Hitchhiking a plane
Hitchhiking a plane is possible. It takes some effort but it sure is not impossible. Especially in the past it was done more regularly (reference missing).
Hitching private planes
Hitching rides on small/private planes can be done, though it may be a much less spontaneous process than hitching rides in cars.
If the airport has a small coffee shop or restaurant nearby, hang around and make conversation (pilots are sometimes recognizable by flight-bags and jepsen charts – small chart-holders which strap onto the knee or upper thigh, leaving both hands free). Obviously, acting like you're interested in flying will help your case!
You can offer to wash planes – the going rate in the United States is around $50, or ask to come along for the next trip. Be prepared with a bucket and sponge, and feel comfortable asking where the spigot and hose are. At really small airports, planes which get flown a lot look like it – dirt streaks, flat grass around the hangar.
""Legal Notice:"" While 14 CFR Part 61.113 does indeed state that " A private pilot may not pay less than the pro rata share of the operating expenses of a flight with passengers, provided the expenses involve only fuel, oil, airport expenditures, or rental fees.", this does not tell the whole story. Specifically, the FAA has consistently ruled against "holding out" by either private or commercial pilots who are in effect acting as "common carriers." In fact, any FAA certified pilot (including commercial pilots or airline transport rated pilots acting in a student capacity) participating in ANY of the schemes mentioned in this page would likely face severe legal reprecussions if caught, including, almost certainly, revocation of their certificates and ratings. The key for legally being allowed to "split the costs" is "commonality of purpose" coupled with "not holding out." For example: a pilot and a friend wish to see a sports event in a neighboring town - they fly there in the pilot's plane and split the costs = OK. A pilot wants to see a sports event in a neighboring town. he puts an ad on a sports forum online and finds another fan who wants to go and they agree to split teh costs = NOT OK as the pilot is "holding out." A pilot plans to fly to a neighboring town. While at the airport a guy walks up to him and tells him that he wants to go to that city too and that he would be willing to pay his fair share = NOT OK = no common purpose for the flight and the pilot would be in effect acting as an on-demand charter operator. Because it is an open invitation to lose their certificates and ratings or maybe even stronger repercussions including criminal prosecution, you are highly unlikely to see pilots "advertise" on airport message boards as a previous version of this article implied. Furthermore this article implied that one might be able to hitch a ride with student pilots on their long cross country flights - that would probably rise to the level of criminal negligence by those students. Basically, the FAA is concerend that organizations that offer charter and air-taxi services must rise to higher standards of maintenance, inspection, and pilot certification and training than private operators and the rules are set to really clamp down HARD on those trying to skirt them.
Please note that much of what was previously written in this article about "hanging around in pilot lounges" is utter and total nonsense.
- Craig and his brother tried to hitchhike airplanes at New York's busiest general aviation airports Teteboro Airport and Essex County Airport. Over the course of seven hours in total they made many friends but didn't get any lift by plane.
Teteboro Airport is not to be recommended. They will chase you away, because this is the hub for Paris Hilton, George Clooney and Lady Gaga. The few possible points are off your limits: business terminals. No flight schools at this airport. Few small pilots.
If you would have success hitchhiking an aircraft you should opt for Essex County Airport accessible by walking from Willowbrook Mall near Paterson. Regularly buses run from Manhattan's Port Authority Bus Terminal near Penn Station. Try hitching with small pilots.
In plain English: If you adhere to FAA regulations soliciting flights at US airports is illegal for most pilots. On the other hand it seems some pilots are willing to sneak by the strict regulations to make hitching aircraft possible (Craig & Dario met two pilots who had taken them another time they said). Bear in mind their insurance hadn't covered them. Your best bet is knowing a pilot personally. Well that is not really hitchhiking =)
Hitching Commercial Planes
You can also hitch Commercial Planes. It goes pretty much the same as hitching cars, though it takes you more effort generally. Just go to airport and ask people if they want to buy a ticket for you. It might take you a while but if you are crazy enough to ask people, someone will be crazy enough to buy you one.
In the end, it is just a matter of statistics. Someone will buy you a ticket, sometimes you just have to talk to a lot of people and it really depends on the story you tell and how you approach people.
Your best options are the ones who wear suits. It is not them who pay for the ticket, but their company. A trick you can let them do, is that they tell their company they missed their flight, and so they had to buy a new ticket. This new ticket is for you. The price itself is not listed on the ticket, they only need the receipt to get the reimbursement.
There are stories from hitchhikers who traveled like this.
It is also possible to convince airlines themselves to give you free tickets if you are hitching for a good cause. Thomas Cook has been known to give one-way tickets to those participating in charity hitches, because it gives them good publicity.
Flight-tickets can be bought pretty cheap sometimes. But it is not the same as hitchhiking.
- Airhitch article (check also the talk page)
- airtech.com is reputed to be a better, less scam-y seeming company.
- airpool.nl, in Dutch, mainly in the Netherlands
- Short article
- Travel writer hitchhikes to 50 US states by planes - August 2013
You might have more luck hitchhiking a boat.