JetHiking Adventures

  • Hitchhiking on Planes is Possible

    In search of a budget-travel adventure, I began a whirlwind pilgrimage to all 50 United States by hitchhiking on small, private aircraft - and in the process, uncovered a free-spirited side of flying that is nearly forgotten in the fast-paced, modern age of aviation.
    Catching a lift on more than 130 aircraft, ranging from two-seaters built in someone’s garage, to a Citation jet, to a rare WWII B-17 bomber, was incredible. The spontaneous journey was as difficult as it was unique.

    Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

  • The Basics of Airplane Hitchhiking

    When hitchhiking on planes, I didn't catch rides on a commercial airliners. Instead, I visited smaller, general aviation airports where planes are basically flying cars.
    Despite the name "JetHiking," most of the aircraft I rode were not private jets, but small single-engine planes like this one in Taos, N.M..
    How long did it take to catch a ride? Sometimes hours, sometimes days, and sometimes weeks.

    Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

  • Flying up the Hudson River and past the Statue of Liberty

    One memorable flight was cruising up the Hudson River and past the Statue of Liberty in a shimmering, silver Globe Swift. It felt like a flying convertible, and the city skyline was even more impressive close up.

    Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

  • Franklin, North Carolina

    When hitchhiking on planes, a lot of time is spent hanging out in small airports, like this one in Franklin, N.C.. You never know what might land, take off, or make an appearance.
    I was there to see the first time this staggerwing Beechcraft left the hangar in more than 30 years. It was a father-and-son restoration project, and everyone at the airport came out to admire their work. 

    Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

  • Seaplane Landing at Redoubt Bay Lodge, Alaska

    Flying in Alaska was especially memorable; I felt humbled by the power of nature and I was able to witness the important role aviation plays in the lives of Alaskans.
    I had an opportunity to tag along on a mail flight to Fort Yukon, a remote village just above the Arctic Circle. When we landed, the locals came out to meet the plane to receive their supplies.
    On a seaplane flight over an active volcano to Redoubt Bay Lodge, two brown bears strolling along the shore acted as our welcoming crew.

    Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

  • Alaskan Pilots Returning from a Day of Berry Picking

    While wandering around the Lake Hood Seaplane Base, trying to find a ride from Anchorage, I stumbled across these two, unloading the seaplane after a berry picking trip. We chatted for a while, and they gave me some great insight about flying.
    I generally find folks in the aviation community very friendly, and eager to share their passion for flying with others.

    Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

  • Camping near the runway in Vermont

    Many times I've had to camp out next to grass strip runways at airfields like this one in Basin Harbor, Vt., so a small, lightweight tent and bug spray are necessities. I've also stayed in backpacker hostels, on couches, on the floor of the airport, and on a sailboat or two.
    When money gets low (like in San Francisco, for example), I'll take a couple temporary jobs as a housekeeper and waitress and remain in the area until I have enough cash to keep going.

    Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

  • Flying Past Mountain Near Talkeetna, Alaska

    Before landing on Ruth Glacier, the Otter flew closer to the mountain faces than I thought possible in a small plane. Alaska was one state where general aviation still has a strong presence. It's a way of life up there.

    Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

  • Flat Tire on Landing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

    I've had my fair share of rough weather, mechanical issues, and minor setbacks.
    Pilot Emmett Carson and I encountered a flat nose wheel upon landing, which makes touchdown difficult. Luckily, we landed okay - but had to be towed off the tarmac with a security escort.

    Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

  • Spiral Jetty on the Great Salt Lake, Utah

    There are some interesting things to see from the air, like this art installation near the Great Salt Lake. Small aircraft mean you can fly lower and get incredible close-up views. 
    In each area, I had the opportunity to experience the local culture, sights, food, and meet wonderful people.

    Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

  • Logging some flight time in a vintage Ercoupe near Gulfport, Mississippi

    Throughout this experience, I've been keeping a passenger's logbook of all the flights I've hopped on, but have also been logging some hours toward my private pilot's license. I plan on getting my official "ticket" when the project is complete.

    Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

  • Meeting some legendary aviators in Wisconsin

    At AirVenture 2014, the annual aviation gathering in Oshkosh, Wis., I had an opportunity to meet Amelia Rose Earhart and her co-pilot Shane Jordan. They'd just made history by completing their around-the-world flight.

    Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

  • Trying to catch a lift to Hawaii

    After touching down in (and exploring) 49 states, I only have the most challenging left: Hawaii.
    One thing I've carried through this project is the encouragement and help from strangers. There are still good people out there.

    Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

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