Tales from the sky
You think car commuters have stories? Plane commuters have them, too.
Craig Arcuri's story is about how he got into the personal plane commute in the first place.
He'd missed two flights and an important meeting while standing in
San Jose International Airport's security line for 2 1/2 hours. He got
a little grumpy, and suddenly found himself facing two San Jose cops.
``I stood there with my arms folded and said, `This is it. I have to
change this,' '' recalled the 45-year-old president of NBS Design, a
Santa Barbara-based printed circuit board company with an assembly
plant in Santa Clara. ``I have to move the business headquarters and
uproot the employees and my family -- or come up with Plan B.''
Plan B was Better: take flying lessons and shuttle himself to San
Jose's Reid Hillview general aviation airport three times a week.
Scott Randolph's story has more to do with the speed limit -- as in, planes don't have one.
How quickly Randolph drives home to Aptos from his Redwood City
office after work ``all depends on how many CHPs are out.'' It can be
unpredictable -- and expensive.
So a year ago he started flying instead. ``There's certainly no
speed limit'' in the sky, said the 36-year-old software engineer, who
contracts for Electronic Arts. ``Ok, there is,'' he admitted. But he'd
need a commercial plane to fly that fast.
Way up in the air, he can steer clear of road whizzers -- like himself? -- lane crossers and the like.
``When 'm up in the plane, it's all about me... There's really no
other guy up there to speak of.... You feel you're part of the world
instead of part of the rat race.''
Of course, the fly-to-work commute doesn't always go smoothly -- or fast.
On David Millett's first try in April, the 15-minute flight went
well. After arriving at the Palo Alto Airport from Oakland, he started
pedaling to work on a collapsible bike he bought online.
Halfway there, the pedals fell off.
He had to call a cab. And it didn't show up for 15 minutes.
``It blew my commute,'' he said. ``I was a little late for my second day on the job.''
Millet continues to fly to work two or three times a week. But now
he takes a taxi for the last stretch instead of busting out the bike.
``Six miles is a long way to go on a bike for me. I'm 49. And besides, when you get to work, you're all sweaty.''
Nowhere to put your money? Invest in a plane.
When the stock market was sliding, that's exactly what Gary Guthrie
did. And not just any plane -- a 1967 Mooney M20E, the sports car of
He restored it and modified it. And for the past eight years, it has
been zipping him from his Martinez home to his Mountain View job and
back. And it has saved the 46-year-old a lot of after-work headaches.
``In the evening, almost no matter when you leave, it's somewhere
between an hour and a half and two hours when you drive, depending on
who decided to crash that day,'' said the chief engineer of technology
at General Dynamics AIS. ``It's all miserable -- 237, over to 880, to
680, the Sunol Pass. It's all bad.''
Flying as managerial training?
Sure. Maybe, just maybe, the flight to work helps Leonard Iventosch,
a Network Appliance vice president, start the day as a better manager.
``It keeps my ego in check, that's for sure. I'm not going to get
too full of myself after spending an hour listening to air traffic
control telling me what to do.''
Iventosch, 49, moved from the Bay Area 13 years ago because he was
spending more Saturdays with bathroom tiles, cans of paint and rolls of
carpeting than with his three young kids.
``I spent all my weekends fixing up my house because we couldn't afford to buy the kind of home we wanted,'' he said.
So he bought a nicer home spread across seven acres in the Sierra
Foothills community of Colfax. The family now has a basketball court
and a waterfall swimming hole in their backyard.
Bruce Whetstone has his wife to thank.
For his 39th birthday, Janice Whetstone, sent him soaring. She bought him his first flying lesson.
``My wife thought I actually spent way too much time at work and needed a hobby,'' he said.
Now, the 52-year-old certified pilot flies to his Mountain View
software job every week from their gold rush town home in Jacksonville,
Ironically, it frees him up to stay at the office longer because he
doesn't have to worry about catching the last commercial flight home.
``If something does come up at work and I'm delayed for a few hours,
it's no big deal.''
Then there's Jim Bray, who literally does it his own way.
The 42-year-old Lockheed mechanical engineer has been building a
two-seater airplane in his Pine Grove home's garage over the last two
He hopes it will be ready in August to shuttle him and his wife,
Vicki Bray, each day between their mining town house near Yosemite to
their Silicon Valley jobs.
The four-cylinder engine airplane kit cost about $23,000 --
considerably less than what they would have paid for a ready-to-fly
plane with similar performance and fuel economy, Bray said. The Vans
RV9A aircraft will get about 30 miles per gallon -- far better than the
couple's 16 mpg Durango.
Right now, Bray is finishing the electrical and fiberglass work on the aluminum riveted fuselage.
``I can't wait to fly home every day,'' said his wife, a 46-year-old
administrator at the Santa Clara County Board of Realtors. ``I think it
may catch on.''