Am I insane, or is this doable?

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Within the next year, I'll need to get from Albany, NY to either Pontiac, MI or Tampa, FL round trip same day, let's say twice weekly for grad school. The obvious options of moving or finding a closer school simply aren't on the table. Commercial service schedules are a logistical nightmare at best, and flat out impossible at worst. I'm giving consideration to getting private pilot and IFR rating. That's the only way I can see that the scheduling could work. I'd need to buy a plane, renting would be financially improbable (anywhere from 6-10 hours from here to Tampa each way. 20-40 hours a week of renting would break me. Which leads me to the thought of buying a used plane. Budget and mission limits are nudging me towards a Cessna 152 or 172. Is it feasible (in either of the above planes, or any you might suggest) to leave ALB at 6 AM, be in class at 2PM, leave TPA at around 6PM, and be home in ALB between midnight and 2AM? I know it makes for loooooong days, but that's neither here nor there. 12-14 hours too much flight time? Obviously I'd need at least 1 fuel stop, which adds additinal time each way. Ultimately, if I could find an IFR-legal 152, could I be a safe and effective pilot given that situation? Ice isn't a huge concern, I have plenty of space to go up or west if need be to get out of and/or avoid, but that's also worth considering. I know there are old pilots, bold pilots, but no old bold pilots. Am I pushing the limits too much? My expectation would be to start this in late August. I'd be building hours quickly, and probably try to find CFI or experienced retired person with spare time to go with in the beginning, lest I bite off more than I can chew. What could I do to make this practical? Is there a better plane for this than an ancient IFR 152? Anything else I can do to increase safety besides taking someone with until I build hours and experience? Also, beyond fuel, what's a reasnable maintenance reserve figure per flight hour? Am I asking for trouble going beyond TBOH? Any other input appreciated. I'm leaning towards Tampa even though it's twice the distance because my undrstanding of weather is that icing and odd weather patterns are much, much more likely in 500 miles of flying more or less along the shoreline than going in a straight-ish line Albany - Richmond - Tampa. Please correct me if I'm wrong. If I'm going to do this, I need to start training very soon in order to have anywhere near the experience I feel I need to even consider something like this. (Richmond, above, was the first midpoint city that came to mind. Could be Cleveland or Charlotte, for all it matters. Someplace with gas and a reasonable weather alternate available.). Also, for Albany, how often in winter should I expect to not be able to safely make it home? A taxi from my alternated (Hartford, Hennepin, Teterboro, Islip, or Syracuse) is NOT an inviting thought. Thanks!

-- daniel wurzbacher, September 26, 2011


Insane. Insane, insane, insane, insane. Insane, insane. Insane. And, insane.

Everything you're suggesting here is somewhere between stupid and impossible. That kind of distance, with that frequency, and the "get-there-itis" that will be part of your schedule, means you will die trying to keep that up for any amount of time.

First off, just making ALB-TPA with one fuel stop is going to push it in most two or four seaters, you'll need two stops for sure to maintain a safe reserve VFR, and will be legally required IFR.

Second, even with the best weather, a single-engine piston is not reliable transportation. Your mission, Albany to Tampa, twice a week, has no viable backup plan. If you have to be in Tampa twice a week, you're not going to be able to buy an airline ticket last minute every time the weather is bad, or your aircraft is grounded for maintenance, etc. That will give you a very strong desire to go anyway, either in a rental aircraft, or in your own, even if it's not up to the job for whatever reason.

To make that trip reliably, several times a week, you're looking at needing at least a turbine-powered aircraft, and ideally a jet to get above the weather, and you're not going to get to that experience level in a year, especially not if you're flying alone.

Also, you've got some attitude issues you're going to need to get over. "Ice isn't a huge concern" is going to get you killed. Ice could bring down a 152 in 10 or 15 minutes, especially with the lake effect moisture around Albany.

And yes, 12-14 hours of flight a day (it will probably be more than that, with ATC delays) is way too much, even VFR. Trying to do that IFR, with all the mental work load of your grad school classes thrown in there, is not something that any mortal could keep up with. Airline pilots don't fly that much in one day, and they do it with two pilots, triple-redundant equipments, and autopilots that take the hand-flying work off of their hands.

-- Joshua Levinson, September 29, 2011

At least he asked before he did.

-- Brad Verdich, September 30, 2011

Thanks, folks. That was exactly why I asked. I'll stick to commercial for my needs, even if it means some schedule readjustments.

-- daniel wurzbacher, January 7, 2012