WAKE UP CALL
It was 5 am and I couldn’t believe it. The welcoming agent at Flight Safety was smiling and really happy to see me and my co-worker. What an impressive start, and the agent’s smile would carry through my remaining stay at Flight Safety. But, let’s be honest, nothing at 5 am is really easy when you know you are going to be run through the ringer in the King Air simulator. My job as a corporate pilot requires that I complete annual training to maintain my skills in the plane I fly, a Beach King Air 200. So here I was at Wichita Kansas, home to King Air Flight Safety for a week of learning and renewal.
During my time there I learned a lot about the King Air that I never knew before; things I never really thought about before. It wasn’t all just about improving safety. It wasn’t airframe limitations, operating specs, or even emergency memory lists ... anyone can teach that if they have Power Point. What I learned at Flight Safety nobody has EVER been able to teach me before - - how to make urgent critical flight decisions in the King Air. These decisions aren’t to be taken lightly. Pilots need to be proficient in making them. They need to think about them. They need to study them. “Why?” you might ask. Isn’t it a given that the pilot will always try and protect themselves, passengers and airplane in all situations? Well, let’s agree that these decisions are a matter of life or the alternative. And Flight Safety training makes you practice making these absolutely critical decisions, which pays dividends on your understanding of the King Air.
How did it pay dividends? Well it made me understand what the awesome capability of the King Air really is. If you get stuck between a rock and a hard place, there really is no other airplane I’d want on my side helping me. Imagine if you were taking off in a fully loaded King Air 200 out of a 3,000 ft. runway. It’s hot, and humid. As you were on the take-off roll, you lost an engine at VMC - 86kts. Rotation and V1 speed was 95kts. What would you do? Actually, let me ask you this, would you rather be in a King Air or its counterpart, the Mitsubishi MU-2.
The answer to ‘what would you do?’ is a really hard answer. There isn’t a right or a wrong answer, but it pays dividends if you know what your airplane will do for you. Flight Safety understands the responsibility a King Air pilot has. You’ll have a hard time finding more King Air knowledge under one roof. Given an emergency situation in the simulator, I got the chance to make a decision and respond. I got to see the result of my actions while in the safety of an air-conditioned facility safely anchored on the ground. Then I could benefit from advice my trainer gave me and try it all again to see if I could get a better result. Not only was I gaining new knowledge about a plane I flew on a regular basis, I was immersed in the experiences that are found only at certain moments … when you least expect (or, want) them.
As a pilot, I see that knowledge base and experience as low hanging fruit for the picking! To help identify the fruit your diet needs, the trainers at Flight Safety want you to ask questions. They build your learning experience around your skill level and the daily challenges you face. I can guarantee that if you take this training you’ll be handsomely rewarded with a relationship that you have never had before with your King Air. So, you don’t fly a King Air? My apology. But, I’m willing to bet that there is a Flight Safety program for your bird, too. This training is worth getting up at 5 am.
Meredith and her Dad at the University of Illinois!
My father earned his pilot’s license right after graduating from college. He flew for a couple of years, even with my mom, but once my sisters and I were in the picture, his flying time gradually decreased. However, now that my sisters and I are all grown up and most of our college expenses and two weddings are behind him, he decided to start flying again. He was recertified last year and joined a great group of people at the Leading Edge Flying Club at Chicago Executive Airport (but my dad says he will always call it Palwaukee). Through the club he has made a number of friends—friends who often are willing to fly with him whenever possible. I have been lucky enough to fly with my dad several times, and have really come to enjoy it. Whether it’s a trip to visit the University of Iowa, have lunch with a family friend in Madison or just flying to Janesville to have my favorite biscuits and gravy, I really enjoy that time together in the air. Now that I am a student at the University of Illinois in Champaign, my dad has flown down a few times for football games and to visit. Most recently he offered to pick up my roommate and me in one of the club planes at the start of winter break. I knew that we wouldn’t all fit in the Archer that he normally flies, so it was pretty cool when he showed up in a Piper Dakota with another club member and flight instructor, Al Waterloo. It turns out that my dad is trying to get checked out in the Dakota and so he asked Al if they could use the flight to Champaign as a check-ride. Since Al loves to fly whenever he can and he graduated from the University of Illinois, which is also where he earned his pilot’s license, he was pretty excited to make the flight. Although I wasn’t sure if the plane would hold all of our stuff, it swallowed up everything and all of us just like a scheduled airliner (OK- a very small airliner). As soon as we took off from Champaign we were in the clouds so I got to see my dad get his first experience with flying in IMC. About halfway home my dad and Al figured out that we could get on top of the clouds so we climbed up and broke through into a beautiful sunny day! Flying on top of the clouds was an amazing experience and getting to share that with my roommate while my dad was flying was something I will never forget. I look forward to our trip back down to Champaign and many more trips in the future!
Watch our flight home here! : Champaign to Chicago!
P.S. We were not able to fly back down to Champaign yesterday (1/13/13) because of icing conditions in the clouds. I guess not even the Dakota and Mr. Waterloo are enough if Mother Nature isn’t cooperating.