Lots of the fun and romance has been sucked out of general aviation over the past few decades. Popular wisdom says liability lawsuits, terrorist attacks, and everybody being broke has forever buried those carefree days when operating a personal airplane was considered only slightly more indulgent than operating a powerboat.
Now we have new single-engine planes that go for 1970s Learjet money.
Retina scans at the ramp.
F-16 escorts for just one impulsive lazy Sunday afternoon route diversion.
(Oh, and no money).
But like so many parts of life, good times and bad times are largely illusion.
Yeah, the stock market is still in the dumps, the house you bought in 2006 is worth half of what you paid for it, and you’re surrounded by foreclosed houses that have had their heat pumps jacked and copper wiring stripped. The only nice houses on the block are lovingly cared for by squatters.
Yet even as we blog, there’s a carefree young fellow out there who flies where he wants when he wants. This guy never files a flight plan. Never arrives at the airport two hours early. Never chumps-up dough for aircraft cost-of-acquisition, tie-down fees, or big-buck engine overhauls. He rarely even pays for gas.
Do you like this guy already?
He never had to sweat through an FAA check ride. Doesn’t bother with log books or proficiency training.
This new age flying Bohemian is so footloose and fancy free that he rarely even wears shoes.
He’s the Barefoot Bandit and he may be coming to a town near you. He’s had no formal flight training, but readily boosts airplanes, flies them to exotic locations like the Yakama Indian Reservation, dumps them and goes looking for cars ... V8 Fords, maybe ... before taking to the skies on his next flight adventure.
Six- and four-cylinder cars and even those odd 5-cyls made by VeeDubya aren’t snubbed by this bandit, nor are bicycles, or any other form of transport. An empty vacation house is as good as any night in the woods between capers. Anyone else’s cash and credit cards gladly accepted.
This is the sub-10k-Dow 2010s, when nobody had any money or prospects, and the world needed someone glamorous and free besides LeBron James to live vicariously through. We turned to folk-hero criminals named by media pundits who have watched too many Home Alone sequels. Rooted them on. Even the feds helped out, by keeping the bounty low. When we found out our hero-felon was six-foot-five, we automatically made him our favorite six-foot-five fugitive. (Seriously ... how are all these six-foot-five guys hiding so well)?
A Cessna 400 Corvalis stolen from Bloomington, Indiana on July 4th and found ditched off Abaco Island in the Bahamas yesterday is believed to the be latest joy ride of this so-far-non-violent modern-day celebrity delinquent.
If you’re still living the dream of flying your own airplane, please consider yourself forewarned regarding Colton Carpe DiAirplane Harris-Moore. He’s after your lifestyle and gives not a whit for bills and all that other silly paperwork.
Lest you think it might be an honor to have your airplane listed on the Barefoot Bandit's Wikipedia rap sheet, he takes off well but picks the most hull-damaging out-of-the-way places to land.
We now return you to your regularly-scheduled, responsibility-filled modern-day hard times.