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?

28 July 2009

Super Pilot!

So we leased this Beechcraft Super King Air 200, which I’ve mentioned before. To date we’ve flown it for about 30 hours, and I’ve been in the plane on virtually every flight. So far I have not touched the controls. Not once. (By the way, the cockpit has two pilot stations and two complete sets controls - like those old Driver's Ed cars with two steering wheels.) Of the two pilots we’ve hired to fly the plane, one actually does let me make the radio calls. The other pretends I’m not even there. They're great guys and all, and I enjoy flying with them. But with both, I feel pretty useless.

The reason they don't let me fly is because I’m not “rated” in the King Air. There is this thing the FAA has called a Multi-Engine Rating and you need it to fly airplanes with more than one engine. I do not have that rating (although I do have about 2,500 hours in multi-engine helicopters for which ironically no additional rating is required). So even though I've been flying for over 30 years and have about 11,000 hours of accrued total flight time and of that, 1,000 hours is in airplanes ("are" in airplanes?), without the FAA’s blessing of the all-important “multi” rating I am evidently totally incapable of handling the King Air. It must take a super pilot to handle a Super King Air 200!

The pilots would cite insurance requirements blah blah blah as the reason they don’t let me fly. Well that, and they must think I’m going to crash the plane if I so much as take hold of the yoke in a stabilized climb or descent, never mind making something so dangerous as a turn. And yes, it’s true that I cannot act as pilot-in-command (PIC) of the Super King Air. But the plane only requires one super pilot, just like every little Cessna 150 out there.

So even if they would let someone else fly for a bit, they are still PIC, still in charge, still responsible. Letting someone else drive the plane is akin to sitting on your father’s lap while he lets you steer the car. (Hopefully you do not still do this now – your father is probably much too frail for you to be sitting on his lap.) It’s a risk – albeit a small one in my opinion, but one these pilots do not feel like taking. And yes, I’m whining.

It’s funny, in a way. Pilots are so weird. It doesn’t matter what or how much experience you have, or how many aircraft you’ve flown. If you haven’t flown THIS particular type of aircraft you know nothing. Not that they’ve said that to me in so many words, but the message is clear.

That’s not to say it hasn’t been fun and valuably instructive. Sure enough, flying the King Air is different than what I have been doing all my life (although truthfully, not all that much different). We fly higher, we always talk to air traffic control, and we can and sometimes do go through clouds instead of around them. Compared to a helicopter, the plane is very stable and “easy” to fly. Sure, the systems (e.g. electrical, hydraulic) are more complicated than those in my simple Bell 206 JetRanger, but by the same token the King Air ain’t exactly a 747. It has an autopilot, and the cabin is air conditioned and pressurized so that we can fly at 26,000 feet and the inside of the plane feels like it’s only at comfy 5,000 feet. There is a refreshment center with cold drinks, and a potty if I have too many of them.

So I’ve been sitting there, watching and learning at lot, and will continue to do so. One day soon, I’ll have my multi-engine rating. And then I will be a super Super King Air pilot!


Anonymous said...

Hello Bob,
I guess you could try begging...or just grab the controls and have at it! What are they going to do? It's not like they can throw you out. Oh well, I doubt either will happen and wish you luck on a change of mind with your prospective "peers" (I use the word loosely for sure). If these guys are worth their salt they would recognize your abilities and let you have a turn so to speak.Having flown with you I have no doubt of your talents. On the bright side, at least you are still burning kerosene. On another note, what is with the blocked tracking? Covert op's maybe? I may have to do some investigating.....
Take care and fly safe,

Bob Barbanes said...

Thanks for the kind words, Cass. But you know me, man - I have a blast whenever I'm flying, even if I'm not actually the one on the controls. And the guys we have flying for us really are terrific. My time will come, and I'm patient. Meanwhile, I'm happy to sit and learn.

We should probably explain your comment on the flight tracking for those who don't know. There is a website called flightaware.com on which you can type in the N-number of a plane or an airline flight number and see its progress if it's in flight, or check up on the history of flights the plane has made.

Many aircraft owners take advantage of the ability to block the registration number of their plane. Some do it so that people outside of the company (and perhaps inside!) cannot see where their plane has been. And some do it just because they can. In our case, the people we're leasing our ship from decided to block all of the planes in their fleet. *We* can still see our flights, but you have to have the secret code.

One other possible reason is that as the IRS looks at more and more private aircraft to ferret out what they think is taxable use, I would imagine that more and more owners will block their registration numbers from appearing on public websites. For now, the FAA and the IRS don't cooperate. However, I suspect that it would only take the stroke of very small pen to change that and let the IRS see flight plans.

Jeff said...

Lets not forget, the sooner you get your rating, the sooner they will be looking for another King Air to fly. I am certain the insurance regulation babble is only masking the inevitable truth they will one day face.