Why I chose a Cessna for my first flight during the pandemic
While several of my TPG colleagues have taken to the skies since March — including a mix of personal and work-related trips — I have yet to fly on a commercial flight.
That's not to say that I'm entirely opposed to traveling by air, but I have felt more comfortable sticking to road trips, even if that means the occasional overnight hotel stay. I did finally end my 166-day no-flying streak this week, though, with a Cessna adventure at Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport (BHB) in Maine.
My girlfriend and I have been spending the entire month of August at an Airbnb near Acadia National Park, and, given that National Aviation Day is this week, I decided to book us a tour with Scenic Flights of Acadia.
Due to the pandemic, you're guaranteed a private flight — thankfully, the price remained unchanged, at $129 per person, so we were able to experience a safe, yet affordable flight.
Everyone wore masks the entire time, of course. Plus, since I'm a private pilot and very familiar with single-engine Cessnas, I knew we'd be able to prop a window open for extra safety. The company is also sanitizing the plane between trips (with an extra $5 cleaning fee), and the state of Maine requires a negative COVID test within 72 hours for most visitors.
To add an extra layer of safety, I wore an N95 mask with a surgical mask on top, and while we don't have an N95 that fits my girlfriend, she wore her cloth mask and sat in the third row, with significant distance and an open window between her and the pilot.
As you can imagine from a flight above a national park — just before sunset on a clear summer day — the scenery was absolutely spectacular.
The pilot even extended the flight by circling a few key spots so we could snap better photos, including downtown Bar Harbor and our Airbnb on the other side of Mount Desert Island.
We chose to book a 6 p.m. flight, with sunset coming around 7:30 p.m. With takeoff at around 6:15 p.m., a slight departure delay made for even better conditions.
After passing a handful of highlights, including Cadillac Mountain, the Cranberry Isles and the Bass Harbor Lighthouse, near our Airbnb, it was time to end our adventure with a smooth landing on Runway 22.
Overall, we had such a fun time, and, with masks, an open window and a no-stranger guarantee, it felt as safe as could be for a mid-pandemic flight.
While you can't open a window on a commercial flight, many airliners feature onboard HEPA filtration, thorough cleaning and strict mask requirements. If you do have to fly during the pandemic, be sure to wear a mask, and keep these travel tips top of mind throughout your journey.