When you fly different-make and -model airplanes, it can be hard to keep them straight in your radio calls. I’ve called a TBM, flying at FL280, a Cirrus. I’ve called a Diamond Star a Cessna, and I’ve called a Warrior a Husky. Usually, I catch myself immediately and correct my call, but there are times in life when calling something, or someone, by the wrong name can be hazardous to one’s health. A radio call generally isn’t one of them. That’s why I’ve decided to call any airplane I’m pilot-testing, “Baby.” So last week, when I was just getting my feet wet with a 12-hour-old Columbia 400, after botching a few radio calls, the airplane thence became Baby N452BS, and that’s no bravo sierra.
The airport in Bend, Ore., where Columbia builds its impressive airplanes, is idyllic—in the shadows of the snow-capped Three Sisters mountains, and adjacent to horse farms with rolling pastures and white fences. And the planes Columbia churns out of the plant on the field’s east side are jaw-droppingly attractive—and that I felt even before I went for a mini-checkout with Columbia’s Emily Watters.