So far, all of the company's SR22s are identically equipped, so pilots should see no difference between the airplanes, except for the call signs. (In fact, at this writing AirShares hasn't decided when to begin offering the SR22 version with the Avidyne Entegra flat-panel avionics suite-if it does, it will likely transition to an all-PFD fleet as airplanes are retired.) The identical equipage is an integral part of AirShare's plan; pilots have access to a fleet of airplanes but only have to train in one type, just like the pros do it.
In the New York area, because the airplane the customer will be flying isn't always at the home airport, AirShares provides repositioning services as part of the package. If the only available SR22 is in New Jersey and the owner is in White Plains, they'll fly it to him.
Operating new airplanes, the company says, is central to the program. For one thing, because the company's business plan is all about red-carpet treatment for its customers, only new airplanes, it feels, will do. And because new airplanes are covered by a manufacturer's extended warranty, AirShares can more easily predict how much it will cost to operate its fleet during the airplane's time at AirShares.
Another important factor is economics. With one type, AirShares doesn't have to duplicate efforts. If there's a problem with the airplane, they deal with a single company-Cirrus. Often, it's a single person at the factory they'll call for help. AirShares has also been able to develop considerable expertise on the airplane, which is a plus in terms of maintenance, training and support.
I Get My Feet Wet
To see just how workable and how desirable the program was, I signed up with AirShares for a nine-month evaluation. For that time I would be, for all intents and purposes, an AirShares customer. I would get exactly the same number of hours and overnights, I'd be entitled to the same benefits as any other owner and I'd go through the same training program. My plan was to fly the airplane both for business and personal use. From what I understood, my use profile would be pretty typical of AirShares customers.
After signing the paperwork, I set up a training schedule. AirShares offers the 10 hours of ground and 10 hours in the air with an instructor and an airplane-the time doesn't count against your annual total-for $1,800. The following week I met with Darin Laby, head of training for AirShares Elite New York, at Westair, the FBO at Westchester County Airport (HPN) where AirShares keeps an SR22. Westair has a brand new building on the west side of the airport at HPN.
I'd actually prepared ahead of time, using computer based training by V-Flite to bone up on the operation of the Garmin 430 navigators and software by Electronic Flight Systems to study up on the operation of the Stormscope and Skywatch. It turned out to be a good thing I did. Darin tells me, and folks at Cirrus have echoed this, that learning to use the avionics is one of the biggest challenges new SR22 pilots face. While I've had a good bit of time flying in nicely outfitted GA airplanes, there was still a lot for me to learn. Darin, luckily, proved to be an excellent instructor, and I found the AirShares ground sessions dovetail nicely with the flying lessons. Darin even made up a compact disc for me with several useful programs on it, including a weight-and-balance utility, a Garmin GNS 430 simulator and a copy of the SR22's POH so I could study at home, too.