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Brad’s Mini Flying Wild Alaska Adventure


Alaska, the Final Frontier.  For years I’ve dreamed about flying to Alaska, experiencing the scenic beauty of such a magnificent place from high above.  After completing my quest of landing in all 48 continental United States, Alaska was on my radar for places that I wanted to visit in my Cirrus SR22 Turbo Aircraft.  Over the past years, I’ve been speaking with numerous people ranging from casual flyers to business associates to flight instructors who’ve flown to the area.  I’ve also had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with several of the real Alaksa pilots from the television series, Flying Wild Alaska, to get even more perspective on the region.  I love flying, I’m a capable and well trained pilot, but flying to Alaska with its’ unforgiving terrain and rapidly shifting weather conditions scared me.  Getting perspectives from a wide group of trusted advisers gave me the confidence I needed to actually make the trip happen.

When I first contemplated visiting Alaska, I figured that I’d head up to Anchorage for a quick weekend visit.  Upon looking at a map and doing some quick flight calculations, I realized that Anchorage was much more than a weekend trip.  Alaska is quite frankly, huge.  Take a look at the comparison map I’ve included below to see the size of the state in comparison to the continental US.  The map is click-able to make it larger.


Now that I’d ruled out Anchorage as my intended destination due to distance, further research led to me the small fishing and logging town of Ketchikan, Alaska.  I’d be able to fly directly from the Northwest US and make the trip non-stop in around 3.5 hours with plenty of reserve fuel in case of an unintended diversion.  The next question was when I’d actually make the trip.  I didn’t have a specific time frame in mind, other than knowing that I’d like to visit in the summer when weather would most likely be favorable.  Given that I travel throughout the US often, I knew I’d be in the Northwest several times and would just wait for the perfect opportunity to present itself.  One thing that’s resonated throughout all my discussions with my flying mentors and advisers regarding flying in Alaska is that patience is a virtue, you can’t be on a specific schedule when attempting such a feat.  I found myself in Seattle one weekend and the weather looked terrific.  I was within range, the forecast was calling for nice weather for the next two days, it was go time.  Upon departing Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, my Alaskan Flying Adventure had begin.

The flight towards Alaska was breathtaking and magnificent.  There’s no other way to describe it.  For miles and miles in every direction the beauty of the landscape was remarkable.  The mountains and waterways throughout British Columbia are truly a sight to see.  As my aircraft soared through the clear blue sky towards its’ destination, gigantic cruise ships passed below taking passengers to and from the place I was so eager to visit.  The following two pictures were taken during this part of the journey.  As with all images in this post, they’re both click-able to make larger for an even better view.

alaska-airborne-mountains-1-small alaska-airborne-mountains-2-small

Finally, after three hours in the air, I watched the map on the multi-functional display (MFD) in my airplane as it crossed from Canada into Alaska.  I simply couldn’t be more excited.  My dream of this adventure was becoming a reality.  Sure, it started several hours earlier, but actually seeing the little airplane on the map cross the dotted line signifying entry into the state brought it all to life.  Shortly after entering Alaskan airspace, I began preparing for landing in  Ketchikan.  I was still on high alert knowing that despite the beauty, danger lurked in the mountain winds as I descended closer to the valley.  Fortunately, I’ve been trained well by Rocky Mountain experts in Colorado so feel confident in my mountain flying ability along with a healthy respect for the associated challenges.  Even though the skies were clear blue that day, I had my instrument approach plates ready, I’d studied every detail, I was ready to make a safe landing at my destination.  After circling the small airport island across the waterway from the city of Ketchikan, I descended into the valley and lined up for the runway.  I noticed numerous float planes hundreds of feet below me landing and taking off from the Tongass Narrows waterway which was an interesting sight.  My aircraft’s magic box called out my 500 foot altitude indicator telling me I was moments away from accomplishing landing in my 49th state in the US.  The landing was magnificent, absolutely smooth and perfect just as I’d imagined it would be after such a relaxing and majestic flight.  The following picture was taken on the ground at Ketchikan International Airport (KTN / PAKT) standing in front of my Cirrus Aircraft, N225HL.


That day and evening were spent exploring Ketchikan and visiting with numerous local customers.  Yes, you read that right, local customers.  My company has over 100,000 customers throughout the country, including several that happen to live in Ketchikan, Alaska.  Whenever I’m traveling, I always make it a point to stop in to local establishments to simply say “thank you” for the business they’ve done with my company.  Needless to say, many of these customers were shocked and surprised.  They figured that they were buying from some faceless corporation with an online site, yet there I was, live and in person, shaking hands and thanking them for their business.  It was nice to meet some new friends and solidify business relationships that aren’t on my normal beaten path.

The scenery throughout the city was just as incredible as what I’d experienced from above.  Trees, mountains, waterways, just the right amount of snowfall on the mountain peaks, every direction shouted out nature, beauty and serenity.  I captured the picture below just before sunset overlooking the Tongrass Narrows waterway which separates Revillagigedo Island (City of Ketchikan) from Gravina Island (Ketchikan Airport).  You’ve probably heard the saying, pictures don’t do it justice, in this case, that couldn’t be more accurate.  This place was simply amazing.


My mini Alaskan flying adventure had come to an end way too soon as the following day wore on into the afternoon.  I still had a meeting to attend in Dallas and given the distance needing to be covered, it was time to leave Alaska behind.  I’d accomplished my goal of landing in yet another state, but I simply didn’t want to leave, despite my necessity to do so.  I checked the weather and determined it was still safe and clear, so departed for the journey back South towards Seattle.

Did I say the weather was clear?  Well, it was clear when I departed, and it was forecast to be clear throughout the flight.  The funny thing about flying in Alaska is how quickly the weather can change.  I’d heard this a dozen times in my discussions with others, but I still didn’t quite “get it” until experiencing it first-hand.  The first two hours of journey were smooth with clear blue skies.  Then, it happened.  Clouds started to roll in, mountains were becoming seas of white, with peaks protruding as a frightful reminder of the rugged conditions below.


As my Cirrus continued towards Seattle, the clouds began creeping closer and closer until I found my aircraft engulfed in them.  Headwinds increased, slowing down the journey considerably.  Turbulence began occurring, light at first, then progressively more and more aggressively.  Radar coverage was limited, so air traffic control couldn’t do much in the way of helping determine a better course to avoid the weather.  Rain began to fall which brought with it concern for freezing rain, something that I choose to avoid at all costs.  My attention was intensely focused on the outside temperature reading which was quickly approaching the freezing point.  I couldn’t go any lower to find warmer air due to the mountainous terrain in the area.  Fortunately, my Cirrus Aircraft is equipped with a system called FIKI which stands for Flight into Known Icing.  This is a fantastic de-icing system that I’ve used on numerous occasions, yet I actively try to avoid icing encounters whenever possible.  I primed the system to ensure it was ready to go at the first sign of icing occurring on the airframe.  While I did pick up a small amount of icing over the course of the next hour, it was minimal and very manageable.  While this could be an unsettling experience to some pilots, I was still feeling confident with the journey.  I had plenty of TKS (de-icing) fluid on board that would last all the way to Seattle if necessary, I also had a Plan B.  Remember that waterway below I mentioned when writing about my journey towards Alaska?  That same waterway was now right below me.  Before leaving Seattle, in an abundance of caution, I subscribed to Jeppesen airplane charts for my multi-function display that covered all of North America, including Canada.  Despite altitude restrictions for mountainous terrain in the area, my Plan B, a worst-case scenario, was simply to descend down and fly the waterway back towards Vancouver and onward to Seattle.  Fortunately, my Cirrus performed like a rock star as always and allowed me to safely stay at altitude while I passed through the clouds and rain.

Upon arriving in Seattle, I was relieved to have completed my “Mini Flying Wild Alaska Adventure” successfully.  It concluded with a picture perfect landing at Boeing Field amidst the glow of the city lights surround the area.  While my time in Alaska was short, hence the “mini” in the post title, it was amazing.  It was truly amazing in every way, shape and form imaginable.

My Alaskan Flying Adventures will certainly continue, next time for a much more extensive visit when I venture back to there for more exploring this summer.  I’ve had a small taste of what it’s like to fly in the region and I absolutely love it.  The scenery, the beauty, and the views that constantly took my breath away, this is a place like no other.  It is truly the Final Frontier, and the place where I look forward to visiting many times in the future.


Thank you, Alaska.  You’re one of a kind with your natural beauty and perfection.   I’ll see you on my next Alaskan Adventure!

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.

My New Bose A20 Aviation Headsets Are Fantastic!


I literally spend hundreds of hours a year in the cockpit of my Turbo Cirrus SR22 Aircraft, so using a good quiet headset makes my frequent flights even more enjoyable.  I’ve always really liked my Bose Aviation X headsets which I purchased with my first Cirrus SR22 Aircraft – they were revolutionary, adapting world-class noise cancelling technology that wasn’t available in prior headsets I’ve owned.  Little did I know, there was an even better, quieter, more comfortable headset in my future…

Recently at an industry event, some great friends presented me with a surprise gift that was just perfect:  Not only one, but TWO pairs of Bose A20 Aviation Headsets!  Wow!  I literally turned red in the face with the shock of receiving such an extraordinary gift.  I was so appreciative that I could barely even express my thanks and gratitude in words.  Even though I had already flown many hours that day, I practically wanted to race back to the airport to try them out that very moment.  Needless to say, I absolutely loved the gift and am very thankful for their generosity!

As I climbed into the cockpit of my Cirrus to begin my journey back to Orlando several days later, I put on my new Bose A20 headset for the first time.  It fit like a glove!  They’ve re-designed the spring mechanism so the headset feels like it’s floating on your head, rather than the clamping feeling of my prior Bose X headset.  The ear cushions were also noticeably more comfortable, which have also been re-designed and are slightly larger to cover your entire ear.  The new headset felt great, but just how much better was it than my prior Bose X headset?  Once I leveled off at a safe altitude, I decided to do some real-world testing.  I plugged my prior Bose X headset into one intercom jack, while my new Bose A20 headset was plugged into another jack.  I swapped back and fourth between the headsets throughout my journey.  The noise reduction difference was amazing!  Bose has really raised the bar with noise cancelling technology that’s beyond what I even thought was possible.  Even though I’ve always thought my Bose X headset was great, my new Bose A20 headset blows it away in terms of noise reduction and comfort.

Aside from the many improvements I’ve already mentioned, there are also some additional noteworthy features which have been integrated into the new Bose A20 headset.  The first is Bluetooth technology which allows the headset to be paired with a Bluetooth enabled cellphone such as an iPhone.  Of course you’re not going to be using your phone at altitude, but the Bluetooth connectivity allows for you to have a crystal clear telephone conversation through your headset while on the ground.  This is especially useful when calling for clearances at uncontrolled airports where radio communications are poor or non-existent.  An additional notable feature is the inclusion of an auxiliary input port which runs directly into the headset itself.  This allows you to hook up an iPhone, iPod, or other device to route music and/or other audio directly into your headset without disturbing other passengers.  There’s even a user selectable switch that allows the pilot to select whether the auxiliary input audio is muted or continues playing during times when activity occurs on the aircraft radio.  Bose truly thought of everything when they created these headsets!

While I was excited to write this review immediately after I first started using my new headsets, I purposefully waited until now to do so.  I wanted to get plenty of real-world experience to make a solid determination of their quality and effectiveness before hastily proclaiming their greatness.  I went about doing my business – taking my phenomenal Turbo Cirrus SR22 Aircraft on trip after trip, working to grow my business, as I’ve done for the past several years.  I flew short legs, I flew long legs, and I flew everything in-between.  I flew completely across the country, over the heights of the Rocky Mountains to the depths of sea level in Louisiana.  Needless to say, in a very short period of time, I was able to log many hours of flight time in real-world conditions using my new headsets.  The verdict?  I’m sure it’s quiet clear by now, but just in case you missed it, they’re amazing!  I fly the best single engine aircraft in the world – the Turbo Cirrus SR22 Aircraft – I can now confidently say that it’s equipped with the best headsets in the world – my new Bose A20 Aviation Headsets.

I’d like to once again thank my good friends who surprised and delighted me in such an wonderful way.  My new headsets were the perfect gift which I’ll enjoy using for many years to come as I continue my journey soaring through the blue skies above.

Better comfort, better clarity, better noise cancellation, better features, better everything, my new Bose A20 Aviation Headsets are simply FANTASTIC!

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.