Tips for flying in a small plane

Over Labor Day weekend, I took to the skies in the smallest plane I’ve ever been in thanks to the lovely folks at Cape Air.  It was a leap of faith for this slightly-nervous, greatly-afraid-of-heights gal, but it was either try this out or ride a bus for about 7-8 hours all the way from Boston to Bar Harbor so it seemed worth the adventure.

Boy, was I surprised at how it went.

Not only was it easy – it was FUN.  Awesome, actually.  We got the best view of Boston (seen above right out the pilot’s window), we hardly hit any turbulence though we did whip through some rain, and we got there in record time.  I was a little nervous when I realized we might end up landing in the dark with just a t teeny-tiny headlight to light the way, but we got there just before sunset and all was well.  The landing was better than my last JetBlue flight and we all applauded the pilot.

I would definitely do this again – but I would do some things differently.  Here are my top five tips for flying in a small plane:

  1. Be prepared.  First we waited in the terminal.  Then we waited on the stairs.  Then, all of the sudden, we were out next to the plane, being sized up by the baggage carrier.  He looked at me and one other woman and then said “Do you want to ride up front next to the pilot?”  I kind of sputtered “Who, me?” and then nodded my assent.  But MAN was I ill-prepared.  I had to text my family “planeislatebutwe’releavingnowridingnexttothepilot!”, grab my sunglasses, grab my camera, turn off my iPod, turn off my phone, find my sweater, grab my book… and in the time that took, he gave away my seat to someone else.  I ended up sitting right in back of the pilot, which was fun, but not nearly as fun as sitting next to him.  She had her own (deactivated) steering wheel!!  I would have been sitting there if only I’d been prepared to hop onto the plane rather than thinking there would be room to stow my whole carry-on, somehow (not a thing on a plane this tiny).  Live and learn: whatever you’re bringing on the plane should fit into two hands or be worn on your body – especially if you care where you sit.
  2. Bring sunglasses.  As you can see above, there’s no tinting in these windows and definitely no optional shade.  Small planes have a ton of windows and man, does it get bright.
  3. Bring a sweater.  You know how planes (and buses and trains) can fluctuate between hot and frigid at the worst times?  It’s even worse in a tiny plane.  On the runway, we were steaming – once we got far up into the sky, I was almost shivering.  Dress in layers!
  4. Plan like you’re getting into a small car.  No toilet.  No trash can.  No water or snacks, other than what they offer you in the terminal.  Take everything you equate with plane travel and dumb it down to car-sized expeditions and that’s the kind of experience you get on a small plane.  Still worth it, though.
  5. Look at a map before you hop on board.  You get such a great view in a small plane, you might as well know what you’re looking at!  That’s Bar Harbor, below.


I am over my small-plane jitters and ready to take to the sky next time my schedule permits, with more prep and less worrying this time.  Lesson learned: a little risk might unlock a fun adventure after all.

3 thoughts on “Tips for flying in a small plane

  1. Pingback: Goodbye, 2012 « Sally and the City

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