In our last episode, we found young David yearning to fly his own turbine airplane. In this episode, he visits new and exotic locales in search of what may be the perfect steed. But first, a few side trips.
Reader Ken Sutton emailed me about the process he went through to find and restore his passion, an MU-2. He even produced a bound book detailing each step as he added avionics, props, interior and paint. In the end, he had a 300 knot, one-of-a-kind aircraft. The MU-2 was maligned years ago due to a poor safety record. But with the proper training, it’s accident history has improved dramatically. And it continues to receive strong product support. It was certainly worthy of my consideration. But when I looked closely at the throttle quadrant and saw the “jungle” of levers and lights, I was overwhelmed. I struggle to walk and chew gum simultaneously and the thought of managing all those options was too much for me. Additionally, I fly only 100 a year and the MU-2 appears to be an airplane that needs to be flown more frequently to remain on top of your game.
The Cessna Conquest
Their owners swear by them. A lot of bang for the buck with lots of capability. Many Conquest I’s have been upgraded to Pratt and Whitney PT6A-135A engines with more power available at altitude. The Conquest II is a beast with almost 2,000-nm range but more cabin than I need. And both featured autopilot and flight directors of the 1980s, which lacked the integration that I was looking for.
How about a King Air?
The F90 has held its value well over the years and has a very loyal following. Owners are upgrading their panels with Garmin G600 and 750 packages. It has lots of range, but its shorter wing limits higher cruising altitudes. I operated a 2002 C90B with the Blackhawk engine conversion and really enjoyed it. But the avionics were pre-Garmin G1000. To fly a G1000 equipped airplane, I would likely have to find a B200, more cabin and cost that I wanted. I realized that to get the kind of avionics integration I yearned for, and a big screen PFD and MFD, my wallet was going to have to get bigger. Almost a million dollars bigger. Perhaps a C90GTi with the Collins Pro Line 21 would fit the bill. Beech dramatically improved the airplane in 2007 with the addition of the robust Collins system, which is essentially identical to the one found in the CJ1+, 2+ and CJ3. In addition, a gross weight increase and winglets increased the full fuel payload capacity to almost 1,000 pounds. It’s quite an airplane. I found one locally and spent an hour sitting in the cockpit. But I kept asking myself the same questions. “Why so many switches? Why so many power levers? Why do I have to cycle the boots manually every time I need them? Why does the fuel system have seven toggle switches? Isn’t there a simpler solution?” I was trying to talk myself out of the airplane. Then, I realized I needed another opinion.
“Patty, should I even be thinking about a turboprop?”
“You are not going to be happy unless you have a jet,” she said.
Stay tuned and fly safe.