Logistics and what it means for your flight preparation

5 min read


We have all seen the commercials for a brown-clad air freight company touting its mastery of “Logistics.” What does that mean and how does it relate to your flying?  Well, Webster says logistics is “the handling of the details of an operation.” Each of your flights will involve a lot of details about the aircraft, weather, runways, etc. Those subjects are important  and have been thoroughly covered both in print and by your flight instructor. This article is limited to the special logistics dealing with logistics of a vacation flight.

The Aircraft

loading airplane on ramp

Three friends, four sets of luggage and golf clubs may exceed the capacity of typical rentals.

Selection of the aircraft for your trip will be the logical first step as everything else will depend on its speed, range, load and equipment. For a couple planning a weekend to the lake almost any training aircraft will do, as most are capable of carrying a couple of people, swim suits, a change of clothes, and flippy floppies for a boat ride. But let’s make things a little more challenging—what if you want to take a foursome to a far flung golfing resort for a three-day weekend? A quick review of the aircraft’s specifications before we even look at its specific weight and balance will probably show that you, your three friends, four sets of luggage, and golf clubs may exceed both the weight capacity and cargo volume of most typical rentals. Does that mean you have to scrap your trip, or worse yet, spend 24 of the allotted 72 hours driving? Maybe, but then again by managing the logistics the flying trip may still be possible.

The Brown (or Purple) Gang to the Rescue

A typical Cessna 182 has a useful load of about 1,100 pounds. It holds 87 gallons of usable fuel (522 lbs), leaving 578 pounds for passengers and their stuff or 145 pounds each. Filling the tanks to the tabs (63 gallons) will leave more than enough fuel to fly four hours while reserving enough weight for four normal sized people—but not their stuff. The solution? Use UPS or FedEx to ship the golf clubs and suitcases directly to the resort. That way your stuff will be ready for you when you get there, you won’t have to lug it around and you can also arrange for it to be picked up to be shipped back to your home or work. The price may be more reasonable than you might think—probably less than checking the same bags on the airlines—and you don’t even have to stand at the carousel waiting for them to arrive.

Cross Country Considerations

Self serve fuel pump

It is always wise practice to phone ahead to determine if the FBO will be open when you arrive and if fuel is available.

If you have learned to fly at a busy airport, you might be surprised with just how rustic some rural airports can be. Often the FBO is family owned and operated, and if this is the day daughter Judy is getting married, or his boy Elroy is graduating, you might just find the FBO is closed. It is always a wise practice to phone ahead to determine if the FBO will be open when you arrive and if fuel is available. It is not unusual for the typical Lycoming or Continental to use a little oil. If you are renting, your aircraft oil is usually included so you should ask your FBO for a couple of quarts to bring along. If you have never added oil to the engine before, ask how before you leave.

If you arrive late, or the FBO is closed, it is your responsibility to ensure the aircraft is secured for your overnight stay. Bring along your own ropes or straps for your tie downs as the ones you find might be deteriorated or missing altogether.  Many airports offer convenient self-service fueling. If you have never fueled an aircraft before, make sure you are familiar with the procedure for properly grounding your aircraft. USE A LADDER if fueling a high wing aircraft instead of trying to balance on that narrow little step and wing strut. It is very easy to fall and wind up covered in very expensive—and not very tasty—100LL (don’t ask me how I know this).

The Boy Scout Motto (Be Prepared)

A long cross country trip in an airplane is a little different than in a car. The highways are busy places and (maybe too often) patrolled by police, so help is usually not too far away. Not confined to highways (or airways) as pilots, we can choose our own routes and through luck (both good and bad) we can find ourselves most anywhere while we wait out weather or unscheduled maintenance. Advise your passengers of this up front.  Even though there are dollar stores most everywhere, having a light jacket along is usually a good idea even during the warmer weather months; colder weather may demand a hat and gloves in addition to a warm coat.

Last, but certainly not least, make sure your passengers know that even though airplanes provide the most flexible routing, they as passengers must have some flexibility as to the schedule. Tell them up front to prepare to be late to work if unforeseen circumstances delay your flight back home. Don’t let them force you to make the flight through weather or other circumstances that are beyond your rating or experience. Assert your Pilot in Command status and do not succumb to pressure to press on into an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.  You are on vacation—keep it fun!

Charlie Masters
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