“Angelina” remains one of our most popular articles, two years since we posted it.
Angelina Jolie isn’t the only Hollywood celebrity pilot. Harrison Ford, John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood are just a few of many real-world pilots and aircraft owners.
Harrison Ford owns and flies over half a dozen aircraft, and is President of AOPA’s Young Eagles program. John Travolta owns a Boeing 707 and is type-rated on even bigger airliners, including the Boeing 747. After Top Gun, Tom Cruise learned to fly and owned a P-51 Mustang, the hottest fighter in World War II.
Angelina Jolie owns a Cirrus SR22, one of the most sexy, speedy and sophisticated airplanes today.
After that flight to Baguio, I rushed to Air Ads for a meeting on the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. Air Ads, one of the biggest FBOs in Manila, is home to the TV series Asian Air Safari.
Joy Roa, owner of Air Ads and TV host of Asian Air Safari, showed me a surprise in his hangar.
It was a Cirrus SR22 Generation Three, the one with Garmin’s Perspective glass cockpit.
This airplane looks fast just sitting on the ground. Airborne, it screams at 220 knots, nearly 450 kilometers an hour! Incredible performance for a fixed gear piston single.
It’s so Hollywood Angelina — leather-gripped joystick with electric trim, four-point harness, leather everywhere. No whips though.
Are you getting hot yet?
The “Cirrus Perspective” glass cockpit sure steals the limelight. Primary flight display, multi-function display, flight management computer, electronic flight charts by Jeppesen.
The Jepp charts even look like real paper charts!
I was fascinated by the GUI touch screens, especially the engine monitor screens for pesky tasks like mixture leaning.
Pesky? How about traffic monitoring? Another airplane moving outside generates a synthetic moving symbol on the primary flight display, exactly where the real traffic is in the real sky.
A go-around button pops the flight director to 7.5 degrees pitch up for a max performance climb (this bothered me strangely, more on this in a bit.) This button also loads the missed approach procedure for that terminal arrival.
I asked how long it took to get used to the sidestick, instead of a yoke (which is for oxen, anyway) or a between-the-legs joystick. I was told that it took slightly over 90 seconds.
I was shown how. With the door closed, a leather-padded ledge perfectly angled my arm to manipulate that stick, which fitted so well in my hand no matter how I twisted or gripped it. The control forces seemed hard, but I was told that when I got up to speed I would no longer notice that.
Freud would have a field day with why this joystick felt so natural.
If you have extreme fun and finally lose control (I’m still being Freudian), you will be brought softly back down to earth.
Every Cirrus has a ballistic recovery parachute. The handle fires a rocket from the rear fuselage, which rips out a parachute strapped to the airframe, that lowers the entire airplane to the ground.
Outside, there wasn’t a single rivet to mar the sleek, smooth lines.
Weeping wings and propeller anti-ice both involve fluid seeping out of small orifices… .
“Twisted” forward and down towards the wing tip, the outboard wing section has a lower angle of attack.
That outboard section, where the aileron is, remains unstalled even with the inboard section stalled. This retains aileron authority in the stall, which greatly prevents a spin.
So the Cirrus is reportedly unspinnable.
What that really means is that you should not spin it. But it will spin at extreme flight conditions, and once it does, it is usually unrecoverable.
Hence the airplane parachute. “For Extreme Emergencies”.
In fact, there is a warning placard on the panel: aerobatic manuevers, including intentional spins, are prohibited on this aircraft.
That blew it for me.
Like Angelina, the Cirrus is incredibly fast, sophisticated, complex. I’m not averse to complexity — I quickly loved ATMs, women, even Windows Vista.
That nifty electronic go-around button in Angelina’s airplane could be very useful, once you’ve seen it work enough to trust it (who wouldn’t want to see Angelina go around several times?)
But sophistication isn’t the reason I learned to fly. If I needed to get somewhere badly enough to need Hi/Lo enroute charts, I would take an airliner and read a book about aerobatics. And if the weather is bad enough that I would need terminal arrival charts, I would rather curl up on the sofa and watch Tomb Raider or The Changeling.
No, my love affair is with flight — me, the airplane and the sky. When I get up there, I’m already where I wanted to go.
So a 220-knot all-glass transportation equipment costing over half a million dollars isn’t for me, Angelina.
Instead, let me show you a very Lazy Eight, in my aerobatic-approved, spinnable aluminum soda can. One wing pointed straight down at the ground, white clouds in a blue sky off our other shoulder 😀
Posted from San Francisco, January 23, 2009.
Next: An Aerobatic Box