We expected enthusiasm. We expected sarcasm.
And AOPA’s 2009 Let’s Go Flying Sweepstakes SR22 drew both during six days of nonstop attention at the annual Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In at Lakeland, Fla.
Enthusiasm among AOPA members was obvious. The 2005 Cirrus SR22-G2 is the most technologically advanced, highest performance, and highest value aircraft AOPA has ever offered in its annual sweepstakes.
“I’ve want to win every year,” one member confessed, “but this is the year I really want to win!”
The airplane’s brash vinyl graphics raised lots of eyebrows. But when members learned the baby-blue billboard on the sides of the fuselage can be quickly and easily replaced, they seemed placated.
Surprisingly, several members said they like the current graphics so much that, if they win, they intend to keep the attention-grabbing look.
Some members said they miss the monthly progress updates AOPA Pilot used to publish on sweepstakes refurbishments. Since this airplane was in top condition when AOPA acquired it, the airplane has taken on a new, high-profile mission of promoting general aviation and expanding the U.S. pilot base.
Many visitors expressed astonishment at the generosity of J. Lloyd Huck, the philanthropist who donated the airplane. We, too, marvel at the former B-29 bomber pilot’s willingness to promote the freedom of flight we all cherish.
The airplane also had its first close call at the Florida gathering — and it had nothing to do with flying. A knucklehead driving a truck swerved off a service road and clipped a flagpole that fell less than three feet from the SR22’s spinner. Fortunately, it missed.
On April 27, it was finally time for the dusty, sun-soaked, SR22 to fly home to Frederick, Md. It’s a long flight — about 725 nm — but well within the SR22’s 1,000-nm maximum range. The weather was gorgeous along our entire route, and fellow pilot and AOPA staff member Jill Tallman and I decided to see how efficiently we could make it.
We took off from Lakeland shortly at about 8:40 a.m. on an IFR flight plan that would take us along the north Florida and Georgia coast, then west of the Washington airspace to Frederick. We had filed for 11,000 feet, but ATC gave us a slow and halting set of intermediate altitudes along the way. The air was smooth, and a 25-knot crosswind slowly turned into a 20-knot tailwind over southern Virginia.
ATC helpfully provided several shortcuts along the route, and the SR22’s fuel computer showed we’d have plenty of fuel in reserve when we landed.
AOPA members frequently ask about the SR22’s speed. On this trip, at 11,000 feet, 60 percent power, 2,500 rpm, burning 12.4 gallons an hour, we were traveling about 165 KTAS. With an assist from the wind, our ground speed was about 20 knots faster.
We flew the entire cruise portion of the trip lean of peak. Despite a relatively warm OAT of 10 degrees C, the cylinders ran a very cool 280 degrees and the EGTs remained at 1,400 degrees or below. In fact, at the best economy setting of 11.5 gph, the EGTs and CHTs were too cool, and I had to enrich the mixture slightly to keep the temperatures in the green.
All told, after 4.6 hours of flying, we had used 57 gallons of avgas (27 gallons remained in the tanks) and covered a good chunk of the eastern United States. And we had a blast doing it.
The long trip blew most of the dust off the airplane’s composite skin, but the SR22 (and its occupants) were overdue for a good scrubbing. Many AOPA members implored us at Sun ‘n Fun to take good care of “their” airplane until the annual drawing in early 2010 — and we intend to do just that!
See the SR22’s flight track.