Thursday, March 4, 2010

Meet the plane

I was scheduled to fly back from a business trip to California, but I checked around for the cheapest ticket I could find to take me somewhere near Todd and the plane in Az instead.  After speaking with Todd about good options, we settled on Albuquerque.  I flew in there via a morning commuter Jet service, hopped a shuttle to the Cutter FBO and waited for Todd to arrive enroute from Phoenix.  The FBO was packed full of military families waiting for some soldiers who were flying in from Iraq.  They arrived in what I believe was a Beech C-12 Huron and unloaded to lots of tears.  Apparently ABQ has a big military footprint, I saw lots of F16's flying around and a few big military choppers.  Todd sent me a text message saying he found a way to get a fuel discount and a waived landing fee and that if I see a lady standing around with a box of blood to grab it.  Turns out Todd does life flights and so our first training flight of the day would be to transport a big box of human blood from ABQ to DVT.  

When Todd arrived and I went out to see my airplane at long last, I was like Holy Crikey... hard to describe how I felt really... stoked and a little shell shocked maybe.  The plane is a real beaut, and it's really hard to do it justice in photographs... but like an idiot I left my camera at home anyway.  IPhone photos don't even come close...  here we are loading the plane.

We hopped in and Todd talked me through the basics.  We talked to clearance delivery and got a release, contacted ground and got an intersection departure clearance off of one of the absolutely ginormous runways at ABQ.  Todd ran down his version of the twin engine piston pilots pre-takeoff mantra... if an engine quits before rotation, throttle back and brake.  If it quits after rotation but before the gear is up, put it down and land straight ahead no matter what's in front of us, and if it quits after gear up at blue line, then maintain blue line, identify, verify and feather.  Got it, let's go!  

The plane performed really well with just the two of us on takeoff from the mile high airport... all that power is really freaking nice.  We bounced around in light (for NM) turbulence on our way to St Johns Az.  I made my first B55 landing on the short runway since the cross wind was about 19 kts and 90 degrees to the longer runway.  It's definitely a different site picture for me and I'm still adjusting to landing... Todd told me I'm landing it like it's a Cessna 182, hmmmm.  We fueled up for 3.60 a gal at a great FBO that has 3 free crew cars.  Note to self... stop here again!  Next we're on our way to Deer Valley and the busiest GA airport in the country as the sun set.  Deer Valley Az has two large flight training centers that train for China Air and a Korean Airline.  It's a bit scary listening to the radio chatter... a lot of inexperienced pilots who barely speak English buzzing all over the place.  It must be a stressful place to be a controller.  

We dropped off the blood, fueled up with the life flight discount of .60 / gal and headed to Fullerton to pickup one of Todd's friends.  We head out in the dark letting the auto pilot follow the magenta course line on the GPS, watching the synthetic vision guide us through the mountains.  Some scattered clouds were at our altitude and with the limited lighting you could barely make them out, their edges blending with the mountains in the distance...  without the technology in the cockpit one could easily feel like you were about to fly into a mountain, but with the giant PFD and MFD GPS display, it's virtually impossible to get lost or disoriented.  It really is amazing.  I even figured out how to pipe in some music via the XM radio hookup.  

Todd taught me how to operate the de-ice equip and the radar, though I'll need a bunch more instruction to make use of the radar.  Then we threaded the needle of various crazy airspace that makes up the LA basin and eventually landed on the 3000 ft runway at Fullerton.  Ordinarily 3000 ft is plenty long enough for me, but for a new twin pilot in a smoking fast fire breathing Baron it's really the bare minimum.  I used pretty much all of it to land.  We picked up Todd's buddy, opened an IFR flight plan and blasted out of there IFR for the return flight.  

It was a long day for me since I was up late the night before, spent 6 hours on a commercial flight and then about 8 hours in my new (to me) airplane, but it was awesome.  Todd dropped me off at a Holiday Inn in Prescott, and we'll continue tomorrow.  Todd Underwood is a really fantastic instructor and a hell of a resource for any pilot.  The guy has flown everything under the sun, has every fixed wing rating there is except for MultiEngine Sea plane which he is working on now.  He's really a mellow and unassuming guy with no ego or attitude at all.  He charged me a pittance compared to what he is worth.  I really admire him and can't thank him enough.

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