Time travel is a favorite subject of science fiction movies, and even some humorous films as well. They always show the actors, either going back in time or going forward in time, getting into some adventures, and then ending up where they started. Some people actually believe that time travel is possible. The easiest way to explain that Time Travel is not possible is: “You can’t change history.”
On the way to Greater Pittsburgh International Airport from downtown Pittsburgh there was a large billboard, with a picture of a Lear Jet. Large letters said: The Time Machine, and a phone number to charter that plane. Of course, that got my attention. I’m not sure how well it worked for other travelers. The advertising point was that you could save a lot of time by chartering that Lear for your next business trip. I do know companies that regularly chartered planes for their executives, and many of the big name companies headquartered in Pittsburgh owned their own fleet of jets, or even King Airs.
General Motors had a stamping plant not far from Allegheny County Airport in Pittsburgh. I was working with one of the plant engineers. He had just finished a meeting with some engineers from Corporate in Detroit. I asked him how that had gone. He said that those engineers had a tough life; this was their 3rd meeting in that day. Their day started at 5 AM and they used a corporate plane to make visits to 3 plants in one day, in several states and many miles away from Detroit. I told him that I used a Cessna or Piper to visit some of my customers in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Certainly not as glamorous as a Lear, but the Cessna 172 or Piper Archer cut a 4 hour drive down to a 1 hour flight, and I could still be home for dinner that night.
One of the reasons I learned to fly was to cut my travel time down. I had a project in northern Pennsylvania that was going to take most of a year to complete. Driving was a near 4 hour trip each way, several times a week. Even staying over in that remote area wasn’t much of an option. It didn’t take long for me to starting thinking about other modes of transportation. The wear and tear on my car, and on me, was enough to justify flying lessons. By the time the project was ended, I was well on my way to earning my private pilot license. Things just got better from there.
I took a friend to Harrisburg, PA, for a meeting that he had scheduled. While in the pilots’ lounge at the FBO we met a couple of other pilots. There was a Lear 35 on the ramp, and I guessed that they were the crew. We visited with them for a while. They were waiting for their company to contact them at that FBO with a need to transport a critical machine part to somewhere on the East Coast of the U S. They said that this was their job. They would be stationed at an FBO somewhere in the center of that Eastern area. A critical need would be phoned to them; they could fly from Harrisburg to Detroit, pick up a part, and deliver it to Florida in a matter of just a few hours. For assembly line down time, that was costing the company thousands of dollars per hour, this truly was time travel for those corporations. I don’t know if that kind of business still exists, given the number of next day air delivery services there are today.
I have friends and family in Casper, Wyoming. I have driven from Tucson to Casper, and I have flown from Tucson to Casper. Driving there is a long 2 days of travel; three days would be easier. Flying single engine Pipers will get me there in about 7 hours, depending on winds and fuel stops. A Beech King Air can make the same trip in about 2 ½ hours. I’m sure that a Lear, or any other similar jet, could make it in just over an hour. That is time travel.
The Concorde, when it was flying, could cross the Atlantic from New York to London in just over 3 hours. To those people that had to cross the Atlantic on wooden sailing ships which took months to make the voyage, that would be time travel.
Sure, I have encountered delays, like bad weather, that kept me on the ground looking at the sky and wondering if I should have driven, but even those delays have not dampened my enthusiasm for aviation. In Arizona there are fewer days with weather delays than there were in Pennsylvania, and a one day delay in Arizona is quickly forgotten when looking down and flying across this beautiful country in any airplane.
Does it really matter? Aviation has advanced so much in the last 100 years, that mankind has been able to do things that were never possible before airplanes allowed us to travel across the whole continent in 4 hours. Now aviation is so common and so reliable, that we complain when a flight is delayed, or even late by only a few minutes. When I fly to visit family or friends, I have to remind them that this single engine Piper is not a scheduled air carrier, and I could be delayed by strong winds, or weather, or even an unforeseen vacuum pump failure. More often than not, I am right on time, but don’t expect that to be the case every time.
Time travel may be science fiction, but that does not stop people from the study of the idea. It does not matter what airplane you fly, a Cessna 150 or a Boeing 787, or anything in between. They will get us to places faster than we could go before, and in some cases to places that you can only reach by airplanes. Our airplanes truly are our “time machines.”