Tales from the Man who would be King

Rex Jaeschke's Personal Blog

Travel – Fly Me to the Moon

© 2009–2010 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

In the first 10 years of my adult life, I flew on a private or commercial plane fewer than ten times. However, I made up for it in the next 30 years when I added another 1,100 flights; that's a flight every 10 days!

This article describes my flight log and provides some flying-related information. So put your seatbacks in a comfortable position, put your feet up, and come "Fly the Friendly Skies" with me.

My Flight Log

During a vacation in the Caribbean over the Christmas/New Year break of 2008/2009, I dreamed up an idea to use up some of my then copious free time. I would attempt to create a complete record of my commercial flights, the first of which I took in 1971 while living in Adelaide, Australia.

After having set up a spreadsheet and tracking down all the flight details from business and personal records and cancelled passports, I finished that task, and a summary of the results is shown below. I had to make some intelligent guesses for a few things (see "Estimates" below), but I believe that the result is very close to what actually transpired.

The period over which this travel occurred was June 1971 through December 2009 (38 years, 6 months); however, except for four flights all other travel was done between June 1979 and December 2009 (30 years, 6 months), so the latter time frame is used in statistics below.

Some Terminology

A flight is one take-off and its subsequent landing. [What goes up must come down, right?]

A trip is one or more flights taken together as a group with a single purpose, but not necessarily taken on the same day or connecting directly one from the other. (For example, a trip might last weeks and have several flights each on a different day.)

Flying time is the time from pushback from the gate on departure to pull up at the gate on arrival.

Ground time is the time taken getting to an airport before departure of a flight, getting from an airport after arrival of a flight without a connection, waiting at an airport between connecting flights, and moving from one airport in a city to another between connecting flights.

Travel time for a flight (or trip) is the sum of the flying time and ground time for that flight (or trip).


Not surprisingly, I didn't have all the flight information available, so in some cases I had to come up with a best estimate. Specifically, for my first five years in the US, I submitted all my expense/travel reports to my employer and my copies were long ago tossed away.

In some cases, I knew the city from which I departed or into which I arrived, but I didn't know the airport. For example, the Washington DC area has three major airports and I've used all of them from time to time. However, the flight distances and times to one or the other would only vary by 20–50 miles and a few minutes flying time, which are insignificant.

For a handful of flights, I know where I started and finished, but not if I connected along the way and if so where I connected. The difference in times would be insignificant, but it might mean the airport usage count is a little off.

For all flights taken prior to 2008, I used an on-line database to find the direct flight distance between any two airports. Of course, when I actually took the flight the distance flown might have varied a bit. In a few cases, I had to estimate the distance from a map as some out-of-the-way airports weren't listed in the database. From 2008 onwards, I have the actual distance flown.

For all flights taken prior to 2008, I used some basic math to figure out the flying time based on the distance and type of aircraft. Ground time involved some guesswork, but I pretty well know how long I take to get to/from airports and many of the flights were repeated numerous times. From 2008 onwards, I have the actual flight times.

Some of the travel days and months are guesses; for example, I know I took a certain trip, but I couldn't pin it down with respect to the actual date.


For more than a few flights, I don't know the airline or airplane type. I also didn't track my seat number or the class of service, but most of my trips were in Economy Class with more than a few in Business Class and a handful in First Class. I did not track which trips were taken using free or discounted tickets due to Frequent Flyer program participation. I also did not distinguish between business and personal flights although each flight I recorded does have a "purpose" field. In any event, I often extended business trips to include personal days or even weeks. I did not track the price of any tickets.

The Big Numbers

  1. Total distance travelled was 1,545,515 miles (2,472,824 kms). (907,700 of these miles have been with United Airlines since they started their Frequent Flyer Program, so I'm well on my way to joining their Million Mile Club.)
  2. Total travel time spent was 6,899 hours. This is 862 8-hour days, or 3 years and 4 months, full-time based on a 40-hour workweek, made up from the following two components (which are just about equal): Flying time 3,628 hours, which is 453 8-hour days, or 1 year and 9 months. Ground time 3,271 hours, which is 409 8-hour days, or 1 year and 7 months.
  3. Number of countries (or distinct regions) flown into or out of was 42 (Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada, Czech Republic, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Fiji, Finland, France, French Polynesia [Tahiti], Germany, Guatemala, Hong Kong [now a Special Administrative Area of China], Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Korea [South], Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles [Northern Group: Saba, St. Eustatius, and St. Martin], New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, US Virgin Islands, United Kingdom [Greater London airports only], United States [including Hawaii and Alaska], Uruguay, and Venezuela). [I have been to the following other countries or distinct regions, but got there by car, bus, train, or ferry: Austria, Estonia, Lichtenstein, Macau (then a Portuguese territory; now a Special Administrative Area of China), Russia, Scotland, Sweden, and Wales. I have not been to any country in Africa.]
  4. Number of airports into or out of was 146 (60 in the U.S., in 34 states)
  5. Number of airlines used was 42 (based in 24 countries)


  1. Total number of flights was 1,134.
  2. Average distance/flight was 1,363 miles (2,181 kms).
  3. Average flying time/flight was 3:12 hours.
  4. With 1,130 flights in 30 years, 6 months, I averaged a flight every 10 days.
  5. Busiest year (most flights) was in 1984 when I had 106 flights, in 27 trips, for 31,310 miles (50,096 kms).
  6. Busiest year (most distance) was in 2007 when I had 41 flights, in 15 trips, for 109,657 miles (175,451 kms).
  7. Shortest flight by flying time was 15 minutes; 31 miles (50 kms), San Francisco, California, to San Jose, California; and 19 miles (30 kms), St. Eustatius, Dutch Antilles, to Saba, Dutch Antilles.
  8. Shortest flight by distance was 19 miles, 15 minutes, St. Eustatius, Dutch Antilles, to Saba, Dutch Antilles.
  9. Longest flight by flying time was 15:24 hours, 7,787 miles (12,459 kms), Chicago to Hong Kong (there were six movies shown, with snacks between each). We flew north and south only, over the pole then over Russia and China.
  10. Longest flight by distance was 7,920 miles (12,672 kms), 13:30 hours, Melbourne, Australia, to Los Angeles.


  1. Total number of trips was 328.
  2. Average number of flights/trip was 3.5
  3. Fewest flights in a trip was 1.
  4. Most flights in a trip was 12. Two trips tied for this. June/July 1979, a one-way trip, when I moved from Adelaide, Australia, to Washington DC. The complete itinerary was Adelaide, Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Bombay, Rome, Geneva, Paris, London, New York, and Washington DC That trip involved 12 airlines and 15 airports in 11 countries. (In two cities [London and New York], I departed from airports other than those at which I arrived.) June/July 1985 when I took a vacation to Australia, stopping off on the way out and back. The complete itinerary was Washington DC, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Fiji, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Adelaide, Melbourne, Tahiti, Los Angeles, and Washington DC. Next best were two trips with 10 flights each: October/November 1991, when I took a vacation in Chile and Argentina that involved hiking in the Patagonia. The complete itinerary was Washington DC, Miami, Santiago, Puerto Mott, Punta Arenas, <by road across South America>, Rio Gallegos, Comodoro, Bahia Blanca, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Miami, Washington DC. July/August 1997 when I took a vacation to Australia. The complete itinerary was Washington DC, Los Angeles, Auckland, Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin, Ayers Rock, Adelaide, Sydney, Los Angeles, and Washington DC.
  5. Average distance/trip was 4,712 miles (7,539 kms).
  6. Average travel time/trip was 21:00 hours with the average flying time/trip being 11:00 hours, and the average ground/trip was 10:00 hours.
  7. Longest trip by travel time was 89:45 hours, 24,282 miles (38,851 kms) the second of the 12-flight trips above.
  8. The longest trips by distance were 28,266 miles (45,226 kms), 84 hours travel time with 56 hours in the air involving Washington DC, Los Angeles, Sydney, Singapore, Sydney, Gold Coast/Coolangatta, Sydney, San Francisco, and Washington DC. 24,642 miles (39,427 kms), 84 hours travel time with 55 hours in the air involving Washington DC, Los Angeles, Auckland, Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin, Ayers Rock, Adelaide, Sydney, Los Angeles, and Washington DC.
  9. The longest time taken to complete a trip was 7 weeks.


The country with the most flight arrivals and departures was USA (885 of each), Australia (44 of each), Germany (39 of each), and United Kingdom (19 of each), Canada (17 of each), and Japan (14 of each). (These involve travel between airports within the same country as well as to/from that country.)


  1. Airport with the most flight departures was Washington Dulles International (222) [which is no surprise as I've lived 15 minutes away from it for more than 28 years]; Boston (193); Washington National (101); Bangor (87); Chicago (47), Seattle (36), Frankfurt (34), San Francisco (29).
  2. Region with the most flight departures was Washington DC (BWI, DCA, IAD) with 325.
  3. Airport with most flight arrivals was Washington Dulles International (222); Boston (193); Bangor (87); Washington National (76); Chicago (46), Seattle (36), Frankfurt (34), San Francisco (28).
  4. Region with the most flight arrivals was Washington DC (BWI, DCA, IAD) with 325.
  5. Most common flight was Washington National (DCA) to Boston (88 in each direction), Boston to Bangor (86 in each direction)


  1. Ever since United Airlines put a major hub at my local airport (IAD), they and their Star Alliance partners have been my preferred carrier. I've had 387 flights with United alone.
  2. Prior to United, I was a regular passenger with Delta Airlines as they were the only carrier servicing a route I took frequently. I've had 363 flights with them.
  3. After that, the numbers drop off dramatically. The next best is Lufthansa with 35 flights.


I have never lost any luggage permanently, and I have had luggage go astray only three or four times, which is quite remarkable.

Unlike many frequent fliers, who want to avoid waiting for luggage on arrival I do not try to pack everything into one carry-on bag. In fact, the number of times I've flown without checked baggage would be only two or three. I like to take my time; "It's the journey, not the destination."

Not being a wearer of suits or jackets, I very rarely travel with a garment bag. And when I do, I have to find a way to remind myself that I have an extra piece of luggage hanging in a closet up front.

In March 1988, when I first traveled with a video camera bag, I was not used to having an extra piece of hand luggage. I accidentally left it behind on a mobile lounge that took me to a plane in Florida. Fortunately, I recovered it and all the video it contained from my just-completed vacation.

On more than a few trips, I've traveled with only a backpack.

Runway Designations

I usually sit in a window seat and I like to watch out the window while taxiing on and to or from a runway. Along the way there are signs marked something like 31R/13L, 21R/3L, or 4/22. And if you have listened to air traffic control on an audio headset, you might hear pilots and controllers use these numbers, which designate runways.

To explain their meaning I'll use my local airport, Washington Dulles International (IAD). IAD currently has four runways. Three of them run in a north/south direction and going from west to east they are designated 1L/19R, 1C/19C, and 1R/19L, respectively. The fourth runway runs northwest/southeast and is designated 12/30.

Airport runway numbering uses an international standard. As you may recall from your geometry days there are 360° in a circle, with degrees numbered from due north going in a clockwise direction. Every runway points in a direction—called its heading—that is rounded to the nearest multiple of 10°, so Runway 09 points due east (90°), Runway 18 points due south (180°), Runway 27 points due west (270°), and Runway 36 points due north (360°, not zero). That is, "the runway number is one tenth of the runway centerline's magnetic azimuth, measured clockwise from the magnetic declination." But you already knew that, right?

Of course, a runway can be used in both directions, so when landing from the south on a runway that goes due north, the designation would be Runway 36. When landing on that same runway from the north, the designation would be Runway 18. Runways tend to be built in straight lines, which is very convenient for landing planes! [I just hate it when there's a sharp right turn midway along a runway!] As the angle of a straight line is 180, the two designators for any given runway differ by 180/10, which is 18.

So why do some runways have a letter suffix and others not? Many airports have two or more parallel runways, in which case these all have the same number. To keep them separate when taking-off or landing, the one on the left has an L suffix, the one on the right an R suffix, and the one in between left and right has a C suffix (for Center). IAD has 1L/19R, 1C/19C, and 1R/19L, but the left-most runway is quite new. Prior to that, what is now 1C/19C was called 1L/19R, but with the addition of another runway to the left, what was left became center (except on Thursdays with a full moon in leap years). So when you read a news story about a plane landing on the wrong runway it's likely it landed on L instead of R, or vice versa, as they are going in the same direction and might only be several hundred yards apart. Of course, you know that some airports just absolutely have to have more than three runways in parallel. In such cases, those beyond three are artificially "moved" 10° so they have a different designator. Of course, a runway designator without a letter suffix has no runways parallel to it at that airport.

The designation of a runway can change over time because the magnetic poles drift slowly on the Earth's surface causing the magnetic bearing to change. (Don't you just hate that when that happens?)

English is the language of international aviation and when a runway designator is spoken, all digits and letters are said individually, as in "runway zero six left" and "runway one four right", although a leading zero might be omitted.

The Spelling or Phonetic Alphabet

In this system, each of the 26 English letters is assigned a code word so that combinations of letters can be pronounced and understood by radio or phone, especially when safety is an issue. Here are the code words used in commercial aviation:
































The average distance from the surface of the earth to the moon is about 235,000 miles (376,000 km), so I've flown more than the equivalent of three round trips to the moon (or 60 times around the earth at the equator).

Can I have your attention please? We are on approach to Kitty Hawk International Airport, and this is our first time landing a commercial flight. Please stow all your belongings, fasten your seatbelt, put your tray table in its upright position, and say a few "Hail Marys." If we all make it down safely, we look forward to seeing you again very soon. Thank you for flying Wright Brothers Airways.

This is Romeo Echo X-ray signing off.

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