The first turbine airplane that actor Harrison Ford purchased to fly personally was a Cessna Caravan in 2000. He used it as he has all of his subsequent turbine machines, for business, pleasure, and to commute between his homes in Los Angeles and Jackson, Wyoming.
The Caravan is unpressurized, and that imposed altitude limitations. In 2004 he purchased a Pilatus PC-12 and used it for a year gaining experience in a more sophisticated airplane. Ford used it to make two trans-Atlantic flights via the Blue Spruce Route (Greenland and Iceland), once to Spain and the other to Mikonos, a Greek island near Athens.
He purchased his first turbofan airplane, a Cessna 525B Citation CJ3, in March 2005. This satisfied his need for speed and higher altitudes as well as pacifying his growing desire for jet operations.
The CJ3’s range, however, falls short of Ford’s requirements. He will be accepting delivery of a Cessna CE-680 Sovereign in March 2009. The Citation Sovereign has the legs to fly from his home base at Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) to Hawaii as long as the headwinds are not strong. He also will reach European destinations with fewer stops. He chose the Sovereign, too, because of the additional comfort it will provide his family. “It will be a tight squeeze getting it into my hangar,” he adds. “It’s a much larger airplane.”
Although not single-pilot certificated to fly the CJ3 because of insurance limitations, Ford says that he would fly it alone if he could, but only during selective conditions, not in hard or challenging instrument conditions.
Terry Bender is his full-time pilot. Ford says that he likes the idea of such an experienced professional in the right seat. “There is no end to how much there is to learn.” Typically, Bender is responsible for maintenance issues and readying the airplane for flight. Obtaining weather is a joint effort.
Ford adds, “I like the challenge of perfecting the team concept. Crew coordination is important to me, as is the camaraderie.” He flies most of the legs, and Bender doesn’t mind riding shotgun. With more than 20,000 hours, Bender says that he gets enough flying time to remain current and proficient, and he thoroughly enjoys flying with Ford.
During one of the pair’s CJ3 flights to Europe, they were grounded in Iceland because of a FADEC failure. Ford continued to Italy, however, with two Icelandic ladies who had previously chartered a Hawker jet and invited him to go along. He tells about this while displaying the crooked smile that has been such a popular hallmark of his screen presence. There might be more to this story.— Barry Schiff
Talking with Gordon Rock, it’s hard to determine—which came first, the business or the airplane. Rock started flying in 1965, about the same time he and his brother started in the fledgling cable television business. “Our business and aviation went hand in hand,” he discovered early on. Over the years Rock would come to own more than 20 different airplanes from a tiny experimental to a Cessna Citation I business jet. And while he admits many of those airplanes have been for fun, most of them, especially the jets, were all about generating business.
In fact it’s hard to imagine a better match for business and aviation than the early days of cable TV throughout the western states. Initially cable was simply a way to deliver the network signal to rural communities. An antenna would be placed on a mountaintop and cable would then lead to the communities that could not receive a signal via rooftop antennas. Later, when satellites were utilized, cable TV exploded into what we know today. Many of the smaller, secondary markets outside of the cities were located far from each other, and far from major airports. “One of the reasons the rural markets weren’t under as much pressure [from the big cable companies], is that they’re hard to get to,” Rock says of his ability to capture a corner of the market.
Not long after getting his certificate, Rock soon realized he was able to visit many more potential markets in a given period of time. “All of the little communities had little strips,” he says. “We liked to fly and the more scattered we got, the more we got to fly.” Sometimes it was the ability to easily travel from one community to the next, other times it meant being able to attend a last-minute city council meeting hundreds of miles away.
Rock started in the venerable Cessna 182 and quickly moved up through several twins. Eventually he would end up in a Citation I and then a partnership in a Citation II as the need to reach more markets throughout the western half of the country and Alaska demanded speed and range. “As we got more systems and more scattered, we started moving up the food chain,” he says recalling his more than 750 hours in the Citations.
After years in twins, Rock quickly found the turbine power to his liking. “It’s especially good in and out of the Northwest,” he says. Operating throughout the West, he found the ability to climb quickly through the ice to get above weather and terrain was invaluable. “You’ve got high MEAs so you can’t go down.”
Rock acknowledges that it was often nice to realize more airplane was needed to keep the business growing. “Flying gave us a competitive advantage,” he says. “We had the really good fortune to wrap our passion around our livelihood.”
These days Rock is retired from the cable television business, but still flies for business. He manages several investment properties, “conveniently scattered throughout the West,” as he says. Using a turbine-powered Cessna P210 Silver Eagle as well as a new Eclipse 500 he took delivery of earlier this summer, Rock can easily fly between his current base in Seattle and rural locations such as southern Utah, central and northern Idaho, and British Columbia.
For more than 40 years Rock has found that there doesn’t have to be an answer to the question of what came first. His love of flying and his scattered business interests have coexisted nicely—and have given him and his family all the answers they could ever need.— Jason Paur
Call him “the Segway guy” if you want. But although Dean Kamen is best known as the inventor of the Segway Human Transporter (HT), he has had a lifelong fascination with technology and aviation. That curiosity has fueled an urge to “make stuff” that solves problems for people, although the road to success hasn’t always been smooth. While still in high school, for example, he arranged to have his parents’ house lifted off its foundation so that he could outfit a machine shop with items that otherwise wouldn’t fit through the door. Things got interesting when his unsuspecting parents returned early from vacation to discover the project already under way.
In the years since that episode, his creative impulses have led not only to the development of the most intriguing two-wheeled personal transportation device since the bicycle, but dozens of other innovative products too. Many are medical devices that have proven to be life changing for their users, including the first wearable drug-infusion pump, the first portable kidney dialysis machine, and the Independence 3000 IBOT Transporter, a wheelchair that climbs stairs, handles fairly rough surfaces, and lets the user raise up to eye level. All fit Kamen’s philosophy of finding ways to help people live better through technology.
The many aviation-themed photos and drawings covering a large expanse of one wall of his Manchester, New Hampshire, office are a dead giveaway that Kamen loves aviation. He has, by his estimation, logged more time flying than driving cars. He commutes from home to work each day in an Enstrom 480 helicopter, landing on the helipad atop his company’s building. For longer trips, he flies his Beechcraft Premier I bizjet. And for shorter jaunts of a couple of miles or so, expect to spot Kamen riding a Segway.
His favorite airplane? “This may sound corny, but every airplane I’ve ever owned was my favorite at the time I was flying it.” Not one to change airplanes without a good reason, he moved up to the Premier I from a Citation CJ because of the considerable increase in performance it offered him on his typical flights. Kamen has always operated his various aircraft single-pilot and trains that way each year at FlightSafety International.
A tireless and dynamic entrepreneur, Kamen uses his aircraft to maximize his business productivity. Recently he spoke at the commencement ceremony at Georgia Tech and later appeared at another event in Dayton, Ohio, before returning home to Manchester, a schedule that would have been impossible flying commercially.
Besides increased productivity, Kamen’s time aloft serves another important purpose—it is both mentally stimulating and restorative. “I don’t take vacations in the classic sense like other people,” he points out. “So when I get in my airplane and need to focus 100 percent on filing a flight plan, checking the weather, and flying this machine, it’s like a mini-vacation from everything else I’m involved with.”— Vincent Czaplyski
Permission is good! Especially when that permission comes from your spouse about your passion. Such is the life of Chris Malakowsky.
Melody Malachowsky encouraged her husband to learn to fly, but he at first brushed it off. Later, when it was his idea, she didn’t remind him of that, but instead urged him on once again. And later urged him to buy a faster airplane. Can we clone this woman?
Let’s rewind a moment. While a pre-med student at the University of Florida, Chris spent his $700 in savings on a few flying lessons, sure that his parents would step in to pay for the rest when the money ran out. “Instead, my mother was glad to have me grounded,” he said. So the lessons stopped.
An electrical engineering degree led him into the fledging computer world of the early 1980s. He and two partners formed NVIDIA in Silicon Valley with the goal of “bringing a complete multimedia experience to the consumer.” That was 1993. Today, it is fairly likely that every desktop or laptop computer, cellphone, video game, or PDA that you own has a NVIDIA graphics chip in it. Malachowsky is an NVIDIA fellow and senior vice president of engineering and operations at the now public company.
With his wife’s encouragement, Malachowsky revived his flying lessons decades after that first foray, earning his certificate in January 2002. He immediately started work on his instrument rating and ordered a new Cessna Turbo 206. Melody enjoyed flying in the 206, but thought a little more speed would be nice, so Malachowsky and a friend bought a Beech Bonanza B36TC.
Like other pilots Malachowsky was always looking for his next step up the aviation ladder. However, he chafed at the notion that he was a slave to insurance requirements for higher performance airplanes. He didn’t like the idea that he would need a more experienced pilot with him whenever he moved up.
But a neighbor who owned a Cessna 210 suddenly found himself on the operating table undergoing emergency heart bypass surgery. That event was a wake up call to Malachowsky that life is short so he quit stalling and placed an order for a Piaggio P.180 Avanti II. The hotrod Italian twin-engine pusher turboprop, which claims a top speed of 402 knots, was an enormous leap from the Bonanza. Malachowsky and one of his instructors trained for the Avanti at FlightSafety International. As a low-time pilot, he struggled to keep pace with the professional, high-time pilots also in the course. While challenging, he also found the training exhilarating. “The experience was one of the highlights of my aviation education, yet also one of the toughest,” he said.
Always fascinated by helicopters, Malachowsky recently earned his rotorcraft rating and bought a Bell Long-Ranger. This year he’s flying off the insurance-required dual hours before soloing it and has already ordered a Eurocopter EC130B. While the Bell has club seats, the Eurocopter’s forward-facing seats will be ideal for Malachowsky’s favorite sightseeing flights around San Francisco. He recently used the LongRanger to take 40 special needs kids and families flying as part of a charity event.
Although he occasionally uses his aircraft for business flights, most are purely for pleasure, enjoying general aviation for flying’s sake and the utility of moving around at will. With his latest project, he won’t even need ground transportation. He and a partner are building a Super Sky Cycle, which is a gyrocopter that converts to a motorcycle. Meanwhile, he and his 18-year-old son, a new private pilot, recently earned their seaplane ratings. If Melody likes seaplanes, you can guess what will find its way to the Malachowsky hangar next.— Thomas B. Haines