Every Pilot’s Fantasy: Twins!

Well, maybe not those twins. But, after obtaining their Single Engine/Instrument ticket, many pilots lust for the multi-engine rating, knowing full well that it requires the net worth of a Rockefeller to own and feed a twin-engine aircraft. If you want to start a brawl among a group of normally docile and civil aviators, simply start a conversation on the merits of “twins vs. singles”. It will likely come to blows. You are better off discussing religion, politics or their mother’s lineage.

Adding-on a multi-engine/instrument rating to your existing single-engine land, Instrument ticket takes a minimum of 10 hours dual instruction with a CFII-MEI. A CFII Multi is an FAA Certificated Flight Instructor/Instrument, approved to train pilots for the multi engine and IFR rating. After the minimum flight time, or longer if necessary, your instructor will recommend you to an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner for an oral and then a practical exam, or checkride.

I did my multi-training and FAA checkride in a nice Beechcraft Duchess, N3872M at KLEE, Leesburg, Florida. To see a larger image, simply click on the photo:

Duchess 3872M

Duchess 3872M Panel

The Duchess is a very capable 4-place ship, perfectly suited for multi-engine training. The plane has two 180 horse Lycomings that spin two-bladed props. She was not very fast, maybe 160 knots at cruise, but very forgiving of a ham-fisted pilot like me.

Getting a multi rating in Duchess or Piper Seminole is a bit like cheating. Both of these aircraft models have counter-rotating propellers, thus eliminating the concept of a critical engine. The left engine turns clockwise, and the right engine counter-clockwise. This keeps the thrust centerline closer to the fuselage. With counter-rotating props, the p-factor induced adverse yaw created by a failed engine is exactly the same, regardless of which engine tanks.

When you learn to fly a twin-engine, you actually spend most of your time flying around on a single engine. The other engine is set to zero thrust, or about 12” of manifold pressure, to simulate a dead, feathered engine. Since power-plant failures on departure in a twin can be deadly, due to torque-induced Vmc roll, you learn to fly and control the aircraft on just one engine. Learning to keep airspeed above Vmc on one engine is critical to maintaining aircraft control and keeping the ship from rolling over on its back. Your legs also get a workout as you spend a lot of time on the rudder keeping the ball centered and flight coordinated. 

Once or twice during training, with the CFI onboard, the multi-student will completely shut down an engine and feather the propeller in order to demonstrate an in-flight restart. It’s a little surreal looking outside the aircraft at altitude, seeing one propeller completely still. Engine restarts are accomplished by slowly moving the mixture lever forward, introducing fuel back into the engine, and unfeathering the propeller.

On my checkride with the FAA Examiner, the single engine instrument approach was probably the most challenging aspect of the flight. Simulated engine failures on departure, right at Vr, were a piece of cake, because I was expecting them. Yet this situation remains as one of the leading killers in multi-engine aircraft.

Once the multi/instrument rating was in hand, I arranged for some dual checkout time in my cousin’s gorgeous twin-engine Cessna 310, a 1973 Q model. This aircraft had been completely updated with a new dove grey leather interior and new paint.

Here are some air-to-air photos of the 310 flying along the northeast coast of Florida on our way back from the Concours de’Elegance in Amelia Island:

Twin Cessna 310, N3364L

This particular C-310 also had the very desirable Colemill engine conversion, TCM IO -520’s churning out 300 horsepower per side, using 3-blade props. The 310 could easily climb at 2000-2500 feet per minute, with gobs of power to spare. She chewed up real estate at 190 knots, or about 220 mph.

After my checkout, we did some trips in the 310 to Key West,  Ft. Lauderdale, Cedar Key, Naples and as far north as Charleston, SC. 

Like most other fantasies, flying a twin is an expensive, guilty pleasure. The fuel burn in the 310 was about 30-32 gallons per hour in cruise. At the FBO, line techs always rolled out the red carpet treatment for 3364L because they knew we would be dropping some real coin on fuel every time we taxied to their ramp. Unfortunately, rising fuel prices and a soft economy seem to be taking a higher toll on twins aircraft values vs. single engine planes.

Well, at least we still have our fantasies.


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