Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

From The Editor: The Athlete Pilot

Athlete—noun: a person who’s trained or skilled in exercises, sports or games requiring physical strength, agility or stamina.

“Athlete” isn’t a word that’s often equated with pilots, but Red Bull Air Race pilots are athletes in every way. During a race, they pull up to 12 G’s at speeds up to 230 mph at 10-30 feet AGL on a racecourse, where a split second can make all the difference between winning and being “the first loser.” Facial expressions from the in-cockpit video, broadcast on jumbotrons and live television, prove just how much stamina is required.

The Red Bull Air Race has all of the elements that make a successful sporting event: intense training, dynamic personalities and suspenseful competition. The dramatic story that unfolds at each race, with struggles and determination of winners and losers, appeals to a young, global crowd. Through a new partnership with Red Bull, Cirrus Aircraft also is reaching out to the same audience. At each race, Cirrus displays mock-ups of the SR22 and Vision jet, and cohosts the VIP viewing areas. In this issue, we highlight the newest venue for the race: New York City. Be sure to visit our website to view additional photos from the summer weekend, as well as from our exclusive air-to-air photo flight with American racer Kirby Chambliss in his Edge 540 and Cirrus demo pilot Matt Bergwall in a Cirrus SR22.

Bergwall also flies with senior editor Bill Cox in the latest model from Cirrus, a brand-new SR22T that features a factory-installed turbo engine, the 315 hp TSIO-550K from Teledyne Continental. Bill reports on the new engine and a host of additional improvements, from their flight in Southern California.

Aerobatic pilots like Patty Wagstaff are also athletes. And like Bill Cox, Patty first learned how to fly in Alaska. It was in remote areas of the far north, through bitter cold preflights, navigation by pilotage, harsh weather conditions and a bit of creativity, where she learned the essentials that would later lead her to become a safe and proficient aerobatic performer. Patty shares with us the lessons she learned during this time—from why it’s important to keep the ball centered to understanding the winds at all times—and how we can apply them to our everyday flying. Check out the never-before-seen photos of Patty from her early aviation days! Next month, look for her article on lessons learned in the Lower 48.

If only Patty had an iPad back then, her training might have been quite different. Contributor Colin Summers brings us some of the best aviation apps for the iPad, from weather and navigation tools to automated logbooks and training lessons.

But an app remains to be designed that could have helped Mort Mason. While transiting Alaska’s infamous Merrill Pass, littered with aircraft wreckage, the mixture control failed on his Super Cub. As this month’s guest speaker, the 20,000-hour bush pilot recounts the harrowing adventure of running low on fuel as daylight dwindled and rain began to pour.

Alaska is special in many ways. Flying is a regular part of daily life, and pilots often live side by side with their airplanes, especially seaplanes. This dream lifestyle—taxiing to your front door—is attainable in the Lower 48 in the form of airparks. Contributor Marc Lee’s buyer’s guide features 17 great airparks all over the U.S. (plus one on a tropical beach in Costa Rica). They range from 5,500-foot runways with instrument approaches to 1,400-foot grass strips and private lakes with seaplane access.

After a long flight, most of us are eager to hop in a courtesy car and reward ourselves with a $100 hamburger. Not Plane & Pilot reader Adam Rosenberg! Whenever he touches down, he’s ready for another one of his favorite activities—running. He explores new locales on foot, and to date, Adam has landed and run a total of 1,726 miles at 87 airports. In “Flight I’ll Never Forget,” he shares his first backcountry adventures in the Utah Canyonlands, landing his Cherokee 140 on short dirt strips and even a zigzag runway. And then he runs… certainly an athlete pilot.

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