Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

23 June 2009

The King (Air) And I

I mentioned before that we've been shopping for an airplane to buy. The search continues, and it occupies every working minute that I'm not flying the helicopter. In fact, this week I'll be driving over to Jacksonville, Florida to look at a particularly attractive jet. Jets are hot right now if you're looking to buy one (not so hot if you're trying to sell one).

In the meantime, we leased a ship, a Beechcraft King Air 200; a type that we are considering to buy. It's a twin-engine, turbine-powered plane with eight passenger seats (plus two pilots). It weighs 12,500 pounds fully loaded. The wings span 55 feet.

King Airs have always been known for their roomy cabin, load-carrying capability and utter dependability. Out on the wings, the Pratt & Whitney PT-6 engines are legendary in their reliability and safety. This particular King Air (a 1982 model) is a "nice enough" aircraft, with new paint and interior, but the engines have a lot of flight time on them and are, to be kind, tired.

There she is, in all her glory, N58GA

My former boss had one just like it (with better engines) in which he routinely flew down to Honduras where it stayed for a week and then came home. That King Air never gave us any problems...never broke...never did anything but start up and fly.

With two aircraft at his disposal now, things can be complicated for my current Boss. On some trips, it can be a toss-up as to which one to take. The helicopter limits him to just four passengers, while the King Air can take more people in air-conditioned comfort. We have no air-conditioner in the helicopter, and sitting in it on the ground for any length of time is brutal, especially these days where the temperature has been in the upper-90s, even with that big fan on top turning.

This past Sunday we had a King Air flight in which we took one of our guys from his home in Alabama to a jobsite in West Virginia. The Boss would not be onboard, and we'd be coming home empty. The schedule had us returning to Home Base around midnight. As I was driving up to the airport, my phone beeped.

"Look, I want you to be honest with me,"
the Boss started out. "When you get back tonight, would you mind flying the helicopter down to Pensacola instead of driving your car, and then coming down to Destin in the morning to pick me up?"

I certainly didn't mind making the short, 20-minute flight home instead of the one-hour drive. But I'd really planned on sleeping-in on Monday morning; it had been a long week that drove right on through the weekend. No such luck. Picking the Boss up in Destin at 8:30AM would mean waking up around six. Oh well...

I really like flying airplanes. Don't tell the Boss, but in some ways I like flying planes more than helicopters. My helicopter pilot friends clutch their hearts, grimace and swoon like they're going to pass out when they hear me say such blasphemous things. Many helicopter pilots find airplanes to be deathly boring and unchallenging. To them, only the rush of helicopter flying will feed their need.

But on our flight home on Sunday, as we cruised along serenely at 24,000 feet, I was able to climb in the back and retrieve some crackers and sodas. (Don't worry, there are always two of us flying.) I could've used the potty if need be; there is one installed. Helicopter flying is fun, no doubt, but airplane flying is just so much more relaxed. As I've mentioned before, if I take my hands off the controls of the helicopter - even if only to open a bottle of water - it immediately tries to turn itself upside down. Keeps you busy, that.

It'll be a while until I am checked-out and proficient enough to fly the King Air by myself. But I quite like flying with another pilot for a change. I've been a "lone wolf" (one-man show) all my life. Operating as a crew of two is cool because it feeds my unfulfilled airline pilot fantasies. I always really wanted to be an airline pilot. I have no idea how I fell into helicopters, really. It's just the path I ended up on, and I honestly can't complain. It's been a fun life so far. But sometimes I do wonder...

Hey, our King Air may not be a mighty 707 headed for Paris or London, but at night, as I squint at that big instrument panel jam-packed with all its "old school" round dials and switches, it might as well be.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I think the Citation is much prettier.