general aviation Posts

Brad’s Mini Flying Wild Alaska Adventure

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Brad’s NBAA No Plane No Gain Print Advertisement

“To compete with Goliath, David used a slingshot. I rely on a business airplane.” – Brad Pierce

I’m currently participating in the National Business Aviation Association’s (NBAA) No Plane No Gain advertising campaign. It’s truly been an honor to be included in this fantastic initiative which highlights the vital role business aviation plays everyday across our great nation. The advertising campaign features well known individuals such as Warren Buffet, Arnold Palmer, and Neil Armstrong, along with several regular everyday folks like myself who use business aviation effectively in our businesses.

While I run a small business based in Orlando, Florida, my customers are located throughout the country. At a time when e-mail, instant messaging, and video chats have become the norm, it’s more important than ever that I meet with my customers face-to-face. The value of a firm handshake and being able to look valued customers and vendor partners in the eye has never been greater than now. There is no substitute when you care about your customers and want to give them the best service imaginable. In order to compete and succeed against larger competitors, we need to be laser-focused, nimble and seize opportunities without the typical delays and inefficiencies of commercial airline travel. The best tool in my arsenal for competing effectively is my Cirrus SR22 Turbo Aircraft. It allows us to quickly, safely and efficiently get more business done in less time and continually helps to grow my business. More business means more job creation, more growth for my employees, and the ability to deliver world class service to my customers. Business aviation works for my company, my employees and my customers. Business aviation works for America.

View Brad Pierce’s NBAA No Plane No Gain Print Advertisement:   PDF VersionJPG Version

You can also view the entire collection of No Plane No Gain Print Advertisements by visiting NBAA’s No Plane No Gain website.

Several of these ads will also be published and distributed in various print media publications including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Roll Call, The Hill and Politico.

The No Plane No Gain advertising campaign is a a joint undertaking of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA).

Brad’s Testimony Before U.S. Congress – Aviation User Fees

I recently had the honor of testifying before the U.S. Congress Committee on Small Business regarding aviation user fees.  The hearing was entitled, User Fees in the Aviation Industry: Turbulence Ahead, and took place on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 in Washington, DC.  This hearing was initiated by Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO), who is Chairman of the committee.  The purpose of this hearing was to discuss the impact on small businesses of an additional $100 per flight fee proposed by the Obama administration.  I was speaking to the committee on behalf of the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).

My testimony focused on the important role general aviation has played to help build my business, increase our sales despite a sluggish economy, and hire additional employees.  I own and operate a Turbo Cirrus SR22 Aircraft which I can honestly say is one of my absolute best employees.  It allows myself and my staff members to travel quickly, safely and efficiently to customer locations, industry events and to manufacturing partner facilities.  I’ve flown my Cirrus to 49 states in pursuit of new business and to nurture and grow existing relationships successfully.  We simply could not do what we do without our airplane.

The current system of taxation is based upon fuel consumption, ie: each gallon of fuel purchased has a federal excise tax included, which congress has the ability to adjust if necessary.  This is a straightforward taxation method (perhaps the most simple and effective in our government), wherein those who fly more tend to burn more fuel and therefore pay more taxes.  I fly a lot, a whole lot.  I fly far (nationwide), I burn a lot of fuel, and I pay a lot more taxes than an individual who’s making small regional flights burning less fuel.  That makes sense – I’m going further distances and using more services, therefore I should be paying more into the system and am happy to do so.  The system works, it’s not broken, so this feels very much like a solution looking for a problem to solve.

The Obama administration has proposed that each flight should be charged an additional $100 user fee on top of the current excise fuel tax.  This makes no sense to me as there’s no direct correlation between usage and the proposed new taxation method.  There’s been a position among some proponents that this is “fair” because everyone pays the same additional equal amount.  Each aircraft paying an equal amount however is not “fair”.  The aviation infrastructure was built for the commercial airlines, not for the general aviation sector.  For instance, when I landed my Cirrus at Washington’s Dulles International Airport to attend this hearing, I landed on an 11,500 foot runway that was 150 feet wide and several feet deep of concrete.  This runway wasn’t built for my Cirrus or many other general aviation planes, it was built to handle heavy airliners.  I needed only a fraction of the available runway (length, width and depth) to land safely.  Saying that the cost of that runway (that’s part of our aviation infrastructure) should be split “fairly” and “equally” between both of us would be like going out to dinner and ordering a salad while your friend gets a five course meal then suggests it’s “fair” and “equal” to split the check down the middle.  It just doesn’t make sense.

In addition to the inequality I demonstrated above, another important factor to recognize is the massive infrastructure that would need to be put into place in the government to administer and collect from a user fee based system.  We’d effectively create a whole new bureaucracy, aptly referred to by many in the aviation industry to be named the SKY-R-S.  This new administration could raise fees (taxes) at any time without congressional approval which is a very dangerous proposition.  Given the vast amount of resources and personnel needed for such a program, it’s highly probably an increase in fees would be necessary just to cover this additional overhead.

Equally troublesome is the thought of having to dedicate additional resources and manpower within my own small business for the accounting function of auditing, paying, and handling these fees.  This money would add expense (beyond the flat $100 fee) to our operations which could better be spent growing our business and helping our customers grow their businesses. There is no need to add this additional burden to businesses who are already needing to be laser focused on efficiencies to compete effectively.

I invite you to watch the video presentation of the full hearing for a better understanding of this issue and all of the various points presented.  I was truly honored to be among an esteemed panel of individuals, most notably Martha King of King Schools, who did a phenomenal job expressing her position on behalf of the NBAA.  (As a side note, both John and Martha King are incredibly warm and wonderful people.  I can’t express how much I enjoyed getting to know them and was honored to testify along with Martha).  As you watch the video during the question and answer period, you may notice there was a brief tense moment between myself and the ranking Congresswoman on the committee.  Due to the phrasing of her question, I simply could not allow myself to advocate writing a “blank check” proclaiming that we should should raise aviation taxes.  I feel this is a more complex issue (including the numerous reasons I stated above) and that it’s necessary to look into the details and implications further.  I was clear in my answer however that if congress votes to increase aviation taxes, I would prefer for it to be done in the form of the existing excise fuel tax method instead of by creating new user fees.  While it was slightly uncomfortable to be in disagreement, I’m glad that I chose to stand up for my beliefs and not agree with a position I did not fully support.

I hope that each person reading this narrative will recognize that you too can make a difference when it comes to government and legislation.  I’m a normal guy who operates a small business and uses a general aviation aircraft to grow my business.  I’m not an aviation legend or a household name, but I stepped forward to support my beliefs and genuinely feel like I made a difference.  I invite each of you to do the same, contact your Congressmen and Senators.  Express your concern and let them hear your story of how aviation user fees will affect your business.  Together, we can make a difference and get user fees off the table once and for good.

Lastly, I would like to give a very special thanks to the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) as well as to the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).  Both of these organizations work diligently on behalf of the general aviation industry and do a phenominal job.  I’ve gotten to know many of the staff members and leaders from both organizations and can adamantly say they are among the best, brightest and most dedicated people I’ve ever known.  They care about all interests in general aviation, both big and small, and I’m honored to be a member of both organizations.   I would also like to thank Congressman Sam Graves for initiating this hearing, along with the respected Congressional leaders who attended and participated in it.  Their time and energy invested was greatly appreciated and I was honored to have the opportunity to speak before them regarding this important issue.

Links to More Information and Resources:

User Fees in the Aviation Industry: Turbulence Ahead – Hearing Information

User Fees in the Aviation Industry: Turbulence Ahead – Brad Pierce – Testimony

User Fees in the Aviation Industry: Turbulence Ahead – Video of Hearing

 

Join Brad at the 2012 AOPA Aviation Summit in Palm Springs

I’ve been asked to speak again at this year’s 2012 AOPA Aviation Summit which will be held October 11-13th in Palm Springs, California.

I’ll be a panelist on an educational seminar entitled “Light Business Airplane Conference: Mission Critical: Using Aviation to Grow Your Business”This seminar is being presented as a collaboration between the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).  It will be moderated by Mike Nichols who is the Vice President of Operations, Education, and Economics for NBAA.

The focus of this seminar pertains to using general aviation airplanes for your business needs.  Myself and the other panelists will explain exactly how we’ve used our airplanes to grow our companies and enhance our lives.  I can honestly say that our company wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for our Turbo SR22 Cirrus Aircraft and the huge advantage it’s provided to us over our competition.  Information presented will be packed with real world experience showing how using GA in your business is not only possible, but will be a game changer for your organization.  There will also be plenty of time for Q&A to get answers from panelists and the NBAA regarding business aviation usage.

Mark your calender to spend October 11-13th in Palm Springs, California with myself and other aviation enthusiasts and professionals for a fantastic event you won’t want to miss.  My particular panel session will be held on Saturday, October 13, 2012 from 10:30 AM – 11:45 AM in the Mojave room at the convention center.

You can register for the 2012 AOPA Aviation Summit by visiting http://www.aopa.org/summit/.

You can learn more about the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) by visiting http://www.nbaa.org/.

 

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.