Eye of Experience #14:
Flying the Light Twin Safely

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Thinking of moving up from one fan to two? Sometimes, the mystery ó and old wives tales ó 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

Eye Of ExperienceReader 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. (Iím just a tired old man who blunders around the airspace.)

A Beech Model 58 Baron
A Beech Model 58 Baron.

Paul, many years ago, was a chief flight Instructor at an active flight school. Now, heís 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 ó 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.

Why Get A Multiengine Rating Since The Safety Of Multiengine Flying May Be An Illusion?

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 isnít, and the pilot isnít 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 regular checkrides.

A Piper Apache
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! Iíve 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 handling.

Just How Much Time Does It Take To Be Safe?

Thereís no right answer to this one. It is all up to the personality of the pilot and his attitude toward flying, any flying ó single- or multiengine. Iíve known pilots with thousands of hours with whom I wouldnít 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.

What Make And Model Of Airplane Is Best To Use For Multiengine Training?

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 C-T310
Mike Busch's T310, on the ramp at Monterey, Calif.

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 donít have to ask your passengers to clamber over a bunch of seats ó they merely step in, almost like a cabin-class airplane, and it yields respectable cruise performance with an economical fuel burn.

Any Models People Should Avoid, Etc.?

A Cessna 337
Cessna's 337 Skymaster presents its own set of challenges.

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 Iíve 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, donít 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.

So How About Operating All That Equipment In A Twin, Ice Gear, Radar, Maybe Speed Brakes, Etc.?

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.

What Is The Difference In Flying A "Light Twin" (Which Really Doesnít Seem That "Light" To Me) And A Larger Twin, Such As A Cessna 340?

This question is closely related to the last one and is Mr. Kurataís 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, whatís different?"

A Cessna 414
Cessna's 414 is considered a "medium" twin.

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.

Sim Training And Recurrency

When I proposed to write this column in response to Mr. Kurataís 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 donít 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. Kurataís last question.


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.