GEAR UP

A NEW JET PUTS A TRUSTED TUR­BO­PROP IN PER­SPEC­TIVE

Flying - - DEPARTMENTS - By Dick Karl

Com­par­isons: A new jet puts a trusted tur­bo­prop in per­spec­tive

OK, I’ve whined enough about the new jet. I’ve moaned about the speed-brake-spoiler fail­ure that oc­curs ev­ery time I get above Flight Level 300; about the fact that I will have to pay Williams for 150 hours per year on the en­gine pro­gram even though I won’t fly that much; about the ridicu­lous wait to get a let­ter of au­tho­riza­tion for flight in RVSM airspace (how much fuel is wasted in the United States wait­ing for these let­ters as jets fly low, burn­ing lots of jet-A?). Enough, al­ready.

How is it that some­body can be so lucky as to be born in this coun­try and to have en­joyed not one but two great ca­reers (can­cer surgery and Part 135 fly­ing), at least two great air­planes (Cheyenne I and this Pre­mier), be hap­pily mar­ried and live in fab­u­lous style and still com­plain? Get a grip. (On the other hand, hav­ing a jet doesn’t mean one can just ac­cept these com­pli­ca­tions with­out some com­plaint; you’d be easy pick­ings if you didn’t push back.)

Now that my wife, Cathy, and I have owned our Pre­mier 1 jet for seven months, I can be­gin to com­pare this air­plane to our pre­vi­ous ride, the 1980 Piper Cheyenne I that we owned for 17 years. Though I can’t claim to know the jet as in­ti­mately as the tur­bo­prop, there are some ob­vi­ous and some sub­tle dif­fer­ences.

Both the jet and the tur­bo­prop look, to me, im­pos­ing and stately on the ramp. The Cheyenne had those big PT6 en­gines, those shiny prop spin­ners and that ele­gant set of rear en­try stairs. I never tired of ad­mir­ing that air­plane. The jet is big­ger and has newish paint and sits up very high; the fuse­lage ap­pears to be al­most perched on the swept wing. The T-tail is mas­sive and more than 15 feet above the ground. Large sculpted in­den­ta­tions of the fuse­lage ad­ja­cent to the en­gines (for “area rule”) and the swept wing make me think that this air­plane was built for speed; drag was of lit­tle in­ter­est to Beechcraft. It does not look like a toy air­plane or a mini jet.

Get­ting go­ing was much quicker and easier in the Cheyenne. Check bat­tery power, turn on the fuel boost pumps, arm the ig­ni­tion and hit the starter, in­tro­duce some jet-A and you had just a few more steps be­fore you were ready to copy the clear­ance. The Pre­mier is a lit­tle like pre­par­ing the space shut­tle. Sev­eral trim sys­tems, fire­wall shut-off valves and fuel trans­fer switches must be checked be­fore you even con­tem­plate start­ing up. The start se­quence is easy though, and there is an elec­tronic check­list on the MFD once you get the gen­er­a­tors on­line. There is a ro­tary test for spoil­ers, flaps, stall warn­ing and stick shaker (and pusher), over-speed warn­ing, gear horn and

take­off-out-of-trim alerts. I like all this — it feels like a real hefty, se­ri­ous en­ter­prise.

Taxi­ing the Cheyenne was easy; asym­met­ric power and rud­der pedal in­put could turn you on a dime. The Pre­mier is more pon­der­ous, and the brakes are much more touchy, so it has taken me a while to get smooth on the ground.

Take­off in both air­planes is a demon­stra­tion of raw power. The Cheyenne was no slouch. Ro­ta­tion speed was 94 knots, and it would climb out at 1,500 to 2,000 feet a minute from a sea-level field with­out com­plaint. On the other hand, the Pre­mier will climb out at 5,500 feet per minute and doesn’t com­plain ei­ther.

Cruise al­ti­tudes in the Cheyenne were usu­ally in the mid-20s de­pend­ing on winds. These flight lev­els were good for al­most all weather. We were usu­ally above the clouds or be­tween lay­ers. At Flight Level 230, we’d be good for about 225 knots true air­speed and burn about 400 pounds of jet-A per hour (60 gal­lons). The Pre­mier is fastest in the high 30s but most ef­fi­cient at Flight Level 400 or 410, de­pend­ing on di­rec­tion. There we typ­i­cally see a true air­speed of 430 to 440 knots and burn about 840 pounds per hour (125 gal­lons). The jet flies al­most twice as high, twice as fast and burns about twice as much per hour. A re­cent flight from the North­east to Florida at Flight Level 400 gave me smug sat­is­fac­tion. The tops were 38,000 feet, it was rel­a­tively smooth above and the fre­quency was loaded up with air­lin­ers too heavy to climb above the mid30s. They com­plained vo­cif­er­ously about mod­er­ate to “very mod­er­ate” tur­bu­lence. Ha. I would not have made the flight in the Cheyenne — not be­cause I couldn’t, but be­cause none of my usual pas­sen­gers would have ap­proved of the ride.

It takes a while to ac­com­mo­date to the faster speeds and higher al­ti­tudes in the jet. Whereas I wouldn’t usu­ally lis­ten to the ATIS un­til 80 miles out in the Cheyenne, I find it pos­si­ble to get clear re­cep­tion up high in the jet even when 180 miles from the air­port. Hey, it will be less than 30 min­utes be­fore we land.

Pre­par­ing the jet for land­ing is slightly more com­pli­cated, mostly be­cause you might be as­signed a speed “in the tran­si­tion,” when the in­di­cated air­speed re­verts to knots from a Mach num­ber. Be­low 10,000 feet, the 250-knot speed limit was never a con­sid­er­a­tion in the Cheyenne, but it is in the jet. That said, the ap­proach speeds are very sim­i­lar (120 knots), and land­ing speeds close (95 to 105 knots in the Cheyenne, usu­ally 109 to 114 in the Pre­mier).

The Pre­mier has TCAS and will gen­er­ate RAs, or res­o­lu­tion ad­vi­sories. I’ve had three of these warn­ings, each at an un­con­trolled field while on the ap­proach. This has made me won­der how of­ten I’ve come close to an­other air­plane in the Cheyenne while obliv­i­ous.

It is much easier to get a good land­ing in the Pre­mier, even with fewer than 100 hours of ex­pe­ri­ence, than in the Cheyenne. Cheyenne own­ers will talk for hours about best speeds, power and flap set­tings to ac­com­plish a smooth touch­down. With the Pre­mier group, the topic never comes up.

It is, how­ever, easier to slow the Cheyenne af­ter land­ing. Just drop those huge props into beta and let the air­plane set­tle. The Pre­mier has a lift-dump sys­tem that uses mul­ti­ple speed­brakes to in­crease brake ef­fec­tive­ness, but it still weighs 2 tons more than the Cheyenne and needs longer run­ways in gen­eral. There are some air­ports that used to be in play for us that have been deleted with the up­grade.

Taxi in ei­ther air­plane al­ways feels great. Both cock­pits sit up high. You are not in a Baron or a CJ. The mar­shal is down there with her ba­tons. In truth, both air­planes are in­tox­i­cat­ing to taxi, fly and own.

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