Our most recent club fly-out was a trip to the Cirrus Aircraft factory at Duluth International Airport (KDLH) on Saturday, June 28.The roster included five club members, plus friends and family. In 761SP, Keith Tschohl flew with wife Chandra, club member Bob Barker, and Bob’s son. In 735LL, Brad Johnson flew with CFII and club president John O’Shaughnessy, and a friend. In his own Seneca, club member Tony Jones flew with his son and with club member George Lancaster.
We launched IFR into broken skies at about 9 AM, and were soon above the undercast. A 35 knot tailwind at 7000-9000’ made quick work of the 132 NM trip – we clocked ground speeds over 190 knots on descent in 5LL, and over 220 knots in 1SP! The Duluth ATIS was still calling out 300 foot overcast and a mile visibility as we were turned onto the ILS — imagine Keith’s surprise when Bob called “field in sight” when 1SP was barely a mile past the outer marker. The morning fog was literally dissipating in front of us, and the field was VFR by the time we touched down.
Monaco Air gave us a shuttle ride across the airport to Cirrus, where regional sales manager Gary Black gave us an in-depth tour of the assembly lines for the SR20/SR22 and Vision Jet. The composite components are layed up and autoclaved in Grand Forks, and trucked across Minnesota to Duluth for final assembly. The design flexibility that fiberglass and carbon fiber composites give is amazing – as one example, the wing spars are a single piece of carbon fiber composite, sculpted to produce infinite fatigue life under normal loading, without being overbuilt.
We departed around 2 PM, as a narrow line of storms started building over central Minnesota. The winds aloft no longer worked in our favor, as that same 35 knots was now a headwind. 1SP took a series of delaying and spacing vectors to land behind an isolated cell that developed over Flying Cloud while we were enroute, while Brad and John opted to divert to Anoka to wait it out. Having good weather information was key to safe aeronautical decision making – the combination of staying visual to keep adequate spacing from the squall line, plus the “big picture” information from Approach’s radar and the Stratus FIS-B NEXRAD images displayed in ForeFlight, minimized risk and helped enable a safe arrival home.