The Lear is a much-better-handling airplane in the air. The Cheyenne is heavy on the controls; the Lear is well-balanced and delightful. I find it easier to taxi the Cheyenne, but I am getting better at the jet, which can be pretty sensitive to a heavy-footed novice. The Cheyenne cockpit is easier for entry, as there is a much smaller pedestal, and it doesn’t come all the way back between the seats. Oh, yes, did I mention that the Lear is twice as fast, flies twice as high, burns almost twice as much fuel and is a jet?
I’ll leave the Connecticut River float trip for Jason’s first book of memoirs, but suffice it to say it was quite the transportation warp. There are no hibachis in turboprops or jets that I know of.
The next morning we set out for Providence in the Cheyenne. I walked Jason through the engine starts and was secretly pleased that he looked about as perplexed as I feel when he lets me fire up the Lear. As we taxied out for takeoff, a furry animal the size of a cat crept across our path. I was tempted to ask the tower if it was a groundhog or a beaver, but I refrained. Jason soon had us gliding away toward KPVD like he was born in the airplane. We did note that altitude capture isn’t as slick as in the Lear. We were assigned a clearance that would add about 15 minutes to our trip, according to the Avidyne. Since I was responsible for getting us to the airport with plenty of time to prepare the jet for our passengers, I was concerned. Just then Alan popped up on Boston Center. He’s a Flying magazine reader, and we’ve talked before. I asked if he could work out a shorter route, and he responded with, “Cleared direct Providence, contact Bradley approach.”
Thanks again, Alan.
Our return trip in the jet was routine for Jason and exciting for me. There was weather, but we mostly looked down at it from 43,000 feet. We did do a few minor deviations, though, and our astute pilot passenger noted, “You guys have to deviate just like the rest of us.”
He was so right. In the Cheyenne it would have been a long and “deviant” flight.
The KMCO-KPIE leg was mine, and I did better at speed control below 10,000 and hand-flying the airplane. It really is a joy. I lucked out on the crosswind landing near a thunderstorm, and we just got the covers on before the rain started. Some weekend.
Jason sent me the following critique: “The Cheyenne has an overhead panel, and plenty of extra switches and gauges. In the Lear, I feel as if I am wearing the airplane. The cockpit is tight and difficult to maneuver into, but, once seated, you feel as if you are planted behind the wheel of a sports car. The Cheyenne offered an easier ingress & egress but felt much more upright, as if sitting behind the wheel of a delivery truck. (Ouch!)
“Starting the PT6s was an exercise in juggling switches, condition levers and the monitoring of the 10 engine gauges on the panel. I am used to throwing a switch into ‘START’. On takeoff, I forgot that I wasn’t flying a jet with DEECs, and setting the power was a careful exercise in not over-torquing the engines and maintaining directional control. Although it sounds simple enough, both were clearly a challenge for me.
“The control pressures on the Cheyenne felt like that of driving a Mack truck. (Ouch again!) I am accustomed to the Lear going exactly where you place the yoke, and doing so instantly. Flying a plane that will lose ‘100 feet per sneeze’ when hand-flying to the hefty forces required on the Cheyenne was an eye-opener.
“I am also used to the slick KFC3100 autopilot on the Lear 31A. It does exactly what it is asked to do. The Cheyenne’s autopilot wasn’t bad, but it required a little bit of encouragement to level off at the assigned altitude. I was also not used to pressing ‘ARM’ when selecting a new altitude. The KFC3100 assumes this when you dial in a new flight level.
“On approach, when you volunteered to ATC that we could maintain 170 knots to the marker, I was surprised. (Pleasantly so.) I had not expected the Cheyenne to be able to fly near jet speeds in the terminal area and on the approach. I was impressed.
“I discovered that I did a mediocre job of flying a single-pilot airplane with a two-pilot crew. I have clearly been spoiled over the last six years flying in two-crew environments. I honestly couldn’t imagine going back to a single-pilot cockpit again, at least not in any kind of airplane of complexity. I loved the vast array of information readily available in the Cheyenne. I had a beautiful EADI, EHSI, flight director and speed/altitude tapes. I had a moving map with traffic/weather information in my face at a glance.
“To sum up, I was greatly humbled by my experience in the Cheyenne. I was a guy wearing four bars sitting in the left seat, feeling like a new student pilot taking his first lesson in a 152. I hope I get to do it again in the future.”
And we shall.