Cirrus-size surprise for member
on Super Bowl Sunday
Little did AOPA member Michael Graves know that taking time out of his Super Bowl party preparations to help a coworker would land him with the surprise of a lifetime: AOPA’s 2010 Sweepstakes Let’s Go Flying Cirrus SR22.
“Unbelievable! Awesome,” the 55-year-old Grass Valley, Calif., resident exclaimed while his wife LaDona, 13-year-old daughter Ariel, and friends who had gathered nearby screamed with excitement.
Graves, a FedEx captain who flies Airbus A300s primarily within Europe, lives at Alta Sierra, a residential airpark in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada east of Sacramento. His coworker, Jimmy Rollison, had asked to look at some house sites on the airpark before the big game. Unbeknownst to Graves, Rollison was in on AOPA’s plan to surprise him with the Cirrus.
Special thanks to
these generous contributors:
L-3 Communications (Trilogy ESI-1000 electronic standby instrument)
Air Graphics LLC (vinyl exterior graphics)
AmSafe (seatbelt airbags)
Avidyne (Release 7 WAAS upgrade)
Cobham (406-MHz ELT and autopilot roll servo upgrade)
Forward Vision (enhanced vision infrared camera system)
Garmin (GNS430W WAAS GPS upgrade)
Higher Plane Inc. (wall planning maps)
Qref Quick Reference Media (SR22 and Entegra checklists)
Reader Plates (electronic charts)
To Graves’ delight, Rollison flew in to the airpark in the “Sky King” Songbird III Cessna 310, ostensibly for a photo shoot of the famed airplane at the tiny field. Graves sounded like “Chatty Kathy” as the two talked about the twin, according to his wife.
That alone would have made Graves’ day. But AOPA President Craig Fuller and AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Dave Hirschman soon followed the Songbird III, landing in the Let’s Go Flying Cirrus. After the SR22 arrived, Graves marshaled it in himself, thinking it was the chase plane for the Songbird III. When Fuller got out of the Cirrus, Graves said, “You look so familiar.” But, even after Fuller introduced himself, Graves was still clueless.
“I heard you were doing some filming out here today,” Fuller said, continuing with the ruse. He told Graves that he had wanted to stop by to watch some of the filming and had two gifts for him. The first was an AOPA Challenge Coin representing the association’s recent seventieth anniversary. Then, Fuller proceeded to explain to Graves that AOPA gives away a sweepstakes airplane every year, to which Graves immediately responded that he read all about the airplanes in the magazine. (Yes, he was still clueless.)
“The second thing I want to give you is the key to the airplane,” Fuller said, “You’re the winner!”
“This just takes the cake!” Graves said later, still in shock.
A longtime AOPA member, Graves had signed up for automatic AOPA membership renewals, which rewarded him handsomely.
“You signed up for Automatic Annual Renewal, and that got you a bunch of extra entries,” explained Hirschman. The winning sweepstakes entry turned out to be one of the bonus entries that Graves received by signing up for automatic renewals.
“This is unreal,” Graves said. “I’m blown away.”
Graves’ passion for flying spans the aviation gamut. While he flies A300s for a living, he owns a Cessna 180 and sometimes uses it to commute to work at Metropolitan Oakland International Airport, a flight of less than one hour from his rural home. The airlines and general aviation have had some sharp disagreements in recent years over issues such as user fees, but pilots like Graves bridge the gap between what sometimes seem like two different aviation worlds.
Shortly after the reveal, Graves and Hirschman flew the Cirrus SR22 out of the 50-foot-wide strip for that magical first flight.
“He’s going to come do a flyby now,” Ariel exclaimed as she watched her father fly overhead.
“It’s a fantastic flying airplane,” Graves said. “It’s gonna take some getting use to, but I already know we’re going to love it.” LaDona is a nervous passenger, but Graves said she would love flying in an aircraft with a parachute. Meanwhile, Ariel is already planning the trips she wants her dad to take her on in the airplane. The first stop: Carmel, Calif., to see a friend.
Graves is ready to devour the airplane manuals to gain a thorough understanding of the technologically advanced aircraft and its glass cockpit. “The technology is as good or better in some areas than the airliner I fly at work,” he said.