A quick call to friend and fellow pilot Tom Linton on Saturday, August 22, confirmed his participation in our all-day aviation immersion experience. I picked him up less than 12 hours later on Sunday morning and we headed to Maryland’s Frederick Municipal Airport. The Let’s Go Flying Sweepstaks Cirrus SR22 was tucked in Hangar A11. And I do mean “tucked.” The Cirrus’ 38-foot, four-inch wingspan leaves only about two feet on either side inside of the hangar. My biggest fears regarding the Cirrus have nothing to do with flying the airplane; it’s putting it back in the hangar.
Anyhow, we pulled the flashy sprinter out into the early morning mist, loaded her up, and headed northeast to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for Airport Community Days. The all-weekend event was lightly attended on Saturday because of testy weather. The air show had been moved to its rain date of Sunday.
We arrived after a quick flight from Frederick, with Tom getting his first flight in a Cirrus and a little stick time too from the right seat.
The effecient air show crew soon had us backed in front center between an A-10 Warthog and a Russian Beriev Be-103 low-wing amphbian. We were in good, albeit eclectic company.
Before the crowds arrived, Tom and I took a quick walk down the ramp, passing a peck glimmering of P-51s, a B-17 Liberator, a couple of more of the angry-looking A-10s, a fleet of World War II trainers from Fairchild, Grumman, and other iconic companies, and a big clutch of light sport airplanes.
Somebody somwhere threw open a gate and we were suddenly awash in people oogling the A-10 next door, kids crawling in and out of the Beriev, and AOPA members checking in on “their” Sweepstakes Cirrus.
Unlike AirVenture, Sun ’n Fun, and AOPA Aviation Summit, where the audience is predominantly pilots, the folks at the community days were mostly nonpilots. It was a target rich environment for engaging folks about the benefits of general aviation and letting them know what an airplane such as a Cirrus can do for them. Many had never fathomed that someone would or could own an airplane themselves. “What would you do with it?” was a common question. As one who is immersed in aviation and who routinely uses GA airplanes for business and personal travel, I was at first stunned that people didn’t know. But I quickly recovered and began evangelizing about the benefits of GA flying, taking some tips from AOPA’s GA Serves America campaign.
Almost an equal number of people expressed an interest in flight training, giving me an opporunity to tout the advantages of learning to fly—which is a part of the Let’s Go Flying theme of this year’s sweepstakes project.
Meanwhile, AOPA members were pleased to see the Cirrus and get a chance to peek inside after reading about it in AOPA’s magazines and on its Web sites all year.
I was glad Tom was there, because we were swamped—heavier traffic than we usually see at the big air shows. Tom is a consummate salesman and quickly picked up enough facts about the Cirrus to answer most of the routine questions. He backed me up all day long. Thanks, Tom!
After two different versions of the air show throughout the day, the crowds dwindled and the ground crew quickly got us pulled out on the taxiway for our quick flight home. A strangely intense isolated rainshower just southwest of Lancaster caused us to deviate a little westerly before turning to Frederick, giving Tom a little more Cirrus stick time as reward for his volunteering a day to the cause.
Back in Frederick, a helpful line guy helped us tuck those long wings back in the hangar, wing tips still intact and without a scrape.
What a fun day visiting a nicely organized local aviation event. If you see such an event in your region, make a point of going. You probably won’t be disappointed, and who knows, perhaps our Sweeps Cirrus will greet you on the ramp.