Today’s Flight Plan
Today we’re joined by Ivy McIver of Cirrus Aircraft. I met Ivy up here in Alaska, and we instantly got talking about how she flew a beautiful new 2014 Cirrus SR22T to Alaska.
She’s really passionate about the brand she represents, the aircraft she sells, the way she flies, and flying itself. You can tell she just loves what she does.
This is a wonderful conversation and was a blast to have. I think you guys will really enjoy the inside knowledge into Cirrus as a company, how they work, and also hear from a really great employee of the company that is absolutely passionate about their brand.
Certainly worth a listen!
Hangar Talk with Ivy McIver
- How Ivy fell in love with Aviation. (The answer may surprise you)
- Ivy’s flight training
- Getting Hired by Cirrus
Flight Training Segment
- Cirrus Story
- Working at Cirrus
- Cirrus Company Culture
- Why Cirrus Rocks
- Tell us about CSIP and Cirrus Customer Training
Flight Simulation Segment
- How Cirrus uses simulators to train new customers
Closing thoughts and remarks
Huge thanks to Ivy for joining us. What a gem she is! So grateful to have her perspective on the show, and to see a shared passion for aviation. Really loving all that she’s doing, and can’t wait to catch up with her more. Thanks, Ivy!
Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.
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Chris: This is AviatorCast episode 21, where we’re getting serious about Cirrus!
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff. Here’s your host, Chris Palmer!
Chris: Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. I just love all things flying. Lock me in a dark room with a simulator and I’ll have a complete blast or throw me in the cockpit of a real airplane and I’ll be at the peak of my existence, doing what I was born to do. I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a flight simulation training company which is bringing you this podcast today. AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an artform, one that we have to continually practice and master. This mastery is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility, and a commitment to excellence. Each episode of AviatorCast will have real flight training and flight simulation topics, or an interview with an inspirational and influential aviator. Our desire and mission is not only to create awesome aviators, but also bridge the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Show notes, transcript, community discussion and links for this episode can be found by simply going to AviatorCast.com.
So thank you for joining us on this, the 21st episode of AviatorCast. It is an absolute honor and pleasure to have you here with us to join with us in this passion for flying things. One of the best ways that all of you reach out to us is through reviews on iTunes and we have another one for you today all the way from the United Kingdom. This comes from someone named Barsweat. He says “Cheers from across the pond, five stars. Spent the morning listening to your podcast, followed by the afternoon, followed by the evening. Stopped flying six years ago but you have relit that spark. Your enthusiasm is compelling. That’s it. I’m going back up to bother those clouds. Can’t thank you enough.” Thank you Barsweat for the great, great review there. It is our pleasure. We love doing these episodes, we love bringing you great inspirational messages and content and just kind of again, like you said, relighting that spark. That is definitely one of the things that we do here with AviatorCast. And not only relighting but keeping that spark alive and keeping that engine running and always reaching for the next step in your aviator career and your progression.
So today we have an absolutely fantastic episode. This was a really great and fun episode to record. We have Ivy McIver with us. Ivy works for Cirrus Aircraft, she’s located in Seattle, and I recently met her at a local aviation show, and she is definitely passionate about aviation just like the rest of us. And so I want to get right into this with Ivy, and so here it is, Ivy McIver on hangar talk with AviatorCast.
Now, a special hangar talk segment…
Chris: Alright everybody, we are here with Ivy McIver. How are you doing Ivy?
Ivy: I’m great. Thanks for having me Chris.
Chris: Yeah. Total pleasure. You and I met about a month ago. You came up to Alaska for the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering which was the first of that event that I’ve been to, and you had travelled all the way up from Seattle I understand in one of your brand new Cirrus SR22 Turbo airplanes, if I got all that correct, from Seattle.
Ivy: Indeed, that’s correct. I am based in Seattle, Washington at Boeing Field and that’s where I hangar a brand new, beautiful 2014 SR22 T and I was fortunate enough to be able to fly that up to Anchorage with just one stop in Sitka, and had it on display at the Great Alaskan Aviation Gathering.
Chris: Yeah. You were kind enough to take me in the cockpit and we kind of talked about the design and the ideas behind the design. I think that big D word for Cirrus is definitely something they take serious not only in the sense of the sheer beauty of it but also with the usability of how intuitive the Cirrus cockpits are, so thank you if I didn’t already say that for taking me through the airplane and showing me all that. But you and I kind of hit it off and I thought you’d be a fantastic guest here on AviatorCast, so it’s great to have you here finally.
Ivy: Well thanks. It was my pleasure to give you a tour of the aircraft. You really hit the nail in the head. The design of the Cirrus, the entire airplane as well as the cabin was very thoughtful. Just little things like making the windows large and including a rear window to let more light into the cabin, the placement of the seating, the placement of the console between the two front seats, it was all very well thought-out design to maximize the comfort of both the pilot and the passengers and really make it an inviting place to be. So many folks who are unfamiliar with aviation, they think of general aviation and a general aviation aircraft as whatever they see as they drive by an airport. Usually what’s outside sitting on the ramp of an airport is something old or something that doesn’t look well-maintained, maybe there is some grass growing up around the half-inflated tires and it just doesn’t seem like something that people view as a viable transportation option or something safe to do. Cirrus really wanted to turn that on its head and make it very familiar. So we get a comment a lot that says this is very carlike, it feels very carlike. Everyone’s very familiar with hopping in their car and driving down the road. If we can make the experience feel more familiar, it doesn’t seem as scary, people are more willing to try it out and we expand the amount of people that are utilizing aviation.
Chris: Definitely. It will be great to get into a deeper conversation on that as we kind of go through this episode, because there’s a lot of unique aspects of Cirrus that I really like and design is one of them. I’m a person that really appreciates beautiful design. I am a total Apple geek if that’s just one indicator on design and how much I love it. Not that that says too much about me but anyway, first question I always ask a guest and I think this is very telling is how did you fall in love with aviation? So go ahead and tell us that.
Ivy: Okay, here is my embarrassing but true story to live in perpetuity on the internet. Deep breath. When I was a little girl, I saw Top Gun and I don’t have any aviation in my family. I didn’t grow up in an aviation family or have someone in my family who was a pilot or have access to an airplane, but I saw Top Gun and thought that was coolest thing in the world. All I wanted to do was be a fighter pilot. I just wanted to fly fighters off of an air carrier and I just thought like that’s it, I know what I want to do, and I was singularly focused. I looked into applying to the Naval Academy and Air Force Academy and I joined the Naval Sea Cadet Core when I was 11 or 12. The whole deal, wore my navy uniform and went to boot camp and all that stuff. Started going through the process of applying to the academies and realized that to be a fighter pilot, there are size requirements. A lot of people are on the upper end of that, you know, “I’m too tall to be a fighter pilot.” Tom Cruise isn’t that tall, but he’s also taller than me, so what I realized that you need to be 5 foot 4 inches to be a fighter pilot.
I don’t know if that’s changed but at that time, that was the case and I am not. I stand a statuesque 5 foot 2 inches tall. So that was that. My world was thrown into a tailspin. So I went on to pursue an aeronautical engineering degree which ended up turning into a computer science degree, and I got a computer science job. But always on the back of my head was how can I figure out how to fly and how to make flying my career? So as soon as I moved to Chicago, I settled in to my programming job at a bank and I drove out to the airport and found a flight instructor and just said “Alright well, I guess I’ll just learn how to fly,” and started flying in a Piper Archer and took it from there. I went very quickly through my private and my instrument training because I was again singularly focused on trying to figure out a flying career which was at that time “Okay, I can’t be a fighter pilot but I’m going to be an airline pilot.” Then life happened and work happened and I just ended up flying for fun. And then in 2006, I crossed paths with Cirrus and I’ve been with Cirrus ever since. So I’ve been fortunate enough to finally find a flying career that works for me.
Chris: Great. So how did that crossing of paths work with Cirrus, tell us a little bit about that.
Ivy: Well, I was very fortunate to be out at the airport in Chicago, having to chat with a guy that was out there for the same reason I was. We both had our private and instrument rating and we were both working on our commercial ratings because we were going to get our instructor ratings to share aviation with people on the weekends. He was a software guy, I was a software person, and we just wanted to do some aviation stuff on the weekends. And he came to the airport one day and said “I’m going to sell airplanes,” and I thought “Well, that sounds interesting. Good for you. Have a great time!” And a couple of weeks later I said “Hey, how did that airplane sales thing go, what happened?” and he said “You know, I’ve been talking to Cirrus and it’s a really cool company. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to be able to pursue the opportunity but you should.” I kind of said “I don’t know, that’s sounds a little crazy.” But I’m never one to ignore opportunity. It never hurts to have a conversation. So I said “Sure. Introduce me to the person you’ve been talking to. I’d love to have a conversation.” And one conversation led to another conversation, led to an in-person interview and a flight test and a few weeks later I packed up my apartment and threw the contents into a storage locker and headed to Duluth, Minnesota.
Chris: Wow, cool. Great story. So how old are you when you kind of started that process?
Ivy: Well, let’s see. I was 30.
Chris: Okay. Great.
Ivy: So do the math, I’ve been here for eight years.
Chris: Great. Cool. So tell us a little more about Cirrus just as a company and a culture and what it’s like to work there and maybe even kind of an introduction to the types of things that you get to do as a Cirrus saleswoman. I know for one, you handed me this clip from, I believe it was AOPA pilot magazine of you flying up through the inside passage in Alaska and you were the actual pilot of the plane that was being photographed and you had all these amazing photos, so you don’t only get to sell these amazing airplanes and kind of be entrenched in this process but you also get to do some other things. So kind of share that with us as a whole. I know that’s a lot to kind of load on you there but give it a go.
Ivy: Well, Cirrus is really a unique company for a lot of reasons. One thing that attracted me to Cirrus in the first place is the entrepreneurial and startup feel of Cirrus. I came from a software world. I worked at two different startup companies where the founders of the companies were still involved in the day-to-day activities and it felt very small and family-like and the executive team was always open to ideas from the masses and it just really seems like everyone was in it together.
Ivy: Cirrus feels a lot that same way. Cirrus was founded by Alan and Dale Klapmeier in a barn in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Recently we had an event at Microsoft and I sort of compared the starting of Cirrus to the starting of Microsoft. The barn in Baraboo Wisconsin is very much akin to the computer company started in a garage. You hear that story a lot. And so Cirrus is the aviation startup. Everyone told the Klapmeiers there is no way they’d be able to make this work. They’re were crazy for building a plane with a parachute. They were crazy for making a clean sheet design to put into production in the late 90s. It’s just “Who are you?” Cirrus continues to innovate. Dale continues to be involved in the day to day operations of the company. Everyone at the company is really encouraged to fly, to live the Cirrus life, to be involved with a lot of different things from marketing campaigns to ideas around setting up events like Oshkosh to different methods of training and what’s going to resonate with customers. It’s just a really sort of open and welcome environment where feedback is encouraged and all of the sales representatives work directly for a corporate. So we don’t sell new planes through dealers and that gives us a lot of control and also a lot of leeway into selling a different way. I really think that when we sell a plane to a customer, we welcome them into the Cirrus family and we’re able to do that because we are all part of the Cirrus family ourselves, and it sounds a little hokey but it’s actually sort of true.
It’s just a really interesting environment to be in. It’s so completely different to other aircraft sales reps that I know. We also have the benefit of having a plane so when a prospect called Cirrus and says “I’d look to look at a plane but I’ve never flown one before.” I had this conversation five minutes before I got on the phone with you. I gentleman in Idaho said “I looked up Cirrus about eight years ago and I’m really close to deciding that I want to buy one but I haven’t flown one.” And I said “I can fly over to you on Thursday or Monday,” and that doesn’t happen with other aircraft companies. If you call another aircraft company and say you’d like to fly the plane, it might not be for three or four weeks and you might have to go to the location of that plane, so we have a lot of flexibility and we’re very encouraged to bring the plane and show it off to not only prospects but people who are involved in aviation, and so we are encouraged to take kids up for flights, take blind person all up for flights, take other manufacturers up for flights just to show people the Cirrus and what it’s capable of. It’s incredibly unique to be able to have the keys to a beautiful brand new airplane and be told “Fly it as much as you can. Put as many people in it as you can and show as many people as possible what the plane can do and give them the actual experience of flying in the plane.”
Chris: That’s cool. I really like that. Cool. That’s little bits of culture there that are definitely unique in the industry. I think it shows just in terms of even if you look at the business of Cirrus and how it’s grown over the years and to where they are today whether they’re going to be introducing kind of their first jet to the market here soon, when is that going to be by the way?
Ivy: Yes. So we will be in production with the SF50 Vision Jet in the later half of 2015, so we’re just over a year away. We have two aircraft flying now. We have a prototype that we call V1. That’s been flying for a couple of years now. We’ve got about 700 hours on that aircraft, and that was a proof of concept. We also now have what we term C0, the first conforming prototype flying and that aircraft was built entirely with production tooling on the production line. That’s established at Duluth, Minnesota and also in Grand Forks. That’s where we actually lay up the carbon fiber parts. The conforming prototype is flying now and the second conforming prototype is on the production line due to fly later this year. So we’re very, very close to getting that plane certified. We have a staff of people working exclusively on that jet. We have funding to bring the jet through certification and production, and I have been fortunate enough to fly V1, so the prototype, the proof of concept jet, and it was amazing and unremarkable. And I say that because it’s a truly amazing clean sheet, simple, beautiful design, very Cirrus-esque. But it is not very dissimilar to the plane I fly everyday. The flight deck is similar. The handling characteristics are similar, the approach speeds are similar. So when I came back from that flight, I was really able to speak with my customers and my owners with complete confidence that yes, you are going to be able directly from your 22T into the SF50 and be able to fly it.
Chris: Right. Great. That’s a pretty unique experience. That’s cool that you were able to fly it.
Ivy: It was awesome.
Chris: So tell us, this is kind of a question that kind of rolls into our next topic here but tell us how Cirrus, and you’ve already touched on it a little bit but how Cirrus aircraft separate themselves from the competition. So obviously, I suppose the competition for the SR22 T would be something like the Corvalis from Cessna or the Bonanza from now Cessna kind of. So tell us how it compares kind of in its market and really maybe even the different markets that competes with even initial trainers or advanced kind of advanced everyday flying aircraft. So tell us what sets you guys apart basically.
Ivy: Well, I think it’s a lot of things and I can’t point to one specific thing that will chump everything else. Some people will look at the Parachute or the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) as the end all, be all, set aside, this is what makes Cirrus different. But I really think it’s a combination of things that makes Cirrus unique and it’s a combination of those things that make the Cirrus the best-selling single engine piston in the industry, and we’ve had that title for 13 years, which is pretty amazing for an aircraft company that’s only been in production for 15 years. You’re looking at comparing market share. We actually have the biggest market share in the industry, bigger than Cessna, bigger than Piper. So I mean it’s been a tremendous journey for Cirrus Aircraft. We’ve been very fortunate to have the, people at Cirrus really make the company obviously, just sort of the innovate spirit and the drive to keep innovating, and I think that’s one thing that you can point too that continues to drive Cirrus sales. If you go and look at some of the other aircrafts that you mentioned, the airframe itself is exactly as it was 10, 20, 40, 50 years ago. If you look at a 2014 Cirrus, it’s completely different from a 2004 Cirrus. It’s got different gear, it’s got a different wingspar, it’s got a different engine, it’s got a different avionics panel, it’s got a different interior, it’s got different lighting, it’s completely different. The fuselage is the same shape and it still has a parachute, that’s pretty much where the similarity stop.
So when you look at things like it was certified under different parameters, so much more astringent parameters for the certification. We were certified in ’99, that required us to have a 26G seat for instance and a 3G roll cage, so much more higher qualities of safety. It also is comfortable to be in. We talked a little bit about the design of that and making it carlike. It’s easy to get in and out of. When you open the golden door and you get into the backseat, you just step down on to the backseat door and sit. And then when you go out, you just stand up. There’s no crawling in headfirst or crawling around the seat. We really strive to make it a comfortable and quiet and nice place to be. And then the creature comforts within the Cirrus. Little things, things like cupholders and the all of the seats reclined, and there’s a console in between so you’re no shoulder to shoulder with the person in the left seat or the person in the right seat. XM radio just like in your car. So there’s a lot of little creature comforts like that.
And then of course, there’s the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System. I really feel like that is something that isn’t just unique. It creates so much peace of mind for someone who’s not an aviator. It creates so much peace of mind for someone that isn’t aviator and flies over hostile terrain like Alaska. If there was an engine failure between Yakutat and Anchorage, there’s really not a lot of options for me. But I have a parachute so I have the ultimate option. Between Anchorage and Fairbanks, there’s not a lot of great options. Even down in the lower 48 if you’re looking at a lot of the train I fly over going from Spokane to Missoula or Idaho Falls to Bozeman, there’s not a lot of place that I could put it down. The other thing for me with the parachute is my husband is not a pilot, and if something were to happen to me, I’m a fairly fit individual but anything could happen. If something happened to me, I know I’m not going to strand him in the sky. Same, my mom loves to fly with me and I feel very confident that something were to happen to me, she wouldn’t be stranded, she has an option and a way to get done. It’s the combination of all of that for the airplane.
There’s also the portion of the company and the other owners. We have a very, very active community owner community and there’s a lot Cirrus out there so there’s always fellow pilots to talk to and fellow Cirrus aviators to go do stuff with. There’s fly-ins and Cirrus pilot proficiency programs and decision-making seminars and we have a migration every year that we will get 300 or 400 airplanes flying into the Cirrus in Las Vegas in October in conjunction with the Red Bull Air Race, and we’ll get hundreds of Cirrus owners flying airplanes from all over the country. I just talked to an owner in Pennsylvania who will be flying his plane to Las Vegas for the migration. And we have this camaraderie that you don’t necessary have with an aircraft that’s only producing a handful of airplanes a year. We’re producing 300 airplanes a year.
Chris: Right. And you guys are focused on a specific model too and your focus is spread out between business jets and light trainers and kind of the market that you’re in and twin engine. The focus can get really spread out which is also a problem too.
Ivy: Yeah. And then some aircrafts get sort of left behind. I feel like the Cirrus is, it is the best bang for your buck out there full stop. It is a ridiculously capable airplane with the turbo, being able to go up to 25,000 feet, being able to fly through known ice conditions and being able to fly fast. It will go an excess of 210 knows when you’re up in the flight levels. But it’s also very, very docile to handle in slow flying situations. It’s a plane that you can purchase, learn to fly in, get comfortable in and grow into.
Chris: Great. So tell us a little bit more about, because we talk about kind of the ancillary aspects of the Cirrus design. From a pilot’s perspective, lay it down. What are the great, great features of my as a pilot jumping into the airplane. How is the airplane going to help me as far as avionics. You already mentioned ficky which is important, you can explain that a little more, the turbo, those sort of things. So as a pilot, what are the big aspects that really help out?
Ivy: I’m going to start with walking up to the plane, because as a pilot I walk up to this plane and it is a dead sexy machine. I walk up to this plane and I’m like “I’m going to get in that thing and that is super cool.” You just feel cool walking up to the plane. It’s an incredibly beautiful machine and you feel proud to fly it. You get in, it’s easy to get in. It’s very easy to preflight. Very straightforward machine. Not a lot of complications. It’s fixed gear which is very, very simple. Fixed gear, single engine plane, very simple. The next thing I think about that comes to mind is the redundancy. I’m extremely confident when I get into the plane that even if bad things happen and I think as a pilot that has to be a focus of the what if. You’ve got to be prepared for bad things happening no matter what you’re flying. I know that the plane has a ton of redundancy. I have two air data computers, two AHR systems, two separate electrical systems, two alternators, two batteries, screen redundancy, and then the ultimate redundancy of the parachute. So I feel extremely confident that I can get into the plane and even if stuff starts to go bad, I have a lot of options to either make it right or get some place where I can make it right.
I fly in a lot of IFR conditions being in Seattle and covering the coast of Western Canada and up to Alaska. So the synthetic vision is an incredibly capable and well thought out way to present information. So with the synthetic vision, I can see what the train would look like if I could see it out the window. I can see the runway. I can see a path in the sky that represents what my flight path will be for an approach say or for a hold or for my flight plan to wherever I’m going. I can see terrain, water. I can see other traffic and it just gives me incredible spatial awareness even if I can’t see out the window. And then on the MFD, I have all of the information about what’s going on upfront, so I can see to a very detailed degree what the engine is doing, what the engine temperatures are and how much fuel I’ve got, how much anti-ice fluid I have. I have the confidence that I know what the plane is doing while it’s doing it.
And then the avionics system is just extremely well laid out. It’s very easy to reach all the buttons that I need to reach. It’s a straightforward process to access the information I need. And by information I need, it’s everything from what’s the altometer setting to what’s the approach look like at the airport where I’m going, load the approach right into the avionics, have that all detailed in my flight plan. I can see information about the airport itself. Is there a restaurant in the field? What’s the frequency for Unicom? What’s the frequency for ATIS? I can also see all the weather, so I can see cloud tops and AIRMETs and SIGMETs and icing potential, radar. It’s a very comprehensive weather product that comes from XM as well as flight reports. So I can continually assess the level of risk or level of intensity of what I have in front of me between my present position and my destination airport.
Chris: And you guys, didn’t Cirrus actually spearhead the Garmin perspective? So they were the first to add the numpad if you will, the FMS pad, is that right or am I mistaken there?
Ivy: Right. So the Cirrus Perspective by Garmin was indeed a joint effort, and part of the reason why we partnered with Garmin was because Garmin was very open to our suggestions of making it fit better for our pilots and our airframe. So rather than take the G1000 and put it into the Cirrus as our flight deck, there were some thing that we wanted to do differently and Garmin was very open to our feedback and changing the avionics so they were Cirrusized if you will. That’s where the perspective came.
Chris: And it’s almost a standard now. If you’re going to have a really nicely laid out flight deck with the G1000, you’re going to have that numpad and I don’t know if you guys did the level thing too, maybe that was just a Garmin thing but…
Ivy: That was also unique to Cirrus when it first came out. What’s really nice to see and this is another reason why I think Cirrus a great company, is that we created a lot of things, brainstormed a lot of things and innovated several different features within the avionics that were Cirrus-specific but that we worked with Garmin to enable those features to be shared with other flight decks. We didn’t just create them for Cirrus, we created them and then said to Garmin “Hey, if you want to take some of these features and integrate them into future versions of the software, that’s great. More access to more safety features is a good thing.
Chris: Right. Definitely.
Ivy: At the end of the day, all the creature comforts, everything is kind of secondary and as pilots, we worry about what happens upfront and what really matters and having the information in our hands. On this show, we’ve talked a whole lot about technically advanced aircraft which Cirrus obviously falls within that realm, and how that relates to who pilots are and how they train and how they operate from day to day. Really, what we’re trying to achieve and maybe you agree is we’re just trying to achieve more situational awareness and from that better safety and keeping our families safer and just making the whole situation more manageable, and systems like the Garmin Perspective just really help out tremendously. You know, I’ve had a lot of time in the Bonanza, I haven’t had any time in the Cirrus but I’ve had a lot of time in the Bonanza which is really Garmin in a lesser form and I just found that it helped out quite a bit. But when you and I stepped into the Cirrus in Anchorage, I just realized so many of these tools are so useful to me because I have this pad that I can quickly enter an information. I don’t have to turn a knob and kind of do all the entry that way. And then also the way you turn the MFD toward the pilot just a little bit rather than just a fully flat panel, and all these just little intricate details that as a whole add up to just a much better experience for me as a pilot to manage my flight safely.
Ivy: Well, that’s a very nice compliment. You know, you said something that sort of struck a chord with me with regards to the technically advanced aircraft and the equipment in the airplane. I think it’s really, really important regardless of the airplane to know the equipment in your airplane and know how to use it. With the Cirrus, there are some unique things like the parachute, like the CAP system, and obviously the different layers of the Garmin avionics. It’s absolutely imperative that you know how to use everything in your airplane. Whether it’s a J3 Cub with nothing in the panel or it’s a Cirrus with an incredibly capable panel. It’s not necessarily looking at the avionics and thinking “Well, the avionics will do my job as a pilot for me. All I need to do is just sit back and watch it fly my places.” With great power comes great responsibility right so if you’ve got all of this capability, it’s your responsibility to know how to use it and use it when necessary. Obviously, like I said before, I fly a lot of IFR. If I’m in real instrument conditions, having the synthetic vision gives me more ability to stay relaxed and monitor everything else that’s going on. If I’ve got autopilot and synthetic vision and the autopilot is flying an approach for me, I have more time to make sure that my scan is comprehensive and to make sure that the wings are ice-free, that the ice system is working properly, to make sure that my engine temperatures are good, to make sure that my speed is good.
You add more tasks to the pilot, the smaller that sort of box gets or the more saturated your concentration box gets. Some people kind of looked at the panel as a bit complicated and it does take time and dedication to learn the panel. That’s the responsibility of a Cirrus owner. But it also opens up a lot more ability and a lot more things that you can do with the airplanes and places you can fly.
Chris: Yeah. I think this segways kind of really nicely into the next question I had which was what the Cirrus do as far as initial customer training or recurring training and things like that and I’ll kind of let of you go with that but before that, really one of the challenges that Cirrus and every aircraft manufacturer had in the early 2000s was pilots transitioning to technically advanced aircraft, and suddenly they had all these whizbing features that were thrown into their cockpit without really putting it in context kind of like you were talking about. Having it there as almost a co-pilot to help you, not do it for you or fill some gap that you had in your training, but rather be there as a guide sort of thing. So talk to us a little bit about Cirrus’ answer to that problem because I think again, it’s one of those things that Cirrus has innovated in that they’ve had this initial customer training and it was really as far as I understand, it was the only company that actually did that, so tell us about that.
Ivy: Yup. So great question. There’s a lot of pieces to that. So when the Cirrus was first introduced in the late 90s and early 2000s, we did not have a great accident rate. When we were compared to, if you just look at fatal accidents, we were well above the GA average. When you look deeper into accident statistics, most accidents will happen when there’s low time and type. Time and type is a big accident preventer. The more time and type you have, the less likely you are to be in a fatal accident in that aircraft. So when the Cirrus was introduced, everyone was low time and type, and so that was a big challenge for us to overcome. The other big challenge is it looks and smells like the same single engine piston airplane that everyone has been using for training but the capabilities are much bigger, so people were using it differently. When you look at other single engine piston aircraft, you’re looking at much at that time in the kind of late 90s, early 200s, you’re looking at aircraft that were mostly used in training environments. There was an instructor on board, you weren’t going very far. You weren’t going in terribly bad weather, and if you were going in bad weather, you weren’t traversing multiple weather systems.
So the Cirrus came on the scene and people started using it differently because it was more capable. It was fast and it was comfortable and all of a sudden you could get into the Cirrus and your family would go with you and you could fly to your cabin three states away or to go visit your kids in college four states away. And so people are not only time and type, but also using the plane for a much different mission, and that contributed to a higher fatal accident rate. We have had a couple of iterations in how we do customer training. When we first started manufacturing the plane, the customer training consisted of handing the keys over and asking the customer to give us a call when he got home. That evolved to doing a transition training course that took a customer through a basic maneuver “Hey can you land the thing? Okay, you’re good.” And we actually contracted that out to a third party, so we didn’t do that. And if you look at our fatal accident rate, it spiked in 2006 and at that point, we completely revamped how we looked at training. We’re always evaluating our accident rate and looking at the causes of accident to try to figure out how to prevent them.
Sometimes that solution is put different stuff in the airplane. Case in point, the level button. Why not put a capability where if you become spatially unaware, or disoriented, why not have a one button that you can push that just settles everything. It rolls the wings and engages the autopilot. It’s a great tool. We also incorporated something called electronic stability protection which just sits in the background and utilizes the autopilot servos, such that if you go out of a normal flight envelope, you banked steeper than 24 degrees or pitched up or down with an excessive pitch. The servos kick in and actually give you active feedback to shallow out your bank or to shallow out your pitch. That’s something that was put in place to try and prevent low slow maneuvering accidents. There’s only so much you can put on the plane. When you start looking at accident causes, so many of the accident causes are pilot-driven, not airplane-driven.
Chris: As usual, yeah.
Ivy: And so not only are we focusing on innovations in the aircraft but we’re focusing on innovations with training. So in 2006, we looked at that accident rate in 2007. We changed the way we did training. We brought it in-house. It became a much more standardized and more strict process, and all of our customers have a three-day scenario-based transition training program included with the delivery of their airplane. This is something that we feel extremely strongly about. That transition training consists of a curriculum that involves both flight training and ground school and then is augmented by simulator training. As we talked about a little bit earlier, there are systems in the plane that cannot be trained or flown in the real airplane, and so a lot of our transition training is focused not only on basic maneuvers of landing and takeoff and stalls and slow flight, but also scenario-based decisions. What happened? How are you going to divert the airplane if the weather… Like let’s lay out something really basic. The weather went IFR and you’re a VFR-only pilot, what are you going to do? And then it gets a little bit more in-depth and a little bit more in-depth to the point where we start putting pilots into the simulator and start talking about CAPS. CAPS is something that we briefed before every flight just to remind everyone in the plane including the pilot that it’s there and how to use it.
Chris: And that’s your parachute system just to clarify for the listeners.
Ivy: Yes, yes, exactly. So CAPS is the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System. With the simulator, we can take that a step further and simulate the decision-making process, because the act of pulling the parachute itself is very simple. It’s just as simple as plugging in flight plan or engaging the autopilot, it’s a very simple process. All of the things that lead up to that catchpool, that’s where the training needs to happen. It’s the scenarios of evolving your decision-making to include the decision to pull CAPS. The execution of pulling the handle is really, it’s not difficult. So in a simulator, we can put different scenarios together and typically, especially in people who are transitioning from another aircraft, they will try and fly the plane into the ground. We will put them in absolutely no win situations. There is no possible way that you can get out of this bad situation. And they will drive the plane into the ground, and that’s an integral part of our transition training, is to put them through that process, make them realize that you do have an option of the Cirrus parachute, and then kind of help that decision-making process evolve to including the parachute pull as an option. Again, it’s about knowing the equipment in your airplane.
From an accident standpoint, after that revamp of the training, we saw the fatal accident rate decline. Still, we saw that it was slightly higher than the general aviation fatal accident rate. We had another spike in our fatal accident rate in 2011. It was actually a terrible year for us, we had 16 fatal accidents and 3 CAPS pulls. Very small amount of CAPS pulls, very large amount of fatal accidents. And again, we reworked our training. And that is where our current training philosophy of Cirrus approach came about. Cirrus approach is a comprehensive and ongoing training program that we have ruled out to not only our new owners but all of our owners, and this concentrates on initial scenario-based transition training and also incentivizes pilots to actually seek ongoing training and recurrent training, so a six-month training event, a year-training event, and there are learning tools online that help the pilot go through that as well as keep track of their progress, and then there are incentives based around that. It’s almost like a rewards-based system where the more training you do and the more current you are, the more you are rewarded in different aspects.
That’s something that we’re really focused on, is not just let’s do three days of scenario-based transition training when you pick up your airplane, and when you leave, we hope you enjoy ownership. It’s really incorporating our training network and our factory pilots and our owners to focus on the importance of recurrent training and to keep themselves updated. Now, we work with our training pilot network in sort of two respects. We have Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilots or CSIPs, and then we have Cirrus Training Centers. All of those partners are held to very high standards. They need to do recurrent training with us on a yearly basis. We have a team of folks at our corporate headquarters in Duluth whose sole mission is to keep our partners standardized and up to date and well informed about the latest training techniques. So what we have seen is an incredible drop in our fatal accident rates such that since 2012, we have been below the fatal accident rate for all of GA, and for 2014 year to date, we’re actually well below, so the GA rate really sort of hovers right around 1.2, 1.3, that’s right about where it is. In 2012, our fatal accident rate was 1.14. In 2013, it was 1.01 and in 2014 it’s actually just 0.44. So we have had to date one fatal accident and we’re almost halfway through the year.
Chris: Well let’s see if that continues.
Ivy: Yes, exactly. What’s very interesting about that is thus far in 2014, obviously our fleet is as big as it’s ever been. We have 5600 Cirrus aircrafts out there. We have had the biggest number of CAPS pulls ever in the year. In 2013 we had seven CAPS pulls. Year to date 2014 we’ve had seven CAPS pulls but we have just one fatality.
Chris: Yeah. I’d saw one recently actually that was in Australia with a salesman there actually that was demonstrating the aircraft to some customers and they pulled the parachute and everyone was okay.
Ivy: Right. Everyone walked away from that accident.
Chris: Right, which is just fantastic. At the end of the day, we all love flying, that’s what we want to do but we also want to come back down to Earth in one piece.
Ivy: Yeah. And there is actually a video that a bystander took of that which is a really telling demonstration of just want happens because the plane is just brought safely to Earth under this giant parachute, and it’s so slow. It sort of gently brings the plane… now when I say gentle obviously there is some force that is exerted and the plane hits the ground, that’s a pretty heavy plane hitting the ground. But seeing it come down under canopy, it’s really a gentle ride compared to the alternative.
Chris: Yeah. It’s nothing like being a long dart, you can kind of settle in even if it’s pretty bumpy, but yeah. Great. So tell us a little bit because we have a lot of listeners that are into simulation and one of the things we talked about a lot here in the show is how to use a simulator, even a home-based PC simulator to augment your training and stay instrument-proficient, things like that. Tell us how your simulators at Cirrus play a deeper role into that. You mentioned kind of some details about the simulators you have before we kind of got in the air here, wraparound screens, things like that. Tell our listeners about that just out of curiosity.
Ivy: Sure. So we have a network of simulators throughout the world. Some of them are more equipped than others. We have a handful of full motion simulators throughout the world. The simulator that we have at Cirrus Corporate is a Frasca FTD, and the screens are 12 feet high and it’s a 2200-degree wraparound screen. The cockpit itself is an actual cockpit from the aircraft, so the seats, the console, the flight deck, the glare shield, it’s all exactly what you would find in the airplane, so it’s a very real cockpit setup. And we have the ability to create whatever situations we want to create. It’s very realistic in terms of handling characteristics but also spatial awareness. The simulator is integral into every transition training course that we do both in training new Cirrus owners, new Cirrus pilots, as well as flight instructors who are becoming Cirrus-standardized instructors. There’s equipment on our airplane that can’t be simulated or can’t be trained with in the actual aircraft, namely the parachute, but we can pull the parachute all day long in the simulator. As I was sort of saying before, the thing that we most need to focus on in training with regards to the parachute is everything that leads up to that parachute pull, the execution is very straightforward, but getting someone to go through the decision-making process is hard, and so that’s where the simulation actually is really key for us in our training.
The other place where we use the simulator is for our partner in command course. So we like to put either the non-flying spouse or someone who is a non-aviator but has someone delivering an airplane in their family, they might not have an interested to learn how to fly but we want them to know what’s going on in the airplane, and we want them to know what to do in case of an emergency or pilot incapacitation. So we can go into the simulator and teach them how to use the radios. We can teach them how to pull the parachute, all of the execution stuff right there in the simulator. Even if they’re apprehensive of going up flying in the plane, we can get them comfortable with that procedure on the ground before they get in the actual aircraft. The other thing that simulation, not necessarily that simulator at the factory, but it certainly helps from an avionics perspective. The avionics are very capable but reasonably complex and they do take a fair amount of time for someone to master. It’s much less intimidating and much less stressful to focus on mastering those avionics without the distraction of flying an airplane. So you can sit in a simulator and go through all of the avionic flows and all of the emergency procedure flows without leaving the ground. Obviously it’s much more cost-effective but it can be a lot less intimidating.
Chris: Cool. Great. Yeah, I think simulators will always be something that augments training especially in today’s world where trying to cut cost and just do things in a more cost efficient way, and as you laid out a lot with kind of Cirrus does it is the scenarios that you can’t really do in the actual aircraft and doing those things that pilots will never see really… really the odds are that a Cirrus pilot will never have to use the CAPS system but say that they do, they’ve been through that and they know how to do it and that can’t be replaced. Actually, having the experience of pulling the system even if it’s simulated, it can’t be replaced. You can’t read that on the checklist. You can’t know and understand what it’s really like unless you’ve tried it out.
Ivy: Yep. And like I said, it’s the process before the pull as well.
Chris: Right, the decision making. So being able to put a pilot in a situation that hopefully they’ll never get into, or just step by step change things to see what the pilot will do and let the pilot lead themselves down this path that’s not going to lead to a good place and see what happens, like do they continue down that path or do they change and find a better solution. Do they turn around when they’ve entered an incising situation or do they try to change it. Do they alter the course, they try to deviate. So we can focus on that and just kind of changing things in the simulator, showing them scenarios that most likely they’re never going to see outside but giving them that experience will reinforce A) make good decisions to not get into that situation, B) if something happens and we’ve all been there where you’d say you’d never ever do that when you’re sitting on the ground but one thing leads to another and you find yourself in a bad situation. Recognize the bad situation and fix it and sometimes situation isn’t fixable, so pull the parachute. One of our cofounders actually in the initial discussions of design, he said something that’s always resonated with me which was the penalty for bad decision-making shouldn’t be death necessarily. So let’s give someone the opportunity to hit the reset button and learn something from it and not do it again.
Chris: I like that a lot. That’s the best philosophy I’ve heard so far about it. That’s great. So, before the show, you said that one of your specialties was inspiring pilots to get into aviation, so I kind of want to close on that note and kind of get your final thoughts and remarks on those terms and kind of talk to our listeners not only those that are pilots now that kind of need an extra boost to get through their difficult training or those that are thinking about getting into it, so let’s kind of close out the show that way and then we’ll say goodbye I guess at the end.
Ivy: Alright. Well, you know, I feel very fortunate to represent Cirrus Aircraft as a salesperson but I also feel very passionate representing aviation in general. I think that there’s a lot of people that don’t understand aviation. There’s a lot of people who really aren’t interested in aviation but might be if it was more accessible. So simulation is a great way to make aviation more accessible to people who are out there. So if you have more simulation and more places where people can get simulation or more products where people can just say “Oh yeah, I’m just going to download this compute simulation and fly in my computer.” If more people have access to that, more people might be apt to go out to the airport and explore taking a flying lesson. It’s a pretty big barrier to entry to ask someone “Hey, here’s what you need to do to go learn how to fly. You need to drive to the airport, you need to go into a building that you don’t know and inside you’re going to find some strangers who do this thing that seems pretty mystical and start asking questions that people all know and answers to in this small community and put yourself out there and risk potentially not being understood or exposing your lack of understanding and then figure out how to get into a plane that you don’t know anything about and figure out for yourself like is this good plane, is this a bad plane, is this a good deal, is this guy a good guy.” It’s a big ask right?
And so if we can make aviation just a little bit more welcoming, make it a little bit more accessible, one way is through simulation. “Hey, all you got to do is download this and like you can kind of check it out.” That’s pretty cool. But I also feel like one of my responsibilities as a pilot is to sort of evangelize for aviation. It’s a really, really cool thing. It’s a life-changing thing to become a pilot and have access to have a plane. I often tell my acquaintances and friends here in Seattle, when I look at, well how far is Portland? Portland is 40 minutes to me. At a dinner party, Portland is a 3-1/2 drive or it’s a flight on horizon that involves dragging yourself down to CTAC and parking and going through security. It’s a 40-minute deal for me. And Vancouver is 40 minutes. Spokane is an hour and 15 minutes. This is how I view the world and that’s pretty unique. It’s amazing. I tell live stories but how I use the airplane. I can look at the weather on a Friday afternoon in January and see who got the most snow. And Friday after work, launch for Sunriver, Oregon, land the plane, have the Sunriver Lodge come pick me up at the airport and bring me over to the condo and then in the morning take the shuttle up to Mount Baker, have an awesome powder day, come back and fly home Saturday night. That’s way better than driving to Crystal. It’s just absolutely incredible this time machine that we have.
With the proper decision-making as a pilot, it’s an incredibly safe pursuit. Very much like riding a motorcycle. It can be seen as risky but if you make good decisions and evaluate your risks properly, it’s very safe. I feel like it’s my responsibility to tell people that. I’m fortunate to have the platform to do that. I have a plane that I can fly around and show people, but I’m also very involved in aviation from a non-Cirrus perspective. So from a back country mountain-flying perspective or from an aviation high school perspective. I’ve done some stuff with aviation high school in Seattle being a mentor to some of the students over at aviation high school. There’s a lot of different avenues that you can reach out to people to welcome them into the aviation family as opposed to sort of creating this barrier of entry of it’s a cool kid club and like it’s pretty closed off and it’s hard to do. Granted, you need to be passionate about it to make it happen because it does require diligence in training and diligence in currency and money. You need to allocate funds to go and do it and do it safely. But it really can be extremely rewarding and I feel like if more people knew about the world of aviation, more people would be passionate about figuring out how to make it happen and I think that’s the responsibility of every pilot but especially me as someone in the industry.
Chris: Definitely. Well it sounds like you caught the bug, it sounds like you caught it early and it sounds like you’re still pretty sick.
Ivy: That’s true. That’s very, very true. I’ve been at Cirrus for 8-1/2 years and living my career dream.
Chris: Great. Love to hear it. Well thank you so much for being on this show. Are you going to be at Oshkosh by chance?
Ivy: Absolutely. I will be there all week so if you will be there as well, stop by, we will do a little bit more hangar flying and certainly bring some friends over.
Chris: Awesome. Sounds great. Thanks for joining us Ivy.
Ivy: Thank you so much Chris. It’s been a pleasure.
Chris: Take care.
Alright, so I don’t know about you but I think that was such pleasure to have Ivy on the show. You can just tell that she absolutely believes in and just totally loves Cirrus Aircraft, not only the aircraft itself which by the way is absolutely beautiful. I really couldn’t believe their newest version when I was in Anchorage and she showed me. But not only the aircraft itself but the company culture and what they do as a company, what they represent. Cirrus is always one of those companies to me that have stood out. They have been around for about as long as I have decided to be a pilot. So I decided in about 1999 or the year 2000 that I was going to be a pilot and that was going to be what I did and I was going to be a part of aviation. It’s always something that I really loved and really Cirrus has been there kind of the whole time and I’ve kind of grown up with Cirrus just as Cirrus has grown up. It’s amazing to see where they have come and just how incredible those aircrafts are, how advanced they are, all the tools that they give us as pilots, all the creature comforts that they give us and our families and the peace of mind that comes with something like the CAPS system and some of the other systems they have. Just really innovative and forward-thinking company which I really like to see and I really appreciate, and not only that but they do really have beautiful airplanes. They just do a great job.
On a personal note, Ivy is a great and wonderful person. If you check out her social media profiles which I have shared in the show notes for this episode, you can see on her Twitter profile, on her Facebook just how involved in aviation she is and just how much she loves what she is doing and how much she appreciates the opportunity she has and really how much she loves as well. It’s plain to see that she absolutely loves what she’s doing and it was such a pleasure to have her on the show. So again, thank you Ivy for joining us and for sharing of your passion with the listeners of AviatorCast. We really appreciate you being here and we hope to catch up with you again in the future.
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