I wanted to thank you for what has been thus far a tremendous experience.
To this day, I am not sure exactly what drove me to pick up flying. I don’t have any relatives that fly; a few workmates had taken it up a long time ago but, at that time, it seemed like too much of a time commitment and a bit expensive. Whatever the catalyst, one day I woke up and I decided I wanted to try it out.
Gateway Aviation, a flight school and LifeStyle Aviation Network Partner out of Queen City (KXLL), was one of the schools I called; their website wasn’t anything special, but I gave a call and they just sounded like a fit. I went up there with my son and my stepdaughter and with some time in a short ground school, I found myself in the pilot seat of a Cessna 172. I was a bit surprised and a bit stressed when, all of a sudden, Andy (Andrew Wells) told me to push the throttle and take off. Andy gave me some short instruction on how to turn and then gave us a little zero gravity experience. Then it was time to land; I wouldn’t say I nailed it and I have no idea how much Andy helped, but I was safely on the ground and ready to do this flying thing a lot.
Those who know me would say I do tend to get a bit obsessive; within 3 months, I had my private pilot license. I think I signed up for instrument the same day I got my private pilot and about 7 months later (winter got in the way), I had my instrument rating. During that period, I also had the opportunity to try flying Gateway’s only Diamond DA-40, N232BB. Compared to the 172 and with its G1000 cockpit, there was plenty to learn but also even more to enjoy flying. When I rented for trips, I only rented the Diamond. It was easy to fly and very responsive and I just loved the avionics although it was pretty hard to master them all.
After instrument, I flew a bit but not having anywhere to go and struggling with the idea of renting, where I would have to pay 3 hours a day if going away with the plane for an extended time even if not flying, I flew less and less. Another flight school nearby had a bunch of Cirrus, so I invested a couple more thousand learning how to fly that plane – after getting the high performance cert and cirrus type, I could never get my hands around the $250 plus rental fee.
I found Crossfit after the Cirrus experience and my obsession switched to that. Took a fair amount of my free time and with work heating up, flying just didn’t fit anymore. The rental concept just wasn’t clicking for me, plus Gateway was 45 mins away so a flying trip anywhere added 1.5 hours to commute time.
Around Xmas this year, my family started bugging me about flying again. I didn’t have my medical, I was overdue for a biannual, my instrument rating and even private piloting were far from current. I decided I would go about getting current and just see what happened. I had a few friends that had recently moved to Virginia and Kentucky. Also, my sister in law bought a home in Cape cod. All of a sudden, there were places to go. Not uncharacteristically, within a few weeks, I was medically certified, signed off both for private and instrument again and was right back and wanting to fly as much as I could.
But renting and traveling to Queen City was a pretty big obstacle for me … by the way, just to be clear, the Gateway guys were always awesome. Their rental charges were very competitive and compared to others a real bargain. They kept their planes in great shape (they have 3 diamonds now) and were always great to deal with. Matt Ryan is the best instructor around and is always available for all of my flying, safety, navigation, etc. questions. But I needed some other arrangement if I was going to really fly as much as I wanted to.
I called Matt and asked him about buying a plane – if anyone was looking for someone to buy in, etc. I started looking at the Cirrus and of course the Diamond. Brad, up at Gateway, let me know that there was a program with Diamonds that effectively allowed you to buy into a brand new plane for a monthly fee (all in except for gas). That sounded really attractive and I gave John Armstrong a call.
John was great but I have to admit at first my SALESMAN radar was on full alert. Frankly, it just sounded way too good to be true. John sent me a bunch of material to read. Included there was a deal for ownership. Talk about sounding too good to be true; the member side was great; the ownership structure was even more amazing. A new plane … members contributing to the monthly payments … and a bunch of incentives to really get me up in the plane the first year. I was very fortunate to have the capital. I was pretty excited about the whole thing. John answered my hundred questions (some of them perhaps a bit obviously testing the truthfulness of the deal). He then connected me to other owners. I followed up with them – who by the way have gone out of their way to make sure I did not have to recreate the wheel and to leverage what they had learned. I spoke to my tax guy and I spoke to my finance guy. They looked hard as well and with an incredible interest rate from my finance guy, it was a done deal. I think John said it was close to the quickest sale he had had but I have to imagine in terms of hours of discussions, it took John a lot of time.
But in terms of the experience so far, let me end with a few bullets …
- John is not only very professional but truly focused on getting you the plane of your dreams and making sure that everything goes smoothly. He is always a text or a call away and is genuine in his concern and desire to make this a positive experience.
- I was able to pick up the plane in Canada. I highly recommend that. I learned a ton about whats inside the plane and the commitment to quality that Diamond has. The quality guy, the plant lead and the production test pilot were also a pleasure to meet and also took a ton of pride in their airplanes.
- Dick Filbey, my assigned chaperone for my plane pickup, is incredibly smart about all things Diamond and gave me all sorts of free tips while flying back from Canada. He is also a great resource for anything regarding the plane in terms of maintenance, cleaning, and loading up new nav charts.
- I have flown my new plane almost 15 hours in 3 weeks including my longest flight ever about 330 miles to Roanoke. I flew over clouds (first warm enough day to do so) and landed with a crazy crosswind without but a little bounce. The avionics were incredible – I pushed autopilot about 30 seconds after taking off, made adjustments to my flight plan per ATC along the way, and shut off the autopilot when I entered the pattern for landing. Its almost like a video game. Did I mention I have the plane 15 mins from house … I am over there all the time.
- I have one member who I checked out. First time in the copilot seat with someone as inexperienced as me; but he did great and really cares for the plane like it is his own. I have bought a tug, my first case of av oil, cowl plugs and a few other items. I check the tire pressure and oil religiously and with Dick’s help, really know how to preflight (and what I am preflighting for)
- We got our second member shortly after the first. John is a man of his word and was working with me consistently to find another member.
John asked me to write something up if I felt like it. There are not enough words to capture my excitement and enjoyment thus far. If you are at all interested, I would be more than happy to talk your ear off as this is one of the best things I have ever done for myself and my family.
Seth Levine, N274DS