Between the Lines: The Winding Road on Private Jets

I don t get it. Why publish a car magazine on-line that looks exactly like a buff book? Readers downloading a PDF of The Winding Road onto a normal-sized screen have to do more scrolling than a Babylonian library clerk, without any of the web's inherent advantages (embedded links, readable font, word search, easy navigation, etc.). These e-mag guys may be Luddites, but they have some big advertisers behind them - and Car and Driver and Automobile ex-jeffe David E. Davis ahead. That's right: the Dean Wormer of automotive journalists is set to helm Winding Road's newfangled net thingie. Meanwhile, here's a pertinent question: what s a car mag doing reviewing a private jet?

There are two reasons why you might want to read about this airplane right now. The first is that flying is fun as Hell and if you like cars, you ll love jets. The second is that, if you haven t heard, this little jet is causing quite the stir among aviation types. By almost single-handed creating a new category of airplanes - the Very Light Jet or VLJ - the Eclipse has the big airlines scared and the FAA scrambling to catch up. It s also got private owners rethinking their flight plans.
I m pretty sure this whole post-modern non-car car review trend started in the UK. Brit weekly Autocar has displayed a recurring weakness for Harrier jump jets, Challenger tanks and other home-grown military hardware. Jeremy Clarkson is a slut for anything that moves fast and/or kills people, from F1 powerboats to Apache helicopters. I believe this infantile loss of focus reveals an inner [hormone-addled ADD-afflicted] teenager who should be grounded indefinitely, but then I think each GM division should make only three cars. I mean models.

Anyway, Monica Williams lead fails to achieve VIII for three reasons. First, pleading for your readers' attention demeans both writer and audience. Second, describing flying as "fun as Hell" is lame as Hell. Third, "if you haven t heard" is a condescending expression that belongs on the pages of Tattler or Women s Wear Daily, not an e-mag appealing to self-important pistonheads (are there any other kind?).

Of course, none of that would matter if Williams had uploaded some wikkid prose about hooning around in a private jet. You know: strafing a highway upside down at 400mph until you barf in a champagne bucket, that kind of thing. But no; the scribe feels compelled to make a case for private aviation.

On any given day there are millions of people trying to get from Point A to Point B and back, all at the mercy of the hub-and-spoke, delay prone, connection laden system. This is where the Eclipse offers two solutions: You can either buy a plane or hail one.

Let s say you decided to shop for an aircraft. The initial training, purchase and operation of a plane are most affordable in the form or [sic] single- and dual-prop planes. Take a Piper Malibu Mirage, a single prop

A private plane is a faster way to get from Point A to Point B than a commercial aircraft? You can buy one or rent one? Single props planes are the cheapest ownership option? Who'd a thunk it? Next thing Williams will tell us that private jets are really expensive, but the new Eclipse 500 isn t a lot more expensive than a prop plane. Done. Sensing our wandering attention, Williams quickly switches gears (raises flaps?) and finally does the car - plane thing.
Come this spring, you can own one of the most technologically advanced jets available for a cool $1.5 million. Wait a minute: That's Veyron territory. Think about it. Need to travel from Denver to LA for a party? You could leave at 8 p.m. in the Bugatti, drive three hours straight at top speed of 253 mph - except you'd have to stop 17 times for gas, which would put you at the Oasis at around 2 a.m. with a sore bum and coffee stains on your pants.

Or you could leave at 8 p.m. in the Eclipse 500, fly around 400 mph to arrive at 10:30 p.m., spend the evening with the Ferrari girls from NAIAS, then bring her back to Denver by 2 a.m. to discuss the burgeoning air taxi business.

Where do I begin, to tell the story of how grateful love can be? Ms. Williams editorial sore bum kissing is pretty much par for the course — even if rivet counters are sure to wonder about the Bug driver's chances against the [non-Mitsubishi] Eclipse at a more realistic speed. But Ms. Williams' willingness to trot out a sexual fantasy involving Ferrari motor show bunnies is beyond the pale. Coming from a male writer, it would be unforgivably sexist.

Speaking of which, Williams eventually gives us the money shot. It comes courtesy of Eclipse test pilot Kemo Percival. Just in case you might miss it, Winding Road's copy editor highlights the climax in red [shown here in bold].

"I had this guy who came from a prop plane. We were on the runway waiting to take off, and he was sitting in the cockpit with me, and he said 'Let's see what this thing can do.' I don't know what he was expecting. So I took the runway, lit up the cans, pushed it over after about 4500 feet and pulled back on the stick. The guy was screaming."

Whoa. That was the first reason to read about this airplane...

Actually, it was both the first and the last reason. The rest of the article is like a trip over the Rockies on a podunk airline: boring and bumpy. Williams plucks an expert from the pages Aero-News Network to gush effusively about the plane's, um, landing gear. "Now all of a sudden you're interested," Williams pronounces. Uh, no. The author's final approach is a brutal as a carrier landing.
But if you're considering the Veyron, give it a few more months. Maybe the guys at Eclipse can hook you up with something better.

And maybe David E. Davis will do something similar for Winding Road's readers.

RF

Winding Road

[Jalopnik s Between the Lines column parses the rhetoric of the automotive industry, and the media that covers it, from the point of view of that kid at the back of the class with ADD, a genius IQ and a thirst for mayhem.]

Related:
More Between the Lines columns [internal]