Major Dan Rooney: On a Mission to Serve — Part 2

Meet Major Dan Rooney – PGA golf professional, fighter pilot, founder and CEO of the Folds of Honor, husband and father of five. Get to know our latest ambassador and his journey from the golf course green to the wild blue yonder—and his most ambitious mission yet, to help military families in need. 

Q: What is your typical civilian flight mission, what do you fly, and why is general aviation important to you?

A: I have a cool story about how aviation combines in my life, and it was yesterday.

So I flew my Cirrus SR22 — it’s got a G1000 in it from Garmin — onto Tindal Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida. I got to fly three sorties, double turned, supersonic over the Gulf of Mexico serving my country, Finished my debrief at 3:30, hop in my Cirrus, takeoff out of Tindal Air Force Base and flew home to Tulsa. I land at 8:30, and get to put all five of my kids to bed. That is the ultimate.

What general aviation offers to me? I couldn’t have even gotten home last night if I was flying on the airlines. It’s different right, supersonic versus very much subsonic going 180 knots in my Cirrus. But I love them both for different reasons, and it is the first time I’ve ever gotten to fly actively in general aviation that last ten months since I’ve had my Cirrus, and it is singularly the best thing that’s ever happened to my professional and personal life.

Q: Tell us about your Cirrus SR22 and why it’s so important to you.

A: After 19 years of flying fighters, I had the opportunity to purchase an SR22 — dream come true — but Garmin and Cirrus came together and literally built a one-of-a-kind.

With the Cirrus Xi package, we started with the air superiority gray base color, Folds of Honor on the tail, then the interior is covered with Folds of Honor, and it’s such a force multiplier for me fundraising on behalf of these families. But also everywhere you go, you pull it up on the ramp people come out and say, “hey what’s Folds of Honor?” if they don’t know about it.

It’s a dream. I’m every bit as excited jumping in my SR22 as I am a fighter jet to go fly. It’s obviously different flying, but equally rewarding and impactful in my life.

Folds of Honor founder and CEO Major Dan Rooney.

Q: Tell us about your experience with Garmin Avionics, how long you’ve been flying with them, and what your favorite features are?

A: Garmin is a huge part of my life as an aviator, I actually fly with it in my T-38 Talon, I fly with it in my SR22, I wear it on my wrist in the D2, I file my flight plans through the software, Garmin touches every facet of my flying career, it’s the best.

It’s intuitive, it’s reliable, and it matters because you go fly out in all kinds of weather, and every time you go fly, that’s one of the things that we really understand as military aviators — as fighter pilots — it’s about managing risk and every flight is life and death. There is no platform that I would trust at the level that I trust Garmin. It’s always taken me there, and brought me home safely and I’m truly grateful for that.

Q: What was it like transitioning to the Cirrus?

A: I was amazed, because the G1000 is more sophisticated than anything we have in a fighter jet. Our avionics are designed to, you know, fly fast, drop bombs, whatever it may be, and we don’t have coupled approaches and all the other great stuff that comes with the G1000 so there was definitely a learning curve. But it was incredibly intuitive, and you know the ultimate separator in any aviation is speed, so obviously to slow it down helped out a lot from the perspective of flying.

The Cirrus—that wasn’t the difficult part. Learning the G1000 took a little time, but it is the most intuitive, incredibly amazing platform with the synthetic vision, everything that it provides, and the XM radio, right? So I get to listen to tunes when I fly which I’ve never done before, so it’s awesome.

Q: Why do you like flying with XM Radio?

A: One of the unique things, since I’ve never been able to listen to the radio flying fighter jets, is the XM radio. To get to chill out and listen to tunes up there coming back from Tindal Air Force Base last night, it was about a four hour flight, sun setting, with your favorite music on, it’s religious right? It’s spiritual. It is such a fun, unique side of what we get to do now in the SR22 with Garmin G1000.

Major Dan Rooney is the founder and CEO of Folds of Honor, a T-38 adversary pilot in the USAF Reserve, and a PGA golf professional. Check out part one of this series to learn more about Major Dan’s aviation origins, and his Folds of Honor mission to serve spouses and children who have had a loved one killed or disabled in the line of duty.