May 5, 2023

My First Experience of Personal Aviation

James tries his hand at personal aviation for the first time with Cirrus UK, including a rather daunting surprise!

Whilst I’ve always enjoyed commercial flights, the thought of experiencing a light aircraft has always filled me with nerves! Large planes with hundreds of passengers sound fine, but when Adam first mentioned that the team and I would get to hop on board with Cirrus, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it.

We met Michael Wright, Managing Director of Cirrus UK, and Callum Smith, New Aircraft Sales Manager at Gamston Airport to firstly find out more about the company. Michael explained that Cirrus offers a selection of new and pre-owned aircraft as well as flight training for all experience levels. Essentially, if I had the means, I could purchase one of their SR22s for example and learn to fly it from anywhere in the world!

It was the SR22 that Callum and Michael were taking us out in, and after gaining some knowledge on the history of Cirrus and their visions for the future, we split into a couple of groups and headed towards our plane. Michael actually asked if any of us felt nervous and funnily enough I was the only person to admit that I did. To which he responded, “Well you can fly us then”, which I guess at the time I deemed a joke!

It’s safe to say the team were impressed as we had our first look around the SR22. It looked spectacular and having climbed our way in, we were met with an incredibly luxurious interior. Think Rolls Royce comfort but with a vast array of technology, all to be explained and demonstrated by Michael in due course.

Speaking of which, I sat up front, at this point still oblivious to the fact I would actually be trusted to take control. Michael gave us a quick run-through of the start-up procedure with all the necessary checks listed on a screen in front of us. Headsets now on, we requested permission to take off and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like Tom Cruise now. Edging our way onto the runway was pretty surreal; I politely declined to take the helm for takeoff but began to realise that, somehow, Michael’s offer to fly it wasn’t in jest.

On the assumption that the lighter the aircraft, the less stable it would be, I was shocked by how smoothly we took off and gradually ascended into the clear blue sky. Michael pointed out the James Bond-esque gadgets automating many aspects of our flight, including the option to click on a point on the map only for the SR22 to take us straight there without any input from the pilot. I got the feeling that this was an incredibly safe way to travel, and if anything were to happen to the plane or pilot, all you need to do is pull a lever for a parachute to bring you straight down to safety.

A few minutes into our flight, I immediately felt at ease, and then Michael asked, “So, are you ready to take over?”. I’m not sure if my colleagues picked up the gulp into the microphone before I replied, “Yes, I think so!”, but sure enough, after holding down a button for a few seconds, I was now flying the plane. I’m not really sure how to put it into words, but it provided an unmatched sense of freedom and fuelled a rather sudden yearning to do it all over again!

Michael pointed out various local landmarks as I guided us over the M1 and towards Belvoir Castle. Considering Jake specified in advance that he was up for anything on this day with Cirrus, “as long as James isn’t the bloody pilot!”, he seemed quite comfortable sitting behind me, so I can’t have been doing too bad a job! It was considerably less complex than I expected and I was blown away by how effortless it felt throughout. 45 minutes flew by and it was soon time to land. Remarkably, Michael said I could do this and it wasn’t an opportunity I was going to turn down anytime soon. “Just aim for the numbers”, he said as we began our descent, and again I was shocked by how smooth it felt, considering its empty weight of just a touch over 1,000kg and the novice trusted to land it on this occasion.

Whilst it’s always been on my bucket list to learn to fly, my interest has primarily lied with four wheels, but this experience has hooked me on the world of personal aviation! My early morning nerves very quickly disappeared and I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the week, looking back at photos and questioning whether or not that actually happened. I was left eager to get back up there and continue with some lessons as there really is no better way to travel.

I’m incredibly grateful to Michael and Callum for the opportunity. Michael was calm, supportive and generous with his time and has even offered me another shot at flying. If you’re interested in learning to fly with Cirrus, please do reach out to one of the team as they would be delighted to offer you a similar experience in one of their SR series — trust me, you won’t regret it!

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