..as they used to call it in the UK.
Or using Mr Bradshaw's railway line maps to get there, by air.
Even today, it's a pretty tempting proposition to ferry a plane from A to B. Maybe it sounds a cool way to see the country; a bucket list item perhaps. Plus the seller told you the plane is 'fresh out of its annual'.
So no problems there, right?...
Always remember, you never actually HAVE to take that flight....until you've told somebody you will.
For simple reciprocating engines and Yak ferrying, I reckon structuring the new owner's expectations is the key. If they have just bought it, they will want the plane in their hangar yesterday. So under-promise and over-perform when they ask "How far can you get, how quickly?"
Across the U.S. you are doing pretty well in a Yak if you burn through two sectionals in a day. If the new owner wants heroics, (one example might be flying Yaks by night), i'm not your guy. Start early and finish before you are tired. In Summer, be on the ground and tied down by early afternoon, before the convective stuff gets going.
Preparation, necessary paperwork in the plane, any insurance sign-off requirements, personal flight planning, CRM and whatever spares you take in your tool roll are just the best you can do before departure.
What actually happens with engine and airframe once you take off, is the unexpected. There's no point allowing more factors into your story, like weather, low fuel or physical exhaustion. So have a list of destination airports for the day but be flexible and land when the weather is not as briefed. Mother Nature always bats last. Plenty of times she will bat first, delaying your departure. Negotiating one day more than you need is always a great idea, no matter how disappointed the new owner is. If they want a hero they will get on the phone and find one.
You don't HAVE to take that flight.
Remind yourself of that now as you’re buzzing along at 2 miles a minute, into deteriorating weather, looking for that uncontrolled field through the mist. Lowering ceilings and reduced visibility are a bit like the Kardashians - as Jimmy Kimmel famously put it, a little goes a long way - so land before you spook yourself. Because spooked people miss checklist items like putting the gear down.
I don't book hotels ahead of time, but leave the flight plan nice and fluid instead. As the flight and the weather progress, combined with how trashed you feel, the end point of the day will become obvious. It always makes sense to push yourself, but not to the point that someone else's property is in jeopardy.
The sectional is a great tool. You find out, for example, that the smaller the airport, the cheaper the gas. But see that yellow blob on the map next to the airport indicating the size of the co-located town? The smaller it gets, the less likely it is that the airport fuel pump (or the credit card machine) is actually working....plus the town might be too small to have overnight accommodation.
The FAA prefers you keep your hands off their 30 minutes of Day VFR fuel for a very good reason. If you pushed the fuel reserves to get to THAT airport, you're hurting. Five minutes earlier, you passed up that Class Delta, right by a town that was almost bound to have a Hampton Inn, at least. But instead you're stopped by a pump that doesn’t work, you need more fuel than you have to start, warm up and climb back up to altitude to get there. There’s nobody around and it’s getting dark.
Once I ferried a Yak that didn't have a transponder, so picking a route that avoided controlled airspace ( requiring Mode C operations ) was the mandate. After that flight, I have always avoided controlled airspace unless completely necessary. I turn the radio down too, except for arriving and departing uncontrolled fields. Flight following is great, but choosing a route with lots of airports underneath you is better.
I would personally discourage taking a passenger ( such as the new owner) on a ferry flight. Apart from any legal aspect of FAR compliance, it’s just easier to have one director on your movie. “Hey, can we just drop in on my brother in Colorado?”. Joint decision-making can turn something very simple into something very complicated really quickly. On the other hand, if you’re legally qualified to sign off the new owner in their new plane, it’s a great opportunity.
AME Chuck Crinnian wrote an excellent piece in Red Alert Magazine (Spring 2017 page 38) about the importance of staying Hydrated and what happens when you don’t. Unfortunately a full bladder is not your friend as you strive for maximum distance traveled per unit time, so strike a balance. Pinch the skin on your forearm at the start of the day before you get in the cockpit to watch its suppleness. Later, once that same pinch of skin becomes slow to take back its shape, you are behind the hydration curve and your flight decision making may already be impaired.
Plan short hops until you build trust with the plane, because “right out of a fresh annual” is statistically the most dangerous flight of the year. If you are in the high country or very remote, don’t just jump in and take up a heading, instead take a few high power laps above the airport for loose connections and wrenches left in the engine compartment to show up, because now is definitely better than later. Maybe that first day you’ll only get half as far as you thought you would. Handing it back to the mechanic down there on the field 2000 feet below you, is an option you will no longer have as he’s wiping his hands and you are a dot on the horizon.
Several days of solitude & contemplation. Time to zero-in on a rock-steady compass heading and a motionless VSI.
First light and mists cover the Ohio river valley far below you, as most people are just barely switching on the ‘Today’ show and clasping their first cup of Joe.
Or indigo storm clouds bleeding into burning orange as you roll onto final with a New Mexico sunset signposting the end of this particular days flying.
But you don’t have to take that flight.
Sit down with a pad & pencil a few days beforehand and compose the questions you need the buyer & seller to answer to your satisfaction to be sure you’re not getting in the middle of something.
You could end up transporting an under-maintained piece of crap between someone who was too cheap to keep their Yak in good repair while they owned it ( but had a mechanic who agreed to pencil-whip an annual ) and somebody else who’s just dying to tell all their buddies what a steal they just made.
Because, for the Ferry Pilot in the middle of two such individuals, there’s rarely room for a successful outcome.
Also take a personal skills inventory if something mechanical or electrical does go wrong.
Welcome to Tucumcari, New Mexico. Population: You. The plane’s full of fuel again but now it won’t start.
Who ya gonna call?
Unscheduled landings due to engine or airframe issues just mean delays and extra costs. Was it discussed up front who’s going to pay for en Route maintenance issues ?
People who pass up the opportunity to bring their new plane home either have a very valid reason ( like they’re not checked out in type yet ) or a more expedient one, such as their time being too valuable or too tightly scheduled to be able to take a few days off to play with their newest toy.
Or as a Seller, they’ve got their money & they just want the plane gone. Be especially careful here to remember any items that were part of the deal ( logbooks, spare parts) because you might just be the last line of communication between two parties where the deal conducted was barely cordial at its conclusion. When relations have broken down, forget to collect what was promised and you could become the guilty party.
Remember, too, that responsibility for carrying the minimum legal paperwork (airworthiness, registration, POH, Weight & Balance plus proof of insurance) is on your shoulders while you’re PIC. Does the registration match the Tail number? Is there even an Airworthiness Certificate with the plane ?
You just flew all day as a commercial passenger to get here, Now you’re actually in front of the plane; are deteriorating weather or the Seller’s attitude making YOU want to bail outta there ASAP, instead of taking the time to be particular about these details?
Text somebody your progress, and send lots of photos. That’s how you’ll remember the difference between how you felt at the beginning of the journey, and that same pilot several days later.
It takes a solo flight across the US to realize what an amazing airspace system we have, both in the air and on the ground. Five clicks to bring up the airport lights at dusk, remote weather reporting at uncontrolled fields, and that tired (yet surprisingly comfortable) ex-Police Crown Victoria parked round the back of the deserted FBO somewhere with the keys up behind the drivers' sun visor. Left unlocked, you take it into town, (because there's no one around to ask), fill it up for the next person and drop it off the next morning.
And if you do take that flight, good or bad, you won’t forget it for a long time. So allow your best judgement to make sure they’re mostly good memories!
John flies out of KSEE whenever he can scrape together a few bucks to fill the tanks