Well, we had to change pilots on our King Air. The first guy just hated our plane too much. His King Air – the one he normally flies – was just the most perfect King Air in the world, don’t you know. Our King Air on the other hand was a big pile of crap. He disliked our plane so much that it was causing him to make mistakes in it. So distracted was he by the differences between the two planes that he sometimes made some basic errors that could have gotten him in a lot of trouble. In aviation, accidents usually result from a “chain” of events/mistakes, starting from some seemingly innocuous ones.
Anyway, it wasn’t working out. Neither for him or for us. I knew it; he knew it. So I quietly started looking around for another pilot. There are a lot of out-of-work pilots out there. It didn’t take long for me to find one.
The new guy, by the name of Ben is in some ways the exact opposite of the old guy. Not only is he a great pilot, but he welcomes my presence in the cockpit rather than considering me an irritating intrusion. He’s flown a number of flights for us already, ironically none of them with me onboard (except for one familiarization flight the day he was hired). Until this past Tuesday. Then we finally got to fly together on a “mission.”
It was an easy flight: Just take the Boss up to Tuscaloosa, Alabama and back. About 30 minutes each way with a long wait in the middle. But it was one of the most fun, instructive flights I’ve had in a long time. (By the way, the same flight in the helicopter takes me nearly an hour and forty minutes one-way!)
We took off and got our IFR clearance, which was good because Tuscaloosa Airport, which should have been severe clear, had a low, thin, unforecast morning cloud deck sitting right over it. Ceiling: 1200 feet overcast. Tops of the clouds: 2500 feet. It would take a while to burn off. Ben flew the plane while I handled the radios, checklists and some other cockpit stuff. It’s a small thing, I know, but it felt good to be involved in the flight instead of just feeling like a passenger in the copilot’s seat.
We broke out of the clouds right at 1200 feet, and the runway was right in front of us. As it should be. “Instrument flying” in airplanes is great! So different from the hunt-and-peck method of navigation I usually employ in the helicopter, in which it is sometimes a real challenge to remain in “good” weather (i.e. enough visibility to see forward and the ability to stay high enough to not hit anything on the ground).
Ben has been terrific, generous and helpful. From the first day on the payroll he’s been giving me pointers on the fine art of King Air flying. He does things a little differently than our last pilot – and this gave me cause for concern at first – but experience has shown that his way is equally as good if not better than anyone else’s. And that’s the strange and wonderful thing about flying: Every pilot has his/her own technique; there are usually many “right” ways of doing things.
I’ve had the pleasure of flying with some awesome King Air pilots in the past. I’ve tried to learn something from each of them. Even the guy who didn’t work out wasn’t a bad pilot – in fact he was damn good! Most of the time. I’m sure that in his own airplane he was superb. He just had some issues that got in the way of his doing a great job for us. No big deal. No harm, no foul. But I do like this new guy, Ben. Fingers crossed that he works out well. So far, there’s every reason to believe he will.