Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cirrus SR22T: Turbo Without the STC

Cirrus Design now offers a turbocharged model with a factory Continental

At Liberty Park, the crowd includes aviation and Hollywood celebrities alike: EAA Chairman Tom Poberezny and GAMA President Pete Bunce mingle with actor (and pilot) Zach Braff, baseball star and Cirrus pilot Ken Griffey Jr. and actor/actress couple Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts. Wouters, along with Cirrus cofounder Dale Klapmeier, are also on site. (In fact, this weekend overlaps with the annual COPA Migration. That Klapmeier and Wouters managed to be at both events is an indication of how important the Red Bull partnership is.)

During a “pit lane walk” the previous day at Linden Airport, the staging ground for the race planes, I ran into Poberezny. This walk is a chance for VIP, media and most importantly, fans to connect with race pilots. Long lines formed eagerly at each hangar. It was Poberezny’s first time attending a race, and eight of the pilots are EAA members whom he knows well. “Red Bull is an outstanding marketing organization,” he shared. “The races are creating a global image to a whole new audience, and people are exposed to aviation in a new and great way.”

At Kirby’s hangar, one teenager shook with excitement and jumped up and down when Kirby posed for a photo with her in front of his race plane. “I can’t believe it! I can’t believe it!” she squealed, and then the tears of joy came. (The scene was starting to feel like something out of a Justin Bieber concert...not your average FBO.)

“Red Bull is bringing credibility to aviation while establishing visible heroes, especially to children,” smiled Poberezny. “They’re building a relationship with pilots that a young audience can attach to. They’re reaching the demographic we want to reach in the future: the young, and the bridge between 19 and 40. For Cirrus, this is an outstanding opportunity because they are reaching an age demographic that will be critical to their future successes, plus relate well to the design features they have introduced.”

Today, at this moment, all eyes are on British pilot Paul Bonhomme as he dives his Edge 540 through the first air gates. “Smoke on!” He’s rock solid and completes the course with the fastest time—so far—of 1:10:01. The final competitor of the weekend, Austrian Hannes Arch, must go all out. Arch pulls hard—too hard—on a turn to air gate 8, and his right wing hits and slices the pylon. This costs him a six-second penalty, which in turn secures third place for Kirby.

A few years earlier, I had asked Kirby—known for his ultracompetitive spirit—his thoughts on placing second. His instant response was, “Second place is the first loser.” I’m not so sure I want to know his reaction to placing third, but on the podium and at the press conference, he’s all smiles. “As an American, I’m very, very proud. Thank you New York; it’s been great. I tried to fly clean today, but I have to personally thank Hannes for hitting that gate. Thank you, Hannes!” Kirby’s five-year-old daughter, Karly, cheers him on, and it’s a sweet finish to Father’s Day.

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Labels: Piston SinglesSpecs


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