“Citizen of the World”, Modified Gulfstream Turbine Commander
IFD550 w/ video, IFD440, AXP340 Transponder, AMX240 Audio Panel
Q&A with Robert DeLaurentis
When and why did you become a pilot?
I became a licensed pilot eight years ago at age 45 when I had finally created the resources of time and money to become a pilot. From the time I was a small child I had always wanted to fly, always glued to the car window when we would drive by the San Carlos, California airport.
On the family car trips I often had my hand out the window like it was a plane wing, watching it go up or down based on the angle of incidence I created. I remember my father telling me “Hey get your hand back in the car!”
I went on to test various configurations of paper gliders, build plastic and balsa model planes, string controlled planes, radio-controlled planes and helicopters. I wasn’t a great builder of planes but I liked to modify my flying toys, and still do today.
As I learned more about the combined power of purpose and passion, I knew it was part of my life’s purpose to fulfill this early childhood dream of flight someday.
What do you love about flying?
For me flying is oxygen for the soul. Flying brings together five very powerful interests of mine into one moment in time. First, I love flying a plane. The sensory experienceof aviation, especially sound, is over the top for me. Second, operating the plane, including the Avidyne Panel, the engine controls and other systems is just plain fun. Third, being out in nature, appreciating our planet, flying through the clouds, and over mountains, oceans, and deserts is beautiful. Fourth, flying also allows me to hang out with friends and family and share my passion of flight. Fifth, flying allows me to travel anywhere in the world including the North and South Pole.
Tell us more about “Zen Pilot.”
Zen Pilot is my brand that combines the meditation of flight and pilot intuition. For me, flying is one of the most spiritual experiences that a person can have. When I fly it feels like my soul is in the place it came from and when I land my soul reconnects with the earth.
Zen Pilot, Flight of Passion and the Journey Within is also a book I wrote that has been a best-seller on Amazon in the Airports Category in the past year. This real-life adventure starts with my engine failing 14,000 feet over the Strait of Malacca, overloaded with 600 extra pounds of aviation fuel in the cockpit, oil spraying on the 1500 degree exhaust and sweat dripping down my back – it’s a real adrenaline rush.
Besides keeping you entertained, the book has “Zen Moments” that are the lessons I learned about life from aviation that can be applied to anyone’s life to make it better. For those who fly, it also makes better pilots.
What inspired you to make the pole to pole trip?
My mission is living life full out and going after your impossibly big dreams that people tell you will never happen. A polar expedition was the most ambitious thing that I could think of doing in a GA (general aviation) aircraft. Plus,at a time when the world is becoming more “polarized” due to politics, war and separation between people, it seemed like a great way to celebrate diversity and oneness at the same time. Through the magic of flight, we can connect the poles (two places on the planet where peace actually exists) and everyone in between.
The polar expedition is also a way to contribute scientifically, socially, environmentally and culturally to the world. On the scientific side, the plane will be carrying a “Wafer Scale Spaceship” for NASA; doing atmospheric testing for plastics; and will be the first aircraft ever tracked globally using ADSB-Out. Socially, we will be drawing attention to the importance of human organ transplant donation. Environmentally, we will highlight the value of protecting the oceans. Culturally, we will be interviewing members of the United Nations Association chapters around the world, asking them to answer “What does it mean to be a Citizen of the World?”
Most memorable flying experience?
Flying over Greenland and landing in Narsarsuaq and Ilulissat. It’s like a land that time forgot, raw and remote. Flying over the polar ice cap where you are truly alone and it’s all up to you and your flying machine is a magical experience. Surrounded by icebergs that are hundreds of feet high and city blocks long, set against a pastel sky and blue water is a visual spectacle that is hard to describe and amazing to feel in real time. The silence is broken by thousands of tons of ice calving in the most dramatic display of Mother Nature’s power and control.
Why did you decide to fly Avidyne?
I had a very positive experience flying an SR22 with an Avidyne equipped panel early on in my flying experience. It worked perfectly every time, was easy to use and I enjoyed the experience of operating it. After flying with most of the other avionics systems on the market, it was clear Avidyne is the best. It was an easy decision. I also liked the fact that Avidyne is pilot-centric, dedicated solely to Aviation. They also have amazing customer service.
The company makes airplane avionics the best they can be. I know that and anyone who does a little research will know it as well.
My first exposure to Avidyne tech support was when we removed an older Avidyne display screen from my plane Citizen of the World. We had neglected to record the configuration so rather than pay the avionics shop I used for hours of labor, I called Avidyne tech support to figure it out. I dealt with a guy named Jack Musgrave who actually called me back, was polite, and worked with my avionics shop for over an hour. He was so knowledgeable and efficient that I didn’t have to call him back multiple times to get an answer, and he followed up after the job. Avidyne does business in aviation the way I try to run my personal and professional life. It felt like a match.
I also noticed when our Flying Thru Life Team posted on social media, there is a loyal group of Avidyne users that obviously love their avionics. As well, Avidyne components people went out of their way to share their positive experiences.
What are your favorite features?
I love the fact that the Avidyne system uses a different coordinate system than Garmin so that when I fly over the North and South Poles in 2019 where all the earth’s meridians meet I will still have a GPS signal. This gives me comfort knowing I can rely on my GPS anywhere on the planet anytime. There is no better feeling than knowing you can trust your gear!
I also like the redundancy of the touch screen and knobs. If my cockpit gets really cold when it’s -67C outside the plane I can just turn a knob and get the job done without losing a minute of time. Having a backup matters to me.
If there was any aircraft you had the chance to fly, what would it be and why?
I would love to fly in one of the Starships designed by Burt Rutan. The coolness factor is over-the-top with the pusher turboprop engines and canards. Second, the planes are part of the Rutan legacy of creative design, taking chances, lifting aviation to its limits, not taking “no” for an answer and dreaming impossibly big which resonates for me and my team!
Avidyne is the Apple Computer of the avionics world. Avidyne is purely focused on aviation and has well thought out, intuitive systems with the best technology that is available today. I know that and anyone who does a little research will know it as well.