Would you spend a 100 dollars on a pancake breakfast? Or a hamburger lunch without a second thought? You might find it outrageous but these types of events occur on a regular basis. Pilots are always looking for a good excuse to take to the skies and meet fellow enthusiasts. In the US, “hundred-dollar hamburger” is a coded term, used by general aviation pilots to refer to the excuse for flying. Although the food is not the real cause, most food served at fly-ins or airport restaurants are indeed very good (this might be my personal bias but I’m sure many pilots would agree on this). It is somewhat similar to a weekend road trip. The destination is not important but the route is. The real pleasures come from the experience, being able to get away, and meet new people with common interests.
The hunt for 100 dollar burgers are usually short and economically justifiable, compared to a multi- or all day flight. Of course there are different factors that play into the actual cost of the trip, the biggest being whether the pilot owns the plane or rents one. A rented plane typically costs about twice per hour as that of the private equivalent. For example, a Cessna 150 has an operating cost on average of $50 per hour (this includes fuel, insurance, and yearly maintenance) but the local flight school typically charges between $85-95 per hour (with fuel). However, everyone knows aviation is expensive; yet this does not deter people from continuing to go on $100 hamburger adventures.
There are thousands of aviation events every year across the country. They range from small, local get-togethers on a tiny grass strip to a mid-size regional fly-in that attract local visitors with hundreds of various airplanes in a fairly large regional airport. The biggest general aviation fly-in carnival is undoubtedly the EAA AirVenture. Held every summer at Wittman Regional Airport, Wisconsin, the AirVenture is the biggest of its kind in the world that attracts more than 500,000 visitors every year. During the week of the airshow, more than 12,000 aircrafts, big and small, top brand and homebuilt, fly in and get tightly parked together in the massive airport ramp and its surrounding grassland. This in effect makes the Wittman Regional Airport tower the “World’s Busiest Control Tower” for that entire week. The airshow is truly a people’s airshow in that everyone can get involved and discover their talent in aviation while having fun. There are airplane building workshops, aviation seminars, aerobatic performances of ALL kinds and simply, everything on display that you can hop into and see, smell and touch. As long as planes still fly, pilots will keep finding reasons to come together as a community to share their passion for aviation.