Misc data points (looooonnnng)

For a variety of reasons, including moving (via airplane) from the west coast to the east, and promotional activities about which I should not elaborate, I have done an absolute ton of Cirrus flying in the last two weeks. “Absolute ton” = 42 hours in 15 days. From one coast to the other, then back to the midwest, then back to the east, with a bunch of jaunts in between. Various brief observations and findings:

  • Cirrus had 21 work days in July and delivered 21 airplanes. (Not necessarily reflected in their web-site count, but in their actual delivery count.) Won’t make that rate in August, because of presumably-non-recurring material problems in the Grand Forks plant. As I understand it, a matter of managing the impact of humidity on the fiberglass used in fuselages. I went to the Grand Forks plant, heard about the problem, heard them say that they’d found the solution and would resume cruising speed after the early-August bump.

  • There are rumblings all over the company that a financing deal is at last nearing completion, for an amount of money significant enough to make a difference in production rates, product-line expansion, and so on. My bet is that we’ll hear something for-real definite about this by Labor Day.

  • East Coast/ West Coast differences. In six months in California, I basically never used the storm scope. In repeated trips across the midwest and up and down the east coast this last month, the stormscope was my best friend. Last night, was going from St. Paul (KSTP) to Gaithersburg (KGAI) in night IMC, because of impenetrable haze. A tremendous help to be able to work out with ATC an alternative routing (down through West VIrigina, rather than Pennsylvania) to avoid all the stuff I saw on the stormscope. And then a relief to see that there was no convective activity to worry about as I got ready for night-IMC approach to GAI.

  • On the other hand: as I mentioned before, got a chance to demo-fly a 22, while doing most of my x-country trekking in my own 20. Because the most dramatic difference with the 22 is the climb rate (even more htan cruise speed), the 22 is really the plane for the west coast – or for wherever fast climbs in hot weather may be called for.

  • On hot weather: maybe I’m nuts, but I personally would not spend any money or weight on an air conditioning system. It’s hot on the ground, but that’s why I keep the door open until I’m cleared for takeoff. And within a minute of takeoff the airflow is fast enough to provide cooling as you climb. Just my opinion.

  • Based on conversations at and since Oshkosh, I think ARNAV is trying to look alive, in the sense of offering updates and improvements it knows the market requires. Next test will be the updated software they’re planning to release in about a month.

  • The 20 I have was produced a while before I got hold of it, and its annual would be due in October. Since I had to go through Duluth, I had an “early annual” done at the beginning of August at the factory. Essentially: no surprises. Brake pads replaced (maybe I should find longer runways), lots of things tightened and adjusted, no big problems of any sort.

  • Landing theory. Being instructed by one of the Cirrus contract pilots, Gene, on landing the 22, clarified a simple cookbook way to think about landing the 20 or 22. It is simply:

      1. FLY the plane down, carrying a little power, until it's in ground effect. For me this is at 85kts in the 22, 80 in the 20.
      2. Once it's in ground effect, bleed off the remaining power and edge the nose up to bleed off the speed, and just let it settle (on the mains).
     If this violates anyone's theory, sorry, no offense or heresy intended. But with this simple scheme in mind I've found the plane almost idiot-proof to land.

CAUTION: NEXT SECTION involves mention of my book Free Flight, included because of its relevance to Cirrus-dom. But if this will annoy you stop reading here:

Sometime in the next week, the Lehrer News Hour is likely to have a segment by Paul Solman, its business correspondent, on the implications of a renaissance in GA. He did a lot of interviews with Cirrus people at Oshkosh, and also with me. I flew his camera crew around – and thank God there were no mishaps, including when we got into a JFK-haze situation, and I explained why an instrument rating was valuable (and an autopilot, and a parachute.)

ALso, the current week’s Business Week has an article about my book that talks about Cirrus and overall GA prospects; the current New Yorker has a shorter book item.

Great information and reporting Jim. It was a pleasure to meet you and your wife at Oshkosh.

P.S. If you get down to Ft. Lauderdale, you can borrow my SR22 anyday.


Given your schedule, what kind of risk analysis do you use to keep out of trouble? Seems pressures could be intense to meet interviews, meetings, photo ops, etc. Those of us not flying as much single engine GA might benefit by knowing how you make your go, no-go decisions.


Great information and reporting Jim. It was a pleasure to meet you and your wife at Oshkosh.

P.S. If you get down to Ft. Lauderdale, you can borrow my SR22 anyday.

Jim how do I find this program to watch next week. I purchased your book i like it half way thru it.fFrom Don pos 215

I am the farthest thing from a piloting sage, but I am also the farthest thing from a daredevil, so these are the principles I’ve applied:

  • If I HAVE to get someplace by a fixed time, weather or not, I go commercial. Everyplace I went in the last couple weeks understood this was a “I get there when I get there, and if the weather is bad I won’t come at all” operation. My wife calls it, semi-affectionately, “the GA Way.”

  • I had quite good luck in the last two weeks, in that most places I wanted to go had good, clear, non-thunderstorm weather.
    Luck in the preceding month or two had not been so good. Had scrubbed three or four straight trips because of icing (one of the west coast Cirrus fly-ins), thunderstorms (a trip I planned from Concord to Bozeman, Montana, for a conference – but all of Idaho was full of thunderstorms), gusty Santa Ana winds (35 kt winds at the SoCalif airports where I planned to land).

  • What I’m afraid of and will scrub a trip for:

    (a) icing conditions. Have gotten into this several times when it wasn’t forecast, and don’t want to risk it when it IS forecast. Even more so with 20 than 22, because of climb-performance difference.

    (b) lines of thunderstorms, like the one that reaches down most of the east coast right at this moment.

  • What I’m concerned about and will try to avoid:

    © overcast ceiling low enough to require real concentration – lets say, a forecast of anything below 1000 AGL in the day, or 2000 ft at night.

    (d) gusty winds at projected landing sites.

    (e) projected or reported turbulence of moderate-or-worse for any substantial part of the route.

  • What I’m comparatively comfortable with:

    (f) actual IMC, since I had to load on lots of hours of that when getting instrument rating in Seattle.

    (g) night flying, which on clear nights over populated areas gives you a good view of where you’re going and on cloudy nights leads to a heightened attention to the instruments, I find. Both night and actual-IMC become a lot less attractive in turbulent conditions of course.

So, tomorrow I’m hoping to visit my son, on Cape Cod. But it depends on whether the huge line of thunderstorms has moved through or not. jf

Just decided, sigh, NOT to go see my son on Cape Cod today, because the line of thunderstorms has parked itself in Pa - NJ - Conn and seems not to be moving.

Just decided, sigh, NOT to go see my son on Cape Cod today, because the line of thunderstorms has parked itself in Pa - NJ - Conn and seems not to be moving.

Jim, good decision. My family is vacationing in Green Pond, NJ (near Greenwood lake). We welcomed the cold front that arrived yesterday to break the heat wave. Now that it is a stationary front smack-dab on top of us, we’re less excited. As a Bay Area resident I’m not used to weather that doesn’t evaporate by Noon!