Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cirrus SR20 Flight

Today I had the opportunity to fly with MikeB in the Cirrus SR20 that he spends quality time with. I say it that way because flying that plane is pure fun and excitement as you will gather from my account of today's adventure.

The plan was to meet at (KILG) Red Eagle at 8:45 and take the Archer to Lancaster. Why drive when you can go by air. I had my pre-flight finished by the time Mike rolled in, I was there early and had the chance to chat with a few of my ramp neighbors. I ordered fuel to top the tanks and just needed to sump before climbing in. I'm still using my new step stool that Mary purchased and it's working out great. With the sump on each tank completed I climbed up on the wing, hooked the step stool with my cane and then stowed the stool in the baggage compartment. It was a bit harder to lock the baggage door from up on the wing but I maintained the 'don't break 90*' rule for my hip restrictions.

Once Mike was aboard I went through my checklists and we got the fan started, the cool air felt great! I contacted Wilmington ground and asked for taxi clearance for our VFR departure to Lancaster, Lima November Sierra and stated that I had the current ATIS info. I was cleared to taxi to runway 1 via Kilo hold short, contact the tower. No problem since I needed to do my run up at taxiways Kilo and Mike. I was cleared for take off and back taxi for as much runway as I wanted on runway one. I rolled to the three thousand foot marker so when I turned into the wind I had four thousand feet in front of me. 679er was in the air and I was off on my Cirrus adventure. I picked up flight following with Philly, eventually being handed of to Harrisburg. When I called field in sight I was switched over to the Lancaster tower. Actually Mike had the field in sight I was still looking, I eventually found it. I was a bit high on final, ok much higher then normal but slowed the Archer down and made a pretty good landing on runway three one. Mike gave me directions so we could park close to the Cirrus. We unloaded our flight bags, my Garmin/Zaon electronics and secured 679er for her day on the ramp.

I felt bad leaving her there while I went off to play with another plane, I know, call me crazy. We opened the T-hangar and there she sat; sleek, shiny, smooth lines, it was like looking at my first corvette many years ago. It too was white but had a red interior the SR20 was a neutral or tan color. Mike opened up both doors to get some air flowing and just watching them open I could almost hear that plane say, in a sexy female voice of course, yeah, you want it, climb on in for a spin. I had to shake my head and clear my ears, I know I was hearing voices. Mike went through a very detailed pre-flight outside and in, I watched and tried not to get in the way to much. Gear stowed and pre-flight complete Mike hooked up the hand held tug and pulled the SR20 out of the hangar.

The fuel truck came,topped us off and Mike completed the fuel sump. I climbed in as did Mike and he was going through the prestart checks and explaining along the way. The glass cockpit is almost intimidating when your looking it over for the very first time. I payed for a downloaded and did some glass cockpit work online so I wasn't totally lost. Don't misunderstand me, I wasn't even in the ballpark with the operation but had a very rough idea of what a few buttons did. It was time to get the fan spinning and she roared to life, a very nice throaty sounding aircraft. We taxied out and completed the run up prior to our taxi on Alpha. We were number two behind a Cessna and we both waited for an aircraft on short final. Lancaster is a busy place, plenty of traffic and Cape Air was running flights too.

Finally our turn to take off. After acknowledging clearance and rolling into position it was full throttle and we were on the go. This baby was screaming and it sure scoots along faster then the Archer. The Cirrus also uses a lot more runway then the Archer but we were soon in the air and climbing out. The plan was Direct to KMGJ, Orange County, NY. Allentown's airspace topped at 4,400 we would be well clear but picked up flight following anyway. Initially we were looking for 7,500 but the cloud tops were getting close and we climbed for 9,500. Once past Allentown's airspace we were handed of to NY Approach then Center. I wanted to compare the Zaon to the Garmin 430's traffic and I must say it was spot on. I actually had a few more on screen traffic calls then the 430, I was shocked but relieved to know the Zaon works very well. I also had my Garmin 496 plugged in so I could compare wx observations and that too seemed on par with the Avidyne systems.

The cloud layer started to close up and required us to get a pop up clearance into Orange County. Mike made the call and the controller gave us cleared direct MGJ, descend and maintain four thousand. Wow, that seemed easy and a straight shot into Orange County. I got to see some actual as we entered into the cloud layer and popped out in short order as we continued our descent. This is where the fun started, ok maybe the craziness is a better term. As we approached MGJ and monitored traffic, we counted two aircraft in the pattern an ercoupe and a Cessna. We also observed that runway two six was in use. We wanted something a bit longer and opted for runway two one. We made our calls and overflew the airport above pattern altitude and positioned for our landing on two one. Unicom announced that runway 26 is active and their are five planes in the pattern. Hmmmm....I count two and have one just landed and the other turning right base to final. We continued on in. Meanwhile as the one aircraft was about to land another took the runway to depart. Yes, there was an exchange between pilots and the landing aircraft gave the departing plane hell, deserved but we all didn't need to hear it and it blocked other traffic that may have needed to report. The departing aircraft made a stupid statement that he never heard a single call from the landing plane, hmmm...funny he can hear him now. Maybe he needs to remind himself about a sterile cockpit or turn up the volume 'before' taking the runway. Either way if the landing aircraft wanted to preach about the safety concern he also could have went around, thinking that the two wrongs could result in bent metal.

We finally get on the ground and taxi in to park across from Ricks Runway Cafe'. The food was good at least my burger was and the ice tea hit the spot. A few folks wandered over to take a peek at our ride. The Cirrus did seem to draw some attention, deservedly so, it's a gorgeous plane. We finished up and Mike called for a wx update, he also filed in case we needed to pick up while in flight. Once back in the plane Mike went over the numbers for the shorter runway (two six) departure. While it was doable we had just witnessed a Piper Six loaded with five adults lumber down the runway and fly in ground effect for a good long distance then blast off to clear the surrounding terrain. I thought to myself those folks sure must have puckered, glad I wasn't on board.

We decided on runway two one, plenty of distance and safety factor. We fired up and taxied out for our VFR departure back to Lancaster. We decided to just enjoy the flight and monitor approach, no flight following until we got closer to Allentown. Mike gave me the controls and I settled in trying to get the feel for the SR20. The controls were much tighter then I would have expected. The aircraft was quick to respond, reminding of the corvette days when driving. Smooth flight despite heading home under the cloud layer. I guess we were maybe 15-18 miles out when Mike called Allentown approach for flight following and requested a GPS approach into Lancaster. The IAF would be AYOSA and Mike plugged all the info in. It was very cool to see the aircraft tracking on the approach plate. Remember, I'm used to flying GPS approaches on the Garmin 300XL, big difference!

Another really nice landing and Mike has us rolling out for taxiway Delta. We made our way back to the T-Hangar and secured the SR20, it was hard to just put it away. This is the plane you could fly for hours and hours and I really didn't want it to end. As we walked back to 679er we joked about staying out and flying to Rhode Island for dinner and drink and then heading home early in the morning.....our Brides would have not been to happy with that, glad it was only a remote thought.

We pre-flighted 679er and headed out to runway three one for our VFR departure back to Wilmington. It was nice to be back in the left seat and flying home in my gal 679er. Obviously planes are like good dogs, they still love you no matter who your with or who you went flying in. We chugged on home, no flight following, opting to contact Wilmington tower at 15 out. Mike mentioned that 679er seems running rough, I listened and thought she sounded fine but things did seem louder then usual. Maybe it was the droaning in my ears I'm not sure then I thought maybe my batteries quit in the Zulu. Nope they were working, I forgot to turn them on! Ahhhh...instant quiet, Mike laughed until he checked his headset, his Bose were not on either. We cracked up, you could tell it was along day.

Wilmington tower advised enter a down wind for runway one. I acknowledged, then asked left or right down wind? There was a short pause then he asked your coming from the north west? Affirmative 679er, I answered and he confirmed left down wind. I know better then to assume since I have been given either down wind in the past. We chugged along and I announced midfield left downwind, 679er and the tower followed with cleared to land long runway one. I acknowledged and we were in the home stretch. The long landing was given to save me taxi time to taxiway Kilo and on to red Eagle, it helps when the tower folks know you. Again I was high on base to final and pulled the power for a good landing. I actually had the cross wind covered and landed left main then right main, heck even I get lucky now and then. I had 1.6 flying the Archer and I think we ended up 2.9 or so in the Cirrus....what a great day flying!!


James said...

Sounds like a great day. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

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Steve said...

I've gotta get up in a Cirrus some day myself - sure sounds like a great ride!

ddf said...

Its very easy to fall in love with a machine like the Sr20. Even without all of the toys she still flies like a dream. Glad to see that you're back in the air!

Pilot Bob said...


Glad to hear your are back in the left seat Gary.

Both ANC off. What's the chances of that. (Pretty funny)

britejoy21 said...

Hi Gary,

What a fantastic account of a Cirrus flight!
I am wondering if we could repost this on our website?

You can contact me at

Thanks so much!