January 2008 Posts

An Incredible Hanger Party

Socata TBM850Anti-Gravity Performers

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to attend a number of incredible airport hanger parties with various companies including Cessna Citation Jets, Cirrus Aircraft, Ferrari and many others…  Each of these were great events, but tonight’s hanger party takes the cake hands down!  I went to the unveiling party for the Socata TBM850 aircraft (http://www.tbm850.com/) as it arrived for the first time in the United States from France.   The event took place in a beautiful new hanger at Showalter Flying Service in Orlando, Florida.

Headed to the airport, I expected a quick visit to see the new plane and an early night back home.  My expectations were blown out of the water as I walked in to find the acrobatic group Anti-Gravity (http://www.anti-gravity.com/) dangling from the ceiling and bouncing around the stage.  I was blown away by their incredible performance and the amount of skill and strength these athletes possess.  I think what surprised me the most is how they were able to do such an elaborate performance in an aircraft hanger as opposed to performing in a venue designed for that purpose.  If you ever have the opportunity to see them in person, I’m quite sure you’ll agree this is one of the most incredible acts you will ever witness.

The hanger itself was set up like a high end nightclub – pristine white leather couches, live music, multiple bars – everything was done absolutely perfectly!  Aside from all the hanger-talk with a building full of pilots and aircraft owners, you’d almost never know we were there for an aircraft event at all.  After several hours of entertainment and great conversation, the ‘main event’ was ready to take place.  The President of Socata gave a quick speech, followed by fireworks launching into the sky as two brand new TBM850’s rolled up on the tarmac.  These are incredible aircraft that combine speed, comfort and technology.  I got to sit in the cockpit and play with the avionics which were equally as impressive as the rest of the specs on the plane.  To top it off, this is just plain a fantastic looking aircraft!

My hat is off to Socata and Showalter Flying Service for putting on what is undoubtably the best hanger party I’ve ever attended.  So many times companies miss the mark and have events to try to give you a sales pitch to buy their product.  Instead, these companies just put on an amazing event that people will talk about for years to come – and share with others as I’ve done here.  This is undoutably how you do a launch party right!

Explosion at 10,000 Feet

Blue Fireworks Explosion

A few months back, I departed on routine flight from Orlando to Chicago.  I should know better by now than to use the the word “routine” when it comes to flying.  Perhaps that’s one of the things I like most about flying – the unknown.  Those little things that come out of nowhere and surprise you when you least expect them.  Back to the story…  It was a perfect sunny day for flying without a cloud in sight – what pilots sometimes refer to as severe clear.  The departure from Orlando was quick and easy and I began my ascent for my long journey ahead.  As I climbed the aircraft to altitude, I was constantly watching the speed, rate of climb, temperatures and other variables to ensure all systems were operating normally.  This was truly a “routine” flight in every sense of the word.  I hit 10,000 feet and all of a sudden, my world change dramatically in an instant.  Without any kind of warning, I heard a huge explosion!  My eyes instantly focused on the MFD (multi function display) engine page showing me a detailed view the cylinder temperatures, exhaust gas temperatures, oil pressure, etc.  Everything was completely normal – even the engine still sounded perfectly normal – for now at least.  Since I had no idea what caused the explosion, I errored on the side of caution and assumed there was the possibility the engine could quit soon.  I continued running through my mental emergency checklist preparing to make a diversion to the nearest airport.  It’s obviously much better to be on the ground diagnosing a problem than trying to do so at altitude.  I turned the dial on one of my Garmin GPS units to locate the nearest airfield.  Good news, there were several within gliding distance.  Even if my engine gave out completely, I could still make it.  I also glanced up at the bright red handle of my on-board whole-plane parachute system.  It’s almost as if that little handle was smiling at me letting me know I had yet another life-saving option if things went from bad to worse quickly.  All of these these physical and mental processes happened in a matter of seconds.  At this point, I still had no idea what had caused this explosion – but the bigger question in my mind was, “how are things still all operating normally?”   Did I hit something?  Just before notifying air traffic control of my intent to divert to the nearest airfield I glanced at the wings – both were fully intact.  I turned me head around and looked towards the tail which looked fine as well.  It was at that moment that I discovered the cause of the explosion – as well as the cause for my heart racing so fast that day.  It turns out this whole little event would be nothing more than good practice of my emergency procedure training.  Actually, there was no real emergency at all – and not even “real” explosion for that matter.  Instead, there was just a stack of prezels thrown across the backseat of the aircraft – the result of an exploding bag of pretzels!  This was caused by the pressure increase as the aircraft was climbing up to 10,000 feet.  The rest of the flight was actually quite routine and I made it to Chicago safely – with a smile on my face laughing about my impromptu emergency procedure drill earlier in that day.