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Pilots: Luke LysenPilots: Luke Lysen

Global ferries and adventure

Circling volcanos in Iceland, following the towering Andes in Chile, and watching sunrises over the Pacific and North Atlantic.

Photography by Rick DahmsThese are a few of the memorable moments Luke Lysen has logged during thousands of hours flying single-engine Cirrus SR20s, SR22s, and now SF50 Vision Jets around the world.

“I remember being in Goose Bay [Canada] the night before my first Atlantic crossing, calling my wife, and feeling pretty nervous about the situation,” said Lysen, 41, a father of two. “But over time, you get more comfortable being nervous. You stop imagining that you just saw the oil pressure gauge flicker every time you’re over water.”

Lysen learned to fly at 18 in his native Washington, and he founded The Flight Academy, a flight school specializing in Cirrus training, in 2002 after graduating from the University of Washington. Lysen lived in Seattle and made his first international trips to nearby Vancouver, Canada. Then, when a customer from Spain asked whether Lysen would ferry his Cirrus to Europe, he agreed.

“That started our transatlantic trips,” he said, “and we ended up doing lots of them.”

Similarly, when an Australian customer wanted a Cirrus delivered Down Under, Lysen found a way to fit it with a ferry tank and fly it there. Other transpacific flights to China and South Korea followed.

Lysen leads summertime Cirrus trips to Alaska. He also leads group flights within Europe, to the Caribbean, around New England in autumn, and in California’s wine country. Those trips feature high-end hotels and upscale excursions.

Solo ferry trips are a different matter. “Ferry flights tend to be mission-oriented and pretty demanding from a schedule standpoint,” he said. “You’re up early, you’re dealing with weather, and you eat lots of Clif Bars. It’s not glamorous.”

Lysen planned to fly an SF50 Vision Jet to China for an airshow last year, but as departure time neared, headwinds across the North Pacific prevented him from taking that route. He flew east instead, crossing the North Atlantic and Middle East. On the way home, he continued northeast to Japan and Russia, and re-entered the United States in Alaska. The trip covered 12 days and 77 flight hours.

“There was a time during the China trip when I looked ahead and saw that the next countries to cross were Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan,” he said. “But the people I encountered couldn’t have been nicer.

“The experience of flying internationally is what you make of it,” he said. “It’s not all sunshine and roses. But you find good people everywhere, and I’m interested in learning about them and hearing their stories.

“That’s the part I really love about this kind of flying—and that’s why I find it so fascinating.”

Dave Hirschman

Dave Hirschman

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.

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