Thinking of moving up from one fan to two? Sometimes, the mystery — and old wives tales — surrounding multiengine flying can be enough to scare off a pilot from the transition. In this month's Eye Of Experience, AVweb's Howard Fried dispels many of the myths about light twins and answers reader questions about them. Even if you're not thinking of
May 2, 1999
|About the Author ...
Howard Fried started flying with the Army Air Corps in WWII, where he
served both as a multi-engine instructor pilot and in combat piloting B-17s.
After a stint teaching sociology and on-the-air and management jobs in the
radio business after the war, he turned to teaching flying again full-time.
Over 40,000 general aviation hours later, he is still instructing
and running his own flight school. Along the way he administered over 4,000 flight tests
as a Designated Examiner until victimized by rogue FAA
He has authored two popular flying books aimed at student pilots and
instructors, Flight Test Tips and Tales and Beyond The Checkride, and a
series of audio tapes, Checkride Tips from
Flying's Eye Of The Examiner.
Reader Jerry Kurata requested a column on multiengine flying, and since I just a
few minutes ago got home from giving a refresher workout to a very good multiengine pilot,
I thought it would be a good time to comply with his request. By the bye, the guy I was
flying with is a much better pilot than I am. (Im just a tired old man who blunders
around the airspace.)
A Beech Model 58 Baron.
Paul, many years ago, was a chief flight Instructor at an active flight
school. Now, hes a very successful businessman who uses a Beech Model 55 Baron with
full deice equipment for business travel. He flys about 150 hours per year, and at least
three times a year he has me give him a refresher workout. Today, we did a bunch of
engine-out stuff I killed one on the takeoff roll, on climb-out, on short final, and we
did several landings with one caged, including a go-around with one set at zero thrust.
Reader Kurata posed several very valid questions that I will now attempt to answer.
The answer to this one is quite simple: It is only an illusion if done improperly. I
know, the statistics show that there are more fatalities in twins than in singles
proportionate to the number of hours flown, but I think the answer to that is also very
simple. During the first couple of hours of multiengine training, the student gets
acquainted with the airplane, and he/she learns where all the knobs and dials are located.
From that time on, the trainee never sees a time when everything is all working at once.
It is just one emergency after another until the student becomes smooth and proficient at
running the emergency procedures. Then he takes the checkride and gets the rating.
For the next six or eight years, he flies from point A to point B and all is well. Then
one day it isnt, and the pilot isnt ready for it. The consequence is a
disaster that we read about in the paper the next day. The solution to this problem is
also quite simple. Do what Paul does and get recurrent training regularly. Air carrier
pilots do it, and we in general aviation should too. In fact, we no doubt need it more
than the air carrier or charter pilots who are required to receive continuing training and
A Piper Apache like this one can be a better ME
trainer than newer light twins.
I believe there is another, psychological danger to flying a light twin. When a pilot
taxis out for takeoff in a single and does his/her run-up, if the pilot should get a six
hundred RPM mag drop he or she would turn around, taxi back and turn the airplane over to
a mechanic with instructions to "Fix it!" The same individual who has the same
thing happen in a twin is tempted to say to him/herself, "What the heck! Ive
got three more mags," and go right ahead and take off.
Another thing to watch for is overconfidence with respect to weather. The light twin
pilot may be tempted to tackle weather that neither he nor the equipment is capable of
Theres no right answer to this one. It is all up to the personality of the pilot
and his attitude toward flying, any flying single- or multiengine. Ive known
pilots with thousands of hours with whom I wouldnt fly and others of very limited
experience with whom I am quite comfortable. The careful pilot who knows and respects his
limitations and the machinery he operates is a safe pilot in a very short time. On the
other hand, the overconfident or timid pilot (being timid is just as bad as being
overconfident) may never acquire enough experience to be safe. (See my next column on
human factors in a few weeks.) So you see, there is no simple answer to that question. It
all depends on the attitude of the pilot and the quality of the training received.
Reader Kurata then goes on to say, "I started my training in a Seminole, but have
moved up to a Cessna 310, since this is closer to what I want to fly on trips." This
one I can answer. The Seminole, Duchess, and Seneca are terrible trainers. They are each
good airplanes for their own purposes, but as trainers they suck. None of the three have a
critical engine (or they have two critical engines, depending on how you look at
it) so it is impossible for the instructor to demonstrate the difference in Vmc with one
caged as opposed to the other (and in a 310 or Baron it is as much as six knots).
Mike Busch's T310, on the ramp at Monterey,
Personally, I think the tired old Apache is still the best multiengine trainer
available. Its performance is so minimal that when the trainee gets out of it and steps
into a 310 or a Baron, he has performance to spare. If they are trained to squeeze
anything at all out of an Apache, they will find the 310, Baron or Seneca series a snap to
handle in an emergency situation.
This, of course, is just my own opinion. We used (at my school) a Seneca I for training
for 17 years (after having had both an Apache and an Aztec as well as a Beechcraft model
95 Travel Air prior to that). Throughout this entire time I was unhappy. Finally, a few
months ago I bought an Apache for training and we rent a Seneca II for travel. This works
out quite well. The Seneca II with turbocharged engines is definitely not suitable for
training (cutting turbocharged engines is not recommended), but is a great go-places
airplane. With that airframe and its large rear door, you dont have to ask your
passengers to clamber over a bunch of seats they merely step in, almost like a
cabin-class airplane, and it yields respectable cruise performance with an economical fuel
Cessna's 337 Skymaster presents its own set of
Again an easy one to answer. The answer to this one is a resounding NO! They are
all good for the purpose the pilot requires at the time. I am often asked, "Do you
prefer a high-wing or a low-wing airplane, a single or multi?" My answer is that
Ive flown them with the wing on top, on the bottom, in the middle, and on both the
top and bottom, and as to preference, I only ask "What is it that I want to do
today?" I then prefer the airplane that will accomplish my specific mission the best.
As for ones to avoid, dont avoid any of 'em. I love 'em all. Every single production
airplane is good for the purpose for which it was built and will serve the pilot well if
it is treated properly.
There really are only two important points to consider in multiengine flying: one, the
pilot must thoroughly know and understand the systems in the airplane; and two, he must
know and apply the emergency procedures every single time, because if he doesn't,
the penalty is very severe. One day, he will die in a multiengine airplane! And these
procedures are not particularly difficult. But they must be accomplished smoothly and
rapidly, without undue haste. Remember that panic is the killer. Nothing is happening so
fast that you need to panic.
As is the case with any learning experience, taken one step (or one item) at a time, it
is not particularly difficult to become familiar with the using all the equipment the
airplane has to offer. If the airplane is radar-equipped, then the pilot should attend a
good weather radar clinic and learn how to properly interpret the information displayed on
the radarscope. With a Stormscope or StrikeFinder, reading the manual is sufficient. With
deice boots, the pilot must learn to restrain himself from exercising them too soon, or
their effect will be wasted. If we're dealing with a pressurized airplane, that system
must be learned. Each piece of equipment must be learned and understood, but taken one
piece at a time and in small bites, it is not difficult.
This question is closely related to the last one and is Mr. Kuratas final
question. In terms of flying them, there is no real difference. They all respond to the
immutable laws of nature, and they all operate by lift, weight, thrust, and drag. Mr.
Kurata goes on to ask, "I know the insurance companies make a big deal about it. My
insurer was willing to insure me on a CE-310 for a bit of change ($4,000/year), but would
not even consider insuring a pilot in a CE-340 until he had 1,500 hrs and 500 multi. Are
the planes that different? A T310 can fly as high as a 340 and as fast or faster. I guess
there is the pressurization system, but that does not seem too difficult. Other than that,
Cessna's 414 is considered a "medium"
First, we must understand that although the FAA sets the legal standard, the insurance
companies are the ones who really determine pilot qualifications, and they are becoming
more and more stringent. Not too many years ago and although I had never been in one, I
was added to the policies of both a BE60 (Beech Duke) and a Piper 601P (Pressurized
Aerostar) at no increase in premium. I doubt very much if that would be the case today.
As I mentioned earlier, the big difference is when you step into a cabin-class
airplane, particularly one with a complete environmental system. It becomes a lot more
complex, what with training for emergency descents, oxygen back-up, etc., not to mention
door seals, etc.
When I proposed to write this column in response to Mr. Kuratas post, my boss
here at AVweb, Mike Busch, with whom I very rarely disagree and for whom I have
great respect, okayed the project, but added that any column on multiengine flying should
"include a statement that any pilot who flies a twin without at least annual
simulator training at Flight Safety, SimuFlite etc. has a death wish." With this
statement I must respectfully disagree in part. I had that kind of training for the Cessna
Citation Initial Course (at Flight Safety International) and it was wonderful. But I
dont think it is necessarily appropriate for the operator of a light piston-powered
twin. For a jet, turboprop, or pressurized cabin class twin I agree with Mike, but for the
light twin I believe a good workout, again at least annually, in the airplane with a
knowledgeable flight instructor would serve the pilot better. (For another perspective,
check out Mike's article, Do
You Really Want A Twin? ) In any case, the key is to get
regular refresher training. This, again, is closely related to Mr. Kuratas last
Usual Boilerplate: If you have a comment regarding this column, please
post it here rather than sending it to me by direct email. That way others may benefit
from your input.