February 23, 2007
This is the log of my final flight in Cirrus 8141Q.
As great as the Cirrus SR-22 is, after a while, getting into that airplane starts to feel like getting into a Toyota Camry to go somewhere… so safe, convenient, and easy, that it just gets sort of.. umm… a little bit TOO easy. A little too slow. Almost boring. No longer pushing the envelope.
So here is the deal: Around Feb. 1 I fly Cirrus 8141Q from Columbia Metro in South Carolina to Bend, Oregon, to hand the keys to the next owner of 8141Q and pick up a shiny new custom made-to-order Lancair Columbia 400… Arctic White with Cranberry Pearl belly, Viper Steel Gray and Black Pearl trim, 9-liter twin-turbo twin-intercooled Continental powerplant, electric speed-brakes, Garmin-1000 executive cool Gray interior. With XM-radio.
So, first step: Fly good-ol 8141Q from Columbia Metro to Johnson County Executive in Kansas to spend a day or two with Randy Witt, my customer-support guy.
Coming into Kansas to land that night, I noticed the runway seemed awfully DARK! TOO DARK! As I tried to figure out exactly where the pavement was during the flare: WHAM! The plane hit sort of hard. Oh. THERE is the pavement! The landing light had failed in the Columbia->Kansas route, so my landing was a bit, um, ‘in the dark’. The maintenance guys could NOT fix the landing light in my 1-day stay in Kansas, so I was restricted to finishing the trip day-only… a good deal for you since now you get to see these daytime pictures! 😉
So, after the maintainence guy blew 2 hours and a few hundred dollars trying (and failing) to fix the landing light, it was off to Sacramento, CA, to work for PFC (Precision Flight Controls, a leading FAA-certified X-Plane customer) for a few days before hopping up to Bend. Now here is where we get into some interesting flying because we are talking about flying a light plane over the Rockies, which has got to be SOME sort of small challenge. Well, in the Cirrus, it turned out to be little different than sitting in first-class in a Boeing, just watching the scenery roll by underneath, only at 16,000 feet rather than 32,000 feet, with the autopilot flying for you rather than some guy… but really still not that different. I did get some cool pix though, and here they are:
RED 5! I’M GOING IN!
Below, I begin my attack-run down the trench… just like bulls-eying Womp-Rats back home…
OK, after a somewhat exilerating ride around a deep canyon, it was time to put down in Rosemont before sun-set since I did not have a working landing light.
The FBO at Rosemont: BLACK CANYON JET CENTER. Hmm.. with a name like BLACK CANYON JET ENTER, I expected it to by a huge gleaming building made of black marble, with silver trim and a glass front, with a possie of Gulfstreams parked out front. I was actually a little bit pre-annoyed that they might look on my little Cirrus with disdain. Darn too-fancy JET FBO’s… Umm… well, Black Canyon Jet Center actually turned out to be a mobile home beside a hangar. Oh well! No matter! The place was clean, the hangar new, and the people very friendly and caring, so I will be happy to stop there again any time! Never mind my facilities: Just have a sparkling hangar for my horse! It took about 10 seconds to walk 20 feet from my plane to the mobile-home, and about 3 minutes from the FBO to the really nice hotel up the road a few hundred yards. 5 minutes from engine shut-down to hotel… not bad! Amazingly efficient.
Rosemont, the town, was founded to load gold onto trains in the 1800’s. By the admission of it’s own residents, Rosemont is “Not as nice as Jackson Hole”. Umm.. yeah.
The first site I saw walking into the lobby of the local hotel:
(I guess they don’t take kindly to cattle-rustlers in these parts)
Rosemont seems a snapshot of America Circa 1950:
Observe the sign on the “Traveler’s Hotel”: It’s “AIR COOLED!” WOW! AIR-COOLED!
And the main-street bar.. with a BIG-SCREEN TV! OOOOO!!!!!!
And don’t forget the old FOX movie theatre, complete with artificial minarrette and dome to make it look like it came from INDIA! (sort of. a little bit. maybe.) So this is what happens when you take a bunch of guys building the great American old-west and tell them to make a movie theatre that reminds you of far-away places. Notice the happy/sad theatre masks from days of old on the left and right of the center billboard.
Where would main-street 1950 USA be without a “Brown’s Shoe-Fit”?
.. or Adams Vacuum and Sewing?
Sometimes it just gets TOO bleak for me to bear. This is the “Woods Financial Center”, with three title and loan companies. Oh god, please fix my landing lite so I don’t have to keep stopping in the middle of nowhere before the sun sets!!!!!!!!!! 😉
But, they are not stuck COMPLETELY in the 50’s: Observe the trendy roof and architecture of the “Computer Business Solutions” building!
OK, OK, I have been too harsh… Rosemont does have this lovely little authentic Old-West square, restored a pretty decent level of beauty, both preserving a bit of our National Heritage and forming a nice little work environment. As well, on Main street, the businesses all sell things you NEED for every-day life, not what you WANT, and every other business is a bank or Tax company.. a town clearly geared for people that WORK hard for a living, have little extra, but still pay taxes by the book, even if they have to take out a loan at the same time… the businesses on Main street say it all. (I just didn’t show the banks and tax-centers above… but they are numerous).
The next day, and it was wheels-up to cross the Rockies.
Now down to Mather Field, Northern California, to work for Precision Flight Controls for a day before heading up to Band, Oregon, to hand the keys to 8141Q to John Walker and then grab the new Columbia-400! I took John on a quick demo flight in the Cirrus, briefly touching on it’s AMAZING manuverability, STUNNING redundancy of equipment (I just turned off the PFD, MFD, and G430 and easily continued the flight and landed with 3/4 of the equipment in the plane “failed”), and UN-EQUALED efficiency by demonstrating cruise of 165 knots on 10.5 gallons per hour. That’s the fuel flow of a Cessna 172 with 165 knots of speed in a plane that basically cannot get taken down by ANY conceivable set of failures. John loved the plane of course and promised to wire the money from Escrow right away.
Here is a picture of me in 8141Q on my very last flight in that plane, taken by John Walker, it’s next owner:
Now, off to the hotel to refresh myself and plan for the coming week of training in the Lancair. It was Sunday evening, and training was to start Monday morning at 8 am.
So, by all rights, I should stay away from the Lancair factory until th next morning.
As all who know me already know, I could not resist a little spying, trespassing, breaking-and-entering, and sneak-peaks, so off I went on a late and chilly sunday afternoon to the Lancair facility to see if I could track down my plane… and I only had to violate 2 no-trespassing signs and go around one fence to find it! Around the back of the building in the staging area sat 824X… the belly so dark and winter light so bleak and frigid that I actually thought it was NOT my plane at first because the belly looked BLACK in the waning light… but a closer inspection revealed the Arctic-White finish, deep Cranberry Pearl belly, with Viper Steel Gray and Black Pearl trim… with a JET-BLACK 824X across the tail and deeply-tinted (to the point of being BLACK in the evening light) rear windows. If Darth Vader were Italian, this would be his plane, I guarantee. (Black-tinted rear-widows are NOT the norm on these planes, so I am not sure why they did this… perhaps to experiment with their appearance in with the dark metallic colors I ordered… at any rate, it looks FABULOUS). Poking around the ramp revealed a handful of other noteworthy planes as well: Right there was Charles Lindberg’s grandson’s Lancair that he few non-stop across the North Atlantic, tracing his grandfather’s route. A few planes down was Sean Tucker’s Lancair, which he uses for Aerobatic routines. (Cirrus demonstrates aerobatics by painting the word “Cirrus” on an Extra-500 aerobatic plane and having it do routines for airshows. Lancair demonstrates by actually flying an un-modified Lancair Columbia-400 itself through aerobatic routines). The Cirrus facility is BIGGER than Lancair’s, and is clearly cranking out more planes, but each one is just the same. Every Cirrus is white with no more than a few colorful stickers on it. Each is the same. The Lancairs are fewer in number, but each one with custom colors and options, each with it’s ow history… each instantly recognizeable by it’s owner.
The Lancairs are really something SPECIAL.