Graduating from the Academy

Graduating from the Academy

My airspeed is decreasing below 90 knots and the airplane is climbing even though we are in level flight,” I yelled to Larry Barna, my sim instructor. “I am going to switch the ADC (air data computer) to number two.” 

“Dave, remember when you flew a Baron,” replied Larry. “You don’t have an ADC problem. Your static system has iced over. You need to pull on that little red lever by the copilot’s seat to activate your alternate static air source.” 

That was one of the many things I had forgotten after flying jets for the last 13 years. 

I had a lot to learn about flying a C90. But King Air Academy (KAA) in Phoenix was a great place to start.After deciding that a King Air with a Garmin G1000 system was a must for me, I went looking for simulator training with similar avionics. And while the “big box” groups like FlightSafety and TRU (now combined into FlightSafety Textron Aviation Training) do a great job on late model and in-production airplanes, there are few motion-based options for 25-year-old King Airs. Especially ones with upgraded autopilots and avionics. 

A search on led me to KAA. Their claim is that they will train you on any airplane as long as it is a King Air. I flew to Phoenix to find out how much I had forgotten since owning a C90 over a decade ago. 

It turns out, quite a bit. 

But KAA was ready for me. Their training philosophy was developed by Tom Clements, known in King Air circles as the guru of Beech turboprops. His 385-page book has more operational data than you would ever need. When he speaks, everyone listens. 

Ron McAlister, a B200 owner-pilot, and Kevin Carson, operations expert, decided to team up with Tom to create a business dedicated to the needs of King Air owners. Big things like providing simulators nearly identical to the airplane you are flying. And little things like providing lunch every day at their Deer Valley (KDVT) facility so clients don’t have to wander the streets of Phoenix looking for a place to eat. More time in the building translates to more learning time. 

And I needed lots of time.

The workload on a turboprop is definitely higher. Most don’t have computer-controlled power management (FADEC). Fuel systems are more complicated and pressurization management is more involved. There are multiple engine and propeller operating checks. But there is something satisfying about those two big Pratt & Whitney engines hauling a useful load 45 percent more than my Mustang. 

Just 80 knots slower. 

I expected the simulator to be less realistic than what you find at the jet schools, but I was pleasantly surprised at the visuals and motion possible today. So realistic in fact that I experienced my first simulated bird strike including blood and guts on the windshield. 

In a rush to shut down an engine and feather the propeller, I was able to land with a nose wheel retracted in KAA’s sim just as easily as I do in the sims costing millions more. Something must be working with their business model. KAA has four sims and two more on order. They encourage in-airplane training as well. All in all, it was five days well spent. 

Now, if I could just remember how to lower the gear. 

Fly safe. 

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