Many Twin & Turbine readers have come up through the ranks as masters of their own destiny. By that, I mean flying single pilot. Whether it be in a Cirrus, TBM, Baron, or King Air, many of the airplanes we fly are designed to be flown by one person. And, other than a BFR or an insurance requirement, we don’t often spend time with a professional in the right seat.
My experience is somewhat different. I decided early on in my business career that having a pro up front created more time for me to run my business while still enjoying the fun parts of flying my airplane. Starting with a Duke and then a B100 King Air, my copilot JC and I flew together everywhere. As we transitioned into jets that required two pilots (Sabre 40 and 60), I was “at home” in a crew environment.
I also flew a Falcon 10 and 50 for seven years with pilots from a Fortune 500 flight department, which was an amazing experience where I was mentored by professionals. They were excellent teachers, and many were headed to the airlines. When I purchased my first Mustang, it felt natural to have a mentor at my side.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Departing Addison one hot July afternoon in a very old Queen Air, JC was anxious to get going. I was a newly minted multi-engine wonder, invited to ride right seat with a load of passengers on the trip to Corpus Christi. Level at 9,500 feet, the right engine exploded. I glanced over my shoulder to see a hole in the cowling and parts glowing beneath the smoke. Instinctively, JC reached to feather the prop. Nothing happened. Those big windmill blades were dragging us down.
“You handle the radios,” JC barked. Refusing to declare an emergency, JC descended toward Addison. On downwind, Addison tower said, “November One Zero Delta, you’re number three to follow a Cherokee on a touch and go.”
“Tell them we are landing,” yelled JC. After which, he reached up and turned off the avionics master switch!
JC was simply tired of listening to ATC.
We survived, but I worry that some of you may have had a “JC” in your cockpit, too. You may have never experienced what a pleasure it is to learn from a real pro.
After a few more harrowing experiences, I realized that JC was a great stick and rudder guy, but a terrible mentor. I began to look for pros who could make me a better pilot. And after a few hits and misses, I have some characteristics to look for:
- Someone who possesses significantly more experience or knowledge than you and has the desire and ability to share it.
- Someone who can tell you at least three things about your airplane or avionics that you never knew within 30 minutes of meeting them.
- Someone compatible with your personality.
- Someone your wife would let into the house for dinner.
- Someone who will challenge you to think about how you operate your airplane.
Finding the perfect mentor can be challenging and rewarding. It is worth the effort.