PRIVATE JET

We don’t need to extol the advantages of travelling by private jet—they are vast: security, privacy, the ability to avoid the tedious check-in process, not having to arrive at the airport hours in advance, to name but a few. Now, thanks to Jet Partner, the joy and ease of private air travel is available to jet setters across the globe. Using Jet Partner’s easily navigable website, all you have to do is search for a flight as you would on any other commercial airline booking site. Not only will you be able to look for available seats on a variety of jets, you can also book a journey at a fraction of the price of traditional private air travel. It’s time to sample the high life.
www.jetpartner.net

PRIVATE PILOTS

Harrison Ford

There's owning your own plane, and then there's owning and piloting your own plane. The actor -- who favors a Cessna 208 Caravan -- has a flight record so clean that the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association recently hired him as spokesman. Ford also gets air cred for flying his plane back and forth to Haiti with supplies after the earthquake. And you thought you were helping by texting!

Sergey Brin and Larry Page

Is it any surprise that the Google gods paid NASA $1.3 million for the right to park their retrofitted Boeing 767-200 on Moffett Field, an ex-military complex around the corner from Google HQ in Northern California? Of course, the runway real estate is just the beginning. According to one frequent flier on the G-spot, Sergey and Larry -- who reportedly feuded over whether to install hammocks or king-sized beds on board -- were among the earliest adopters of mile-high WiFi. Godspeed, indeed.

Richard Branson

Getting from the UK to your very own private island in the Caribbean can be such a hassle! Luckily Sir Richard has a Falcon 900EX, nicknamed "Galactic Girl" for Virgin's soon to be celestial flight patterns. With plenty of range and speed - not to mention room for 14 passengers and an owner who just so happens to have single-handedly reinvented jet travel -- the "Galactic Girl" is hospitality on high.

 

 

 

 

HARRISON FORD

A faint echo began to rumble through Selway River Canyon. Endless evergreens painted along the surrounding mountainsides hid the identity of the source as the bellow crept up on the secluded airstrip of Moose Creek, Idaho. Swooping down around the pines dotting the end of the runway, a yellow and green DeHaviland Beaver eased in with a soothing reverberation that only a radial engine can provide. As smooth as the hum of the engine, the Beaver touched down, joining 16 other aircraft for the start of an unforgettable four-day backcountry flying experience. Many know the man behind the yoke of the Beaver as the one who brought to life characters such as Indiana Jones, Jack Ryan, and Han Solo. What few realize is that Harrison Ford is his own character, a humble individual who has chosen to pursue and share his love of aviation. “In my life I have two roles,” he emphasizes. “One of them everyone knows about. It provides a means to the other, which I prefer.”

In July more than 12,000 aircraft and more than a half-million people descended on Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for Airventure, one of the world’s largest aviation events. Here Harrison Ford felt right at home riding around on a borrowed golf cart conversing with his aviation peers. Having earned licenses in both fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, he wandered the grounds of Wittman Regional Airport greeting fellow pilots and aviators-to-be while remaining modest of his perceived stature. “I pursued my pilot’s license back when I was in college, just three lessons I think,” Harrison notes. “I think it cost about $11 an hour for a plane and an instructor, I just couldn’t afford it,” he explains. His eventual success in movies gave him the means to buy a Gulfstream G2 and employ Terry Bender as his head pilot. “One day about 10 years ago Harrison came up to the cockpit talking about going after his pilot’s license again,” Terry recalls, “and he asked if I would be his instructor.”

“I never lost the ambition to fly. I just hadn’t found the time,” says Ford. Acquiring a pilot’s license at the age of 53 at first seemed daunting. “I hadn’t before challenged myself to learn something that could be so formidable. I had great training, and it came in stages.” Starting with a Cessna 182, Ford mostly flew out of Jackson, Wyoming, and Teterboro, New York, learning both demanding environments. “I love flying and, I love the airplanes themselves.” In the 10 years he’s had a license, Ford has amassed more than 3,000 hours of flight time in both rotorcraft and fixed-wing aircraft, and he holds Floatplane, Single Engine, Multi Engine, and Instrument Rating certificates along with being Type Rated in the Citation CJ3.

Without diving too deeply into Ford’s movie career, it goes without saying that some films have had an impact on his flying interests. He recalls the making of Six Days, Seven Nights where the script originally called for a Stinson Reliant as the aircraft of choice. Ford felt the Beaver was a better choice and took the director to see one. The plane was recast. Initially the insurance companies forbade Ford to fly in the movie, but Ford persisted and finally met all of the requirements enabling him to log nearly 120 hours of flight time in the DeHaviland before the movie’s completion. Though Ford says the five DeHaviland aircraft used in the filming were “not the finest examples of the breed,” he managed to find one in Seattle that he had restored and has owned for about eight years. 

Many of the locations in Six Days, Seven Nights, which was filmed in Hawaii, were accessible only by helicopter, and flying in a helicopter on a daily basis quickly piqued Harrison’s interest in piloting rotor-wing aircraft. By the time filming had come to an end, Ford had about 24 hours of rotor-wing piloting experience, and he completed his license requirements on the mainland flying a Robinson helicopter.

With both fixed-wing and rotorcraft certifications under his belt, he offered his aircraft and piloting services to the Teton County and Lincoln County Search and Rescue units. He has participated in two successful Wyoming rescues. He’s quick to give praise to the estimated 250 individuals who are full-time members of those organizations. “It was embarrassing to me to get credit for these saves when I was only a small part of this big operation,” says Ford humbly.

Harrison Ford’s passion for flying is evident in his willingness to follow founding chairman Cliff Robertson and chairman emeritus Chuck Yeager in serving as chairman of the EAA Young Eagle’s program. Working with the Driggs, Idaho, and Santa Monica, California, EAA chapters Ford introduces children, and as a result their parents, to the joys of flying. His participation in the program has led to his flying nearly 300 children. Not only does the experience provide the groundwork for young people pursuing a future in aviation, but it also enables their parents to learn about the various aspects of the general aviation community. “The parents are excited that their kids are having a great experience and hopefully they will be more receptive to the aviation community,” said Ford. He’s flown kids in the DeHaviland Beaver, a Cessna Caravan, Beechcraft B-36, and even a Bell 407 helicopter, and his only regret is that he doesn’t spend enough time with them individually.

Dr. Richard Sugden, owner of the Teton Aviation Center and now president of the Driggs, Idaho, EAA chapter, remembers when Harrison first became interested in participating in the Young Eagles Program. “He made it a point to be present at all of our Young Eagles Day gatherings, and after about three years of working with the children we asked him to be chairman of the national program. He’s a very conscientious pilot who flies several different categories of aircraft and helicopters extremely well. I would not have any concerns about having him fly my grandchildren anywhere.”

“When the executive management of EAA approached me to become Honorary Chairman of the program, I did not immediately accept. I found it quite daunting to follow in the steps of Yeager and Robertson,” recalls Ford.

“Mr. Ford is a joy to work with and extremely dedicated to aviation, like so many of our volunteer pilots,” notes Steve Buss, who has served as director of the program since 1995. “Just like Harrison, all the pilots want to provide a different kind of spark to a child’s life compared to video games or television. During his tenure as chairman, we’ve surpassed 1.25 million Young Eagle flights, which have been accumulating since the program’s inception in 1992.”

“The general aviation industry is under considerable threat from various special interest groups and people who live around airports who are concerned about noise and safety issues. The Young Eagles Program addresses those matters with an emphasis on how safe general aviation really is. This negative perception is fostered by a lack of information and a failure of the aviation community to reach out and cultivate an understanding,” Ford explains. He is extending his support to a recent production entitled One-Six Right, a film by Brian Terwilliger about the history of Van Nuys Airport as well as the issues an airport faces when surrounded by an increasing populous.

Back at Moose Creek, without even the slightest breeze, the sun began to rise above the pines sending beams of light across the dew-laden meadow. Aircraft sat dormant with strands of grass tickling their bellies and melting frost dribbling down their backs. Fellow pilots slowly began to crawl out of their tents and head for the crackling fire. The morning chill numbs the hands until a warm cup of coffee occupies them. It’s a new day, time to go flying.

Huddled around in small groups, pilots looked over Northern Idaho and Western Montana sectionals researching the hidden airstrips they planned to visit. Into our third day, a well-weathered Harrison Ford donned cargo pants, a warm coat, and a woolen beanie. He and Spike Minczeski, the head flight instructor for the Teton Aviation Center, formed a plan of attack on the carved-out mountainside strips that awaited them. Meanwhile, the nearby Huskies, Cessnas, Pipers, and the Beaver sat ever vigilant facing the grass strip awaiting their departure.

Quest Aircraft’s new Kodiak was the largest aircraft in attendance, and the Beaver ranked second. Despite the Beaver’s size however, Ford managed to fly into the tightest of spaces right alongside the smaller, seemingly more agile Huskies. It all looked so simple on a map, but in some cases pilots found themselves within 100 feet of the valley floor, ridges cascading above them on both sides. A quick left, a sharp right, maintaining a steady descent, remaining blind to the strip they were to land upon. Another tight left around a hillside placed the aircraft on immediate short final. Either stick it or pull up, but in some cases, even that choice wasn’t available. If you could see the strip—you were already committed.

There were no movie cameras, stand-in stunt doubles, or people to yell “Cut!” if something didn’t go the way it was supposed to. This was real-world backcountry flying, and Ford never skipped a beat—it was as if he had been flying all his life. When it comes to being introduced to the thrills of aviation, be it as a passenger or pilot, Ford says, “It’s never too late.”