Like many Cirrus pilots, I often wondered what my next accomplishment in aviation would be. There were several options available but very few seemed thrilling. I could transition into a turbo prop single engine like the Piper or TBM, or get more out of my next endeavor and try a real jet. So a month ago I was speaking with Jack Boyd, one of our senior instructors, and he told me how he began doing his type rating in an actual Citation Mustang, not a simulator. That sounded interesting enough to me that I was just about ready to sign up on the spot. Jack really sold me on the idea by saying “By the way you don’t need to do the multi-engine rating on some cruddy twin airplane. Instead, you can do your multi and the type rating in the same check ride.” I was immediately hooked! We decided on the dates and agreed to do the course the last week of June.
Jack told me the cost would be substantial (around $25,000), but I have always believed that training is never a waste of money. A couple of weeks before, Jack gave me the manual describing all the systems of the airplane. The manual came in pdf format, which I later realized was a gargantuan publication of more than 700 pages! To my dismay, I was really busy in the days preceding the type rating course and did not dedicate much time to read the manual. That was a huge mistake! So, for everybody who wants to do the same kind of training I strongly recommend to start studying the systems manuals at least two weeks before. It will make everything much easier.
Day 1: Ground… Mode. Finally, the magic day had arrived and I began my training. The weather happened to be really ugly that day and we did 8 hours of ground training to start covering all the systems of the airplane. It didn’t take long to realize the difference between a single engine aircraft and a jet is similar to difference between a toy car and a real one…
Day 2: What have I done? The weather finally started to improve so we flew to Orlando to pick up the plane and fly it back to Fort Lauderdale. Upon arriving in Orlando I had my frist contact with the aircraft. I was literally overwhelmed by the overall size and complexity of the aircraft. Jack began to explain the preflight, which I missed about 90% of, and before I knew it the aircraft was ready to depart for FXE. We climbed up, got strapped in, and of course…the weather was rapidly deteriorating. I have only fragmented memories of the startup of the engine (Jack did most of the operations), but finally we started to taxi out. Being used to the Cirrus, it was difficult to stay on the center line in the Mustang. It was very sensitive and massive at the same time, though I managed to arrive to the holding point and prep myself for the take off. Just then, the rain started coming down in sheets, so I turned to Jack and asked, “Are you sure you want me to do the take off?” He replied, “Sure, no problem. I am on your controls.” I set the throttle to take off power and nothing happened… 5 seconds later I got the “kick”, the aircraft was pretty empty so the acceleration was impressive the hard part was to keep it on the centerline. As soon as we reached Vr we took off from Orlando immediately entering IMC, a Mustang is definitely not a Cirrus, it was way faster and it hardly shook. As for me, I was still completely overwhelmed and way behind the airplane on this flight. Even if I was familiar with the avionics, everything was slightly different and every action was in slow motion… I began to think that this undertaking was too difficult and this “idea” was one of the best ways to throw away a lot of money. I was really close to telling Jack to take the airplane back and that the type rating will never happen. Fortunately the airplane was faster than my train of thoughts and we quickly arrived over FXE. Jack said, “Now, you try to make the landing.” It was windy and gusting and I shouted, “Are you crazy, I have no idea how to land this thing!” He calmly replied, “Don’t worry. Try it and if you make a mistake I will correct you.” I have to admit I was scared to death, but in reality the airplane was very stable and I made quite a decent landing while compensating for the cross wind. After this experience I was exhausted and had a gigantic headache, so we called the rest of the day off. Jack went home, but as for me, I drove home and started studying the systems again…
Day 3: The light at the end of the tunnel… The weather was improving with scattered thunderstorms in the area and gusting winds. With my head full of numbers and devices we finally began with a real, first flight lessons for the type rating. The schedule called to perform some maneuvers, pre-stall configurations, rapid descents, and take off and landings with one engine. After a thorough preflight, this time I got all of the explanations, we started the engine and took off for our lesson. Jack filed an IFR flight plan in order to get some space for the maneuvers. Unfortunately, the majority of the training was very bumpy, in and out of the clouds, and with a significant thunderstorms limiting our range. The airspace was very congested, so Miami Control was very helpful in providing us with the space we needed. In the afternoon, after a quick break, we did another flight with the same program. Overall it was a very productive day. I was starting to become familiar with the aircraft and was getting used to the different positions of the avionics equipment. However, I was completely beaten up, the training drained all my energy, so we called it a day for Jack… and again, as usual, I drove home and started studying the systems… In reality, I didn’t study anything… At home, I checked my email and got a notification from the immigration department stating that they accepted my petition for the Green Card. I opened a mignon bottle of champagne and celebrated with my wife… no studying.
Day 4: Some spare time… The weather finally turned decent, the wind had dissipated, the sky was now clear, and there was a good chance it would hold till Sunday (the day of my check ride). The day’s itinerary was the same. We took off to do maneuvers and approaches: one precision with autopilot, another hand flown, and a third non- precision, all with one engine. I have to say, the Mustang is easy to fly with one engine. You have to remember when taking off to apply a LOT of rudder… I was starting to feel the airplane and I was really enjoying it. Its amazing how it responds and how fast and smooth it is. During one of the approaches, my overwhelmed sense started to become manageable, and at one point of the lesson I said to Jack, “It is amazing! I have three seconds of spare time… I am finally able to read the CAS message section!” (the CAS is the Crew Alerting System, an area in the MFD were the various alarms and notification are displayed). After two flights and some ground school, Jack scolded me saying, “Your memory items are horrible, you have to study more!” I promised I would focus more that night.
Day 5: I love this aircraft… Everything was perfect. Clear sky and no wind, so we started with the two usual flights, and I fell in love with this aircraft. Finally all the maneuvers were smooth, all the approaches were at the right speed, and I had a lot of time to look around! I was really amazed how quickly our minds adapt to new situations. I clearly remember my first flight in the Cirrus. Even with more than 800 hours I was completely overwhelmed by the experience, but after a few flights I was able to manage the aircraft easily. Now, it was the same thing in the Mustang. Its a lovely aircraft, massive, but sensible, fast and smooth. The engine management is easy, the FADEC makes everything simple, like any jet its better to not cut the engine too soon during the approach, and the power adjustments are small and progressive. At the end of two lessons all the maneuvers required for the check ride were covered and well understood and I was ready for Sunday’s test. My memory items were still a little foggy, so Jack suggested that I continue to study Saturday. The aircraft needed to be flown to Opa Locka so I was to make the short flight without any emergencies. I finally got a glimpse of how addicting it is to fly jet aircraft!
Day 6: Emergency Bus Items… On Saturday I rested in the morning and spent the entire afternoon with Marc Fontaine, who very kindly interrogated me again and again with all the memory items that I had to learn. The most difficult part was the 17 emergency bus items: “PFD1, COM1, NAV1, GPS1, ADC1, AHRS1, etc…” after four hours of banging my head against the wall I was able to perfectly memorize everything. With all the manuals having now been studied, all the systems mentally disassembled, all the maneuvers committed to muscle memory, I was finally ready for my check ride.
Day 7: The check ride… Needless to say, I did not sleep very much. I was too exited, and moreover Jack would not be present. It was just me, the FAA examiner, and the Mustang. The appointment was at Miami Executive at 10:00, and I was at the FBO one hour prior in order to prepare the airplane and get it hooked up with a ground power unit to cool it down. Finally, the examiner and I met and grabbed a study room, my theoretical exam had begun. We covered almost all of the systems and discussed the emergency procedures. Several questions were on the memory items, but after all the studying I was able to answer quite easily. After the preflight we got inside the aircraft and the practical exam began. I managed the aircraft pretty easily as we did our take off with a simulated engine failure. I performed all the required maneuvers pretty well and then came the emergency desent demonstration. During the recovery I did not push correctly the speed brake switch (its a slide switch) so they did not retract as they were supposed to. When I prepared the aircraft for the first approach, it was obviously sluggish and slow. The examiner at this point said “Did you notice the aircraft isn’t flying normally?” I replied, “Yes I do!” Furiously I started to scan the entire cockpit for what I was missing, everything was in order, but I didn’t notice a white message on the CAS, after the second scan I was getting pretty nervous. Eventually, I turned to my left and I saw the speed brakes engaged, I promptly pushed the switch, and everything returned back to normal. The examiner told me, “Next time pay more attention to the white messages, even if they are white they are on the CAS for a reason.” Lesson learned… I managed to do the three approaches with the final one terminating as a circle to land for runway 12. Aside from the incident with the speed brakes everything went well, and once I landed the examiner wrote my temporary certificate. Finally, I can take off and land with both engines! I was now authorized to enter into an exciting new world… amazingly complex, challenging and… expensive!
Conclusion: It was worth every single penny! It wasn’t as difficult as I expected. Already having a high level of proficiency on the Garmin avionics helped me to focus on the jet systems and limitations. This is a huge advantage for Cirrus Perspective pilots because you can save a lot of money on the type rating process.
After receiving my type rating I started to calculate the damages… but actually the amount was quite reasonable. These are the figures:
Mustang Jet – 8.5 hours @ $1,150 = $9,775
Fuel – 850 gal @ $6.30 = $5,355
Instruction – 25 Hours @ $150 = $3,750
Examiner = $4,000
Bottom Line Total = $22,880
Having the aircraft at your complete disposal for the entire week is very convenient, because the aircraft is based in Orlando we flew it down to FXE. The two relocation flights help you to get more acquainted with the aircraft. The first flight exposes you to its capabilities, and helps you to fully appreciate the aircraft on the first actual training flight. The cost for the relocation flights to and from Orlando were 2.5 Hours for a total of $5,500 including 5 hours instructor time.
For the past few years, everyone has been talking about about the personal Jet. It is my belief that if someone is considering to purchase one of these aircraft, the type rating is a necessary step to understand how different the personal jet is. Additionally, it is a healthy way to show the insurance companies you are getting proper Jet experience.
Finally, Platinum Aviation is able to offer our valued customers this special type rating.