By the time the vane ring ($7,900 — the price of a fine used motor boat) and an “I.E” duct, whatever that is, ($3,714 — the price of a week’s high-end small boat luxury cruise) were totaled up with everything else, the parts were $37,531. Oh, and if I wanted those parts installed, the labor was an additional $8,370.
On time and on budget, the airplane was returned to service, and we took off from Tampa, Florida, for Delaware on our first flight. The left engine started just like it used to, hotter than the right one. At altitude, the left engine burned a little hotter than the right one — just like it used to. It also burned slightly more fuel. I did not conclude from these measurements that I had erred in getting a hot section. I chose a different take-home message: I came away with renewed and profound respect for the turbine engine and the PT6 in particular. It is said that, if you can start them, they will not fail. This is a little disingenuous because PT6s can provide excitement (very infrequently), but it is rarely the engine itself that fails. Rather some item bolted to the engine, like a fuel control unit or starter generator, causes the trouble.
When it comes to the maintenance of my own personal machinery, I’ve wrestled with screening tests and preventive medicines. I have been reluctant to start taking statins (like Lipitor) because I think they are most useful in people with high risk for heart attack and stroke (smokers, hypertensives, etc.). I am very aware of the “this can’t possibly happen to me” syndrome, but the recent, relatively arcane, news that there may be some association between statins and Type II diabetes caught my attention. In an effort to lower my LDLs (low density lipoproteins — the bad cholesterol — just remember L stands for lousy), would I increase the likelihood of diabetes?
The controversy about surveillance for prostate cancer is a topic dear to every man’s heart. A recent study showed no evidence in randomized trials of net benefit of screening. The accompanying editorial pointed to overdiagnosis and overtreatment prompted by elevated PSAs (prostate specific antigens). As one urologist friend of mine said, we may have put more men in diapers than we’ve cured of the disease.
When it comes to the human borescope, though, I am all for it. Colonoscopy has been shown repeatedly and definitively to reduce the chance of death from colon cancer. Much as I enjoy the prep for this test, I reason that it is better than wearing a bag in the future. If you are over 50, get one.
Late in my flying career, I have learned about and flown airplanes even more competent than my own turboprop. My recent experience as a Lear 31A first officer has acquainted me with speeds of Mach 0.81 and altitudes of Flight Level 450. This is about twice as fast and twice as high as a Cheyenne. But the fuel burn is significantly greater in the jet, and the cost of ownership is commensurably higher. It is a magnificent experience to be sitting in the front seat of a machine capable of such wonderment. Don’t be misled: If I could afford it, I’d have a jet. Without the resources, though, our airplane is a privileged ride in its own right. I guess one could say that I have had my head turned, but I also know and am comfortable with my roots.
So, it seems that my airplane and I have drifted into a long-term relationship that may be longer than either of us expected. I have come to love the airplane, and, after 13 years of ownership and 1,700 hours in it, I have a sense of what to expect of its power and grace. Soon I will have owned this airplane longer than any other in my life. Now that we’ve added the Garmin G600 and Avidyne EX500, I can’t imagine parting ways. She’s good for 240 knots on 400 pounds (60 gallons) of jet-A per hour with a five-hour range. The interior is holding up very well, thanks to the fine work of Duncan Interiors, and the paint is good.
Just like me, we’re both running well. The price of fuel may curtail the amount of flying we do, but I am pretty sure that what flying I do will be in N2458W. I’d like to say that my physical appearance is approximating the airplane’s, but alas, there’s no good way short of plastic surgery to rearrange the lines on my face. In that respect, the dog is prettier than the owner. With a bit of luck, though, the airplane and I can have an immediate future filled with satisfaction, assuming I don’t require a hot section any time soon. Right now, I couldn’t afford it and I definitely don’t want to get split at the “C” flange.