Friday, April 21, 2017

Take off, Land, Refuel (Repeat): Ferrying a Cirrus SR22 - G6 from NC to Seattle

My good friend Eric decided he needed an airplane, so he bought the newest, fanciest one he was rated for.  He bought a new 2017 Cirrus SR22 G6.  Wow, lots of numbers and letters.  Funny thing about us guys, we can have entire conversations in just numbers and letters.  Maybe my next post will be about automobile tires.

The Cirrus is the current pinnacle of single piston-engine GA technology.  Others may assert their plane is faster, or carries more, or whatever, but Cirrus is the current leader of sales and product integration.  From the twin turbo charged 315 HP engine, to the composite air-frame, to the complete avionics integration, to the full air-frame parachute (called Cirrus Air-frame Parachute System or CAPS), Cirrus has done a lot right with this plane.

The early in the Cirrus' history, there were quite a few accidents, so Cirrus established a standardized flight training program with special emphasis on safety and consistent procedures.  This training has greatly reduced the incidence of fatal Cirrus accidents.  In my opinion, the manufacturer has a significant interest in their product NOT killing their customers -- nor even having a reputation of killing their customers.  So they take this training very seriously, even presenting it as elite, or mystical, or... almost to the point of an evangelistic theology zeal.  They don't say it out-right but it can seem like they are thinking "morally superior pilots have taken the Cirrus Transition training."  (Note:  Eric disagrees with my perceptions here.)

Since Eric and I had made cross country flights together in the past, we knew how to cooperate well in the cockpit.  Eric also wanted the comfort of the extra cross-country experience in the cockpit, so he invited me to join him on the flight.  The plane came with four days of transition training for the new owner, but none for me.  A couple weeks before the plane was to be picked up we procured the training materials, and I worked through them.  Eric and I went to a local flight school to get some experience in a comparable Cirrus to reduce surprises for me in the plane.

The Preparation

Every new type of plane has it's idiosyncrasies, and this one is no different.  And it is a procedure heavy airplane.  Check-lists are integrated into the avionics systems.  There are specific things you do at specific altitudes, there are specific things you DON'T do at specific altitudes.  There is a fair amount of right rudder required to keep the plane straight during take off.  The side yoke has a distinct feel that makes it different from every other plane I have flown, and it takes a while to get accustomed to the feel

And you don't "fly" this plane, you more manage its systems.  Power forward. Lots of right rudder.  Airspeed alive.  Nose up.  Climb straight ahead.  600 feet AGL acknowledge the parachute can be used.  Press the autopilot button.  Watch.

And the autopilot is the best one I have encountered in a GA airplane.

I got in a couple landings.  They were not as smooth as I had hoped or wanted, but they were adequate.

Eric took an airliner to Knoxville TN where he picked up his new airplane and got his transition training.  He then flew his plane to Asheville NC to spend a couple days with his family.  I took an airliner to Asheville on the 15th where we spent the night at his parent's home.  It was my first ever trip to North Carolina, so I got to check off another state.

Eric's parents made a family adventure out of bringing us to the airport in the morning.  They are spectacularly kind people.  Eric would be PIC for the flight, since it is his plane, his insurance, and he had just received all the training.  But he agreed to let me do a landing in Asheville so I could also check North Carolina off my "land in all 50 states" list.

KAVL to KSLO

The Cirrus has two large computer displays in the cockpit.  Hardware wise they are identical.  Functionally, the one on the left in front of the pilot is tasked as the Primary Flight Display (PFD) and has all of the instrumentation necessary for flight.  Things like airspeed, attitude, altitude, and heading.  The one on the right is tasked as the Multi Function Display (MFD) and can be switched for all sorts of other purposes, displaying engine gauges, or charts, or terrain, or flight planning, or even the night vision infra-red camera (this plane has everything).  In the event of a PFD failure, there is a red button between the displays that sets both displays to mirror the primary fight instruments and the engine gauges.  So for me to fly from the right seat, we hit the red button to put all the information in front me as well.  We did an uneventful takeoff, circled around for landing, taxied off to the ramp, and picked up our instrument clearance, and programmed the autopilot.

Back to the runway, we lined up, pushed the power lever forward, broke the surly bonds of earth, and began our journey.  At 600 feet, we made our "CAPS available" call, switched to the departure controller, and hit the autopilot button.  The plane climbed into a monster 60-plus knot headwind pushing against our progress.  At 10,000 feet the plane leveled off, and we sat back to watch it fly.

Up we went out of North Carolina, over Tennessee, Kentucky, the corner of Indiana, and into Illinois.  We did a touch and go and then landed in Salem IL just over 3 hours later to refuel.  My second new state.

We had hoped to make a landing in Missouri, North of St. Louis, but the winds were not giving us any help making forward progress and we were going to run late into the day if we spent too much time airport hopping.

KSLO to KLCG

In Salem, we relived any physiological pressing needs, refueled the plane, filed a new flight plan, and went through the departure procedure.  Back to the runway, we lined up, pushed the power lever forward, broke the surly bonds of earth, and continued our journey.  At 600 feet, we made our "CAPS available" call, switched to the departure controller, and hit the autopilot button.  The plane climbed into a smaller headwind.  At 10,000 feet the plane leveled off, and we sat back to watch it fly.

Had the winds allowed us to make it north of St Louis on the previous leg, and had we not continued to fight a headwind on this leg, we may have been able to stretch the trip from Asheville to Rapid City into just two flights.  But the wind had taken its toll and we stopped in Wayne Nebraska to top the plane off.

KLCG to KRAP

We relived any physiological pressing needs, refueled the plane, filed a new flight plan, and went through the departure procedure.  Back to the runway, we called for our clearance, and were met with a confused controller who could not locate our flight plan in the system.  Fine.  While sitting next to the runway, I filed another plan over the phone.  But the computer said our plan was not valid.  Their computer wanted us to route significantly north around a pair of Military Operation Areas (MOA).  I wanted to fly between them.  We debated on the phone.  We ended up filing a Visual Flight Plan, and then flying the exact same route I wanted for our interment flight.  We taxied out, pushed the power lever forward, broke the surly bonds of earth, and continued our journey.  At 600 feet, we made our "CAPS available" call, switched to the departure controller, picked up VFR flight following, and hit the autopilot button.  The plane climbed into a smaller headwind.  At 8,500 feet the plane leveled off, and we sat back to watch it fly.

We landed in Rapid City, tucked the plane into the FBO's hangar, and got a room for the night.  I have stayed in Rapid City twice in the recent years.  The first was on a family vacation and we stayed at the La Quinta adjoining the the Watikti Water Park.  The next time was with Eric on the way to Oshkosh in 2014, and we ended up at Fairfield Inn, This time we stayed at the new addition, The Residence Inn.  It is newer and the nicest of the three.

We spent that night debating going around a weather system to the south through Boise, or attempt to fly through or over it.  We deferred the debate to the morning when the next weather report was due.  We didn't rush too much in the morning.  The free shuttle took us back to where the plane had been safely tucked away for the night in WestJet's hangar.


KRAP to KMSO

We we decided the route to Missoula looked clear, so we loaded the plane back up, filed a new flight plan, and went through the departure procedure.  Back to the runway, we lined up, pushed the power lever forward, broke the surly bonds of earth, and continued our journey.  At 600 feet, we made our "CAPS available" call, switched to the departure controller, and hit the autopilot button.  The plane climbed into a smaller headwind.  At 10,000 feet the plane leveled off, and we sat back to watch it fly.

Air traffic control alerted us to traffic to the left of our nose and closing.  Eric and I searched the sky and finally spotted it.  Zipping past us on the left about a mile a way was a small L-39 trainer Jet.  Somebody was out having fun in their toy.

When we crossed into Wyoming we asked the controller if the MOA to our north was active and how high would he need us to be to get a direct clearance.  He asked if we could accept 13,000, but being an "odd-thousand" it is for east bound flight, and we were headed west.  We requested and were cleared direct at 14,000 feet.  We donned the O2 cannulas and twisted the knobs for the new heading and altitude.  At 14,000 feet the plane leveled off, and we sat back to watch it fly.  We eventually poked up even further to 16,000 looking for more favorable speeds, and hit 201 true air speed.

We eventually were vectored down for the approach into Missoula.  In preparation it appeared we were going to pass through a layer of clouds, so we prepped the TKS system and got a bit of deice fluid out on the wings.  Our route flew us around the clouds and we never touched any of them.

We borrowed the crew car from Minuteman Aviation and headed into town for a nice lunch.

KMSO to KRNT

From Missoula the weather reports were showing low clouds across eastern and central Washington, and scattered to broken layers in the Puget Sound.  So we decided to press on, refueled the plane, filed a new flight plan, and went through the departure procedure.  Back to the runway, we lined up, pushed the power lever forward, broke the surly bonds of earth, and continued our journey.  At 600 feet, we made our "CAPS available" call, switched to the departure controller, and hit the autopilot button.  The plane climbed into a smaller headwind.  At 14,000 feet the plane leveled off, and we sat back to watch it fly.

We cleared the Rocky Mountains, and we could see Spokane was under a broken layer of clouds.  Soon the broken layer layer became a solid bank below us.  Eric and I discussed how if we lost the engine over the clouds below. the parachute was a really good option.  It was not needed.  The controllers updated our routing, assigning us an arrival into the Puget Sound.  When we crossed over the Moses Lake airport, we asked the controllers about altitude assignments on the approach.  The controller was helpful and told us to use the approach for lateral guidance, and ATC would be assigning altitudes.

When we crossed the Cascade Mountains, the controllers told us to initiate our descent and began the vectoring process to the Renton airport.  In just over two hours. we were taxing Eric's plane up to its new home.

Epilogue


Two days, coast to coast, middle of winter -- never touched a single cloud. Amazing. Full Photo Album.
Adding North Carolina and Illinois