COPA Migration 11: Gulf Coast Adventures

by HPA · July 10, 2013

COPA Migration 11: Gulf Coast Adventures

By Brendan Boyd (CFI, CFII, MEI, CSIP)

I have never seen so many Cirrus aircraft in one place at one time! I’ve also probably never looked so silly either, mouth dropped wide open in amazement at likely one of the largest concentrations of Cirrus pilots and aircraft worldwide. Cirrus Owner and Pilot Association’s (COPA) annual Migration took place in Mobile, AL this year, and I was a lucky pilot with the opportunity to attend. The volunteer-run organization has held the fly-in annually for owners, operators, instructors, spouses, and enthusiasts with a passion for the Cirrus brand since 2002. The ramp at Mobile Downtown airport (KBFM) was alive with colors and paint schemes over Cirrus aircraft, all the way from early 2000’s to the brand new, 2013 SR22 G5.

If you know a little about the Cirrus SR20 and SR22 aircraft, you’ll likely recall they are powered by well-built, precisely manufactured, and meticulously maintained engines produced by Continental Motors, Inc. Continental happens to call Mobile home. From brand new engines to refurbishes and overhauls, the factory in Mobile is your one-stop-shop for all things aircraft-engine related. Continental, who sponsored many events and a dinner at Migration, was also gracious enough to open their doors to Migration attendees for a factory wide tour. The tour progressed through many of the major facilities, providing those interested (let’s be honest, passengers and spouses probably weren’t as enthused as their pilot-counterpart) with insight into the build process and answering questions for the curious-minded.


Eclipse Aerospace was also there to grace Migration attendees with their presence. Another sponsor of Migration events, Eclipse wanted to spread the word about their line of state-of-the-art, easy to fly light jets. They even had a few on hand at the Mobile Downtown airport for demo flights. Billed as the most fuel efficient jet to date and an easy, logical step up from the day’s single-engine pistons, Eclipse has a product they fully believe is the way of the future. I can’t say that I have any experience in or near the plane but I would love to be able to provide a first-hand account. If you know anyone who needs a co-pilot… I’m just saying…

Eclipse 550

The Eclipse 550 is a pretty machine to behold.

Let us not forget about the real reason for the annual congregation: Cirrus Aircraft! While COPA is entirely independent from the aircraft manufacturer, CEO Dale Klapmeier and President Patrick Waddick were on hand with other employees and representatives to participate in the festivities, socialize with attendees, and provide important information for the pilots and passengers they so fully appreciate. Also along for the journey was a mock-up of Cirrus’ newest aircraft, the SF50 Vision Jet. A truly revolutionary product, Cirrus is close to certifying one of the newest single-engine jet-powered aircraft in the aviation industry. Technically not a Very Light Jet (VLJ), Cirrus calls the aircraft a true Personal Jet. Equipped with the familiar Cirrus Perspective avionics by Garmin and flight characteristics similar to its little brother, the transition from Cirrus piston to jet should be seamless.

Cirrus Execs

CEO Dale Klapmeier (Left) and President Patrick Waddick (Right)

Most importantly, COPA knows how to organization a great set of experiences for its loyal members. Migration 11: Gulf Coast Adventures included scuba diving, tours of NAS Pensacola, deep sea fishing, and many other activities over the course of a week. While I was unable to get to Mobile early enough to have all of the fun, the main event and included presentations and a vendor fair that were a wealth and information and entertainment. If you have the time and resources to attend future Migrations, I would strongly recommend the trip, if not for the events than for the fantastic people with which you will have an opportunity to meet and build relationships. Migration was a fantastic experience and I can only say that I highly anticipate what COPA has in store for this event in the future.

How it Started

One of my best friends in high school, (Doug Gray) was a private pilot. He offered to take me up for a flight in a 1967 Cessna 150, N6228S. We took off from Calhoun, Georgia, and he took me on a scenic tour of the area, I was hooked. I later found out that my English teacher, (Jan Haluska) was also a flight instructor and the school was offering a ground school course the next year, which he taught, along with flight training with the goal of becoming a private pilot. I managed to talk my dad into funding the training, at the time the total cost was right around $500. Cessna 150 rental rates where $12 an hour, and the 172 we used for cross country was $15 an hour including fuel.

Training Begins

It started August of 1977. The fall semester rolls around, and I am enrolled in ground school, and if memory serves me, we met twice a week. First came the paperwork for my student pilot certificate, which at the time was included with the 3rd class medical. I loved ground school, especially learning navigation, plotting courses on the sectional, again this was before iPads and GPS, so we did a lot of dead reckoning and VOR navigation for cross countries. At the end of the course, I made an 83% on the Private Pilot written exam, remember this was before we had the question-and-answer books that on future test I would consume before taking a written.

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The fun really began on August 22, 1977, it was my first flight. To my surprise we used the same Cessna 150, N6228S that my friend Doug Gray had taken me for a ride in. The Cessna 150 had a standard VFR instrument panel, with one NAV/COM, and one VOR CDI. No intercom, so no headset, at the time I didn’t know what I was missing. I didn’t get my first headset until I started my instrument training in 2003. I was a big guy, I was 6’ 4” and weighed 245 lbs. but I do not remember being uncomfortable in the 150 even with the instructor in the right seat.

First flight lasted .8 hours, and we accomplished orentation, shallow turns, stability, and effects of flight controls. Over the next few months we added steep 720’s, slow flight, stalls, turns around a point, S-turns, emergencies, landings, (short field, soft field and normal).


At this point I want to talk about a training experience that still stands out. We were close to solo and were practicing takeoffs and landings. Turning base to final Jan got very upset at the way I was cross controlling the aircraft. Cross control is when you are in, say a left turn, and use opposite rudder to line the nose up with the runway. So, he had me depart the pattern and head east to the practice area, and climbing up to 5500 feet MSL, he had me slow down to just above stalling speed, start a left shallow turn and add right rudder. As the airplane stalled I had the strangest sensation, no roller coaster has ever come close, instead of blue sky in the windscreen I was looking at brown ground, and as far as I could tell we were upside down, through the terror of the moment Jan talked me out of the spin, controls neutral, oposite rudder, pull slowly out of the dive. As we leveled off he asked me what altitude we were at, as I remember it was around 2,800 feet MSL. Then he asked me what would happen if I experenced this on base to final in the traffic pattern. The answer was obvious, I would be a pile of wreckage off the end of the runway with a very short-lived aviation career. Needless to say this cured my cross-control tendencies.

Another training event the sticks out in my mind was the first time we did takeoffs and landings at the High School runway. The runway was 1,500 feet long, not sure of the width, but it seems like we had about 5 feet on each side of the wheels when on the center line of the runway. Landing from the south you also had to go between a cutout in the trees to be able to stop in time on the runway. After getting confortable landing here every runway since seemed huge. I remember landing at Chattanooga (KCHA) on a night cross country and commenting to Jan, that I felt like I could of landed sideways on the runway, it felt that large.

Very soon after this I started wearing old shirts to all my flight lessons, the reason for this occurred on February 8, 1978. The lesson that day was stalls, takeoffs and Landing. As we were taxing back in Jan told me it was time for my first solo. I was very excited, and after some last minute advice from Jan, including watch for floating on landing the plane will be light with him not in the right seat, complete 3 takeoffs and landings to a full stop. It was a blast, and at the end of my shirt was shorter in the back because Jan cut the tail out of it signed and dated my solo [an aviation tradition]. Total flight time accumulated on the day of my solo was 18.1 hours. I was now officially a pilot with solo priveleges.

In my next article I start cross country training, when Jan decided that it would be best accomplished this in the 172. Checking out in N5970R was like moving into a 747, this started a love affair with one of my faviriote planes to date. Since this time I have flown over 900 hours in many different models of the 172 and feel like I am stepping into an old friend every time.

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