Flying With the Kings

My return flight from AirVenture was a terrific learning experience.

Flying with the Kings

Flying with the Kings

Last week's AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was a big treat. As I've come to expect after years of attending, the show was filled with new exciting aviation products and every imaginable airplane type. And there was plenty of opportunity to learn new things at the forums and seminars. As I've also come to expect, the week presented the usual range of weather conditions, from extreme heat to a pretty intense thunderstorm that flipped at least one airplane and damaged several signs and tents. I had the pleasure of being stuck in a Port-O-Let – a sizable restroom trailer - for about 15 minutes while the storm raged outside.

It was a great week, and while I was sad to leave I was excited about the mode of transportation for my return. I was flying back with John and Martha King in their Dassault Falcon 10. Our Saturday morning departure out of Appleton’s Outagamie County Regional Airport presented deep blue, mostly clear skies.

We were a total of six people in the airplane that day, and having spent the better part of the week at Oshkosh, we all had heavy bags. Yet even with full fuel, we apparently had the capability of adding an additional 2,740 lbs of people and stuff to the airplane. This is one of those rare airplane types that allow you to fill the seats and cargo areas without being maxed out on weight.

As John walked me around the airplane, he explained that, at Mach 0.87, the Falcon 10 is the second fastest business jet after the Cessna Citation X (once it achieves full certification, the Gulfstream 650 will be even faster than the X). In addition to the powerful Garret turbo-fan engines, the severe sweep of the wings and vertical stabilizer of the Falcon 10 help with its high-speed capability. Another factor that aids the speed is that the wings are very thin, but with the leading-edge slats and up to 52 degrees of flaps deployed, the resulting curve of the wing enable benign approach speeds, John explained.

With the airplane’s range capability, we could have made it from Appleton to San Diego in one leg, but the Kings decided to split up the legs to give their senior vice president of marketing and technology Barry Knutilla, who is also typed in the airplane, a leg as well.

I was in the side-facing seat right behind the cockpit to get a good look view during the departure. I was impressed with the professional communications between Martha and John in the cockpit as they briefed the departure and made sure the airplane was configured properly. As we taxied near the approach end of the runway, Fifi (the B-29 Super Fortress bomber) came in for a perfect three-point landing – a last indication that we were leaving the Mecca of aviation.

We were cleared for takeoff and Martha pushed the throttles forward to spool up the Garrett engines. The power was impressive and I had to hang on to my seat during the ground roll so that I wouldn’t slide too far aft against the seatbelt.

Generally below 10,000 feet the airspeed is kept at 250 knots indicated in the climb, but with all the AirVenture traffic in the area the Kings wanted to get high as fast as possible, so Martha initially targeted 200 knots and the Falcon responded by climbing at nearly 6,000 fpm. Above 10,000 feet, we were at 300 knots indicated. At 20,000 feet we were still climbing at 2,500 fpm with a true airspeed of 430 knots, and this was a warm summer morning with ISA+15!

Our final altitude was FL340. We were cruising at 505 knots (or 0.86 Mach) and made it to Wichita in 1.5 hours. The second leg ended up being 2.5 hours. The same trip took me two long but enjoyable days in the Cessna 170 a few years ago.

The high-speed capability of the Falcon 10 was truly impressive, but I was shocked to learn that the approach speed is about on par with many piston twins. Martha’s targeted speed for the approach was 106 knots and this slow speed capability enables the Kings to land their Falcon at Montgomery Field (KMYF), which has an available landing distance of about 3,400 feet with the displaced threshold on Runway 28R.

Flying back from Oshkosh with the Kings was a treat, not only because the flight was efficient and comfortable, but also because I was flying with people who are friends and kindred spirits. And, as would be expected while flying with a couple of legendary pilot educators, I learned a ton from the flight.