Woken by the smooth tones of Mr Sinatra offering to fly me to the moon, it was still dark when Charles Gunter from Avia Aviation rolled up in his car and drove me to coffee. It was still dark when we pulled back the hangar doors to reveal a bevy of Cirruses (Cirrai? Cirrarum?) not yet glinting in the morning sun. Refuelled, preflighted and ready to go was the magnificent, the awe-inspiring beauty known as VH-XTS - an SR22 GTS Platinum. It was still dark when I opened her gull-wing doors and reclined onto her magnificent leather seats, and still dark when we taxied to the run up bay. Indeed, it was so early, the tower had yet to become operational and we received our departure clearance from Melbourne Centre.
I, having had the enormous good fortune of being invited on the first stop of Cirrus Melbourne's Australia Tour, was heading to Tumut for breakfast, and Wagga for lunch. The Australia Tour is set to showcase the latest in Cirrus technology, visiting flying schools and aero clubs to showcase the magnificent aircraft for which every pilot pines (even the ones who claim they don't can't help but feel awed after a demo flight in an SR22T).
Our 228nm trip to Tumut was, according to AvPlan EFB, going to take a speedy 81 minutes, as a cruise speed of 173kts. At top of climb, Charles requested direct to MUSOP, and with a ground speed of 184, the flight was a little over an 70 minutes. But my, what a seventy minutes! Flying above the clouds, in the silky morning air in an aircraft that purrs, that feels like a luxury car with wings, is as good as it can get; better perhaps than finding a vintage diamond, or discovering your tax bill is actually a rebate. It's up there with the most pleasant thrills in life. And, on an early morning in Melbourne, an aircraft with 'reverse cycle' air-conditioning just topped it off.
We barely had time for Charles to show me the highlights of the Cirrus Perspective - oh the joy! The ease of flight planning, the wonderful traffic system, the terrain visible on the synthetic vision even when we're above cloud! Oh boy, I could gush for hours - before it was time to begin planning the approach.
As Tumut has no TAF, we were working on the forecast for Wagga, the METAR for which was claiming fog. Charles loaded the RNAV approach for Tumut, but as we neared, we heard two local gents on the radio, both of whom were ahead of us, and would serve as our canaries. John in a Mooney and Jim, in a Paradise, both landed without issue, despite some clumps of fog near, but not over, the runway.
Even throttled back, we orbited the field, for distance between us and the preceding aircraft, and we watched them both land from overhead before going in through a lovely hole just above the aerodrome (thank you, weather gods. It's been a while since you've been so kind!) The old adage that a great landing always follows a wonderful approach, we landed smoothly and in style at Tumut, just in time for breakfast.
|Approach to Wagga|
This was my first visit to Tumut Aero Club, but it certainly won't be my last. The standard of the aero club brekkie is legendarily high, but the banquet at Tumut would give a Sydney cafe a run for its money. And what a fine bunch the club members were, too; some of whom I knew from AvPlan and others from my time at AOPA, as well as some new faces I'll not forget in a hurry!
|Charles with XTS|
The interest in XTS was great, and Charles was lightning-quick in setting her up for the excited club members to have a look. It never fails to make me smile, seeing the reactions of grown men when they're sitting in a luxury aircraft! They really are like children at Christmas; a look I know I've worn many a time when having had the privilege of an amazing new aviation experience.
|Me, John and Jim|
All to soon it was lunch time, and time for departure to Wagga. The ever-generous Charles invited two lucky club members to join us in XTS and I happily gave up the front seat to experience someone else's joy. Nick and Ryan tossed a coin, and fortune favoured Ryan - student pilot and club Facebook admin and future Cirrus owner!
|Ryan, Cirrus Owner of the Future!|
Sitting in the rear (the seats recline!) I was reminded of the Cirrus Life event on Hamilton Island back in 2013 when Cirrus CEO Dale Klapmeier spoke of how the Cirrus interior was inspired: wives and partners. He knew if he could persuade wives and partners to join pilots in long journeys by light aircraft, he would have to design something that was both safe and comfortable. And did he ever succeed: the rear seats of the SR22T are as comfortable as those in a luxury SUV; the cabin is cavernous, with plenty of room in the footwells, and the seatbelts are like that of a car, unlike the usual neck garrotting affairs that are found in the rear of your average GA aircraft. Of course, there's nothing average about the ST22T.
Charles, keen to show Ryan the brilliance of the Cirrus Perspective, set up a practice ILS at Wagga and XTS flew the aircraft right down to the minima, with perfect precision. Our flight to Wagga took a mere 18 minutes, and as we taxied in, the crowds were already waiting for demos in XTS.
Leaving Charles to show prospective buyers the full range of features, I took the opportunity to experience something quite different - a ride in a Paradise. The Paradise, a two seat LSA manufactured in Brazil, is not an aircraft I'd encountered before. Having had breakfast with its owner, Jim, in Tumut, I was thrilled to be offered the chance to fly it. It was something very new for me - a high wing lighty with a CSU! It was so much fun to fly, and quite a different experience approaching at 55kts. My landing was a little bumpy, but Jim was super calm, used as he is to landing the Paradise in paddocks. I love regional NSW, and it was a pleasure to have a flight over the local area in an aircraft with such wonderful visibility.
Back on the ground I encountered a couple of gents who'd been participants of a recent AvPlan webinar, and who were keen for me to check their aircraft details, so I spend a happy half hour demonstrating the joys of AvPlan EFB, while Charles took club members on demo flights.
And, just like that, it was four pm and time for me to leave. I'd booked a Q-Link flight home (the Dash 8 being something of a come down to me, even in 2C right near the front, after the joys of the day) and had to depart, leaving behind the fabulous friendly folks of Wagga Aero Club to continue their Cirrus experience.
|Charles' flight home|
I woke to the sounds of "Welcome to Sydney" having fallen into the most delicious doze. My Cirrus cap, which had fallen over my eyes, was thankfully a reminder that the day hadn't been a dream. May there be many more...