Bahamas Boy Trip Adventures

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We’ve just concluded our annual Bahamas Boy Trip Adventure so I thought it would be fun to share the story behind this phenomenal tradition.  Our boy trip consists of a week of fun in the sun with my two little buddies at the Atlantis Resort at Paradise Island in the Bahamas.  I turn off my cell phone and disconnect from my e-mail for a week to dedicate 100% of my time and energy to my boys.  The entire trip from start to finish is all about having fun and building amazing memories together that will last a lifetime!

Way back in 2010, my twin boys were just five years old.  I travel a lot for business and had recently missed out on a weekend of playtime with them.  I was airborne heading home to Orlando thinking about what sort of special treat I could do to make up for our lost time apart.  As I cruised along at 10,000 feet, I looked out the window at the bright sun, then glanced at my airplane’s display – and there it was, a moment of clarity and inspiration as I spotted the Bahamas in the upper left corner of the map.  It was one of those times in life that you know you’ve just stumbled upon something special, even without experiencing it yet.  I landed safely and then formulated my plan for what would become the legendary Bahamas Boy Trip.

Departing a Presidential TFR Airport

Departing a Presidential TFR Airport

This past week I arrived at Chicago’s Midway Airport and was informed the President would be in town with a TFR (temporary flight restriction) in place the entire weekend – including when I planned to depart Saturday morning.  I quickly experienced the “looks like I’ll be stuck here” feeling then the CSR at Atlantic Aviation mentioned there was a gateway procedure in effect that would allow me to still depart following a TSA security check.  Apparently, these TSA gateway procedures aren’t implemented often, but when the President is going to be in the same area for multiple days they try to put them in place.  I was relieved, but still didn’t know what to expect, so thought I’d share the experience with you.

At least 24 hours before the planned flight, you need to call a local TSA number to get a departure reservation (though they later told me they try to accommodate even last minute requests whenever possible).  They ask your name, tail number, passengers, etc.  It’s a quick and easy process.  Surprisingly, they don’t ask for your social security number, pilot’s license number or any real identifying information.  I then filed a flight plan just like normal, no special codes or anything required.

I arrived Saturday morning at 10:30am and was met by three TSA agents in a conference room they’d set up at the Atlantic Aviation FBO.  I was scanned with a metal detector wand while another agent inspected my bags.  A third agent ran a quick background check on the computer system using my driver’s license.  Again, no social security number, pilots license nor anything else was needed.  The process took all of three minutes.  After that was complete, an agent walked out to the plane with me and took a quick look inside, then photographed the aircraft.  He advised me that he would give the tower and TRACON a call to confirm that I’d been cleared by the TSA for the flight.

The entire process took a total of less than 10 minutes, including the long walk to the plane.  I found the TSA agents to be polite, professional and very friendly.  While I initially didn’t know what to expect, the process was no where near as burdensome nor bureaucratic as I’d anticipated.  These folks did a good job and made the security experience go very smoothly.

My A-game was in full effect for my departure knowing there were surely lots of eyeballs watching me.  ATC procedures were just like any other flight leaving the busy Chicago airspace.  A few minutes later, I’d departed the TFR and was safely on my way home to see my two little boys for the weekend!

Flying My Cirrus Aircraft to Puerto Rico

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When you fly as much as I do traveling throughout the country, it takes a lot to sit back and say “Wow, that was an amazing experience” reflecting on a flight.  This past weekend was one such experience flying from Orlando down to Puerto Rico in my Cirrus SR22 Aircraft, so I thought I’d share a blog post about it along with photos from my journey.

I left Orlando and flew directly to Exuma (MYEF) which took roughly 2 hrs.  The tower services were a bit strange in that they only serve in an “advisory” capacity, basically providing winds and nothing else.  Approaching the island was gorgeous despite some scattered clouds throughout the area.  There’s a 7,000 foot runway with only one turnoff (no taxiways) being about 5,000 feet down, so I’d recommend landing long – the condition of the runway itself was great.  The folks at Odyssey knew I was coming in ahead of time for a quick turn fuel stop ($7/gal) and pulled up the fuel truck as soon as I turned off the engine.  I walked into the FBO, a few minutes later was fueled and cleared customs ($50 fee – never talked to anyone other than the friendly person at the desk).  My expedited customs arrival/departure was due to e-mailing my passport and info ahead of time, didn’t even need to pull out my passport since they already had it.  I was airborne again about 20 minutes after I’d landed, a really quick turn.

Heading Southeast leaving Exuma was some of the prettiest flying I’ve ever done over water and islands.  The Turks and Caicos were especially pretty – that’s actually where I’d planned my fuel stop originally, but they wanted $150 for customs for the stop so I thought I’d save $100 enjoying the view from above.  Once I was South of the Turks and Caicos was where it got a bit more sparse.  You’re still communicating with Miami air traffic control, but there’s no land in sight for a long, long time as you cross hundreds of miles of open water.  Total flight time was around 3.5 hours, passing Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic along the way.  I had a maritime survival equipment onboard including a life raft (thanks to my friend Rich for inspiring that purchase), a marine radio, personal locator beacon (PLB), etc.  Despite being well prepared to take an unexpected cruise, I’m glad all that preparation was for nothing.  Just before reaching San Juan, Puerto Rico, I was switched over to their approach control from Miami.  I landed at Fernando Luis Ribas Dominicci Airport (TJIG) which is the executive airport about five miles from the commercial airport (TJSJ).  My landing was smooth as silk and the tower air traffic control services were flawless.  Since I’d stopped in the Bahamas, I was now considered an international flight returning to the US (even though I was in Puerto Rico).  My stop at the US Customs office took all of 2 minutes and was uneventful.  The FBO (Million Air) greeted me at customs, unloaded my bags, and towed the airplane next door to their facility.  Then they pulled up a brand new Mercedes and the line guy drove me about 10 minutes down the road to my hotel.  Amazing service to say the least!

I had several days of successful business conference meetings then it was time to return to Florida.  On my departure from Puerto Rico, I once again passed through Million Air and had another fantastic experience.  Smiling faces who were over-the-top helpful – truly one of the best FBO experiences I’ve ever had anywhere.  My IFR (instrument flight rules) flight plan was filed and I was ready to go.  Here’s when I discovered a quirk compared to some of the other flying I’ve done in the states.  I filed fixes on the airways all the way back to Exuma.  Clearance rejected my flight plan however because they wanted the actual airway listed too.  Funny thing is the airway was a straight line between the two fixes, but I re-filed with the exact same route (this time spelling out the airway) which then made everyone happy.  My flight back to Exuma was equally as beautiful as on the way down.  This time there we no clouds though which made for even better views out the windows of my Cirrus.

It was late in the day as I landed in Exuma just before sunset.  No big deal, or so I thought.  I didn’t realize that when the clock struck 6:00, that meant there were no more departures – even though it was still perfectly clear daylight out.  The FBO attendant told me that I was stuck there for the night, unless I wanted to pay an extra $86 fee for an after hours departure.  So, at about 6:04, I paid my $86 and got my clearance to depart after hours – still with nothing more than a “wind check” advisory for my departure.  The way I figured it, my cost to stay overnight would have far exceeded the $86 so it was a no-brainer to pay it and chock it up to a lesson learned to fly earlier in the day.

I cleared US customs at their brand new customs facility at Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE).  They customs agents there were fantastic!  They asked if I had any fruits, seeds, nuts, etc… right about that time I pulled out my snack bag I’d packed and realized I had a trail mix called “Fruit and Seed Mix”.  I’d just hit a double home run with my snack choice!  The customs agents were great and it wasn’t an issue as they were still sealed (and discarded) but did make for a good laugh.

On a trip like this the one thing that I’d stress is to make sure you’ve got all your US Customs eAPIS (Electronic Advance Passenger Information System) filings done ahead of time which just makes everything so much easier.  You’ve got to file your outbound US departure to Exuma, your inbound from Exuma to Puerto Rico, then the same in reverse on your return flights.  Between the US, Bahamas and Puerto Rico you’ll be clearing customs four times on the trip and file four eAPIS reports.  I use the FlashPass App on my iPad which makes it quick and easy to do.  It’s good to have the customs numbers for your intended airports handy too so you can give your US Customs Notices of Arrival as necessary.  Also, for anyone wishing to take this trip looking for alternate airports to file as well just in case a diversion becomes necessary – in the Bahamas you’ve got Stella Maris (MYLS) and in San Juan you’ve got Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (TJSJ).  Though it’s worthwhile noting at TJSJ, I was quoted $300-$600 for a ramp fee, but they wouldn’t be able to tell me exactly what it would really cost until I arrived.  Needless to say, I chose to go to the executive airport instead – and made an excellent choice choosing Million Air.  They communicated quickly with me over e-mail ahead of time and knew exactly what to expect in terms of fees and services provided.  If you go there, say hello to Juan the manager for me, really nice guy who runs a first class operation.  There’s also an excellent Cirrus Authorized Service Center on the field (Caribbean Aircraft Maintenance) in case you have any mechanical issues which need to be addressed.

Overall, this is one of those trips that goes down in the books as a truly great experience that reminds me of why I fly a Cirrus.  All the other folks at my conference took airlines down there.  I’m sure several thought I was crazy for flying myself – until I chatted about my adventure and showed them some pictures of my journey… then they wished they’d tagged along with me instead!  This is what living the Cirrus Life is all about, the experiences and joy it adds to our lives!

Feel free to reach out to me if you’re ever thinking of flying down to Puerto Rico and will be happy to chat further about my experience.  Definitely looking forward to taking another trip down there (and beyond) soon!

Brad’s 2015 Was An Amazing Year!

Brad Pierce Cirrus Event Brad Pierce Speaking Brad Pierce NRA Show Brad Pierce Bahamas Boy Trip Brad Pierce Cirrus Cockpit Brad Pierce Milan, Italy

This time of year I always enjoy reflecting on the events that shaped the past year of my life.  In a nutshell, 2015 was simply AMAZING!  I’ve never been one to sit on the sidelines, but this past year I was especially engaged in the game of making the most of every moment in life.

My year started out with a trip up to the Cirrus Aircraft factory in Duluth, MN to surprise all the great folks who make such a phenomenal company thrive.  I was accompanied by country music superstar Dierks Bentley, baseball hall of famer Ken Griffey Jr. and Red Bull airshow champion pilot Mike Goulian.  We all spoke passionately about our love for their products and how they’d changed our lives.  Dierks stole the show by playing hands-down the best acoustical concert I’ve ever heard in my life.  Afterward, we toured the factory and saw the Cirrus SF50 Personal Jet coming to life.  Each of us are position holders eager to take delivery of our own new jet powered birds so it was especially exciting to see the production facility humming along so strong.  An incredible adventure which really kicked off the year in a big bold way.  A few months later, we even got to re-live the experience doing it all over again for an equally amazing Cirrus Life event to kick off EAA Airventure at Oshkosh.

I’ve always done a whole lot of shows and conventions, but this year I really took my engagement of the industry to a whole new level.  I began by attended the NAFEM Show in California – and it was awesome!   I always go into the show thinking there’s no way they can outdo their past performance – yet, they continually prove me wrong and raise the bar to a whole new level.  NAFEM’s executive leadership team presented me with a Doctorate of Foodservice degree – I was beyond honored and humbled to say the very least!  This show reminded me of why I love my industry so much, it’s made of up of so many great people whom I’m proud to call friends.

My next show was a visit to the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago.  I’ve attended for years, but this year was a bit different.  As I walked into the show, right there in the center foyer, I found myself standing below a gigantic photo of my myself on a sign hanging above.  Next, I moved on to badge pickup area, once again, there I was, bigger than life.  For months the organization had used my image in magazine ads, mailers and e-mail campaigns, but it was fun to see my portrait prominently displayed throughout the show itself as well.  The team at the National Restaurant Association has been incredible to work with and I think so highly of them all.  It’s a fantastic show and if you haven’t ever been, I strongly recommend you plan on it this year… you may even see a familiar face on a sign or two at the show!

Moving on to other shows/conventions, I also attended CMAA, FEDA, SEFA, CFESA, NBAA, EAA, ASHORE, HOST, APGA, ESC, FPGA and many, many others in various industries.  One notable addition to my normal convention circuit was the addition of the the HOST Show in Milan, Italy.  The show was out-of-this-world gigantic – to give you an idea of the scale, the sidewalk connecting all the pavilions stretched a full mile long.  Such an incredible experience filled with extremely productive meetings.  I certainly plan to make this show one I attend regularly.  As an added bonus in the after-hours time, it was so much fun spending R&R time with industry friends enjoying some fantastic Italian wine and food.  We even had an opportunity to visit the World’s Fair together which was conveniently located right next door.  I’m so incredibly thankful for the Italy America Chamber of Commerce for their gracious hospitality in making making this trip possible.

This year I was also on stage in the spotlight giving more speeches than ever before in my life.  I’ve really gotten into a solid grove and love sharing my thoughts and knowledge with an audience.  The best part for me is when folks come up afterwards and share their thoughts about what I’ve said during my speech.  This was amplified exponentially after concluding a speech on personal branding and achieving goals I’d just presented to a few hundred SEFA folks.  One person came up to me at dinner that night and gave me a hand written note about how I’d just changed their life with my motivational words.  Wow.  What an impact.  That was worth a million dollars in how great it made me feel knowing I’d been able to help shape the future of someone’s life for the better.  In additional to my motivational speaking, I also gave many professional speeches throughout the year in the foodservice and aviation industries as well as others.  One particular highlight was speaking on behalf of the US Commerce Department regarding e-commerce and exporting.  I truly love this country and it’s an honor to work with such a great organization who does so much to help small businesses succeed on a global scale.  Along with all this speaking, I also did a whole lot of video shoots, magazine photo shoots and interviews.  I’ve become very comfortable in the public spotlight and really enjoy engaging all of these media opportunities.

In addition to my work activities, a huge personal highlight of my year was the Bahamas Boy Trip Part VI.  This trip is an annual tradition where I spent a week of fun in the sun with my two little buddies.  No cell phone, no e-mail, completely disconnected from the world dedicating all my time and energy to spending quality little boy time together with my twins.  They get as much candy as they can fit into a shopping cart, stay up late, jump on beds, no rules, just right!  We laugh and play from dusk until dawn and beyond – and this year, we even got a little more adventurous and walked in the shark tank (literally).  It was especially fun to see ourselves on the in-house TV channel in an advertisement showing activities at the Atlantis Resort.  You may have even seen us on national TV as well this past year, our commercials were running on more major TV networks than I could even count (CNN, HGTV, Discovery, National Geographic, Cartoon Network and many others).  It was so cool to be watching TV at home or on the road and recognize ourselves on the screen during commercial breaks.  I’ll be writing another blog post all about our Bahamas Boy Trip adventures in the near future, including a behind-the-scenes look at the filming we did there.

Looking back at where I’ve traveled, I visited a total of 22 states (several of them many times) and several countries this year.  Less than my usual count, but I spent extended time in several locations at events so it makes sense.  My Cirrus Aircraft performed flawlessly, safely and efficiently moving me between each of my destinations in record time.  Needless to say, I gave the airplane a great workout along the way.  I spent hundreds of hours in the cockpit and at times was in a dozen or more cities and states over the course of a single trip.  During one particularly busy time, I had six speeches in six days in six different states spread throughout the US.  Try doing that without a private aircraft.  What can I say, I simply couldn’t keep the demanding schedule I live without this phenomenal business asset.  I’ve affectionately termed my utilization of this hyper-productive tool as “Doing Business at the Speed of Flight”.  Best of all, I also was able to have some fun and see some amazing sights along the way too.  One particular achievement was landing a Cirrus in Hawaii during a spontaneous trip I took in May – my 50th state landing!  This makes me one of the few people (possibly the only person) to successfully land a Cirrus Aircraft in all 50 states in the United States.  You can read more about this accomplishment in another blog post wrote by clicking here.  I was also an Angel Flight Pilot of the Year Honoree, it felt beyond incredible to receive recognition from such a wonderful organization that’s so near and dear to my heart.  Throughout the year, I flew frequently from sea to shining sea between the East and West coasts enjoying the unique landscapes that make up this great country.  I especially enjoyed my many flights over the Rocky Mountains in Colorado – the most beautiful spot on earth in my opinion.  It’s incredible to realize all these adventures became a reality with just a set of wings and a short mile of runway.  I’ve already got my first 14 flights covering 8 states planned for next year – and that’s just my travel in January.  By next December, who knows the places these wings will have taken me… One thing’s for sure, I’m certainly looking forward to enjoying the adventures ahead!

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to thank my customers, friends, business associates, staff members, vendors and family.  I’m incredibly successful at all that I do in life, but I realize it’s these folks who make it all possible.  I’m beyond thankful for all the support so many people have given me not only this past year, but throughout my life.  If you’re one of those people who’ve always believed in me and are reading this blog, thank you.  I’m eternally grateful for all that you do to enrich my life and make me a better person.

That wraps it up, Brad’s 2015 year in review.  It’s truly been an AMAZING year that’s been wildly successful by every measure imaginable.  I’m even more excited about engaging 2016 as I set my sights even higher.  I’ll be living more of life’s adventures as I continue focusing on turning all my goals into a solid wins.  Best wishes to each of you as you start off the 2016 New Year in a big way.  I’ll conclude this post the same as I’ve ended every single speech I’ve given this past year…

“Life’s short.  Live life to the fullest and enjoy every second of the ride!”