Airplanes I Have Flown

"Moderation is the last refuge for the unimaginative", Oscar Wilde

Cessna 182Q Skylane N20872

This is the plane I'm training for my Private Pilot's License on. It's a sturdy beast, and has much better performance than the 172. It also qualifies as high performance based on horsepower, and has a variable pitch prop, so there's a little more to learn than in a 172. I rent the plane from the local flying club for $90 odd dollars an hour. I include that figure here because I'm sure someday it will seem cheap. Right now it doesn't!

Control forces on the 182, particularly for pitch, can be fairly heavy compared to a 172. This is a well-known attribute of the craft, but takes some getting used to for the new pilot. The secret is to make sure the plane is always well-trimmed.

I recently bought a book that I've really enjoyed called, "The Skylane Pilot's Companion", by Richard A. Coffey. It chronicles one man's experiences with his Skylane in a semi-literary way. There's a lot of cases where he gets a tad too flowery and worked up about it, but for the most part it is a good introduction to what it's like to fly a Skylane around the country a lot.

Cessna 172 Skyhawk N13675

Inevitably, the opportunity to fly the ubiquitous Cessna 172 will arise. There are just so darn many of them around for one thing.

I find the 172 to be a delightful craft in which to pursue the $100 hamburger. It's cheap, roomy enough for two large fellows (you get that way after enough of those hamburgers), and is generally pretty nice to fly. Controls are much lighter than the 182, making this plane seem more like a decent sedan than a pickup truck. I can't wait to try something with really nice handling like a Tiger!

Cessna 206 Turbo Stationair N93TE

I just got a short ride around the pattern in this plane. Upon first sight, it appears to be a somewhat deformed 172/182. It's as if someone just scaled up virtually every dimension. The handling of the plane is a tad heavy, but basically like the 182. In fact, if you are familiar with how the 182 is heavier than the 172, picture this plane being that much more heavy than a 182.

This particular plane was a really nice example: only 800 hours, pretty paint and leather interior, nice panel with Avidyne. The Avidyne map was interesting. It is apparently just a 486 running Microsoft Windows. For those who feared this would ever be used for reactors and airplanes, the day has come and it is in use. The display is really pleasing, looking almost identical to the real charts and less stylized than say a Garmin display.

With just two guys in it, this plane really had a lot of kick on the takeoff roll and climbed like a Banshee. I was very favorably impressed. It would make a great step up for the average Cessna pilot who wanted to haul more people. I still don't think you could fill all 6 seats, but you could carry 4 with lots of luggage in comfort.

Piper Navajo CR N111EF

What a great plane! My buddy owns one of these so I actually get to play with it on occasion. It is the perfect aircraft for someone who wants to travel in the plane with family and not just use it for a $100 Hamburger. For an epic Navajo yarn read my trip report to Seattle or see my Month of Living Dangerously where I flew all around Mexico and the Caribbean for a Month. You can also read my report in the "Airplanes I Covet section" here.

The Navajo is not so difficult to fly compared to a Cessna 182. It feels bigger and heavier, and responds a little more slowly. For takeoff, you want to shoot for blue line (Vmc), which is optimum climb and takeoff speed before rotating. On this plane that's about 110, which feels a little fast. Approach is at about 120, and other than being faster, it feels again like the C182. It's a little harder to get used to the flare and you will arrive before you think you should because you sit so much higher than in a 182.

Like any twin, the difficulty in flying the Navajo, and the reason why you need a lot of hours to be proficient, is in the emergency procedures. My pilot friend says the thing to do is to line up on final and feather the remaining good engine for a dead stick landing rather than trying to horse it in on one engine. The asymmetrical thrust is just too brutal. In addition, we learned the hard way that you can't taxi on one engine. You'll just go around in circles no matter what you try to do.

Piper Cheyenne IIIa N637KC

Okay, I didn't fly it. But I sat in a couple times and did lots of calculations to try to figure out how to afford a 1/3 share in this bird. Before the stock market totally crashed in 2001, there was talk of me going in with my Navajo friend and his Navajo partner on this plane. It is such a perfect step up from the Navajo, and seems infinitely nicer than the Beech King Air. The Beech looks dowdy and ungainly by comparison to the sleek Cheyenne, and the performance figures bear that out. My Navajo friends flew down to Palm Dessert in it and clocked 335 knots with no trouble. The owner was fond of making trips to New England with 1 fuel stop, and even flew over to Europe. All this in a plane that is really no hairier to fly than the Navajo, and much more reliable owning to turbine power. Read all about it in the Airplanes I Covet report on the Cheyenne.

You can bet I'll be thinking about this one again when I make my next killing and the markets come back!

All material 2001-2006, Robert W. Warfield.