I was presented with a rare chance to own an airplane, and not just ANY airplane, but a Cessna Skycatcher in early 2011. The Skycatcher is the result of years of development by one of the most respected airplane manufacturers in the world and weighs in at just 834 pounds. I absolutely adore this plane, and it’s been more fun than I ever thought I could have in an airplane. (It’s the TINY plane between the 2 giant planes in the photo to the left!) It’s simple titanium gray interior with all the cables and fuel lines exposed are a nice counterpoint to the full glass cockpit.
The G300 was made just for the Skycatcher, and although it’s smaller than the Garmin G1000’s in the 172’s I’m used to flying, it’s absolutely perfect. Having synthetic vision built in around this mountainous terrain, especially at night is also indispensable (although when I’m trying to land at the airport in Sedona, on the top of an 8500 ft tall mountain, the nice lady who lives inside my glass cockpit yells “Pull up! Pull up!” the entire time I’m trying to land).
The “stoke” as it’s called (combination of a stick and a yoke, I’m told) is ingenious, and although it takes a little getting used to, I can now safely fly my little mosquito with just a thumb and forefinger. And, on the stoke is electronic trim, which also takes getting a little used to, but provides meticulous control and fine tuning during flight.
What I never expected after becoming an aircraft owner, was who I’d meet. When I would rent planes in Chicago from Windy City Flyers, I would speak with dispatch, get the keys, and head to the plane. Owning a plane…I realize that there are other pilots flying for fun just as I do, flying into any of the of local General Aviation airports around the SoCal area. In fact, my little mosquito of a plane sips about 4.5 gallons of gas per hour, making it almost cheaper (and WAY faster) than taking my car to places like Los Angeles. Just like people caravan on the ground, we caravan in the sky. I’m not sure why it’s so exhilarating to fly next to other pilots, but I doubt the novelty and joy will ever wear off.
Beyond that, though, as a pilot in San Diego, we get to do something I’m in awe I get to do every time I do it: There’s something called the “Bay Tour”. Via that route, I get to fly just 500 above the ground and over the ocean. It feels as though I can almost reach out and touch the stacks of surfers and sunbathers, and during whale migration season, it’s an amazing height to watch the whales from. So, if that weren’t enough, once I get cleared into San Diego International Airport’s airspace at a place called “Crystal Pier”, I then fly at 800 ft along the bay, almost able to touch the large number of Navy ships docked in the port. After that, as I reach downtown San Diego, I fly over Highway 5, right between the buildings downtown, like a scene out of a movie.
And, if that’s not enough, I then get to fly OVER San Diego International Airport! The last time I went, a Southwest Airlines plane was taking off just below me. I always wait for the fighter jet escorts to get me out of the airspace, I keep waiting for the Control Tower to tell me to get out of their airspace…but the call never comes. Not only is is exhilarating to fly over Navy ships and commercial airports, there’s a sense of pride that comes with knowing that with my pilot’s license, comes the privilege of flying over spaces like this. A number of people, including the United States Federal Government has decided that I’m able to hold a pilot’s license, and fly just about anywhere I wish at any time I wish.
Anyway, I love this little Light Sport airplane of mine, and although I already know I’m going to want something larger, faster, and more maneuverable sometime in the near-future, I think I will always keep this little guy around just for fun. It’s incredibly stable, when it stalls (which takes A LOT of effort), it’s the most delicate stall I’ve ever experienced in an airplane. Yes, it has something called a “Hershey Bar” wing, which is built for stability rather than speed, but my Skycatcher cruises at a respectable 116 knots (133 MPH). And, since there’s to traffic lights, traffic, winding roads, or speed limits, this plane makes it easy to just get up in the air and enjoy the magic of flight.