landing Posts

Brad’s 2016 Business Travel at the Speed of Flight

I absolutely love traveling for business!  There’s nothing more productive nor fulfilling than meeting customers and suppliers face-to-face.  Despite the proliferation of modern technologies (instant messaging, video conferencing, etc.), there’s absolutely no substitute for visiting a customer’s facilities, meeting their team members and observing their operations first-hand to understand how to help solve their challenges and serve their needs.  I’ve always felt that being able to look someone in the eye and give a firm handshake shows a genuine commitment and dedication to service.  While many of my competitors sit on the porch waiting for business to arrive, we go the extra mile to get out there and make business happen in a big way.  I thought it would be fun to take a look back at my business travel for the year 2016 to share some highlights with you.  I’ve accomplished all these trips in my Cirrus Aircraft, managing once again to avoid taking a single domestic airline flight this year – such a truly remarkable and unbelievably capable business tool!   Enjoy reading my list as you as I present a real-world perspective of what I like to call, “Doing Business at the Speed of Flight!”

  • Nights in Hotels: 200+
  • States Visit: 22
  • Countries Visited: 4
  • FBO Crew Cars: 30+
  • Rental Cars: 75+
  • Most Rental Cars in a Single Day: 3
  • Domestic Commercial Airline Flights Taken: Zero! (0)
  • Longest Continuous Trip Away from Home: 31 days straight
  • Most Frequent States Visited: Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Texas
  • Most Frequent Cities Visited: Denver, Chicago, New Orleans, Fort Worth
  • Longest Offshore Flight: 1,031 nm (Orlando, FL to San Juan, PR)
  • Longest Mountainous Flight: 732 nm (San Diego, CA to Denver, CO)
  • Furthest Distance Flown: 1,865 nm – KORL (Orlando, FL) to KSAN (San Diego, CA)
  • Favorite State Flown: Colorado (Rocky Mountain flying is amazing!)
  • Favorite Hotel: (tie) The James (Chicago, IL) and The Broadmoor (Colorado Springs, CO)
  • Favorite Hotel Chain: Marriott (More specifically, the JW Marriott)
  • Most Productive Trip: Two week-long conferences and 14 military base visits
  • Most Beautiful Scenery: (tie) Colorado (mountains) and the Bahamas (ocean)
  • Latest Landing Time: 2am (Greenville, SC)
  • Earliest Departure Time: 6am (San Diego, CA)
  • Shortest State Visit: 15 minutes (quick-turn fuel stop)
  • Most Challenging Flight: DVT (Phoenix, AZ) to ABQ (Albuquere, NM) – Snow and ice
  • Most Challenging Landing: KNEW (New Orleans, LA) – Heavy rain and low ceilings
  • Most Beautiful Landing: MYEF (Exuma, Bahamas)
  • Shortest Flight Leg: 0.4 hours – GYB (Giddings, TX) to EDC (Austin, TX)
  • Longest Flight Leg: 5.3 hours – KAPA (Denver, CO) to KNEW (New Orleans, LA)

Looking back at all these flights, I’m reminded of all the wonderful places I visited and the amazing people I’ve met and spent time with in 2016.  I’m looking forward to even more incredible business travel adventures ahead in 2017.  There’s no doubt this past year I lived up to my motto, “Live Life to the Fullest and Enjoy Every Second of the Ride!”

Living the Cirrus Life Landing in All 50 States

Brad Pierce Living the Cirrus Life Landing in All 50 States Photo Map

Click the image above or click here for a larger version version of my flight map.

It’s official, I’ve now landed a Cirrus Aircraft in ALL 50 STATES in the USA!  This bucket list adventure has been years in the making, beginning with my first successful touchdown during factory training in Duluth, Minnesota.  Nearly 2,000 landings later, it’s fitting to have made my final victory landing in paradise – Maui, Hawaii.

When I started this adventure, the goal of landing in all 50 states wasn’t even on my radar.  I was a rookie pilot transitioning from a Cessna 172SP which I hadn’t even flown outside my home state of Florida.  I was accustomed to flying low and slow and didn’t even realize all that I was missing.  Everything changed when I took delivery of a new Cirrus SR22 Aircraft in 2005.  My new aircraft was a stark contrast to my Cessna – it was modern, sleek and had speeds which made it ideal for longer distance travel.  Even the tail number was a perfect fit, N225HL, named after my twin boys Hunter and Landon who were born on 2/25.  As I departed Duluth with a safety pilot instructor by my side, I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was about to discover the joy of flying our great country.

Initially, I flew my Cirrus around the State of Florida just as I’d always done with other aircraft.  Then one day I had a conference in Atlanta.  I had ample time to make the trip, so I figured, why not take the Cirrus?  As I touched down in Atlanta, I glanced at my watch and realized my planned commercial flight would just be leaving the gate for departure, yet I was already safely on the ground at my destination – Eureka!  I’d discovered a whole new way to travel that would make commercial air travel a thing of the past.  I wasn’t just flying an airplane, I was flying a time machine that would allow me to outperform my competitors by effectively adding more useful hours each day.  As more business opportunities arose, I completed more and more flights in my Cirrus.  Soon I’d traveled to Chicago, Nashville, Washington D.C., New Orleans, San Antonio and more.  I was adding states to my list virtually as fast as I could fly to each of them.  After about a dozen states were completed, I downloaded one of those old RV camper maps, coloring each state green upon successfully landing.  It was a fun visualization of all the places where I’d flown to in my airplane.

Over the next few years, I continued to use my Cirrus for trips on a weekly basis – yet, my map was completely lopsided.  Nearly the entire Eastern half of the US had been flown while the Western half of the US remained blindingly white (unlanded).  The Rocky Mountains created a formidable barrier.  Along came my next plane, a brand new Cirrus Turbo SR22 Aircraft with a beautiful red and white paint job and all the bells and whistles.  The Cirrus sales rep asked how important it was to transfer my N225HL tail number to my new aircraft – I assured him this was a “must have” item – the adventurous spirit of my two little buddies was definitely going to be accompanying me every step of the way.  I watched in awe as my new and improved Cirrus rolled off the production line to greet me.  My new aircraft had FIKI (flight into known icing), built-in oxygen (for higher altitude flying), an Enhanced Vision System (EVS – night vision), the Garmin Perspective Avionics Suite (including synthetic vision to visualize terrain) – and of course, a turbo normalized engine which would provide the high performance needed for safe mountain flying.  Speed is life and I was now well equipped to utilize my bird as a true cross-country business machine.

While I had the aircraft performance needed to cross the great Rocky Mountains, I lacked the knowledge, skill and confidence to do so safely.  So, through the recommendations of good friends, I engaged the great folks at Independence Aviation in Centennial, Colorado (KAPA – Denver area) to begin mountain flight training.  A whole new world opened up immediately as I learned all about mountain flying operations including the unique wind and weather patterns that are so dramatically different than what occurs while flying the flatland’s.  I quickly became comfortable at the higher altitudes required to safely cross the highest of peaks and the view out the window was utterly amazing.  My first trip beyond the mountains took me to Oakland, California right outside of San Francisco.  I remember looking at my map upon touchdown and realized I’d just flown from Florida to California, my first true cross-country mission.  The sense of accomplishment I felt filled my body with a sense of pride that could only by rivaled by my first solo flight in an airplane roughly 20 years ago.

In the years that followed, the states naturally piled up one after the another while doing extensive business travel – or as I like to call it, conducting “Business at the Speed of Flight”.  I was bouncing between Florida and Illinois, Texas and Arizona, Colorado and California.  Before I knew it, I’d traveled to 42 states just by sheer coincidence, still not having a set goal of landing in all 50 states.  Flying from New York to Florida late one afternoon, the inspiration hit me, and I set a personal goal of landing in every state in America.  Delaware was one state in particular which had eluded me simply because I hadn’t had a business reason to land there… yet.  One day the opportunity presented itself and on my my inbound leg, the air traffic controller was especially relaxed and chatty with folks on the frequency.  I casually mentioned this landing being another notch on my 50 state goal and the radio quickly came to life with a commercial airline pilot chiming in.  He keyed up the mic and stated, “Southwest 123, with request”.  When the controller told him to go ahead with his request, the airline pilot remarked, “Yes, Sir.  Southwest 123 would like that Cirrus guy’s flight plan instead of ours – it sounds like a whole lot more fun!”.  Laughter followed and was one of those moments that made me realize the special and unique nature of what I was accomplishing.

I’d finally landed in all 48 states in the Continental United States and decided to turn my dull solid green map into something more vivid to celebrate the victory.  I painstakingly drudged through my vast collection of airborne photographs to create a map made of pictures, memories from my time soaring above each state across the country.  The end result was beautiful, truly a work of art.  On a number of occasions when I showed it to be people, I was asked the question, “What about Alaska and Hawaii?”  This question echoed in my own head as well… 48 states down, yet my journey wasn’t truly complete.  I’d accomplished flying to more places than most pilots even dream of visiting, but I don’t do anything in life only 96% of the way… hitting the 100% mark was the only viable option.  In early 2013, Alaska was checked off my list as I completed Brad’s Mini Flying Wild Alaska Adventure, which I wrote about in a prior blog post.  Nearly two years later, I safely touched down among the majestic scenery of Hawaii to claim victory landing in all 50 states.

My 50 state airplane adventure has been nothing short of amazing.  As I sit back to reflect and write this post today, I realize just how fortunate I’ve been to be able to accomplish such a goal.  There aren’t many people in this country who’ve visited all 50 states, and only a tiny fraction of those have had the joy of flying over and landing in every single one of them.  We live in an absolutely beautiful country, from the lush green trees covering the Eastern US to the well manicured farmland in the Midwest.  Further West introduces the snow capped mountains in the Central US which lead down to the perfectly chiseled rocks that make up the Southwest US.  Following the breathtaking Grand Canyon leads to the West coast where the land reaches the deep blue ocean.  Further North into Alaska is remote and gorgeous, and Hawaii is home to a paradise like no other place on earth.  Every bit of our country is amazing in its’ own unique way, and there’s no better way to see it than from the cockpit of a light aircraft soaring above this great land.  People have asked which state I liked best, that one is easy.  My favorite flying spot in the country is certainly Colorado – with its’ mountain peaks and enchanting valleys, it simply can’t be beat.  Alaska and Hawaii are both a close second and third place, but Colorado has won over my heart with its’ jaw-dropping views of the mountains throughout every season of the year.

It’s been an incredible journey flying and landing a Cirrus in all 50 states across America.  Despite traveling to many states dozens of times, I have to say, the view never gets old.  Each flight, I still discover new sights, have new experiences and am reminded of how fortunate I am for the opportunity to experience flying throughout the country.  The places I’ve gone, the people I’ve met, the things that I’ve done – I’ve cherished every single moment of the incredible adventure.  I’m elated to be living the Cirrus Life as I embrace my personal mantra of “Living life to the fullest and enjoying every second of the ride!”

Cleared for Take-off: Alaska and Hawaii Landings this Summer

Last year I reached my goal of landing in all 48 continental United States in my Turbo Cirrus SR22 Aircraft.  It was truly an incredible journey flying coast to coast across our great country, but something was missing.  That something was Alaska and Hawaii – the final two states I need to visit to complete my expanded goal of landing in every state, not just those in the continental US.  I’m thrilled to announce I’ve decided to go for it!  Life’s too short to sit on the sidelines, so this summer I’ll be flying from Florida to Alaska.  The flight will take 36 hours round-trip and cover roughly 6,600 miles.  After departing Anchorage, I’ll sit back and relax as a passenger going across the Pacific to Hawaii to pick up another Cirrus in Maui.  The following day will be filled with a magnificent flight enjoying the sights of the Hawaiian islands from above… and of course, my final landing to complete my 50 state adventure!  Stay tuned for more updates as I make this goal a reality in just a few short months.

Aspen Dreams: Flying the Rocky Mountains


More than 20 years ago, I took my first trip to Aspen.  It’s a magical place where everyday life feels like a distant place, like you’re experiencing living in a bubble a million miles away.  It’s a place where fantasy is reality, where everything is perfect and life is good.  At the start of my first visit, I vividly remember sitting in my airline seat feeling the rush of the steep descent over the mountain ridge into the valley for landing.  Each year, I would return to Aspen, always looking forward to the landing experience signaling the start of an amazing visit.  Roughly 15 years ago, I began flying a small Cessna 152.  From the first moment I stepped into the cockpit, I always dreamed of landing in Aspen with me at the controls.  I eventually was able to purchase a 172SP and later, a normally aspirated Cirrus SR22 aircraft.  The Aspen dream was still alive and well, but I simply didn’t feel comfortable doing any sort of actual mountain flying.

At the end of 2009, the opportunity presented itself for me to purchase a new Turbo Cirrus SR22 Aircraft for my business.  My current Cirrus was phenomenal in every way, but I still found myself only flying in the Eastern half of the US.  I imagined what additional doors could be opened for my business if only I could fly in mountainous terrain with confidence – the entire US would be within my reach to fly myself, better serve my customers and grow my business.  I took delivery of a shiny new red and white Cirrus with a state-of-the-art Garmin Perspective avionics suite.  The plane was loaded with every feature available, notably for the sake of this story, a synthetic vision system with an impressive terrain avoidance system.  These systems would prove to be especially useful in the mountainous terrain where I desired to fly.

I knew that mountain flying was inherently dangerous.  As a flat-lander pilot, I would never imagine taking on the challenge of mountain flying without solid instruction.  I turned to the helpful community members from the Cirrus Owners & Pilot’s Association (COPA) for their recommendations.  Within minutes, numerous members responded and indicated their top choice for world class mountain training was Independence Aviation based at Denver’s Centennial Airport (KAPA).  I spoke with Chuck and Bob who were both very friendly and worked with my schedule to ensure proper training time was allocated.  A few days later, I was receiving my first taste of mountain flight training with Chuck as we begun ground training.  He dispensed an impressively vast amount of knowledge which had been accrued through his many years of experience.  Early the next morning, we met at the Centennial Airport for my first actual flight into the Rocky Mountains with me at the controls.

As we departed Denver, I knew my flying life was about to change.  We activated the on-board oxygen system almost immediately after departure, which was unusual compared to my normal flying routine.  I’ve used oxygen systems in the past, but rarely for long periods of time at high altitudes where we’d be flying that day.  As we crossed over the front range of the Rocky Mountains, my eyes practically bulged out of their sockets as I glared in awe at the beautiful sight ahead.  I realized I was really doing this, I was finally flying the Rocky Mountains.  We flew for another half hour and soon were approaching our first stop… Aspen, Colorado!

As we approached the ridge next to Aspen, I was excited, nervous, cautious, you name an emotion, I felt it that moment.  Although emotions ran like a raging river through my mind, it’s also important to note that I felt very safe with a very experienced mountain aviator by my side.  As my Cirrus soared quickly across the ridge and we began our descent into the valley, I finally heard those magical words I had waited so long to hear… “Cirrus November 225 Hotel Lima, Aspen Tower, Cleared to Land”.  The descent was steep, even steeper than I had ever experienced flying commercially.  Chuck reassured me I was on the right path and doing just fine the entire time.  He has a very calm demeanor which allowed me to relax, yet also perform at my finest as he guided me through the approach.  As we descended into the valley, the amazing view of the mountain walls filled my windows which was so foreign to anything I had ever experienced in all my years of flying.  As I continued the approach, I listened with eager anticipation waiting for my Garmin Perspective system to verbally announced the 500 foot altitude call out.  Soon, the Garmin call out roared through my headset and my face lit up with a giant smile knowing we were so close.  I crossed the road on my short final approach into the airport.  My moment of glory was becoming a reality.  Moments later, the wheels of my Cirrus SR22 were gently touching down at Aspen Airport for the first time ever with me at the controls.  I wanted to dance, to cheer, to proclaim to the world I did it!  I had landed at one of the most challenging mountain airports in the country… Aspen, Colorado!

Since that first landing mountain airport landing, I’ve done more mountain training and have loved every second of it.  I promised myself I wouldn’t even dare attempt landing at any mountain airport without an instructor until I was completely confident in my own abilities.  In addition to the actual mountain flying instruction, I also did a lot of reading, most notably Sparky Imeson’s Mountain Flying Bible which I highly recommend.  I eventually gained enough knowledge and experience where I finally felt comfortable flying myself into mountain airports, including most notably, Aspen Airport.

As we fast forward to today, I’m now an avid mountain flyer and get to fly the Rocky Mountains frequently.  Whenever I fly the Rockies, I feel like a freshly minted pilot, feeling the “magical feeling” of flight as I glide above such incredible terrain.  Learning to fly in such an unforgiving environment has made me an even better, safer pilot.  It’s taught me to hone my skills and pay even closer attention to external effects such as winds, weather, and icing – not only in the mountains, but everywhere that I fly.  In case you missed it, I recently landed my Turbo Cirrus SR22 Aircraft in all 48 lower continental United States and can certainly testify that my mountain flight training and experience helped to make that possible.  I now routinely make coast-to-coast business trips to visit customers in all regions of the country, including many mountainous areas.  Even when I’m simply flying over the mountains such as on a recent trip between San Francisco and Denver, I have a sense of confidence knowing that if I need to land at a mountain airport, I’m capable of doing so – I’m prepared for the challenge, my aircraft is properly equipped for the challenge, and I can accomplish the landing safely.

If you’re even remotely thinking of learning to fly in the mountains, do it!  I can say without an ounce of hesitation that it’s the most beautiful and most satisfying flying experience anywhere in the country.  If you’re headed out West, also be sure to visit the great folks at XJet FBO located at Centennial Airport (KAPA) in Denver.  I visit them frequently and have always had phenomenal experiences before making my journey into the mountains or towards the Western states beyond.

Aspen, Colorado.  Magic, memories, bright sunshiny days, sparkle filled moonlit skies, a perfect utopian city nestled into the most beautiful mountain valley in America.  It’s also the place where I live life to the fullest, experiencing my Aspen Dreams:  Flying the Rocky Mountains.


Brad’s Flying Adventure Across America

Click the image above or click here for a larger version version of my flight map.

I’ve recently landed my Turbo Cirrus SR22 Aircraft in all 48 lower United States which was quite an amazing adventure.  Along the way I attended countless business meetings, conferences and events… and I had an absolutely incredible time every step of the way!  There is simply no better, safer, or more comfortable way to travel and see the country than from a state-of-the-art general aviation aircraft.  Those of you who’ve followed my progression from a rookie pilot who did touch-and-goes on the weekends to an avid coast-to-coast flyer have likely heard me ask the rhetorical question, “Where can you find a product that changes your life?  That truly changes every aspect of what you do and who you are?”.  It’s an easy thing to come up with a memorable catchphrase, yet it’s another thing entirely to actually experience the benefits of it.  The Cirrus Aircraft is that product and it truly is phenomenal!  There’s no doubt in my mind if it weren’t for this airplane I would have never been able to see so many amazing sights or accomplish so many great things throughout the country.  I’ve built stronger relationships by being face-to-face with my customers and suppliers, grown my business significantly, lived a better and more fulfilling personal life and have had the pleasure of waking up each morning loving what I do.  It truly feel like I’m living a dream each and every time I take to the skies and experience the joy of flight!

I captured my journey in photographs along the way which I’ve put into the collage you see above.  I tried to incorporate unique elements into a number of the states from the images taken from high above in my Cirrus.  Feel free to explore the large version and you’ll likely recognize a few spots.  You can view various photo sizes of my flight map below (an original 61mb high resolution version is also available upon request):

Small (63k)
Medium (338k)
Large (7.6mb)

While this has been an great adventure, the most spectacular part of it all is I get to visit many of these places again and again, each time being just as magnificent as the last.  Thank you to all of my customers, suppliers, family, friends and co-workers who have been with me along the way.  Without you, and without the wonderful people at Cirrus Aircraft, my spectacular maintenance team at Air Orlando Maintenance, the great folks at NBAA and AOPA who work tirelessly to represent the positive impact of general aviation, and the friendly faces at Showalter Flying Service who always welcome me home with a smile after each of my journeys, none of this would have been possible.  I’m certainly very grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given and cherish every memory made along the way.