Leaving Sydney to Knoxville Tennessee - delivery of the Jet
Rolling on the runway to a normal take off on Korean airline flight the view over Botany Bay on this clear blue sky morning we look over the skyline of Sydney and say “goodbye” it is the start of our journey. We are constantly checking the test flights of N16AT on flight aware that are being conducted. Cirrus took the Jet for 2 hours from the manufacturing plant in Duluth Minnesota to same destination, performing steep turns then to 31,000 feet doing an airspeed of 310kts. We are getting very excited to see the plane in many testing flights getting everything perfect prior to the flight to the delivery centre in Knoxville Tennessee where we will meet our new bird. After 2 flights on KA and an over night stop in Seoul we arrive to the busiest airport in the world - Atlanta, being met by Justin, from Cirrus who has an impressive ex air-force career, having piloted many aircraft including the F16 and now works with Cirrus (these guys hire and work with the best in the business) we drive straight to the FBO of signature and squeeze our bags into every spot on the 2 week old demo SF50 Jet that is our ride to Knoxville TN, the delivery and training centre for the Jet. Amir sits left seat and is guided by Justin on pre-flight checks and we taxi onto the tarmac joined along by jumbos of every airline all over the world, we are a little blimp in comparison!
We sit on the hold point watching these giants turn in front of us and line up for take off ... they roll on and accelerate with engines whirring, then our turn, the other jumbos sit and wait, we turn onto the runway, line up whilst rolling slowly, increase thrust to take off power and accelerate, that sweet sound of the Cirrus jet engine that you feel through your entire body and before you know (well...me.. as a back seat passenger) we are light as a feather airborne and floating above the airport cruising to altitude with Atlanta City on our left and on our way to Knoxville just a 30 minute flight sitting on 210kts that’s 245kts ground speed at 13000ft, 45%thrust which is governed by the auto throttle. A new feature of the Generation 2 Vision Jet. Very soon we are on approach and descending down to land in Knoxville. Amir conducting a smooth left turn to position for a final glide to the runway, a lovely soft landing and for a pilot that has just come from a 14hr international flight after being in transit from Australia to US for over 48hrs, it is a very impressive landing. We are waved into parking by Brad and we jump out and give him a big hello we are back! Brad tells us he has the best job in the world, everyone else at Cirrus do all the hard work, the designers, engineers, manufacturing, trainers, sales, marketing etc and he has the pleasure of working in the delivery centre. He makes the delivery experience special for each new owner and he feels like Santa everyday. It is Friday here and we are informed that the weather in Duluth MN is holding up the flying of the new aircrafts from the production plant there in Duluth to the delivery centre. We are tracking our tail number each day on flight aware and see the arrival today for our official delivery ceremony on Tuesday, so we have a weekend here to enjoy before meeting our new Jet.
The Cirrus Training centre is a buzz of new pilots learning, their trainers, Cirrus staff and new owners being shown the Cirrus Life. It is Monday 14/10/19 the day before our “delivery day”, lunch time and a well earned break for all to enjoy the catered daily lunch and chat about what they are experiencing and what their expectations are in either training or delivery of their new aircrafts, be that a new Jet or an SR22. It is a good place to meet new friends and swap and share new ideas, methods, systems and to pick up how things tick in the US and other regions. We meet Amy who tells us she flew our aircraft from Duluth with Jeff, the weather was a lot of snow and she took off in sleet conditions, the aircraft performed beautifully and is just perfect.
Jeff is also our mentor, who will be with us for the first 25 hours of flight time in the Jet. This ensures that new pilots are fully acquainted with the aircraft and the flight controls and to practice in-air all the training and processes that were instilled in the type rating back in August. It was 6 weeks ago and most training was done in the Simulator so to put everything in motion in flight time is a big deal and there are a lot of kinks to iron out.
As our initial delivery day was suppose to be today and was pushed back due to the bank holiday today we will take a first mentor flight in a Cirrus Demo. I ride along as we will be covering all the ground training which is pre-flight visual checks over the aircraft – what to look for and check all the systems are operational. Simple things like how to adj the seats, opening and closing the door, emergency systems, oxygen, lighting, all very much the same as the SR22 but also much more to check.
Jeff and Amir run through all the pre-check flight procedures and gives tips and habits to start to work with a full understanding of why these are best practice which assists with the learning because if you know why your doing a procedure then you will remember it and also keep up the best practice.
Running through the auto throttle process and the set up of the flight plan and setting in all the parameters for the auto throttle – like at a certain level maintain a certain speed, this ensures the aircraft will automatically work in the parameters set for best performance and engine health. When landing set flaps at 50% and the auto throttle adjusts the thrust, set flaps at 100% and again automatic adjustment of thrust.
Our first landing in Atlanta a full stop and re-take off again for KCHA – Chattanooga for a go around getting Amir familiar with normal operational take-off/landing/flying how the automatic systems and there are many!, are working with normal flight conditions and operations. The training is working constantly on emergency conditions and it is interesting and fun to watch the normal flight operations, the Jet is a flying computer and it is very evident watching Amir and Jeff with head constantly in the computers making changes and settings and adjustments that the Jet is an amazing aircraft.
Our delivery day today 15/10 is very exciting, all the waiting from the past 12+ years to now has come to this important day. We are driven into the delivery hangar which is in darkness and there is the Jet sitting patiently waiting for us, we are surrounded by the wonderful staff and ground team of Cirrus and hugs all round as we walk around and then open the door. This is my first look at the interior that Amir finally chose and I am very impressed, we discussed many times the selection but in the end I left it to Amir to make the final decision and he has chosen well. Cream seats, brown carpet, beige and dark beige side panels with padded cream insert fabric. The surprise for me was the cup holders and side stripping trim is a champagne metallic colour it matches with the seat belts and really puts a classy finish on the trim.
The emotions are very high and we a very blown away by the whole experience. Our acceptance flight is with Nick. An hour and a half in our first feel of our Jet I watch Amir go through all the flight controls and systems with Nick looking on mostly – Amir tells me later he felt very comfortable in this flight. Everything seemed to flow nicely and he is performing steep turns flying by hand at 6500 ft, doing 200+kts left/right over and over without moving any more than 20 feet altitude either way, a very difficult task and he looks so natural and is enjoying himself immensely!
We can’t fault a thing all systems check off and we are back at the hangar where our friend Brad has a few very nice bottles of the best Jack Daniels, one for each, because I told him the story of how I drank all the Angel JD from our last trip here. We have made so many new and wonderful friends here in the Cirrus centre it is hard to list them all but here are a few call outs; Michelle with your welcoming smile and patience everyday thank you, Blake who looks after what we call Bums and Tums a very important comfort for all (and will save us a good parking spot when we need it 😉) Ron our mensch (Hebrew for the Most pure of heart) he has helped us both so much in every way, Brandee our delivery queen executing everything with smooth ease and further most in our minds on this important day is Adam who is bravely fighting a very serious sickness we miss him terribly and wish him speedy recovery and cant wait to see his smiling face soon.
First mentor flight in N16AT! We are exporting to Canada today 16/10/19. Loaded up with enough baggage for a few days we are escorted out of the delivery centre, start up and checks compete, we take off from Knoxville on route to Pittsburgh, Arnold Palmer airport first stop, lunch and fuel then onto CYOW Ottawa Canada. This is the first flight we will do in high altitude 31,000 ft, we climb through a few layers of cloud and are above the weather and in clear blue skies very quickly and gradually keep climbing as we get to 28,000ft the feel is evident and we are soon cruising along with ease. The Jet is performing nicely and Jeff and Amir spend their time again going through all the checks settings and working hard together – I’m just sitting back and relaxing – enjoying the luxury of the back seats with the new centre console – I feel so special and very blessed.
A very nice landing in Pittsburgh and back in the air we again fly to altitude collecting icing conditions on the way with icing boots and FIKI (flight into known icing) working we get to 24,000 ft and get a pitot heat probe fail message alert in yellow, Jeff tries to recycle it by disconnecting and reconnecting circuit breaker A8 this does not resolve the issue we are about to penetrate to another layer of high cloud with icing conditions so immediately Jeff asks Amir to stop the climb trying to stay in VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions) between the cloud layers to check for other solutions. We communicate with ATC that we need to veer left and decent to 21,000ft to get clear of IMC conditions to try the other rectifications as per the operations manual. The pilots get on the satellite phone to call the Cirrus service centre to see if they have a solution. Being 40 NM north east of KLBE Cleveland, we are within fuel range to turn back and return to Knoxville direct. Jeff opts to return to Knoxville to rectify the problem. KTYS Knoxville airport is cleared re-route direct by ATC and we turn around climbing up to 23,000ft then up to 28,000ft. We have the left pitot probe and all other indicators working fine so we still have avionics and readings but this is not the type of problem to continue on with. Serious if we loose the other pitot heat in IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) we would need to deploy the parachute. For those that know very little about the mechanics (I’m putting my hand up here on this) the pitot tube is located on the wing of the aircraft a small tube that is always checked before flight to ensure it is clean and free of any bugs or debris. During flight the air moves through the tube and measures the air speed, so this is crucial for air flight as not enough airspeed over the wings of an aircraft will not give the lift required to fly. The vision Jet has two pitot tube probes one under each wing.
When we pull the fuse on the pitot heat we get a AOA fail (extremely important device).
A8 circuit breaker is for the L pitot we pull that to see what happens and there is just the fail Pitot heat L fail alert.
E4 circuit breaker for the pitot R – gives the AOA fail alert and the Pitot heat R fail alert.
We call our friend Jim in Ottawa – who has already seen on Flight Aware that we have turned around, he advises the weather in Ottawa is really terrible, freezing wind and rain, so not advisable to fly into this soup with a pitot heat problem. It is a good decision to turn back.
During the flight back I test the TV screen and video system, we do everything, to get the screen going – we have audio – but no screen, so this is another one on the list for the guys in the repair shop to fix.
As soon as we return to Knoxville the efficient guys in the repair centre are greeting, they have been advised we are returning and are ready to fix the problem immediately. The Cirrus service is outstanding.
Amir and Jeff make the most of the down time by jumping in another Demo Jet and taking a night flight to Charlotte in NC. This is an incredibly busy airspace and Amir tells me when he gets home after 11:30PM!, they were in the airspace with so many jets all being guided by ATC at different altitudes rolling around each other taking their turns to land or sit in holding patterns the lights of all the jets buzzing around in front, side and behind them. To me it sounded like the Jetsons or one of those star wars episodes that you need to fly with hundreds of others in the sky lanes and layers. He is pumped and loved every minute!
The next day we are back at the Cirrus service/training centre and we are told the aircraft is all go, fixed and ready…the guys worked on the problem overnight and the specialist to test the seals and calibrate the newly installed pitot probe has completed everything this morning.
It is Thursday 17/10/19 and we will fly direct to Canada today no stopping, the weather is clear blue skies and on-route we hope to get a bit of crappy weather as otherwise Jeff Mr Mentor is just a tag along – just joking. We want to have as many opportunities of poor weather with our Mentor as we can – yesterday was a good day in this regard so although it may have felt like a set back we are happy and grateful for the experience. Upon entry into Ottawa Canada’s capital airport we experience quite a lot of icing. The icing boots and FIKI working beautifully to clear the ice.
It is a requirement of the export of the plane to spend the first 15hrs in flight operation in a country outside of the US so after flying the past 6 hrs Amir and Jeff let me off to get a hotel and they take off again to complete some more hours and maneuvers in Canadian airspace, they are back by dinner time and we are joined by our good friends Jim and Juranya from our African safari trip back in 2014, it is great to catch up and we love these guys dearly.
The next day we spend most of the day in flight around Canada, landing in various places and testing and practicing safety features on the plane. Testing and trying the stick shaker and stick pusher, at 17,000ft, Amir forces the plane to go into a stall situation, the stick shaker indicates the plane is about to stall (loss of air over the wings) there are warnings on the avionics going off everywhere – RED warnings…serious.. the shaker vibrates the control yoke and if the pilot doesn’t correct (as this is a test to see if the auto systems will respond) immediately the auto system kicks in as the pilot didn't respond and the yoke pushes down quite violently to correct the stall.
Jeff does a test also and we are satisfied that the system is working nicely. We spend some time rotating over Niagara Falls enjoying some sightseeing whilst still working hard on the required hours needed. The pilots are really completing a lot of hours and training it is exhausting for them. I sit on the back seat and can feel the difference between the SR22 propeller plane and this pressurised cabin atmosphere. For instance if we flew in the SR22 the amount of hours that we are doing here at high altitude we would be dehydrated and headache sick but in the Jet we come from a flight refreshed and normal.
It is Saturday 19/10/19 and we should complete our hours today and return to Knoxville, testing the radar and needing to complete just a few more landing checks then we can head back to the USA.
Jeff puts Amir into a cabin pressure fail emergency test, activating the oxygen mask deployment and then an immediate altitude reduction from 20,000 ft to 6000ft doing 250kts maximum speed as anything over this would be over the limits of the airframe. When at 6000ft Jeff declares an engine failure and an immediate emergency landing at next airport, which is behind us so Amir needs to complete a 180 degree spiral descent to line up and land. The two exercises together are like a dive bomber heading straight down and then a rolling spiral landing procedure to bleed off more altitude, on final we are still at 1800ft, we don’t accomplish a touch down until mid-runway so need to apply the brakes harder than normal. The test and check is a success, we stop for lunch then back in the air for a crossing back to the USA, clearing customs in Cleveland, on to Knoxville while the sun was going down. The night flight penetration to Knoxville was through a layer of icing and freezing moderate rain, with icing boots/FIKI on and the radar guiding us on patches that are better than others we weave through the weather front both pilots and plane performing well. This flight also concludes the 25hr Mentor training hours.