Kevin and Debbie Kirkpatrick have a suggestion for rush-hour commuters crowding Valley freeways. Fly light planes instead of driving those heavy, four-wheeled vehicles.
Yes, the Chandler couple and co-owners of Kirkpatrick Aviation Corp. encourage relatively short air trips instead of those aggravating, slow-moving ground commutes.
"We foresee the day when more and more light planes will be zooming all over the Valley," said Kevin Kirkpatrick, a veteran pilot, who, when he's not selling airplanes, flies big passenger jets for United Airlines.
"We've done it many times," said his wife, who handles the company books. For two years, when their company office was at Scottsdale Airport, they commuted to work via their single-engine Cessna from Chandler Municipal Airport, which is near their home.
"If I drove on Route 101 from Chandler to Scottsdale during rush hour, it would take more than one hour to travel the 22 miles and to get to our office," said Kevin, who earned his pilot's license when he was 17.
"So, we would take our plane and fly from Chandler to Scottsdale," Debbie said. "It only took 13 minutes."
The Kirkpatricks purchased their company, which connects airplane buyers and sellers, in 2005 and later moved their Scottsdale office to their hangar at the Chandler airport, thus ending the daily sky commute.
Soon, they will be urging more air travel when they begin directly selling light sports aircraft for short trips. The first model, the A-22 Valor, a single-engine plane that weighs less than 1,320 pounds, burns 3 1/2 to 4 gallons of fuel per hour and is aimed at the general aviation market, will become available by early March.
The plane, which can hold two passengers and cruise under 120 miles per hour, will range in price from $79,000 to $120,000, depending on the equipment. So far, only 200 are available worldwide. An estimated 13,000 of these aircraft are expected to be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration in the next 15 years, according to the FAA. Kirkpatrick Aviation is one of only four companies selling the new aircraft, Kevin Kirkpatrick said.
"Before we agreed to sell the new, light plane, we took a test flight and were impressed by the size of the cabin and the stellar visibility," he said. "This new aircraft incorporates the latest in technology in avionics. Its cost is not much more than a new car."
Buyers can purchase the plane over a 20-year purchase agreement for about $600 a month, Kirkpatrick said.
"It's an affordable way to get around," he said.
The plane is manufactured by Float Planes and Amphibians, a Florida-based company that specializes in light aircraft, including small flight-training planes. Besides its lightweight and slower-traveling features, the A-22 requires less-demanding training for pilots to obtain permits, Kirkpatrick said.
He said the light plane's high fuel efficiency also saves money. With 1 gallon of high-test fuel at a self-serve pump at Chandler's airport costing $5, it would be similar to the cost of operating a highway vehicle at 25 miles per gallon, he said.