Baron Pilot: Flying to the Top of the YouTube Charts

Baron Pilot: Flying to the Top of the YouTube Charts

Baron Pilot: Flying to the Top of the YouTube Charts

Photos by Elizabeth Allenbaugh

Kristoffer Patasnik combined his love of aviating and his Beechcraft Baron to create a popular YouTube series that he hopes will motivate aspiring aircraft owners, pilots and passengers.

Like most of us, Kristoffer Patasnik was bitten by the aviation bug while in grade school, which means he spent, or misspent, depending on how you look at it, his early years dreaming about flying F-16’s. But that career path wasn’t in the cards. 

“I had sort of given up on aviation, but right after I graduated from high school, I talked to a family friend who was a private pilot. Until then, I had never really thought of anything but military flying. All I know is that conversation saved my flying life,” Patasnik said. “I immediately ordered the Sporty’s VHS Private Pilot course and subscribed to every aviation magazine – all that, and I had never even been up in a small airplane.”

After a few months of diligent saving, that first flight took place at Tamiami Airport in southwest Miami. 

“My instructor’s name was Veronica, and during my very first flight, she let me handle the takeoff. It’s probably standard practice, but it meant the world to me,” he said. “From the moment I pulled back on the yoke, flying was no longer something I wanted to do; it became something I had to do.”

“There are a few things in life you just never forget. For me, one of those is a Cessna 152 – November 5356 Bravo – the airplane that changed my life forever,” Patasnik said. “Although I reconciled with myself that a career as a pilot was out of my reach, I knew I could still fly. So became committed to building a career that would allow me to afford my life’s passion.”

After earning a degree in television production, he got married and started a family. As time and budget allowed, he built time and added to his ratings. But, as we all know, the responsibilities of a career and family take precedence over recreational flying – no matter how therapeutic. 

“My inability to stay proficient is what brought me to the conclusion that I either needed to buy an airplane or give up flying once and for all,” Patasnik said. “I quickly realized that flying was not just what I did, but it was essential to who I was. So, I sold my boat, quit playing golf and started searching for my first airplane.”

Patasnik’s panel upgrade includes an Aspen Evolution Pro display, a complete Avidyne IFD avionics package including an IFD550, IFD440, AMX240 audio panel, AXP340 ADS-B Out transponder and a Skytrax 605 with Active Traffic.

“If I could make a career out of promoting aviation, I would quit my day job tomorrow,” Patasnik said. “I have no greater passion than sharing my love of flight.”

Kristoffer Patasnik and fiancée Kim Hanover (“FlyingSIC”).

The First is Not the Last
After doing a lot of research and asking his pilot friends even more questions, Patasnik settled on a Mooney M20J as his best first airplane. It had room for his family, plenty of speed for weekend trips, and it was relatively economical to buy and operate.

“I eventually found a 1993 Mooney M20J MSE in Alabama. I bought a ticket and went up to see her. I had never flown a Mooney before, but after an hour in the left seat, I was hooked,” he said. “I went home and asked my wife for permission. She said yes. I’m pretty sure she really thought that I wasn’t going to go through with it. And I’m very sure she wasn’t pleasantly surprised when I flew it home.”

Unfortunately, after an all too brief time, he and his wife divorced, and Patasnik sold the Mooney. But, after things settled back into a comfortable routine, he decided to make another go at aircraft ownership. His need to fly was stronger than ever.

Since most of his planned flights would be alone or with his two young children, Patasnik was predisposed to buy another Mooney. But, as fate would have it, a friend told him about a “gently used” Beech B55 Baron that was not yet on the market. Just like with the Mooney, he had never flown a Baron before, but based on the type’s reputation, Patasnik felt that the legendary twin might well fit his desire for more range and all-weather safety. 

“I went up to New York and met the owner. After just one flight, I knew this airplane was for me,” he said. “I made an offer the next day, and before I knew it, I was in the left seat of 3175 Whisky and headed south to her new home.”

Patasnik’s career path had brought him to a position in the television production group for a major sports association. He uses the Baron to commute between his home and the company’s production facilities, as well as travel to assignments in cities that are easier to reach in his airplane than via commercial airlines.

The Baron Gets the Royal Treatment
“I am amazed by the pure utility of this airplane. I have loaded it up, topped off the tanks, and have easily remained in CG and max gross weight limits,” Patasnik said. “You can’t do that in many other light twins. And the Baron is so easy to fly if you follow the numbers. Simply put, it’s a very solid airplane that was well designed and built. The only downside to owning the Baron is the high cost of new factory parts.”

Patasnik explained that while the Baron was very well equipped for IFR flight when he purchased it, as a 1974 model B55 with right at 1,400 hours on its pair of Continental IO-470L engines and aging Collins radios, he knew there was work to be done. Because 3175 Whisky is truly a workingman’s airplane, Patasnik has been taking the “most flying benefit for the buck” route to his aircraft modernization program. 

“To date, I have completed a new paint job, replaced the front windshield and updated the panel to give me greater capabilities, situational awareness and reliability,” he said. “Avionics wise, it can do anything a new Baron can do, and a little more.”

Patasnik’s panel upgrade includes an Aspen Evolution Pro display, a complete Avidyne IFD avionics package including an IFD550, IFD440, AMX240 audio panel, AXP340 ADS-B Out transponder and a Skytrax 605 with Active Traffic.

“With all of the airplanes in Florida, even with ADS-B, you will miss someone,” he said. “Active traffic is a must if you really want to see the most complete picture of the who’s around you.” 

In addition, he’s added an angle-of-attack (AOA), JPI EDM 900 digital engine monitor, and an Astronics MAX-VIZ Infrared (IR) camera connected to the IFD550.  

“The Max-Viz camera and synthetic vision on the Aspen and Avidyne displays give me great awareness when flying into unfamiliar, rural airports in lower visibility situations,” he said. 

No doubt, with all of its capabilities, 3175 Whisky’s panel is the envy of other B-55 owners. And when his budget allows, Patasnik said that the very last to-do list items are to upgrade the legacy Bendix weather radar and install a new Genesys Aerosystems S-TEC 3100 digital autopilot as soon as it is STC’d in the B55. 

“I have to take my hat off to the guys at A&J Aviation in Arkansas,” he said. “They did a fantastic job integrating all of the various avionics to create the kind of system I wanted – while staying within my budget.”

Following the panel work, Patasnik said it was time to turn his attention and budget towards overhauling the original factory Continental engines. 

“I had put 400 hours on the Baron after I got her and then it was time for overhauls, so I flew up to Alabama to have Continental install a pair of factory rebuilt engines,” Patasnik said. “I’m amazed at how much more power and performance the engines deliver. 3175 Whisky handles like a brand-new Baron.”

The Making of YouTube’s Baron Pilot
“The Baron Pilot channel on YouTube started simply enough. I had watched a few flying videos and figured with my TV background I could easily do that,” he said. “When my early video hit 100 views, I was thrilled. When the channel hit 500 subscribers, I felt like I had won the lottery.”

“The channel is not about me. It has and always will be about flying and promoting aviation. I want people to come to the channel because they are curious about flying or learning to fly or because they are afraid of flying and want to overcome those fears,” Patasnik said. “Countless viewers have commented or sent private messages about how the videos have motivated them to get their pilot’s certificate or get back into flying. That’s what it’s all about.”

“I think that the one that means the most is from a woman who had refused to fly with her husband, but after viewing the channel, she got the courage to finally do it,” he said. “It is this kind of comment that is the most humbling to me and motivates me to continue to make the videos.”

While it takes him nearly 40 hours to edit each episode of Baron Pilot – time which he is more than happy to invest in promoting aviation – Patasnik said that there might be more lag time between postings than before. It seems his passion for flight has led him to a freelance gig with a local Part 135 charter operator as a “right seater” flying a Cessna Citation. 

Even with less free time to dedicate to his YouTube audience, he said the Baron Pilot channel is something he’s not planning on closing the book on anytime soon.

“If I could make a career out of promoting aviation, I would quit my day job tomorrow,” Patasnik said. “I have no greater passion than sharing my love of flight.”  

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