Today was my day off. It was also the instructor’s only day off in a long line of workdays, but he offered to come in and train us if we wanted him to. My partner and I both felt like we needed more time, and jumped at the chance.
I went in early and spent two valuable hours in the ground simulator learning avionics by myself. He showed up and we worked the GFS for another hour before the instructor stuck his head in. Turns out the simulator was indeed available, and we could do that if we wanted. Outstanding – let’s go!
I was excited for the opportunity to straighten out my steep turns and try to get a handle on the basic stall series in this aircraft. I knew I could do it, but had worried that just one session would not be enough. Then my phone pinged with a teammate asking if I knew of a Baron pilot based at Wilmington.
I had spoken about my hangar neighbor before, and how he flew a Baron and kept it in the hangar right next door to mine. He talked about flying down to the Carolinas to play golf, and of course, about our airplanes. Through him I met a G280 Captain flying out of Philly, and the prospect of knowing someone in that community was a stroke of good fortune for me. I wanted to get some airtime in those as a contract pilot, and knowing someone local flying those would be good.
The question itself felt ominous, and it turns out that it was bad news. It appeared that a Baron went down and one person was DOA. There may have been two people aboard. I hoped it was not my neighbor Terrence, and I further hoped that it wasn’t the instructor/G280 captain I’d met. They were both very nice people, and loved my airplane. I didn’t want it to be anyone hurt, of course, but for my own sake let it not be the two I did know.
I called Terrence’s instructors number and left a message. I told him that a Baron had gone down, and I’d appreciate a text to confirm he and Terrence were ok. Then I got into the sim just a little shaken. Those of us who fly light aircraft understand the risks, and form a community.
In the simulator again. I start out in the right seat and Dan is in the left. He had the airwork down already, so he gets ahead a little and practices V1 cuts. V1 cuts are engine failures that occur just at the moment you are are ready to leave the runway. He does well, and we move on to the finer art of flying approaches with full automation. I’m learning as well as he is during this phase, but worry that I haven’t yet even tried a V1 cut in this airplane while Dan is ahead. Then I remember that this isn’t a race. Or if it is a race, it is only with yourself.
It is my turn now in the left seat, and I practice steep turns repeatedly. Instead of +/- 250 feet up and down, I hold it to 20′ of deviation and fly the stalls within limits. The approach to landing stall needs work, but we spent a good 20 minutes cleaning me up (both my partner and the instructor contributing), and too much of that intense work becomes non-productive.
We ended the session with me doing a CATII approach using RAW data and no autopilot. I landed the airplane on the centerline without ever looking outside. What a machine.
Baron Crash Update. Terrence’s instructor Tom got back to me and confirmed it was indeed Terrence’s airplane that went down. Later that night, other friends and colleagues called to let me know that Terrence had been killed, along with one other well known airport figure. Since Tom was not available as an instructor, Terrence brought Al D along instead. Terrence was clearly not yet comfortable in the airplane, and wisely sought further instruction.
Al was an older gentleman who was a successful retired person, working as a CFI and as an operations guy for the airport for the airport authority. Sadly, Al was killed along with Terrence.
Getting ready for SIM 03. So I’m up early today and going for a breakfast of cereal and coffee. I’ll facetime Beverly and then go hit the GFS ground sim for a few hours before our 6 hours in the simulator. Tonight I’ll be back at my hotel studying limitations, and hopefully not feel entirely behind. I hear that SIM04 and SIM05 are a real bitch.
Prayers and kind thoughts to the families of Terrence and Al. The pilot community mourns their loss.