September 2009 Issue

First Flight Home

Flying home a new airplane can pose special challenges, especially for VFR-only pilots. How two new owners put their heads in the game and lived to tell the tale.

Insurance companies have pilot checkout provisions for a reason—the first hours in a new aircraft are higher-risk than routine operations. The week I made an offer on my very first airplane, a pilot crashed and died on his way home in his newly purchased Piper Comanche. I obviously wanted a different outcome for my trip to pick up a new plane. The next week, my co-owner Roger and I would be bringing our newly purchased 1960 Cessna 182—N225M—home to Idaho Falls, Idaho. Unfortunately, our new plane was located in Glenwood Springs, Colo. Picking it up would require a long VFR cross-country flight across the Continental Divide in the middle of winter. We also wanted to make the trip on a weekend, preferably in a single day at a time of year when the days are notoriously short and the weather consistently bad. Our plan was beginning to sound like the opening narrative of an NTSB accident report. Flying a newly purchased plane on a long cross-country trip is a non-routine, high-risk mission. Why? There are numerous factors that can line up the wrong way to complete the chain of events that lead to an accident.

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