Charity Airplane Rides
with Philip Greenspun
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This page explains the offer of a sightseeing airplane ride with Philip
Greenspun, to be auctioned for charity.
Your pilot is Philip Greenspun, who holds an FAA Commercial pilot's
certificate with instrument, multi-engine, single-engine seaplane, and
helicopter ratings. Greenspun has more than 1300 hours of flying
experience including trips from Boston to Alaska (twice), Mexico, the
Caribbean, Labrador-Newfoundland, and back. Born in 1963, Greenspun
studied engineering at MIT, receiving bachelor's, master's, and a PhD in
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from that school.
Greenspun is also an FAA-certified flight instructor.
We will be flying in a Cirrus
SR20 airplane. This is a simple modern 4-seat airplane with
excellent visibility through large Plexiglas windows. The plane is
similar in capability and size to the Cessna 172 and Piper Warrior but
is made with more modern materials and techniques. The Cirrus SR2x
series is built in larger quantities than any other in-production 4-seat
airplane. The particular SR20 that you'll fly was purchased new by
Greenspun in May 2005.
Who does the flying?
The SR20 is equipped with dual flight controls. If you want to try your
hand on the side-yoke with straight-and-level, some turns, etc., we can
climb up to a safe altitude and you'll see how easy it is to fly an
airplane. I'll do the takeoff and landing, though!
When we fly
Wind and mid-day heat produce a lot of turbulence here in New England.
So it is best to fly on a day that is forecast to have calm winds.
Early mornings are usually the least windy and therefore calmest time of
Greenspun and the Cirrus are based at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford,
Massachusetts. This is near the intersection of Rt. 128 (I-95) and
Rt. 2, about 15 miles NW of downtown Boston. In some cases, it may be
possible to start your flight from any of the following New England
airports: Providence, Hyannis, Martha's Vineyard, Nashua, Pease
Where we go once airborne
Taking off from Hanscom/Bedford it is often possible to get permission
to fly right over downtown Cambridge and Boston to take photos. This
airspace is owned by Logan Airport and they are generally very
accomodating unless unusual winds force them to direct landing airplanes
over the city instead of over the water. During foliage season there
are beautiful nearby hills and river valleys. A personal favorite is to
fly down the Merrimack River to the beach at Plum Island then fly at
500' over the beach to see the houses and then Cape Ann, including the
Crane Mansion, Rockport, and the port of Gloucester.
How many people can fly
There are three empty seats in the SR20 but we are limited to about 400
lbs. for passengers and baggage. Usually that means two adults or one
adult and two children. One of the ways that the airplane achieves
better gas mileage than an SUV is by being very small. The interior is
smaller than an old Volkswagen Beetle and is not a comfortable place
for very large people, though a 6'2"-tall person can sit in the front.
I'm not a daredevil and the Cirrus is not certified for aerobatics. We
won't be doing loops or any scary abrupt maneuvers. Small airplanes
have a bad reputation for safety and there is no question that it is
safer to sit at home on the sofa than to be flying through the air at
150 miles per hour. A lot of accidents happen in bad weather; we will
only fly on a day when the weather is clear so that we can see the
sights. Flying at night is more dangerous than flying during the day;
we will be flying during the day. Takeoff and landing are the most
dangerous portions of a flight. We try to minimize those risks by
flying from large airports with long runways at which your pilot has
landed many times before. At Bedford, for example, Greenspun has done
literally hundreds of landings. The main runway is 7000' long, enough
for a Boeing 757 airliner; the SR20 requires only about 1000'.
[The example of JFK, Jr. often comes up when people in New England think
about small airplanes. He became disoriented when flying at night in
hazy conditions over a dark body of water. JFK, Jr. had a Private
pilot's certificate and no instrument rating. You will be flying during
the daytime on a day with good visibility over land. Your pilot has a
Commercial certificate, an instrument rating, and dozens of hours of
experience flying airplanes straight through clouds (i.e., zero
To the charity
If the underbid is at least $500, feel free to "split the donation" and
sell a second ride to the underbidder. (To be concrete, if Joe Smith is
the highest bidder at $750 and Mary Jones is the next highest bidder at
$700, you take $750 from Joe and $700 from Mary and I give both of them
The typical Cirrus charters out for $250 per hour, so you can put down
the value of the donation at $250.
Winners can contact me directly via the email address at the bottom of
this page or by calling 617-864-6832.
To my fellow pilots and airplane owners
If you would like to use this page as a model for your own Web site,
please feel free to do so with hyperlink credit back to
http://philip.greenspun.com. My personal experience with sightseeing
rides at charity auctions has been very positive. The first time I
donated a ride in my plane (a Diamond Star DA40), it sold for $1200 to
benefit a school for autistic children. I then went to the auctioneer
and said that I would be willing to donate a second ride. Thus was
$1000 collected from the underbidder.
Text Copyright 2006 Philip
Greenspun. Photo: Elsa Dorfman.