• Silver Argosy Part 1


    By Tony Vallillo

    Those of you who have joined me in my previously penned reminiscences here may no doubt be thinking that I am off on another sentimental journey through the annals of American Airlines, the silver fleet that I had the privilege of piloting during a long and delightful career. But such is not the case. This Argosy is of a different color altogether; for this is the tale of a love affair with a single, and much different, airplane!

    Flight simulation can serve a multitude of purposes - it can train, it can entertain, it can inspire and it can prepar3, to name but a few. Simulation can even save one a not inconsiderable pile of money, regardless of how much money one may sink into it. It can save all of this money because it can serve as a sublimation of the otherwise irresistible urge to go out and buy a real airplane!

    Airplane ownership is the Holy Grail of personal aviation. Although few start out taking flying lessons in an airplane they already own, by the time the ink is dry on most pilots' certificates the subtle urges are already beginning to show - most often manifested by an irresistible urge to peruse the bulletin boards at small airports (many of these are festooned with advertisements for small airplanes of every sort). Soon thereafter a strange newspaper-like publication, printed on yellow newsprint of all things, may make an appearance in the weekly mail. This is Trade-A-Plane, the bible of small plane advertisement. Long hours may be spent perusing and perhaps even salivating over the various offerings, which range from Piper Cubs to Lear jets.

    Trade-A-Plane, the source of just about all aircraft classifieds in the USA

    Ownership becomes a primordial urge because of the often uncertain availability of airplanes with which to satisfy the desire to fly once the pilot license is obtained. There is no glut of airplanes for rent, such as exists in the case of automobiles. On a nice flying day every rental airplane on the line is up in the air all day, either boring holes in the sky in search of the perfect hamburger for the licensed, or busy in the process of preparing students to join the hamburger hunt! Unless one has reserved an airplane far enough in advance that the weather becomes a gamble, one often spends those beautiful days at the airport watching those who made earlier reservations having all of the fun.

    Flying clubs, although certainly a great way to spread the acute financial pain of airplane ownership over a greater number of people, are subject to the same limitations, unless the club in question has one or two oddball airplanes that few members check out in. In any event, oddball airplanes usually end up in that category for a reason; many pilots cannot check out in them for lack of experience or some other issue.

    Each beautiful day spent on the ground offers a fertile breeding ground for the virus of airplane ownership. The pilots who own airplanes fly whenever they want without regard for the availability of a rental. They gorge themselves on hundred dollar hamburgers, visit distant beaches in an hour or so and gaze down on the lesser hordes stuck in long traffic jams to get to those same playgrounds. The frustrated renter pilot sees all of this and fantasizes about having his own plane, something fast and beautiful that is always awaiting his beck and call.

    Alas; like fast and beautiful women, airplanes are high maintenance items! Most pilots soon come to grips with an inevitable fact of life - if you have to ask how much it costs you can't afford it. The hundred dollar hamburger is not some exclusive gourmet delight made from specially imported Argentinean Biffa de lomo, but rather a journeyman slab of supermarket chuck spiced up with the cost of aviation gasoline and hangar rental, to say nothing of annual inspections and insurance. What to do, what to do?

    Quality Wings 757, one of hundreds of airplanes that you can "check out" on in the Flight Simulator world

    Starting in the 1990's, when Flight Simulator migrated to the Wintel world and Microsoft took over the franchise, the ever growing realism that it offered became a sublimation, for some, of the unaffordable urge to own an airplane. Here was a reasonable simulacrum of flying, one which was always ready and waiting in its virtual hangar, in a world in which one even had control of the weather! Not only that, but this world offered one the chance to "check out" in airplanes in which one could only ride as a passenger in that other world, the one we call real. To top it all off, the price was right - even at the level of those who buy airliner nose sections for home cockpits, simulation is still orders of magnitude less expensive than airplane ownership.


    4 Comments
    1. Howellerman's Avatar
      Howellerman -
      Heya Tony. Glad to see you back behind the keyboard - you have a nice, easy writing style that makes it easy to envision what you saw/heard/felt. "Throw it" made me laugh out loud! Thank you!
    1. ldk2002's Avatar
      ldk2002 -
      Great Tony !
      Write a book on your adventures
      Fred LAX59
    1. gasman222's Avatar
      gasman222 -
      Tony, you are the scribe of the sky! I have read all of your articles and all have been excellent filled with your knowledge, insight, history and wit. Truly a joy to read. I remember you mentioning the Skyskooter in one of your earlier stories. As usual, you have made this story as interesting as a trans-atlantic flight to Paris! Needless to say, I am anxiously awaiting part 2 of this saga; can't wait to hear of your adventures. Loved the picture of you under the wing, looked like you were practicing your tango moves which we saw in another great story!! Thanks and hoping for many more!
    1. graaant's Avatar
      graaant -
      Wonderful stuff, Tony, thanks much. Feel I was there ...
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