June 10, 2005
COMMUTERS TAKE WING TO BEAT BAY AREA TRAFFIC, HOUSING COSTS
PILOTS FLY FROM AS FAR AS OREGON, NEVADA
By Nicole C. Wong
San Jose Mercury News
It’s commute hour on a Monday evening, and Bill Byrne is zipping past hundreds of cars crossing the Dumbarton Bridge and crawling up Interstate 880. Not by squeezing his car onto the shoulder, mind you, or by weaving in and out of traffic on a motorcycle.
No, Byrne is above all that. The 37-year-old applications developer is cruising 3,500 feet above the fray in a rented propeller plane. He slips into the pilot’s seat for his commute almost every day, which shrinks the three-hour journey home from his Mountain View office to a 75-minute trip, door to door.
“I feel the best when it’s Friday and I’m doing that,” the Davis resident said.
Byrne is among a handful of Bay Area commuters who trade the highway for the skyway. These hobbyist pilots fly to their high-tech jobs in Silicon Valley from Oakland, Martinez and even Ashland, Ore. It’s a way to escape the valley’s stratospheric housing prices, avoid some of the worst commute traffic in the nation and reclaim a few hours of enjoyment.
It’s hard to tell just how many people are setting aside SUVs for Cessnas. The U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t include flying small personal planes to work among its 10 major forms of commutes — it falls into the “other” category, which comes to just 901,298 workers, or 0.7 percent of the workforce.
More than a dozen sky bounders regularly rush toward Palo Alto Airport’s single runway after work. Half a dozen more park their planes at San Jose’s Reid Hillview Airport while spending the day at companies like Apple Computer and Cisco Systems.
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