I recently had a privilege to fly a Beechcraft Baron, a multi-engine piston aircraft made by Beechcraft (Hawker). That flight came as a result of the corporate jet I usually fly being in for some routine maintenance. After the flight, a friend said to me, “What did you think?” (comparing the two very different types of airplanes) and as I struggled to answer him, I thought of an analogy that I think pretty accurately describes at least my feelings regarding the comparison.
The analogy I came up with was that of comparing digital music (CDs or MP3’s) to flying a jet aircraft and comparing vinyl records, or LPs, to flying a piston aircraft.
Most audiophiles will tell you that when it comes to richness and fullness of sound, nothing comes close to the fidelity of vinyl records. There is just a hidden quality with analog music that you can’t find with any digital music medium (especially when played through a good tube amp!). I kind of think the same about flying a piston aircraft, especially something like the Baron. Being able to feel the hum of the motor through the seats, seeing the analog gauges move directly in correlation with the engine controls and syncing the props perfectly by ear….I don’t know, there is something there that is missing when you fly a highly computerized jet aircraft.
Then again, how many people own LPs anymore right? (I do, but that is a different website entirely) Digital music is more reliable, more efficient, portable, modern and you can say similar things for a jet aircraft. Jet aircraft typically see the first wave of technology, cutting edge, efficiency…modern. There is something to be said for the reliability of the jet engine (the rest of the airplane…eh).
Which one is better? I can’t say. If I had to chose to fly around the world in a piston or jet, that choice would be easy (jet). I also wouldn’t take my turntable to the gym which I can with an iPod. But if could choose an airplane when flying my wife to lunch somewhere or taking my friend fishing, well, the choice would be easy.
I guess when it comes down to it…I’m just lucky to fly at all.
In whichever airplane you choose…Fly safe.