Yingling has an avionics and propeller overhaul shop, and complete custom interior replacement capability. It builds and installs the Oasis interior for the Cessna Caravan turboprops that are destined for executive or charter operations, so it has accumulated a great deal of experience in customizing Cessna cabins. Because of the high degree of required disassembly for the SID inspections, it is cost-effective to have the avionics and interior upgraded on your Conquest at the same time.
So far the SID program at Yingling has uncovered only a few cracks, but almost always there is at least some corrosion that must be dealt with. Often Cessna engineers drive around the runway to look for themselves at the problem areas and work with Yingling to develop an appropriate repair. For example, the day I visited Yingling technicians had found an area of metal where the bond had failed on a 425 nacelle. The metal in that area is steel, not aluminum, because it is part of the firewall aft of the engine. Cessna engineers were working on a fix for that specific problem, which had not been expected.
It had been many years since I last flew a Conquest II. The newest airplanes were built in 1986, but the majority are several years older, with the first Conquest II turning 30 years old now. To remind myself of why these airplanes are so special and in such demand, Yingling offered me the left seat of their own 441.
The airplane is a delight to fly with pleasant control feel and excellent stability. There are absolutely no surprises in its flying qualities. But what impresses most about the 441 is its performance. At a mid weight the airplane climbed to 23,000 feet going up at 2,000 fpm all the way despite air temperatures aloft that were several degrees warmer than standard. In cruise it topped 300 knots true airspeed on only 500 pounds per hour of fuel flow total. And because the Garrett 331 engines are so efficient, altitude change does little to fuel flow. A move up or down changes fuel flow only about 10 to 15 pounds per hour total, so when the winds are strong up high you can fly lower without a punishing fuel penalty.
Flap and gear extension speeds are very high so the 441 mixes easily with jet traffic. And the fixed-shaft Garrett turboprops respond promptly to power changes without the lag of a free turbine engine, so airspeed control is a snap. Best of all, the Conquest has trailing link landing gear that makes you look good. Even though it had been 15 years since I last flew a 441, the landing was a greaser.
Far from ending the life of the Conquests, the SID program is going to do just the opposite and extend it far into the future. At this point there is no airplane in development that can do what these do for the price and operating cost, so owners are refusing to give them up. And Yingling's vast experience with the breed guarantees there will always be a place to make the airframe as strong and reliable as when it was new.