I start to look out the window and to savor this experience. We are way above the cumulus clouds that define summer in Florida. It is quiet. I take a deep breath, but before I can exhale, Mike points out that we’re only 200 nm away from Asheville and isn’t it about time to pick up the ATIS? What? 200 out? I can’t believe it, but at 470 knots, we’ll be there in less than a half-hour. Man.
I get the ATIS, struggle to get the approach into the FMS and brief the approach. Mike has done this a million times, and even though he’s figured out that he’s single pilot, he seems to be enjoying the trip. He sure is patient with me. I vow to be more patient with the next surgical intern I come across.
Mike briefs the turn-off taxiway that will deposit us right in front of the FBO. Jeez, that is pretty advanced thinking for this first officer. Soon we’re on the ILS, and I notice that our airspeed varies by maybe a knot from our Vref plus 5. One thing is for sure: I am going to learn a lot about flying from Mike Bronisz.
Now, you are wondering if I could land this thing if something happened to Mike. My cautious answer is “yes,” and I bet it wouldn’t be that bad. Like any other craft, aviation is part book learning, part experience and part passion. At the moment I can claim two out of three.
Mike greases us on again. We taxi into the waiting arms of the line guys, and before I can get unhooked from my seat belt, an SUV pulls up. I manage to open the door without falling out (a major peril for novice Lear pilots). To make myself useful, I head to the back to wrestle the luggage out to the waiting line guys. One thing I never learned from flying my own airplanes is how much a Lear crew is dependent on the line crew; from coffee to baggage to a quick turn, my first day at work made me a better tipper.
As our passengers disappear around the corner, I place the tail stand in the proper location and affix the pitot covers. I close and lock the Raisbeck locker. I’m exhausted.
Once in the FBO I enjoy being in uniform. It reminds me of my first day in the Army when I put on my captain’s uniform for the first time. I feel like standing a little taller. Dehydrated, I consume about 3 gallons of water and a few hot coffees despite the ambient temperature that pushes 90 degrees F. In a little while we’ll take the van ride over to the terminal and begin our 6½-hour trek to retrace what we just did in an hour and four minutes.
But wait. Mike is on the phone with our dispatch folks. There is a chance we may deadhead the Lear back to KPIE. Instead of arriving at Tampa across the bay from PIE at 10:30 at night, we may take our private jet right back to our waiting cars in time for dinner. Next month I’ll tell you how it turns out and what the education of one FO is really like.