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Aviation Safety


Dave Fry, WVFC CFI and Aviation Safety Counselor



I stand in front of the room that consists of a couple dozen uncomfortable folding chairs, half of them with people in them.  In the back of the room is a pot of bad coffee (which for me is a redundant concept) and inedible donuts.

Heart pounding, I open my mouth, “I’m Dave.”

“Hi, Dave,” they respond.

“And I’m an addict. “  It’s part of the formula; anything else would have been a surprise.

They nod and I continue, “Until two days ago I hadn’t had a fix in four years, seven months, and 6 days, but I’m an addict.  I got a fix yesterday and the day before, and I feel better than I have in years!”

The admission that I’ve yielded to my addiction brings frowns from some and understanding from others that have done the same thing – kind of.

My eyes glaze momentarily as I remember the feeling.  “The rush!  The feeling of being on the very edge of being able to control things as they happen so fast!  Oh, the feeling of near omnipotence as your perspective changes and you see things in a way few people ever get to see.  The jaw-dropping, tummy-tightening, breath-taking, heart pumping power and speed.”

I’m breathing a bit faster now, and they nod in understanding.  They think they’ve been there before and think they understand – but they haven’t been there and they don’t understand.  None of them really does.  I’m not even sure I do.  But I love it and have to feel it again.  That’s what an addiction is.

“I’m completely addicted to the feeling of power, the feeling of speed, and the feeling of stability even when I lose an engine …”

Puzzled, the moderator interrupts, “What are you talking about?”

“The Citation M2; I just flew a jet for the first time in years, and I’m in lust again!  I even got my type rating in it yesterday.”  With a deep sigh I admit, “I’m a jet junkie.  And I feel GREAT!”

And I do.

Stepping back into history, I’d had the good fortune to fly a couple of jets over a three-year period, a Citation VII (a two-pilot rocket ship) and a Citation Mustang (a plane almost as docile and forgiving as a 172 – you CAN get into trouble in one, but it takes a certain amount of talent).  Then a couple of weeks ago, after a LONG hiatus, I got a 0600 call from a friend (my Mustang instructor pilot) saying that he’d received a call from an M2 owner/pilot looking for an instructor/pro pilot to fly with, and asked if I would be interested.  I resisted the temptation to say, “Duh!”  I also (barely) resisted the temptation to place my arm behind my back up to my shoulder blades and say, “Twist my arm.”  But I did say, “Yes.”

The M2, confusingly, is NOT a Mustang 2; worse, this particular one has a painting of a horse on the tail.  I’m not sure what (if anything) marketing was thinking on this one, but the engineering guys got it right.  To be more accurate, a better name would be the CJ-1++.  It’s a CJ-1+ with a Gamin 3000 flight deck, which means a CE-525 type rating is required to fly the plane.

It takes a bit to get back into jet flying – they don’t behave the same as propeller planes.  They don’t even behave the same as turboprops.  In all the club aircraft, and even in the Pilatuses I fly, when you pull the throttle the three to six-foot Cuisinart on the front of the plane becomes a three to six-foot anchor and you either ease or slam into the shoulder harness.  In a jet, pull the power and very little happens, especially if you’re descending.  If you think “slow down, go down” is difficult in a plane with a propeller, try it in a jet.  In fact, with the normal 2000 foot-per-minute descents that ATC expects of jets, just keeping the speed from INCREASING during a descent can be a challenge.  Of course, the M2 has speed brakes that can be used for that purpose, but they’re kinda binary – they’re either all the way down or all the way extended.  It makes finesse as difficult as using a sledge hammer in place of a tack hammer for your craft or hobby projects.

That aside, there is a lot I was familiar with.  The M2 has the Garmin 3000 flight deck, which is pretty much a three panel G1000 (a PFD for each pilot and an MFD in the middle) driven by a pair of Garmin 750s with enhanced functionality.   So most of my getting back into “jet mode” consisted of getting reacquainted with the speeds involved.  With this one, it’s easy to exceed the max speed under Bravo (200 KIAS) during a CLIMB, and to exceed (easily) the max speed below 10,000 feet (250 KIAS)

And if the takeoff acceleration doesn’t slam you back into your seat like the Citation VII (and it doesn’t), it makes the start of any prop plane’s takeoff roll remind you of the speed with which a doctor backs the Mercedes out of the garage.  In other words, you can get WAY behind the airplane on a Standard Instrument Departure procedure, and bust an altitude or airspeed, or miss a waypoint without even trying.  

Having said that, like most airplanes, if you are mentally ahead of the plane, it will naturally and comfortably follow what you’ve planned for it.  The M2 has a very nice feel to it, and despite the fact that the yoke is mounted to the floor as it is in most Citations, it has largely the same feel as a 182 or 206 in terms of control pressures and feel.  The needle’s just a lot higher on the airspeed gauge at the time.  Steep turns, for example are done at about 72% power (250 Kts) at 10,000 feet.

Conserving the owner’s finances, my instructor had me do each of the required maneuvers once in the Bay Area, then the next morning we flew down to Victorville (just east of Palmdale, but without the ambience) for the check ride.  All type-rating check rides are to ATP standards, which mean ¼ scale deflection on the NAV and Glide Slope needles, and the flight portion is a glorified instrument check ride.  (The ground portion is heavily into the systems of the plane involved, plus the memory items, aircraft limitations – with a POH that’s more easily measured in pounds or reams than in pages, this can add up - and the normal Part 61 and Part 91 questions.) And so what if we practiced at Salinas and Half Moon Bay, and the check ride will have approaches at Victorville?  A runway is a runway, right?  All airports have them.  And an approach is an approach.  Are we to ignore that the altitudes are different?  That the missed approaches are different?  That the frequencies are different?  Minor details until you’re romping straight from one approach to the next, and barely have time to enter the next approach into the GPS, to say nothing of having time to analyze and brief an approach you’ve never seen before that morning.  Checklist?  What checklist?  Even for a jet-junkie, that amount of adrenalin is a bit extreme.

You’d think that with 18 prior check rides (not counting the ones for charter privileges) under my belt, that this would be old stuff, but it still makes the pucker-factor go pretty high on the scale.  Every time I go for a rating I can think of at least three ways in which I could mess up the flight part.

However, the real adrenalin came after the flight when another type rating appeared on my pilot certificate.  Not because of the new rating (which IS nice), but because I will be getting a jet-junkie fix a few times monthly.

I probably won’t even go back to the meeting – I’m a hopeless case, and cold turkey or gradual withdrawal, I’d far rather feed my addiction.

I’m a jet-junkie.