Friday, June 10, 2005

Fly Virginia

Air travel might not be the cure to Virginia's crowded roads, but it could sure provide some pain relief. At a recent three-day conference in Danville proponents of air travel described their vision. It's called SATS, which stands for Small Aircraft Transportation System, would use many of the nation's 3,500 small and underused airports to carry passengers to destinations too far from major airports.

You could go when you want, where you want. A Daily Press editorial calls it "a safe, affordable and viable alternative to driving or flying a commercial airline, an alternative that would free us from the delays and constraints of other modes of travel."


At 8:57 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Myself and some others proposed a plan not too different five years ago. At Virginia Aviation Dept. we were met with a big yawn. Come see us after you get started and we might be able to help.

We had interested investors, but could not arrange enough at any one time to move forward. 9/11 changed the picture so drastically that we eventually ran out of time to work on the project.

Short range commuter aircraft are being retired wholesale and many smaller airports are not equipped to handle planes as large as 19 pasenger twins anyway. At the same time there are more than 30 small airports located within 250 miles of the BW area that have no service. Some have brand new, federally funded terminals, such as Winchester, Manassas, and St. Mary's.

Improved reliability of engines mean that it is now legal to carry scheduled passengers in single engine aircraft (as opposed to charter or air taxi which operate under different rules). Modern singles can carry up to 15 passengers at rates approaching $0.50 per seat mile (old fuel prices, today ??), if aircraft utilization is high enough. This is competitive with buses.

The SATS plan is based on even smaller aircraft but the basic idea is similar. If we can change the public perception of flying in small planes and get fleets of zipcars located at the airports, this might eventually come to something.

We will probably need to do something about liability laws to help this along. Adding many more planes to the airspace will mean a greater load on FAA as well. Unmanned aircraft will probably soon be entering the airspace as well. Imagine going to the airport, buying a ticket and then walking out to get on a robotic airplane with no pilot!


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