First impressions. The dreaded moment where you have 90% of your chance of leaving a long lasting image… or sour taste!
Well, a few days ago, I got my first impression of the new PC12NG.
First thought? -”Boom Baby!!”
Alright, all jokes set aside, the airplane just blew my mind. If the ground school gave me the impression that the airplane was a good performer, flying it just showed me how wrong I was… it is not a good performer, it simply is… amazing!
Sitting down in the right seat and getting the checklist out for the preflight I could feel the anticipation rising very quickly. Every item ‘checked’ on the list drew me closer to the moment so long awaited. Finally, I reach the ‘starter’ item on the checklist. -‘Engaged’ is the reply I get from my captain. Here we go… a sheer 1600 Horse Power roars to life not 4 feet from me… (ok ok, 1200 HP is the operational limit, but 1600 is the real deal!)
As a shudder goes through the airplane, passing right through my spine, I watch the engine instruments come to life, all indicating a start within the normal parameters. -‘Start Sequence complete’ I hear myself call. As we go through the After Start checklist and Before Taxi my mind races forward to the flight… will it go well? how will I do? can I handle it? Not long until I get my answers.
Programming the FMS takes the better portion of our time on the ground. It is very particular in the way it wants to be treated, and the slightest mistake means countless seconds or minutes trying to figure out where you went wrong and how to fix it. Finally the beast is tamed, and we make our first radio call…
-”Ground, good morning. Pulse Trainer 1, looking for our clearance and taxi instructions”
-”Pulse Trainer 1, Ground, good day. You are cleared to….”
The controler’s voice drones on as I wake myself up from my day-dreaming. Time for the ACTIONNNNN!
Finally. I see the numbers and the lines on the runway line up with the nose of the airplane. -”You have control”. In this short sentence, my captain just gave me total control over a 3M $ airplane I have never flown before, with a 1200HP waiting to answer to my every commands.
Here we go…
-”Set Take Off power”. -”Take Off power set. Speed alive… Rotate.”
— Insert the song ”Elevation” from U2 right about here– 😀
Wow this thing wants to fly. Heck, it wants to go ballistic! Apparently I don’t know what a rudder is. (Flight instructor thought I was having trouble keeping the airplane centered on the runway… my habits from flying a multi-engine airplane didn’t prepare me for that one…). The engine torque is so powerful that it starts dragging the airplane to the left, more and more. Only a strong response from the pilot will keep it in leash. And up we go!
The first flight is all about familiarization. I must say, the airplane may act all rough and tough, but inside its a real softy. It wants to share the experience with the pilot in every way, and remains extremely docile while offering a lot of potential. Steep turns, stalls, some emergencies, and we are already on the way back to the airport. Now time for the real work… Instrument Flying, approaches, and… no… no… not the HOLDS!
But hey, its a PC12NG! Its advanced avionics render the ever-forsaken job of entering/maintaining a hold a laugh, the FMS (Flight Management System) taking care of all the calculations. No more wind correction, no more speed calculations, no more frying your brain trying to decide the type of entry. I am in love! (word to my wife: Don’t be jealous, she has nothing on you!)
Upon landing, I get my first use ever of Reverse Thrust. The airplane comes to a halting stop and we veer off the runway onto the taxiway for the return to the hangar.
-”You have control” I announce to my captain. Company policy dictates the pilot in the left seat has to taxi. Bummer. Oh well, this gives me time to finalize the After Landing checklist.
As we shut down the engine in front of the big orange hangar, my mind is still soaring, high above, waiting for my body to come join it again…