We’ll be departing off of 35R and will be immediately under the shelf of the Tampa Class B airspace. “Be prepared to switch to the departure frequency quickly, ” Mike says. I nod. Of course. I depart KTPA in Tampa in our Cheyenne all the time. Naturally, we’ll contact the departure frequency, I think, not fully recognizing the difference between departing into Class B and departing into the airspace below Class B, where our airspeed will be limited to 200 knots and our altitude to 1,600 feet. No problem in the Cheyenne, but I am soon to find out how quickly these simple limits can be exceeded in a Lear.
I do manage to call ground and get a clearance and taxi permission. I am not accustomed to the callsign, though. With takeoff clearance, Mike wheels us onto the centerline and brings up the power, and we jump down the runway. With great ceremony I call out V1 and a millisecond later “rotate.” This all seems like a dream, as these are words I have spoken only in a simulator. Unfortunately, this proves to be my last involvement in the flight. Stunned, I sit there, watching the airspeed and altitude increase at a surreal rate. The next thing I know, Mike is acknowledging the tower instruction to call departure. I have totally missed the call. I look at Mike, who, I think, has just realized that he is in charge of a Lear 31 all by himself.
Minutes later, we’re vectored around to land on 27, and next thing I know, Mike has greased it on and we’re going to Columbia Air Services to pick up our passengers.
Mike shows me how to compute the weight and balance, and sends me out to the cockpit to enter the flight plan into the FMS. Once again, it is raining inside my glasses. In a few minutes, Mike will discover that I haven’t recomputed our takeoff speeds or set the bugs. He may be beginning to understand exactly how long a day this is going to be.
Our passengers show up. A delightful couple and a beautiful dog along with several plastic containers. By now I know who is in charge of stowing the luggage. More sweat. I have brought along some dog treats for the dog. My wife and I have a large yellow lab and I like dogs — I think the biscuits will be a nice customer service touch. This is before I understand how completely occupied I’ll be.
Loaded up, we taxi out, and, seconds later, we’re long gone. Too soon, we’re at Flight Level 410 doing 470 knots over the ground — twice as high and twice as fast as the Cheyenne, but the experience is way more than twice anything — it is in a way unbelievable, yet the instruments before me aren’t lying. As we climb out, Mike shows me that the outside air temperature is ISA plus 17, but once we get above 35,000 the temperature stays right at ISA. I conclude that there really is a tropopause, just like Martha King told me in that ATP course.