The AOPA 2009 Let’s Go Flying SR22 draws a crowd

April 29, 2009 by Dave Hirschman

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.

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Launch of an all new sweepstakes

February 12, 2009 by Tom Haines

As pilots we understand the complex tapestry of emotions associated with guiding an airplane through the skies and safely back to a gentle landing—the romance, challenge, and utility of aviation. Over the past 15 years we’ve touched on them all with our annual sweepstakes project airplanes. Who doesn’t understand the romance of skimming over the countryside on a warm summer evening in an open cockpit biplane, such as the pristinely restored 1940 Waco UPF-7 we gave away as part of our celebration of the 100th anniversary of flight in 2003? There’s a challenge to flying such an airplane, too. Utility—well, not so much.

Romance snuck up on us—as romance tends to do—when in 1998 we began touring around in the perky 1958 Piper Tri-Pacer that became our Timeless Tri-Pacer. There’s not a lot of glam in the ungainly little airplane, but it sparked a passion among many pilots who had their first flight in such an airplane. Oh, the nostalgic stories we heard from misty-eyed members who came over just to lay their hands on it.

We went for the bling with our 2001 project, a V-tail Bonanza with an all-glass cockpit, the first of its kind. But get beyond the bright lights and it was an airplane all about the romance of the legendary V-tail traveler and the utility afforded by a TKS anti-ice system and a turbonormalizer that could propel the speedy Bonanza well into the flight levels. Read the rest of this entry »

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Now with WAAS on board

January 23, 2009 by Dave Hirschman

When we at AOPA said we weren’t going to refurbish the 2009 “Let’s Go Flying” Sweepstakes SR22, we didn’t say we wouldn’t upgrade it.

So, not being able to leave well enough alone, we brought the plane to Penn Avionics at Brandywine Airport in Pennsylvania in November and asked them for a WAAS upgrade. Both Garmin 430s will now be able to direct the future AOPA Sweepstakes winner through WAAS approaches, and the guidance information shows up beautifully on the Avidyne PFD and MFD screens.

AOPA has been a vocal and consistent backer of WAAS technology because of the safety, utility and economy it brings to general aviation. WAAS allows even the humblest airports to gain instrument approach capabilities with accuracy that rivals traditional ILS – without the expensive infrastructure or maintenance-intensive ground equipment that comes with legacy systems.

We’ve flown a couple of practice WAAS approaches in clear skies to learn the WAAS approach procedures, and it works as advertised. We look forward to using them for real when the “Let’s Go Flying” Sweepstakes SR22 begins its North American campaign this spring!

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2009 ‘Let’s Go Flying’ Sweepstakes Cirrus SR22 kicks off

December 31, 2008 by Dave Hirschman

There are no bad years to take part in AOPA’s annual sweepstakes–but this is an especially good year because the prize is simply extraordinary.

The 2009 Let’s Go Flying Cirrus SR22 that some lucky person will win in 2010 brings stunning performance and unprecedented safety and utility to general aviation. All AOPA members are automatically entered in the drawing.

The technologically advanced, composite, glass-cockpit airplane can cover more than 1,000 nautical miles at a stretch, reach true speeds of more than 180 knots, and an altitude of 17,500 feet. Like every Cirrus, it’s got an airframe parachute, and this one also carries a built-in TKS anti-icing system for an extra level of safety. Its deluxe leather interior makes riding in the Let’s Go Flying SR22 feel like a luxury sports car.

Unlike previous Sweepstakes airplanes, the “Let’s Go Flying” SR22 needs no refurbishment. It’s a pristine, 2005-model G-2, and it’s flawless. It was donated to AOPA by Lloyd Huck, a philanthropist and long-time member and AOPA Air Safety Foundation donor who served as a flight instructor and Army Air Corps B-29 bomber pilot during World War II.

The Let’s Go Flying SR22 will crisscross North America in 2009 to highlight the tremendous utility of general aviation. You’ll see it at a variety of high-profile events throughout the year–but you may not recognize it. The “Let’s Go Flying” SR22 will sport a number of different looks courtesy of Air Graphics LLC, the Madison, Wis., firm that will design and install a series of eye-catching, exterior schemes during the year.

Check back regularly to see how the project progresses. To win this fabulous airplane, all you need to do is join AOPA or renew your AOPA membership at any time during 2009. Update your profile online for an additional chance to win. See the official rules for all the details.

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