Monday, October 15, 2012

My Day Flying In A Cirrus

I had a great time at the 2012 AOPA Aviation Summit.  I enjoyed being the Master of Ceremonies for the convention and the AOPA Foundation Dinner.  The event gave me the chance to meet many interesting people and be exposed to the world of flying.  Pilots are an eclectic group of people, but they all have a passion and are eager to share their enthusiasm for aviation.

I was supposed to fly into Palm Springs with a friend who owns his own airplane.  I was going to be in California for another conference, and I was excited to take this short flight, as I had not had very much experience with general aviation (I went up with a friend once in my 20s).  My friend owns a Cirrus SR22, and in preparation for the conference I did a lot of research on planes.  I was excited to get to fly in a Cirrus, but at the last minute my friend's plans changed.  I had to rent a car in Orange County and drive to the desert.

Alas, the conference was a lot of fun, but I was sorry I did not get to go up in a plane.  I shared this with a few people, and the folks at the Cirrus Aircraft trade show booth offered to take me up....  But I was busy throughout the event, and did not want to impose.  I am not a pilot, nor am I in the market for a plane.  I have worked plenty of shows, and did not want to waste anyone's time.

I enjoyed talking with many people on the trade show floor, and I learned a lot about what it means to be part of the general aviation community.  I like it when I discover close knit industries where everyone cares about their greater community.  But time and time again, the folks at the Cirrus booth were wonderfully engaging.  They were like the Nordstrom's of the aviation world when it came to friendly and interested people who lived to deliver a positive customer experience (even to those who were not customers!).  Clearly their employees like their jobs, and while they do a lot of shows, they did not seem to tire to talk to anyone about their products.

Before the AOPA show ended they had offered to fly me to my next destination with one of their employees.  He was heading to Denver, and I was going to Albuquerque for another association event. Thus it was not too far out of the way for his flight plan (I really was not wanting to impose). The thought of canceling my commercial flight and going in a small plane with a stranger was unsettling at first, but the more they offered, the more I realized I wanted the experience of flying.  And a three hour flight from Palm Springs to New Mexico was surely going to be an adventure.

My new pilot friend is Ryan.  He is 23-years-old (he was not even born the last time I was in a private plane), but has been flying his whole life.  His father is one of the founders of Cirrus Aircraft.  He clearly understands all aspects of aviation, and I could not have asked for a better pilot.  He explained everything from the pre-flight list to sharing stories about his Dad's early vision for designing a plane that was built for the passenger's comfort.

The plane, a Cirrus SR22-GTS, was great.  The cockpit was roomy enough that a big oaf like me was not cramped.  The glass display screen instrument panels were easy to understand (even for a non-pilot). The safety features made a novice like me feel good the whole time.  It was like a flying BMW.

How you see the world in a Cirrus at 11,000 feet is much different than being in the flying bus of a commercial airline at 30,000 feet.  It was fascinating to see the little towns and houses in the middle of nowhere that go unnoticed when you fly commercial.  The skies were clear and the whole time I was taken with the beauty of the land below.

I also enjoyed watching how Ryan flew the plane.  The care he put into each thing he did from before take off through landing.  How he talked to the air traffic controllers and listening to the conversations of other planes on the frequency was very educational.

I am not saying after one flight that I want to be a pilot (I am going to explore more about the process), but I do have an amazing new appreciation for general aviation.  I also see the convenience of having a plane if you travel a lot for work.  We scheduled our own departure time, there was no dealing with TSA, no long layovers, or sitting next to someone obnoxious (well, Ryan may disagree with that last one!).  I met him at the airport and we were taking off soon after arrival.

But I am clearly a new fan of Cirrus Aircraft.  They did not need to let me bum a ride with Ryan, but their dedication to wanting people to experience flight (especially flight on a Cirrus) was true and real.  It was a very comfortable trip, and I had only one disappointment.... that it was over too fast.  The three hours flew by (no pun intended).  Once I had reached my destination I wished that I could have that type of travel experience on a regular basis.

Thanks to Ryan and the rest of the folks at Cirrus, this is a day I will not forget.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

UPDATE - Two Weeks Later.  I have continued to think about my flight.  I understand clearly why the community of pilots is unique, and they really do love aviation.  I have enrolled in an online "ground school" course (See for more info) to better learn the basics of flight and understand all that is involved in getting a private pilots certificate. 


Malki Zee said...

Hi, great post. Sometimes as a pilot we get caught up in the micro adventures that occur on a particular trip, it's nice to see a "new to general aviation" writer talk about a positive General Aviation experience from a macro perspective.
Have a safe flight and tail winds.

Thom Singer said...

There is a lot to learn, but I feel like a little kid as I explore the journey toward understanding aviation and learning to fly.

Ben Neiburger said...

Thom, I got my private pilot's license in 1985. Let me know if you ever want to talk about the road to flying $$$$. Although it is quite fun.