Archive for February 2009

New Cessna Ad Campaign

February 19, 2009

I saw this press release covered in the WSJ  the other as I sat in the (way) back of a UA 767.  Fortunately we were headed someplace good, but as I sat sandwiched in between my kids, their DVD players and peanut butter sandwiches, I chuckled at how far away I was at that moment from the cabin comfort of a Citation X.  Still, I’ve got to hand it to Cessna for going for it.  The recent political firestorm and populist blowup over private aviation is really unfortunate, and one aspect of the GA story that is not yet told is of the time and dollars saved through the use of airplanes as a business tool.

Bravo to Cessna for taking a bold stand in a tough time.  I hope the ad campaign works, but I must say these economic headwinds may be just too much to pull the private jet market out of the tailspin it’s in any time soon.

Sully Sullenberger is awesome on 60 Minutes – Pilots do NOT miss!

February 9, 2009

A remarkable interview on 60 Minutes on CBS by Katie Couric tonight about the amazing act of heroism and pilotage on the Hudson on Jan 15th.   A few close-to quotes below but please, please watch this interview if you’re a GA Pilot.   CBS did a great job on this story.

Congratulations to the Crew and Flight Attendants for such a safe and amazing display of proficiency, training and skill.

Sort 0f Quotes that all of us Pilots can appreciate:

i never thought this would happen to me. i thought i’d end my career without crashing an airplane

i felt, heard and smelled the evidence of them (birds) going into the engines

i felt the vibrations of them going into the engine.  it was louder than any thunderstorm i heard growing up in TX.

i felt a complete loss of forward momentum

i turned to my co-pilot and said, “my aircraft”

it would be problematic reaching the runway

Sully made the decision to go into the Hudson 1 minute after birstrikes (!) and only 2.5 mins after takeoff!!!

Did you ever pray?  i imagined that someone in the back was taking care of that for me. i focused on flying the airplane.

physiological reaction i had to this was strong.  it took some concentration to calm myself.

brace for impact

i had business to attend to and i had a job to do.

to the first responders. . “thank you seems totally inadequete. I have a debt of gratitude that i fear I will never be able to repay.”

VLJ Event Canceled

February 4, 2009

Just heard the upcoming NBAA VLJ event in San Diego was canceled. This represents yet another setback (or I guess is a reflections of the setbacks) for the VLJ industry.   I’ve been rooting for all of the VLJ manufacturers from the start, mostly because the arrival of an entirely new aviation platform would spur significant innovation in materials, manufacturing, avionics, cost and usage of airplanes.  VLJs would have created other impacts to the entire GA and corporate jet fleet, but in most cases would have raised the bar for all market participants to hone their value to their target customer, which in turn would have meant better options for we pilots and GA passengers.

It’s no blinding insight to say that aviation is in for a very tough period.  Aviation Today reports a drop in commercial PAX volume of 41mm intp 2010, and all of us have noticed the local “patch” being pretty quiet these days.  There are massive human costs to this recession that are squarely hitting GA:  I was in KS the day that Cessna announced their layoffs, most of which were in KS.  The human pain and costs here are real, and the innovation gap that we may be entering will have long term problems for the country’s cometitiveness in the aviation business (of course, in this recession, no country will be spared).

Baby got GPS

February 3, 2009


Malibu Annual (and Moab/Rockies Photos!)

February 2, 2009

It came time for the aircraft annual, and I decided to fly the Mirage to the ultimate Malibu Guru, a man named Kevin Mead in Kansas.  Kevin is a bit of a legend in the Malibu/Mirage community, mostly for his incredible dedication to the make and model, but also for his really impeccable skill.  Kevin remembers everything possible about just about every Malibu/Mirage or Jetprop in the field.  If you want to know where a plane has been, where a particular plane is going, or where the fleet is headed in general, you call Kevin.  And he is “the” mechanical whiz on our type of aircraft.  He knows them cold.  He has been an incredible help and friend to me over the years.  A great example of the wonderful people that you meet through flying.

Kevin had maintained my aircraft for years for prior owners, so I thought it best for the plane’s pedigree to stay with him.  The only issue was the small matter of logistics.  You see, I live in CA and Kevin’s shop is in KS. Even in a Mirage, that’s a full day of flying and a full day on the airliner home.

Weather was grim most of last week throughout the mid-west, and the end of the month was approaching fast (the annual was due by end Jan, so the  plane was only legal to fly in Jan).  The weather turned favorable midweek, and Thursday looked like the good day to fly.  I had to take the kids to school that morning, so it turned out to be sort of a late start, but heck, that’s why we fly (isn’t it?).  9am wheels up from KPAO went smoothly, and there was nary another plane on the freq.  I fear that this recession is really hurting GA, by the way.  Perhaps the subject of another post. . .

Usually when flying east one can expect tailwinds.  This day was a bit different, so I had a slow ride to my fuel stop in Moab, UT. Headwinds of somewhere between 20-25kts meant that I got to enjoy LOTS of satellite radio.  Fortunately, it was the day of the Blagovitch hearings, so CNN was happy to burn hours of my time. Fuel at CNY was somewhere around $4.87/gal self serve, and the day was beautiful with only a whisper of wind across the runway.  I noted the very large Dept of Homeland Security at the CNY airport and wondered about the goings on around Zion, then jumped back in for the second half of the trip, which was spectacular!  I crossed the Rockies at FL230 due to the military space at Colorado Springs.  Clear skies above and loads of snow in the Rockies below made for a picturesque trip.

I’ve always been amazed by what you see from a small plane either approaching or leaving the Rockies.  Quite simply, the world completely changes.  Particularly when going from west to east, you’re looking down on a wrinkled, snowy world, then all of a sudden the bottom drops out from under you . . . In the Rockies, FL230 looks close to the ground. In KS, it’s a world away.

The lights of KS started to show themselves just as I decided it was time to take off the shades and get setup for night flight.  This means checking every interior and exterior light, as well as making sure that 5 or so flashlights were refreshed with batteries and within reach.  Night happens fast when you’re flying into it, and soon I was touching down at KHUT and pulling into Kevin’s hangar in complete darkness.  We got the plane secured and Kevin, ever the great host, drove me out to the hotel at the (commercial) airport  As I got to my hotel I realized that I was  a half a continent away from my warm and cozy CA family, all in about 7 hours.  There are many things that I love about General Aviation, but one of them is that it allows us to move easily and seemlessly across this continent and in fact to another world.  Much as I always miss my world, I find it great to be in a new place with new and different people.  The freedom and adventure of it all is intoxicating.

The airline ride home at 6am was short and sweet, and  I have a new appreciation for Continental.   I was on the ground in CA by 11am the next day.  Talk about a time-warp!

Photos of the trip to follow, as well as the flip-flop, after the Annual’s done.

Airplane Make/Model User groups

February 2, 2009

When you decide to purchase any make and model aircraft, it’s best to first consult the experts.  In Cessnas you have the amazing Cessna Pilot’s Association (CPA), in Bonanzas the American Bonanza Society (who’s home base in Wichita, KS I just drove by!!!) , and in Cirrus you have COPA.  All are groups that strive to connect owners and provide valuable make/model information.  I have found that all vary in their strengths and weaknesses:  COPA is amazing at the web resources while CPA has model guides that have been built up over the years and ABS tends towards the technical. I highly recommend anyone purchasing a make/model to subscribe to that make/model’s online group. Prices vary from free through $25/year all the way to $250/year.  There is even a free one for Saratogas on Yahoo Groups called “TogaParty”.  I’m a member of many but not affiliated in any way with any, but I can tell you that I’ve more than made up for my investments in all of them with the knowledge that I’ve gleaned.