

The return trip to JFK was equally easy. Without a helicopter, I don’t how else we could have left mid-town and arrived at the airplane door in less than an hour.

In the meantime, Neil had a different experience at the plane. As the Port Authority so often reminds you, the General Aviation terminal is not an FBO. When the PA found out that the plane would be there for several hours, it would have to be moved from one parking spot to another. Towing was not possible – so Neil had to fire up the engines and taxi the plane a short distance. There is no pilot lounge, a weather station, or even a desk. Getting fuel would take a longer than the flight back to BED. Neil took a ride to the international terminal to hang out, and then was basically held hostage at the GA terminal until I arrived to pay the $80 landing and parking fee. Finally, with my concern about Hot Starts, we asked for a GPU and received a typical New Yawk answer: “It will require a lot of phone calls without much result.”

Upon departure, we had pay back for the three mile taxi in bound – a short taxi to 13R and then 3 miles of runway. Unlike TEB at 2pm, we did not have to wait to depart at all. We did a rare rolling start and didn’t stop until we parked at the hangar at BED 45 minutes later.

In summary, JFK is a great alternative for quick travel into the City, especially since slot reservations have been removed. Bring enough fuel to go home, since no FBO services can be expected.

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