Flying a light jet hadn't been on my radar. But when Tom Torti offered me a spin in his Citation Mustang, I couldn’t refuse. With a couple of exceptions, I had never really flown a smaller jet, the 727 being my first jet. The opportunity to compare notes with the 777 seemed like a great idea. The 641,000-pound max gross weight difference made the idea even more interesting.
Although my critics may disagree, I am not a “bigger-is-better snob.” (I stand at 5 feet 8 inches and own a slow, single-engine airplane.) That being said, I will acknowledge that an airplane bigness rivalry does exist. The rivalry provides great fodder for hangar flying discussions. And at the FBO where I keep my airplane, fodder is free-flowing.
Rather than point out the obvious, Tom drew attention to the nuances of the light jet. The first highlight of the preflight inspection was the wing illumination light, its primary purpose to determine ice buildup at night. The interesting fact was that Cessna had installed the light only on the left side. If ice became visible on the left wing, the obvious deduction was that the same status existed on the right wing. But what if the light failed? We pondered the issue for a moment and shrugged our shoulders.
Next on the inspection list were the forward baggage compartment doors. As a safeguard for inattention, the system was designed to annunciate a message on the cockpit display every three cycles even if the doors had been properly latched. Considering that the jet was designed for one pilot, overlooking an unlatched door was certainly a possibility. Although innovative, the latch warning system would be lost on a 777; the cycling of all doors is an every-flight occurrence.
When Tom pointed a finger at the AOA (angle of attack) vane, I anticipated a systems similarity with the 777. The 777 has an AOA indicator in the cockpit. If all reference to airspeed is lost, the indicator can assist in maintaining a maneuvering speed for the appropriate phase of flight. But the Mustang has no direct AOA display. The vane sends a signal to the green “donut” on the airspeed tape of the PFD. The donut indicates stall speed for the current configuration.
I trotted over to the right fuel tank, noting the total capacity. A lively discussion began about differences in fuel burn. Ballpark numbers were bantered about. Later, I did some rough calculations. The Mustang fuel capacity: 386 gallons. The 777: approximately 45,200 gallons. The Mustang consumption rate: approximately 1.2 gallons per minute. The 777 consumption rate: approximately 37 gallons per minute.
Stopping just forward of the empennage, I surveyed the inlet and exhaust of the air-conditioning system. I inquired as to the utilization of engine bleed air to power a pack system. No such thing. The system is strictly electric with the capability of operating through engine power or ground power. Engine bleed is used only for the deicing boots. The 777, of course, utilizes the airliner standard of two separate pack systems accessing engine bleed air or APU air to heat and cool the cabin.
Walking behind the right wing, I noted the spoiler. The Mustang spoilers are used primarily for rapid descent purposes with minor effectiveness as a deceleration tool on landing rollout. They aren’t integrated with the ailerons as an additional roll control device. As with most transport category airplanes, the 777 spoilers are an integral part of almost every aspect of flight control.
As we neared the tail, Tom reached up and patted the Pratt & Whitney engine nacelle. I marveled at the compact size of the power plant. It weighed only 300 pounds. Tom gracefully took the chiding that followed. I indicated that the 777’s APU alone would provide enough thrust for the Mustang. Thrust of the Mustang’s PW615F: 1,460 pounds. Thrust of the 777’s Rolls-Royce Trent 892: 90,000 pounds.
Tom smiled in resignation. He asked, “Do you have a Conair hair dryer in your bathroom?” I nodded with a grin. Tom said, “Well … same thing.”