If you’re a pilot, or friends with a pilot, you know that this pilot could spout off at any given time about why they love that airplane that just flew overhead or is sitting on the ramp. Let’s face it: as my professor likes to say “We’re all super dorks!” Yes, we’re super dorks, but if there weren’t any super dorks, who would fly you to Florida for Spring Break, or teach you how to fly? This week, I’ll feature a few of my favorite airplanes and hopefully light that unreasonable, I mean normal, spark in all of you to buy a really expensive hunk of metal (hey, we all have to have dreams).
The Most Versatile, Eye-Catching Trainer in the Business…
That’s right! It’s the Cessna 172 Skyhawk! This little beauty is my go-to aircraft for that weekend flight around Minnesota, or those take offs and landings to get night and day current again. It really is the workhouse of aviation industry and you’ll find this aircraft all over the world – UND has over 60 of these aircraft as a primary trainer for their Commercial Aviation students.
The 172 holds special memories for me as I learned to fly in one. Mine was probably not the most up to date as the average age was about 40-50 years old and it was comprised of mostly traditional instruments instead of the glass cockpit that UND uses. I remember the cross-country flights in the middle of the winter when it was a windier than predicted and I had the whole sky to myself in that little four-seater in southern Minnesota. Then there were all those flights to Glencoe, MN to practice short field landings, taxi-backs, and enjoying the scenery. Then there were the maneuvers, like turns around a point, flying from one navigational aid to the other, practicing stalls and spin recovery. I also remember the fun flights up north with friends, landing near places like Duluth, Grand Marais, and Madeline Island.
I also remember firsts, like my first solo on December 22, 2013 when the sky was so blue and the traffic was so calm. I pulled off some of the smoothest landings and was floating on air for weeks afterwards. I remember my checkride 6 months later when my DPE Woody scared the crap out me by making clicking noises over the radio, which in my over-stressed brain, was the end of all things, including that checkride (don’t worry, I passed!).
Aircraft are more than an expensive hung of metal, they are memory-makers.
The Suburban of the Aviation Industry…
I can’t claimed to have flown this next aircraft, but it really is a thing of beauty. The Pilatus PC-12 is one of the most versatile, single-engine, turbo-prop aircraft on the market. This aircraft has the ability to land on runways in the most remote places from Africa to Alaska. This aircraft seats anywhere from 6-9 people with a door that measures over 50 inches wide and over 50 inches tall – the cabin itself is also five feet wide! The remarkable door and cabin size makes it perfect for loading all that baggage, people, pets, and more.
The PC-12 is popular for many charter companies that do a regular service from point-to-point. It’s also popular for small companies with plants in remote locations. Companies, like those that specialize in air ambulances, especially love the PC-12 as the doors and cabin can be easily modified to fit medical beds and equipment in the cabin along with nurses and doctors. In addition, this aircraft has some of the safest engines in the business that burn jet fuel allowing it to be a more efficient option for even the thriftiest company.
If you’re looking for the aircraft that makes your heart to pitter-patter, the Cirrus SR-22 is one. This sleek, gleaming aircraft is built in my home state in Duluth, Minnesota. The signature tail number ending in “CA” or “Charlie Alpha” means that something special is about to taxi in.
While this aircraft may look like something your doctor would own, it’s actually a very versatile and useful aircraft. With its cruise speed over 200 miles per hour, it can take you to the coast in a very reasonable amount of time. In addition, this airframe boasts a top of the line GPS and engine instrument system in addition to XM Weather and Audio. One of the major selling points is the fact that the SR22 is equipment with the Known Ice Protection System that allows for more flying days during the seasonal transitions. It also has a parachute which has proven to save many lives in accidents and incidents.
Overall, you really can’t help but look longingly at this aircraft every time you see one. I know I do!
I realize that the 2nd and 3rd aircraft may be out of bounds for most of my pilot friends – at least until we all graduate and get full-time jobs. However, I try not to let a price tag or the exclusivity of a class of aircraft stop me. I’d encourage all of my pilot friends to get to know those in the industry, those you work with, and your other flying classmates. Someday you just might find yourself flying a Pilatus, a Cirrus, or some other amazing aircraft for a living.