I’m currently working on a stand-alone mystery where the protagonist is a private pilot, which necessitated research into the world of private aviation. I did an online search and located a few companies at nearby airports, then called them and explained I needed information for a mystery I was writing. And…. nada. No one would talk to me. The one-percenters will be happy to know that their mile-high secrets are in the hands of some very tight-lipped aviation pros.
After a few frustrating days, I decided it was time to activate my dormant acting chops and go undercover. I figured the private aviation industry would be way more receptive to a woman of a certain age looking to spend thousands of dollars in jet rental fees than to an author making calls from her home office in her bathrobe. I located a company that operated out of the Burbank Airport facilities. Then I picked out an outfit that might sell I was affluent enough to fly private. Considering my wardrobe is that of a writer, this was the toughest part and frankly, I barely pulled it off. (Note to self: buy Spanx.)
I washed my car, figuring a clean Honda Civic was slightly more impressive than a dirty one. I hoped no one in the elite world of private travel checked out my social media presence and saw this Facebook post: “The dollar store makes me feel like a billionaire!”
I got to the facility, which looked like – well, you can read the description when my book is published. (How’s that for optimism?) I shared the cover story I’d concocted with the woman behind the counter: a few friends and I are going to a college reunion and thought it would be fun to arrive by private jet. The most effective lies are based on a kernel of truth – I did have a reunion coming up, and who wouldn’t want to show up to one of those in a private jet? The subtext of this story was that we were obnoxious alum looking to flaunt our success in our fellow alum’s faces – something pretty easy to buy.
It turned out this particular facility was what they call a FBO – a Fixed Base Operation – which is basically just a fancy-shmancy terminal. But people are super nice when you say you’re interested in chartering a jet, and they gave me a list of contact numbers.
I called one company and once again shared my story. They quickly coughed up some price quotes. The $46,000 Gulfstream was clearly out. Too big and too pricey. Jessica, my new friend at Richie Rich Air, offered a Cessna Citation V for $26,000 as an alternative. This sounded great until she shared two caveats. The Citation would require a stop to refuel in El Paso, and the lavatory would have to double as a seat if we wanted to squeeze in another passenger. Uh, hello, spending $26k to refuel in El Pass-over, as my more snobby imaginary friends call it? I don’t THINK so. And as I told Jessica, “I can’t imagine one of my alum mates paying thousands of dollars to sit in the jahn!” She agreed, and we both had a chuckle over this. I sadly bid her goodbye, and continued my search.
I finally found the perfect plane for my private pilot to fly, the Hawker 800XP.
By the end of my undercover mission, I was so convinced of my own story that I found myself trying to crunch the numbers to see if I might actually talk some reunion attendees into renting the Hawker for a mere $36,000. It was a pipe dream, of course. But now I see how O.J. convinced himself he didn’t kill Ron and Nicole.
You start to believe your own lies.
Readers, have you ever gone undercover or told an impressive lie?