First Solo–Again

First Solo–Again

“November seven three zero Juliet Alpha, will you need a runup at the end?” 

I was ready for the question from Love ground control (KDAL) but anxious about the flight. It wasn’t the weather. But after 14 years of exclusively flying jets, this would be my first solo flight in a King Air. “Negative, zero Juliet Alpha,” I replied. 

“Monitor tower twenty-three seven and have a good flight. Southwest 2217 taxi up and hold short behind the King Air,” said ground control. 

Not only was I new to the airplane but the airport as well. Dallas Love is a major terminal with parallel runways, lots of construction and the home of Southwest Airlines. I didn’t just jump into the C90A after my purchase. Instead, I attended five days of initial with King Air Academy in Phoenix, then about 25 hours of mentoring. Years ago, I decided that if I am going to put my loved ones in the airplane, I want to be as ready as possible for the good, the bad and the ugly. But today it was just me.

Even though my C90 is G1000-equipped, there are significant operational differences between the airplane and my previous Mustang. A fact that was emphasized as I climbed out from Love and my ears began popping.

I had neglected to turn on the bleed air controls.

Not a big deal, and easily rectified, but overlooked on the checklist. 

“November seven three zero Juliet Alpha, I need to vector you off the departure for faster aircraft, turn right 20 degrees,” said departure control. I glanced at the torque gauges and realized that I needed to add a little more throttle to counteract mother nature’s effect on engine output. Even though I knew this, putting all the parts of the puzzle together in a seamless manner was challenging – especially having not flown for two weeks.

I was on the way to Shreveport (KSHV) for a practice ILS and then back to Love. Level at 19,000 feet, truing 265 knots, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t in a jet. I was in paradise.

Landing smoothly was another matter.

The C90 is very nose heavy. It takes full nose-up trim to grease one on. Or so I had been told because all of my landings were, shall we say, noticeable. No trailing link gear on the King Air and chopping the power on those big four-blade props results in an abrupt loss of lift. 

Let’s just say I didn’t sneak up on Shreveport. I vowed to try again on the return home.

“November seven three zero Juliet Alpha is level seven thousand with Oscar,” I transmitted to regional approach. “Roger, zero Juliet Alpha, reduce to 190 knots. This will be a vector to the ILS Yankee runway one three left approach.” Eighteen hundred-foot broken skies were requiring an approach sandwiched between four Southwest 737’s.

“Zero Juliet Alpha, maintain one sixty to the marker if possible. Turn left heading one five zero to intercept the localizer, maintain two thousand until intercept, cleared ILS one three left,” said approach. 

I hand-flew the airplane and prepared for another poor landing. Over the fence at 100 knots, I got lucky. It all came together.

I greased it on. I was smiling from ear to ear.

I think you know the feeling.

Fly safe.  

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    Tom Jamin May 15, 2020 at 11:29 am

    Hi David, loved this article (First Solo-Again). I particularly liked your style of writing on this one because of your honesty and especially because it brought back many fond memories. I’m a retired corporate pilot and flew the King Air for more than fifteen years. Your ending sentence “I think you know the feeling” is want prompted me to write you and thank you. I do.

    • Avatar
      DavidMiller September 6, 2020 at 10:34 pm

      Sorry, Tom. I just received this today. Four months later. Thanks so much for reaching out and for reading! You made my day!

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