Pilot Journal
Thursday, November 1, 2007

No Worries With iFly

Shared access and exceptional member care make flying a cinch

I was introduced to a new kind of flying at an open house in Long Beach, Calif. Erik Lindbergh, grandson of Charles Lindbergh and cofounder of iFly, spoke of the “world’s first exclusive aero club,” a membership-only venture that provides shared access to technologically advanced aircraft and high-end customer service. Having recently earned my private license, I typically rent airplanes (and envy friends who own theirs). But iFly’s program was intriguing, so I decided to check it out." />

Two days and many ocean waves, roller coaster rides and shops later, we were back on the ramp packing up the airplane when another pilot approached us. “Will you really fit all of that in?” he asked, and watched as we did without a problem. The return flight was just over an hour, and as my sister marveled at the Pacific Ocean sunset, I smiled at the stream of cars on Highway 101 (an unpleasant seven-hour drive in my Jeep).

It took only one weekend with iFly for Rachel to figure out what general aviation pilots have always known. After leaving her at the American Airlines terminal at LAX, I received a text message that said it all: “Flying commercial is so lame.”

Feeling similarly spoiled, I reserved an iFly airplane again for the very next weekend. A long cross-country to the Colorado Rockies would push me out of familiar surroundings into mountain flying, high-density altitude and weather. I appreciated being joined again by Stein, a much more experienced pilot who could provide insight to almost any situation.

I must have changed my mind about departure a dozen times. Santa Monica was convenient; however another iFly location, Van Nuys, was a surer bet to avoid a marine layer in the morning. No matter how many times I switched the reservation, the staff at iFly remained flexible and accommodating. In the end, I made a last-minute decision to depart the evening prior to my reservation. With only a few hours’ notice, iFly had N104FP relocated, fueled and staged, with the key waiting at the front desk.

Flying over mountains, we were grateful for the terrain feature on the G1000’s moving map as the sun disappeared below the horizon. The next morning, we continued to Colorado via the Grand Canyon. Navigation to and through the corridors was made easy by inputting user waypoints into the G1000. Stein flew wingovers (“the airplane was well-behaved and nimble”) so that I could photograph the amazing scenery below.

Our destination airport was Buena Vista, at an elevation of nearly 8,000 feet. The first thing I did upon arrival was answer questions about the Columbia as local pilots approached to see our “nice ride.” A stay at a relative’s cabin provided photo opportunities to fill up several more memory cards, and we were ready to fly again. Just 26 nm to the north, Leadville, Colo., North America’s highest-elevation airport, is at 9,927 feet. It proved impossible to resist in spite of (or because of?) a 14,000-foot density altitude. After consulting performance charts, we headed there for a landing, taxied back and took off. (A short visit still counts!) On this hot, humid day, the Columbia 350 performed great.

Afternoon thunderstorms thwarted our return, and the G1000’s real-time weather dictated it prudent to stop at Page, Ariz., for the night. “No problem,” was iFly’s response to the delay. They worked the aircraft schedule to eliminate any pressure on me to fly in a situation outside my comfort level. Instead, we watched the dynamic air show of lightning strikes from the shore of Lake Powell.


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