Flying for college tours

I had the opportunity to fly with my daughter down to Davis, CA. From there we checked out UC Davis, Berkeley, UCSF, Stanford, Santa Clara U, San Jose State and UC Santa Cruz - all in 3 nights + sightseeing in SF too.

We flew down from Hillsboro, OR (KHIO) to Yolo Country (KDWA) and kept the plane there to make the rental car logistics simpler. Was great to tour around with my daughter and by flying ourselves we avoided the insane prices for commercial during spring break as well as the crowds. In CA Diesel is now more expensive than jet A....

On the flight back we had good weather so flew it all VFR and got to "sightsee" past Mt. Shasta. I flew ~ 60% power at 10.5k burning around 22 GPH for 172 kts TAS and often over 195kts TAS. Was a magic carpet ride and fun to share with my daughter as we debated the merits of one campus over another. Mostly I was giving her a preview of urban to suburban campuses large and small. She still has some time to decide.

Considering the flight of 2.5 hrs vs an 8.5 hr drive we saved at least 12 hrs RT and the fuel costs were less vs commercial.

Taking kids on college tours (and hopefully visiting them once in college) is one of the reasons why I picked the Seneca for my next plane. I have the useful load to almost fully equip a dorm... ;) I hope to fly out to the Bahamas later this year too.

Woodland Aviation in Davis is a top place for servicing Cirrus planes - they are co-located with Davis Flight Support who I used. Their hanger was full of $10 million dollars worth of planes - or 9 planes. I used to own a SR22 but the useful load is not enough and at over $1M per plane I don't think the value is there. My Seneca was < 1/5th of that, has more useful load, is FIKI and can be equipped to a similar level of avionics integration is desired. The SR22T is flown at 85% power for cruise so the fuel burn numbers and speeds are not as far off as you would expect single vs twin. 85% is about 270 HP vs the 265 HP Total for my twin at ~ 60%.

I am still active in the Cirrus community as well and it is a great group of people. I would say a number of them have moved from aging Piper/Cessna piston planes many years ago for the advanced features in the Cirrus (glass panel, aerodynamics + chute). Today, some of the same advanced avionics, engine monitoring and autopilots are now available for retrofit into the existing Piper/Cessna fleet. When Cirrus pilot's are out of useful load for missions some are moving to twins but also jets and turboprops. The Piper pressurized series is a common step up too.

My daughter and I are planning out our next adventure. ;)

Eric Panning
1981 Seneca III
Hillsboro, OR (KHIO)


  • Eric; your daughter is blessed to have a dad like you. Your post is one of really good parenting!

    Jim "Doc Griff" Griffin
    PA28 - 161
    Chicago area

  • Thanks Jim, we had a fun time biking around Davis and just hanging out. We will come down again when it is not Spring Break at all of the campuses as it is hard to really get a feel for places when the students are out. Was also spring break for her last week. We are going down to Paso Robles for a horse event (for her) in April and will check out UC San Luis Obispo. Maybe UC Santa Barbara later in the year. Also checking out schools in the Pacific NW too.

    Eric Panning
    1981 Seneca III
    Hillsboro, OR (KHIO)

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