The dream of touring in a turboprop of one’s own is not so far-fetched as it may seem. Words Colin Goodwin and photos Philip Whiteman.
Usually ‘Old Timers’ wins it, but sometimes I delay the pleasure of reading Peter R March’s words and skip to my second-favourite section of Pilot: the dreaming department − specifically, the regular advertisements placed by Plane Trading and AT Aviation.
My whole life has been spent poring over classified advertisements in car magazines, dreaming and scheming and carrying out complicated man-math calculations.
Nowadays, since being bitten by the aviation bug, the time spent dreaming of lottery wins has doubled. Poring over aircraft for sale ads is even more riveting than car classifieds because there’s a lot more to buying an aeroplane than a car. For starters, my driving licence allows me to drive anything from a Smart ForTwo to a McLaren 720S−anywhere, anytime, and in any weather.
The cost of servicing a Ferrari, of course, is more than it is for a Ford but the difference is not as ridiculous as it is between a Piper Cub and a Beech King Air. But it’s more complicated and fascinating than that. The pros and cons of one particular aircraft versus another are more subtle, and require more research and use of a calculator.
Now I am in the left-hand seat it is time to pay much closer attention to the checks and explanations. The general environment is very familiar. Even those who’ve flown Piper’s more modest products, like Saratogas, will feel at home.
With a list each, Phil runs me through the checks. They’re split into groups with Cabin first, which is very logical and covers items such as checking for three greens, flap position, annunciator panel, stall warner − only the check for oxygen contents and pressure are unfamiliar. Most of the items headed ‘Before Engine Start’ are obvious with only a bit about bleed air concerned with the Pratt & Whitney PT6A turbine.
We need at least 23.5 volts for the engine start which is why Greenhalgh was very thorough shutting down after our arrival. You can’t hand swing a turboprop even if your nickname is Popeye. The start itself isn’t fully automated because once I’ve hit the button Greenhalgh will be moving the red Condition Lever. He’ll push this forward when the Ng gauge reads above 13%.
The next line in the list is printed in red ink and warns that ignition should occur within ten seconds and that ITT (Interstage Turbine Temperature) should not go above 1,000ºC for more than five seconds. The next section is headed Aborted Engine Start and is also in red ink. Presumably any cock-ups in these areas will cause Greenhalgh’s bank account to flame out.
Although Phil has a full IR, to fly the Meridian he’s had to do an additional ground examination on high performance aircraft (HPA) and also a type rating for the Piper PA-46 M500TP Meridian. Both the HPA exam and Type Rating were straightforward and not too time consuming to add to his collection of certificates. He did both with Oysterair.
Aside from the fact that we’re flying IFR so there’s far less decision making, the Meridian isn’t so fast, at least at low level, that I can’t keep up. Climbing to our target cruising altitude of FL170 we’re covering the ground no faster than my RV-7 would be−slightly slower in fact.