For the last week, Kevin Moore and I have been talking about the subject of flying with non-flyers, particularly ones you are close to. As a single guy, who has pretty much only had to answer to himself, I had not given much actual thought to the idea that “a lot of people don’t like to fly – especially in smaller airplanes.” But now, as I look to a possibly non-single future, the real value of Cirrus, or maybe I should say the intangible value of Cirrus, begins to become clear to me. And despite recent postings about various production hiccups, my new perspective gives me even more confidence in this company and its future.
To put is simply: As a pilot, I think I’ve forgotten that most people really don’t like to fly GA. I know a lot who love it, but after a very unscientific survey of friends/family, I realize that for every one who likes it, there are three who aren’t that crazy about it. Sure, they’re good for a lunch flight, but as a regular means of transportation… forget it! Maybe all of you who post here know this, but I had forgotten it in all my enthusiasm for GPS, STEC AP’s…etc.
For aviation to take the next step, it needs to get over this hurdle. That is going to take a great deal of tangible improvement: reliability, IFR capability, service (ask Kevin Moore). But I think the most significant change will be in people’s minds. The 66% of this country that thinks of small planes as home of the thrill-seekers needs to be convinced otherwise. Until this happens, GA will expand very slowly, no matter how bad traffic gets on the ground or at LAX.
Enter the parachute. Now, for me, the parachute is a nice idea. For me, it’s like extra-airbags. I think it’s great, but will fly without them. But what I am finally beginning to realize is you CANNOT overestimate the value of that sucker for the majority of people who are not pilots. I know that until a few days ago, I severly underestimated it. I would be interested in hearing other people’s experience on this one, but in my case I am beginning to see that the chute may be the difference between flying with people I love and seeing them truly comfortable in the air.
Now maybe to you seasoned guys this is all wimp stuff. You’re aces, your loved ones either trust you or not. You bomb into 2000 foot sod strips with 25kt crosswinds… But that’s not the way it works for me, and my guess is that’s not the way it works for that 66% that GA needs to woo in order to go to that next level. I fly because I love it. I want to share it with the people in my life, and if the parachute opens up the skies for them, well, then I think I’m going to stop trying to explain to them how rarely we’d use it, etc. I think I might just say, “well then maybe I’ll get one.”
My guess is that years from now, no one is going to care too much about how fast the SR-20 went, or how much fuel it burned. People will say, “we’re flying to Santa Barbara? Does the plane have a chute?” and if you say yes, the people will probably relax and enjoy the ride.