I meant to relate this story about a month ago when it happend, but here it goes:
I took my SR20 to Bimini in the Bahamas to do some diving. The trip originated in Norwood, MA and the route of flight was KOWD-KBWI, KBWI-KDAB, KDAB-MYBS. The return flight was MYBS-KFXE-KDAB-KSAV-KBWI-KBED.
As a VFR pilot, this was a challenging trip. The weather got pretty lousy on the first day, which put us in at BWI after being sent into the clouds by the KDCA controller, I asked for lower (2,500) and after he told me twice that I could not have lower, I did what my first instructor said to do, I told the controller I was turning back to KBWI and I did a 180 at 10 degrees of bank and waited for the clouds to disappear.
Landing at BWI, I was actually pretty happy to be on the ground. The next day was pretty nice and we had an uneventful high (10,000+) flight to Daytona. When we got to Daytona, there was a line of thunderstorms along the coast and some thickening scattered clouds at between 900 and 2,500. We managed to thread the VFR needle into Daytona and drove quickly to the hotel bar where we watched the skies blacken and the palm trees bend in the wind.
The following days flight to Bimini was beautiful, close to perfect. The customs in Bimini was very straightforward and we were diving that afternoon. The Bimini airstrip is daytime only and reported to be 5,000 feet long, although it seemed longer.
The flight home was uneventful, until I got to New York. Heading over the southern coast of Long Island I watched my ground speed drop from 145 to less than 100 kts. I was getting tossed around like a rag doll and came close to hitting my head even with the belts as tight as I could get them. I had happened upon some really strong wind. After arguing with NY ATC for a while, they let me head west around the city, which then tokk about 1.5 hours (normally 40 mins). While I felt very fatigued from the heavy turbulence, I felt very comfortabel with the way the aircraft performed. Very stable, but bumpy (it is still a pretty small aircraft). I finally made it to Norwood, the wind letting up a little, and had trouble finding the airport at night. It was clear, but I could not get the Pilot controlled lights to function. I diverted to Bedford Hanscom, which is towered much later than Norwood and lit up like (as my father used to say) “french whore house”. I had a nice landing, took a cab home and slept the sleep of the dead.
It was a great trip and I learned a lot. As a SR20 diehard, these comments may sound repetitive, but the SR20 makes a lot tougher trip not only possible, but comfortable. The ease with which you can determine where you are and the terrific radios that help you keep in touch with those assigned to help you, makes things a lot less stressful.
On a perfect windless fall day the SR20 and a 172 probably give you a somewhat similar experience, but its when you get into a little trouble or you get tired, that’s when the advanced features make you feel like you can do it.
Heavy chop, marginal VFR, long trips, the occasional confusion, all are made a lot easier by the capabilities of this aircraft. I cannot wait until I am IFR so that I can enjoy the balance of the abilities of this aircraft.
One continuing pain in my ass (sorry Walt) is the continual questioning of ATC regarding the type. I am, on average, asked three time as to “what type is that”. I am not exagerating. Its ok most of the time, but when you dodging T-storms and probably flying beyond your capablilities and the controller wants to talk about “what type of aircraft is that again” it get a little irritating. I feel like telling them "It’s the parachute plane, and if you don’t stop bothering me I am going to use it right over the tower!’
This aircraft is a blast. Its very capable, easy to fly and fast. And once you learn how to land it (I think I’m there after 130 hours in type), you can make landings where passengers say "I didn’t feel us land. I had a position holder say recently that it felt like an airliner landing.
Nothing makes pilots feel cooler than smooth landings!
I have taken several position holders and potential position holders flying, and again make the offer to those who live in the Northeast.
P.S. This site is terrific, everyone owes Clyde a big round of applause.