Choosing the right airplane for a trip that will take an 18-year-old Senior high-school student around the world in less than 50 days is one of the biggest challenges, I have had for the planning portion of this trip. It all started when I was fifteen years old and saw a picture of Charles Lindbergh since then I have been able to read many books about him and many other around the world pilots. This is the story of how I choose the Cirrus SR22 over five different great aircraft.
The first thing I did when planning on the solo world flight was to find an airplane! I started out by looking at the website Earthrounders.com to see what most of the around the world pilots used on their trips. I was very surprised to learn that the two most popular aircraft to do the trip in was the Beechcraft Bonanza well known as the "Doctor Killer'' and the sleek and fast Mooney 201. These two aircraft were both fast and efficient and could get me around the world in the time frame I am looking at flying in. I had one problem with older aircraft which is basically they would need to be updated to today's standards on paint, instrumentation, and then tanked which could range well over $100,000 with that in mind I knocked those two out of the door faster than I could run. Since my timeline of flying around the world is less than two years away, I started looking at more modern-day aircraft to use. With the goal of flying around the glove in less than 50 days, I would need an aircraft that was fast, comfortable, and most importantly efficient. I had always liked the idea of the Canard design, so I looked at the Berkut 360.
The Berkut is most likely the fastest and most economical retractable gear piston-powered airplane in the world today. The design of the Berkut came from Burt Rutan's Long EZ which is a two-place canard type aircraft that has a range of more than 1,100 miles and cruises at a speed of 200 mph. The Berkut is a retractable-gear version of Rutan's Long EZ; it has a range of well over 1,300 miles and cruises at 230 mph. Those numbers impressed me enough to start contacting owners since there are less than fifty in the world flying. Unfortunately, with those glorious numbers, there is always a con to the program, and that problem was there is not enough room in the aircraft for the pilot, ferry tank, and ditch bag. That was a very disappointing moment for me as that airplane is very much capable of the trip.
I kept my head up and the search continued for two month's and I still didn't have an idea for an airplane to use. One day I was approached by a friend of mine that said "Why don't you use a Cirrus SR22?'' It is a very capable aircraft and has the efficiency you I would like. Most importantly insurance is easier to obtain on the Cirrus than other aircraft since there are over 7,000 SR airplanes flying. I contacted a friend of mine who owns and operates a Cirrus SR22 Turbo, her and I were able to go out flying on a calm and beautiful Saturday last April. She walked me around the aircraft and explained the many new features the Cirrus has versus other aircraft in today's aircraft market. We climbed in the airplane and went through the checklists and started the engine and was cleared for takeoff on 25R at 73 knots I lifted the nose off the ground and we climbed out at a beautiful speed of 120 knots which was well over 40 knots faster than the Cessna 172, I training in at the time.
We flew the airplane in a normal category range and saw a speed of 189 Miles per hour true airspeed at 5,500 feet with a ground speed of 232 miles per hour. The airplane handled very similar to the Berkut and had a large cabin for the ferry tanks and even a couple snacks for the trip! It was about twenty minutes into the flight and it was time to head back to the airport. We set up for the approach on 25R and she walked me through the landing of the airplane. We touched down on the numbers and taxied back to the Fixed Base Operator, and I said: "I am going to take a Cirrus around the world." I went home that afternoon thinking about how I can easily train in the airplane and even fly it around the world. A week later, I contacted a local Cirrus instructor and I started taking flying lessons in an SR20 which is the smallest version the SR line. I have now built a little over 100 hours in the SR20, and plan to have well over 300 hours when I depart for the trip.
I thank especially thank my friends at Evolve Air for allowing me to use one of their SR22's to take around the world. I hope that every pilot could one day taste the feel of flight in the SR22!
Stayed tuned next month to learn about "What made me decide to fly around the world in 2019"