PlaneSmart Training My one-eighth share lease agreement on a PlaneSmart SR22-G2 began, as it does for every PlaneSmart customer, with a thorough checkout. Even though I have around 150 hours in SR22s, I had to go through the same 10-hour training period as every new customer. For more than a year PlaneSmart has been a Cirrus Authorized Training Center, a move that allowed it to negotiate the minimums-free insurance coverage. So its training follows procedures established by the manufacturer.
At first, the 10 hours of training seemed a bit excessive, but after my first day, I realized I not only had a lot to brush up on, but I had a lot to learn still.
PlaneSmart uses highly experienced professional pilots to conduct all of its initial and most of its recurrent training. I flew my first rides with the company's chief pilot, Rick Khalar, who also flies a King Air for the University of Texas system, and Tom Travis, who flew widebodied airliners for American for a few decades. They are two of the best instructors I've ever had the pleasure of flying with. And all of PlaneSmart's instructors are Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilots (CSIP), so you know you're getting factory standard training.
Like all of its employees, the instructors at PlaneSmart seem to recognize the importance of giving the client the kind of attention he needs. And both Khalar and Travis, I'd like to add, were well aware of the airports in Central Texas that are closest to the best barbeque joints. (And on this subject, I have two words to say: "Llano and Cooper's.")
The training consisted of basic familiarization with the SR22-G2, standard airwork and operating, emergency and instrument procedures. After eight hours, I'd felt as though I'd had a very thorough checkout in the SR22 and I felt good to go. My last two hours were spent flying the SR22 and the SR20 in real world situations (so-called "scenario-based" training) with a flight up to Dallas in the '22 and back to Austin in the '20 with PlaneSmart instructor and marketing manager Debbie Norman (who's also type rated in the Falcon 20, by the way), another excellent instructor.
Part of the "training" program is to familiarize customers with the way they can interact with PlaneSmart. The company has an excellent website, planesmart.com, where you can check on availability or book a flight. You can also check or pay your bill there, review recent flights and training, go over your account details and much more. In general, I prefer to arrange flights over the phone, which I can do by calling PlaneSmart at its 800-number from anywhere in the country.
In the System My first trip after my checkout was out to Albuquerque, and the process couldn't have been easier. I stopped by the Trajen Flight Support (now Atlantic Aviation) terminal at Austin Bergstrom, where I picked up the keys to the airplane. The SR22 was already fueled, as I'd requested when I made my reservation, and it, like all of PlaneSmart's airplanes, had four Bose headsets ready to go. Plus, PlaneSmart had put all my IFR charts (and some backup VFR) charts in the airplane, as well. And because they knew I'd be flying up high on my way up to Albuquerque, the ops guys did me the favor of putting a portable oxygen system in the airplane for me, too. Well taken care of? It's hard to imagine it being much better.
In addition to my Albuquerque trip, I've so far flown the SR22 to Oshkosh for AirVenture, to Wichita and to Dallas on numerous occasions. And I've got two trips planned soon to California and another to Florida. I've gotten the airplane every time I've scheduled it, too, even once when Shannon Bookout, the company's customer care representative, had to do some serious juggling to make that happen, due to two airplanes being in for upgrades-one was getting its air conditioning system installed.
So far I've flown about 35 hours in PlaneSmart airplanes, including my 10 hours of training, and that number is set to almost double within the next couple of months. Will I be able to stay within my 75 allotted annual hours and 21 overnights? Probably, but it will be close. Then again, I fly a lot more than the average pilot, about twice as much in fact. Last year I flew about 150 hours total, not counting logable simulator time, so if it's close for me, it should be easy for most pilots. In fact, Cullen says that many pilots come to the program worried about exceeding their overnights and allotted hours, and he says it very seldom happens. And for those who need, or want, to fly more, PlaneSmart offers up to half shares in the SR22-G2, with 300 annual allotted hours. While PlaneSmart is the new kid on the shared ownership block, so far my time with them has been my best yet, and my previous experiences with OurPlane and AirShares Elite were both great.
As Cullen himself says, it's not cheap to own a share of a professionally managed airplane, but PlaneSmart so far has made the experience seem well worth it. For more information check out planesmart.com, and see additional information about fractional ownership, including frequently asked questions and archived stories about my experiences flying with OurPlane and AirShares Elite, on flyingmag.com.
Fractional Ownership of Small Airplanes: Can It Work? Fractionals for Small Airplanes: Part II Flying a Fraction of an Airplane: Part III Flying for the Fractionals The Jury's In: AirShares Elite SR22 A New Fractional Vision Explored