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!