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200 Knot Airplane Meets 90-Knot Mind

by Jim Trusty 2005 Reprinted with permission from Jim Trusty

'Two Hundred-Knot Airplane Meets 90-Knot Mind.' A scary movie? No, it's called a transition, a checkout, and as the pilot told me, 'It's just something the insurance company requires.' Good for them, I thought.

Learning to fly calls into use, sometimes for the first time, a few particular skills. They can be lumped under several categories like hand to eye coordination, motor skills, anticipation, preparation, and what we pilots call 'Getting ahead of the airplane.' As an instructor, I am thrilled when I get a student who rides a motorcycle or a personal watercraft, drives a racecar, or a multitude of other things that require the use of your mind and hands in making quick decisions.

This transition, as it is called, has now reached such a level that an instructor could make a living from it alone. Using just one example, naming an airplane we are all familiar with, transition to one of the new fast Mooney's is 25 hours of training with an instructor. And this takes us to my latest victim who sold his Warrior and got a Mooney 252 (capable of doing 252 miles per hour).

On the first trip, with a trip around the pattern at the end of some very fast steep turns, slow flight at 160 mph, and a stall that he recognized and I missed, we were going to do a few touch and goes when on downwind I noticed we were doing 150 mph. I asked him what gear down speed was, or approach, or any of those V things that were safely tucked away in the back of the Mooney in the Flight Manual. Receiving no verbal response, but in the time it took him to think and take a look at me, we were on an extended downwind and being asked by the tower if we were still going to land.

I answered for him by saying, 'Not this time. Thank you, though, for being concerned.'

We left the pattern to regain some composure, and I asked him to take us to a nearby VOR airport and shoot the approach. This would give us some extra time to work on speed management. He immediately started to work on his panel with GPS, HSI, autopilot, two VOR heads, ADF, fuel management system, and an elaborate flight director of some kind. I was sure it had all come out of a 'Star Wars' movie. After traveling 34 nautical miles with him heavy on that panel, cursing, explaining, redoing, I told him that we were seven miles past the airport and 12 miles to the right. My equipment (two eyes) showed us right over the city that the airport is named after, and it just happens to be, according to the chart, 27 DME from our home base and 12 miles that a way.

Airplane speed is not as readily apparent when you look out the window as speed on the Ground, but it is there and it can be just as deadly if you are not in total control

'Well, it's all new to me,' he said, and I had picked an airport that was not readily available in his data bank. I told him, 'Okay, take me back to home base and let's do one or two soft field landings and takeoffs.' While all this is taking place, we have traveled 19 miles further away from civilization, and while he had been talking, I had finally gone through the entire fuse bank and found the two that I wanted, Panel Avionics and Landing Gear.

As I pointed and he looked, both fuses were pulled and all got real quiet. Not wanting to leave our state completely, I told him to turn 180 degrees so we at least would be headed toward something recognizable tome. Now in a total dither, banking, cursing, flipping, turning, and more cursing, nothing worked but the compass and the turn & bank coordinator. 'We'll never make it back!' he said. I said, 'What do you mean 'we'?'

We did make it back and sure enough he threw the gear handle, talked on the radio, no GUMPS, no look at the floor indicator, and still doing about 140 when he announced, 'Speed Brakes coming out.' As I slid forward under the seat belt and out of my seat, he turned left base at 140 and I said that maybe we should do GUMPS now. 'Too close to the runway for small details,' he said. I then told him (and I really like to do this), 'Your gear is NOT down!'

A quick look at the floor light showing RED, a quicker check of the panel as I put the fuses back in, gear down in plenty of time, and an awful landing, because he said he was going too fast because the airplane was too busy. The guy at the insurance company, who said 25 hours ought to do it, probably flew a Warrior also.

If you are thinking of trading up, take the time to get ready for this transition process and at least be smarter than the instructor you are going to have to spend $500 with, or more if you are not ready. My guy got through it just fine, and so have many others who buy the faster and more complex aircraft we are seeing today. Getting ready to fly this new airplane is no different from preparing for any other aircraft. It takes a little time on your part and a little reading and a bit of cockpit organization, then another bit of planning for whatever you are planning to do.

Flying a 200-knot airplane with a 90-knot mind will get you hurt. Let's not let that happen. Airplanes are so deceiving in that speed is not readily apparent when you look out the window. The rush you feel in a car or on a motorcycle is really not there simply because you can't see objects whizzing by or feel the speed itself without making contact with the ground. But it is there and it can be just as deadly if you are not in total control.

Getting ahead of the airplane should always be the pilot's battle cry, and now they are adding cockpit resource management, sterile cockpit and decision making to us little old airplane pilots. Let me tell you something, Zeke. If you're flying over 200 miles per hour you are no longer just one of the boys. Son, you are moving!

Need help in your transition? Ask the insurance company who has been doing the work for them. Ask the manufacturer. And certainly ask the person who has an airplane like your brand new one, 'Whom did you get to check you out for the insurance company?'

The guy in this story finally turned out to be a great pilot. He finally learned that his airplane will fly at just a little above 60 knots with him still in full control and will certainly do the speed that Mooney says it will. He just finished getting his commercial license with me, and I hope he will become an instructor. He truly understands the transition now. I watched his face as we did steep turns at 55 degrees, Lazy Eights, Chandelles, and Eights on Pylon, soft and short field takeoffs and landings, and he was 'one with the aircraft.' Patience and training pays off. The biggest compliment he paid me and my method of teaching was, 'I really feel comfortable flying this bird now, at any speed.' I felt comfortable riding with him, too.

Speed doesn't kill'stupidity does! I'll see you at the airport! Always remember that accidents are caused and therefore preventable! Got some questions about transition training that I can answer for you?

Permission required from the author to reprint this copyrighted article (2005)

Jim Trusty, ATP/CFI, was named the FAA/Aviation Industry National Flight Instructor of the Year for 1997, and the FAA Southern Region Aviation Safety Counselor of the Year for 1995 & 2005. He still works full-time as a Corporate Pilot/'Gold Seal' Flight & Ground Instructor/FAA Aviation Safety Counselor/national aviation magazine writer. He welcomes your comments and e-mail works best <Lrn2Fly@bellsouth. net>.

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ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT ACCIDENTS ARE CAUSED AND THEREFORE PREVENTABLE