TBM Experience Kelly
TBM 940 S/N 1384
Kelly K. Burris
Kelly Burris, an attorney specialized in intellectual property, combines the passion for flying with her business needs – providing the optimum way to meet her clients, who include inventors, engineers, and executives. The recent delivery of a brand-new TBM 940 marked a special achievement for this hardworking and dynamic aviator, who answers six questions for the Newsletter.
How did you become involved in aviation?
I always wanted to fly. My dad was in the U.S. Navy during his youth as an air traffic controller on an aircraft carrier. He and my mother probably were responsible for my love of aviation, bringing the family to air shows and building model airplanes. I learned to fly while at Western Michigan University. In 1990, I even wanted to join the U.S. Navy as a fighter pilot, but it wasn’t a good time for a woman to be a pilot in the Navy. Finally, I realized it wasn’t really what I wanted to do, so I pursued my career as an engineer for McDonnell Douglas, which became a part of Boeing when the two companies merged.
I worked mostly in the fighter aircraft division on projects such as the F/A-18 Hornet, the AV-8B Harrier, the A-12 (nicknamed “the flying Dorito” until it was cancelled), then the Advanced Tactical Fighter program – which was won by Lockheed’s F-22. Those were tough times.
My career was heading into the management of teams rather than engineering. I was an inventor involved in new technologies, working early in the morning and late in the evening. Executives also came in early, and one of them asked if I wanted to be a patent attorney. I answered: “Sorry, but I’m an engineer not a lawyer,” to which she replied: “No, the patent attorney is an engineer with a different role. You protect the company’s inventions. You have to describe the technology, etc.” Then she added: “…and you make a lot more money.”
I was surprised when I found out just how much that really was! It’s similar to an hourly job: the more you work, the more you make…which could help me buy my own airplane.
So, I went to a law school as a backup and left Boeing to be a patent attorney in 2000. I bought a Debonair in 2004 but wanted something with deicing capabilities.
After owning a Debonair, I was looking to take a step up in terms of my aircraft’s capabilities
Eventually, after working for a couple of large law firms, I created my own law firm in 2016 and now I have this TBM 940.
What attracted you to the TBM?
I love speed. As time is money, I wanted an airplane that flies fast and is all-weather-capable. I was looking at jets and other turboprops, with my investigations taking into account the factors of cost, performance and practical use. The airport that serves as my base – Ann Arbor, Michigan – has a 3,500-ft.-long runway…not very suitable for a jet. This would have meant an additional drive by car if I had to use another airport.
During my search, I met Kris Layson from Muncie Aviation [which is a member of the Daher Network], and she introduced me to the TBM at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. I discovered the airplane was really nice: it is fast and can be operated from short runways. I started running the numbers, and after flying several times with Kris, confirmed the numbers were correct.
In doing my research, one of my flight instructors who flew another manufacturer’s single-engine turboprop said: No question…you need to pick the TBM
Although I initially had to delay the investment in buying the TBM, I’m glad to have waited because the technology has progressed so much – especially with HomeSafe™, which is the ultimate system to convince my passengers about flight safety.
Since I’m flying my attorneys for business, people kept asking such questions as: “My husband wants to know how long you’ve been flying… My wife is worried when I’m flying aboard this plane.” They are worried that I may not be a good pilot. I responded by explaining that my TBM 940 has the HomeSafe™ emergency autoland system, and I showed them the video. Now they say: “OK, we can go.” I may never use HomeSafe™, but it helps to remove the pressure.
What is your utilization of the TBM 940?
I fly mostly for business. While the TBM 940 represents an important acquisition, it makes a lot of business sense for my firm. We benefit from the bonus depreciation that considerably reduces the cost of ownership for the company, although it limits the airplane’s private use.
We have a total of 26 employees, including 13 attorneys. We have had a nice steady growth, and visiting our clients is very important to continue developing our business. We have many clients in Saint Louis, Missouri. Normally with the Debonair, the trip from Detroit, Michigan would take at least 2.5 hours. With the TBM 940, it is now 1.5 hours. Therefore, I’m now able to do quick trips to Missouri, Wisconsin, Virginia or Chicago in the timeframe of one day. Some of my attorneys are young with children. With the TBM, they don’t have to stay overnight at a hotel. They can be at home for dinner and put the kids to bed. Everyone in the firm was very excited about this.
So the TBM is a useful business tool?
Definitely. As an example, we just hired a new attorney who was having a hard time deciding if he would leave his job to come with us. He’s very good, but I told him I couldn’t pay extras. In the conversation, he mentioned he had a two-year-old daughter in Chicago, and he was driving once a month to see her. While I could not offer him more money – as this would be unfair to our other attorneys – I proposed to fly him to Chicago twice a month. He accepted the position! The TBM 940 is my secret business weapon..
As you have made several visits to the TBM final assembly line at Tarbes, France, what are your thoughts, especially considering your aerospace industry background?
I was very impressed. The factory environment looked very familiar to me, but I discovered interesting features such as the vertical jigs for the rear fuselage assembly that are very cool, and the company’s work with composite materials. I love the integration by Daher of the Garmin G3000 flight deck – which is great equipment, very intuitive.
Are you happy with your career path?
I found a way to combine my business and my love for aviation. When I’m flying, I can see my face in the mirror and it’s clear that I am happy. With the TBM 940, it takes things a step further. .