Aircraft—Big Sandy unicom…Cirrus…2…7…3…Mike…Echo…approaching from the south…airport advisory please…
Unicom—Winds favoring runway 3…at 7 knots…no other traffic..
WE’LL NEED A TOP-OFF
I must admit though that the big jets do get my attention. It’s amazing how much fuel these big jets can hold. The biggest single fuel sale I ever got was a G4 Gulfstream from Burbank, California. For their return flight I put on 2100 gallons of Jet-A, they said they would have taken a little more if my runway was longer, the 2100 gallons will get them all the way back to California but they would have to reduce power a litte to conserve fuel. At todays price that fuel sale would be over 10,000 dollars. You never really know if you are going to get those big fuel sales though. I once had a Falcon 50 land here from Spokane, Washington. I was sure I would get a good sale when they left the next day but they said, “We don’t need any fuel, we are just going to Birmingham, Alabama.” I was disappointed to say the least.try to treat everyone the same here at the airport, I doesn’t matter if they are in a big jet or a small plane, I want to make them feel welcome at Big Sandy.
There are really only two ways for me to make money at Big Sandy Regional, fuel sales and renting hangar space. I’m really just a gas station for the people who fly, a fuel stop for people criss-crossing our country. Hangar space is important for airplanes, too. Airplanes are expensive and it’s not wise to leave them parked on the ramp all the time. Weather will destroy both the paint and interior of planes. Hail is especially bad on airplanes because most are made of aluminum and hail larger than pea size can do a lot of damage, it can actually total an airplane, with enough pock marks hail can make a plane not airworthy. Planes are made to fly so if winds are strong enough it can easily flip an airplane over.
Federal and state government support our airport but our local government is rarely asked to contribute any funds. Big Sandy Regional is mostly self supported by rents and fuel sales. That’s why it’s important that aircraft buy fuel when they land.
Lately I have been getting some pretty good business out of Knoxville, TN. Cirrus Aircraft has a sales department in Knoxville for their new Cirrus SR22 aircraft. The Cirrus SR22 airplane is the leading selling piston aircraft in America now. The new Cirrus airplanes has 310 hp, the four seat airplanes can cruise a little over 200 mph. All are made of modern composite materials (not aluminum) and are painted in the most beautiful colors and paint schemes you can imagine. The interiors are equally as nice, very comfortable, air conditioned and with all the latest avionics. These planes can almost fly themselves once you learn to program the avionics. A Cirrus pilot told me he wasn’t the pilot, he was the flight manager, “The plane flies itself, I just tell it where to go.”
What really makes the plane famous and is it’s biggest selling point is the parachute. All Cirrus planes are designed with a parachute. If all else fails and you have no options, the pilot has an emergency handle located above his head that releases a parachute out of the back portion of the fuselage. When activated, with what is described as a violent explosion happens and the parachute is pushed from the back of the plane. Much like an ejector seat on a fighter jet, the chute deploys. Long straps placed just under skin of the wings and tail section rip through the composite material and allow the plane to float to the ground, while the pilot and passengers remain seated in the plane.
The good news is it has successfully worked several times over the last 15 years, the bad new is, it totals your plane. Most of the parts and avionics can be salvaged but the fuselage is destroyed when the chute is used.
A lot of people recently saw on the news about a plane that safely landed on the Mountain Parkway, near Campton. That plane was a Cirrus SR22, the pilot had the option to land on the parkway after what he described as “loss of power” but if he had no other options, he had that big red handle over his head to deploy. He saved his plane, did a great job getting in on the highway and safely flew is out of there two days later. I would like to know what caused his engine failure, I’m sure a report will be published about the incident someday.
The reason the Cirrus people are coming to Big Sandy is because the airspace around the airport isn’t very busy. That allows pilots to practice different approaches and emergency procedures and we have a restaurant. The new Cirrus pilots usually practice three or four approaches with their new avionics, a couple of take-offs and landings and then get fuel and go over the the Cloud 9 Cafe’ and talk about what they have learned. They tell me after flying about an hour and a half they start getting the feel of their new planes and during lunch is a good time to debrief with their instructor.
Cirrus always gives all their new customers 10 hours of training in their new planes. The planes don’t have the traditional ‘yokes’ like most planes. They have a stick and rudder design, the ‘joy stick’ is actually on the armrest of the plane. Pilots say it’s very easy to transition. The stick and rudder design was how all early planes were designed but when planes were being mass produced after WWII that design scared most people off and the yoke was designed to resemble a ‘steering wheel’ to sell to the general public.
I enjoy talking to the new owners. Most are business people who are just getting started in aviation and wanting to move up to something faster and take advantage of the capability of modern avionics. I really enjoy seeing the new planes as most are painted bright colors. I have noticed how most owners have them painted in their college colors. A guy the other day told me his were painted in the red and black of the Georgia Bulldogs. I always ask the pilots where the homes of their planes are going to be. The last five have gone to Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and Arizona. The guy from Arizona had his painted lime green and bright yellow. Now I know that doesn’t sound too pretty, but it was actually a beautiful plane. Unusual, but very pretty. He jokingly said, “If I have to deploy my chute, you’ll be able to see my plane in the desert landscape.” That was true, it will stand out.
Cirrus also makes a light jet called the SF50 Vision Jet. It is a single engine jet that holds a pilot and 5 passengers. It cruises at 350 mph and has a range of over 600 nautical miles. The Cirrus Jet also has a parachute that deploys out of the nose of the aircraft. The Vision Jet also has a panic button. If the pilot were to become incapacitated for any reason, a passenger can activate the red button overhead and the plane will automatically find the nearest airport and land the plane, without any help. I have a family from Michigan that uses us as a fuel stop on their way to and from Florida. Their pilot is actually from Lexington. They do their entire trip from Florida to Michigan in under 6 hours, including the fuel stop.
There is a downside to the new planes. These planes are not cheap, a new Cirrus SR22 with all the bells and whistles sells for between 700 and 800 thousand dollars, the Vision Jet sells for 2 million. I had two SR22’s here the other day on training flights, as I was looking at them I thought that sure was a lot of money sitting there on my ramp. The last pilot I talked to said, “I’ve been working 6 and 7 days a week my whole life, I just retired and plan on taking this plane all over the USA and see all the things I have been missing.” He lived near San Antonio, Texas, just moved there from Illinois and he planned on visiting Kentucky some. His three training flights were to Glasgow, Louisville and Big Sandy and he liked what he saw, good for him!
Aircraft—Cirrus…2…7…3…Mike…Echo…departing runway 21 to the south…
Unicom—Winds calm…enjoy your new plane…come back and see us…
(Gary Wayne Cox is airport manager of Big Sandy Regional Airport owned by Floyd, Johnson, Magoffin and Martin Counties.)