An Australian charter operator insists that he is in the business of selling dreams by letting people enjoy an hour-long flight of fancy for 650 dollars.
Chuck McElwee gives couples an opportunity to join the Mile High Club… in the back of a twin-engine Piper Seneca.
McElwee,the owner of the Jandakot-based Air Australia International — no,not THAT Air Australia [the one that went broke, he says ruefully — is an ex-US navy flier who trains pilots for commercial and private licences and offers no fewer than five different charter flights,Stuff.co.nz reported.
It all started about 15 years ago. We were getting an aircraft ready to do [medical patient transfers and somebody saw us and asked what we were doing, McElwee recalled.
Theres no such thing as a secret at an airport,so I just gave them this throwaway line that we were fitting it out so people could join the Mile High Club.
Next thing I know Ive got the paper calling up and asking if they can do a story about it. Sure I said,even though the thing didnt actually exist and we ended having to mock up this set-up using a couple of pretty attractive people who I had learning to fly.
The story ran and all of a sudden Ive got 25 real calls from people wanting to do it.
Since then,Air Australia has done 315 Mile High flights. McElwee also mentioned that the company has undertaken 1100 patient transfers during that time but,not surprisingly; its the Mile High Club that generates more gossip.
He also revealed that his busiest day has been the Valentines Day,where he had six charters back-to-back (as Air Australia only has six sets of sheets for the back of the plane,this was maximum capacity).
According to McElwee,90 per cent of trips are booked and paid for by women,mostly in their 30s.
Then you have the smart guys who say theyll need two hours. I tell them that if they are like most men I know,one hour will be plenty enough, McElwee said.
Other guys might pop their head in [the cockpit and ask where we are going. I usually just tell them that if they are looking out the window they are doing something wrong back there.
McElwees Mile High package includes champagne,chocolates,a screen separating passengers from the pilots,a six-foot double bed with fresh linen,a certificate and commemorative pin at trips end and the opportunity to fly day or night.
He considers himself to be the only charter operator in Australia who offers the Mile High experience on a regular basis and that only one US business has been doing it for longer.
McElwee insists with headphones on and aircraft noise its difficult for pilots to tell what passengers are up to,although the extra movement of the small plane is usually a giveaway.