Ready To Make Your Move

Ready  To Make  Your Move

Ready To Make Your Move

As a company that specializes in helping owner-pilots transition from piston to turbine power, we are often asked the shortest path to reach their next move-up aircraft. Transitioning to your first turboprop or light jet is somewhat different than moving from a Cessna 172 to a retractable single or light twin. There are multiple facets – from training and insurance to real-world experience and safety – that must be discerned before burning that first drop of Jet A.
Our first piece of advice is to assemble your transition team. This can be a loose assemblage of experienced, trusted advisors, people who will guide you through the process. Your transition partners ought to be selected the way you pick your heart surgeon: Not only should they possess experience, skill and breadth of knowledge, they must have your best interests and well-being at the top of their priority list. If you sense they are focused on what’s in it for them, they aren’t the right people to have on your team.
Essential to that team is your aircraft ownership advisor – someone who knows the aircraft market, knows your mission and operational needs, and understands where you are in your aviation journey. Their technical knowledge on the aircraft models along your transition path will ensure that you make educated and cost-effective purchase decisions. Also key is a trusted insurance broker who will advise you of what underwriters are looking for and who will go to bat for you when the time comes to write your policy. In addition, include your trusted training professional, someone who has spent significant time with you in the cockpit and knows your skillset and learning style, as well as what you can expect during the transition process.
Finally, your team should include your aviation mentors. These are trusted friends or colleagues who have successfully completed the transition you are contemplating. They also can be professional pilots who are willing to share their experience and knowledge. In addition, your mentors’ philosophy and professional approach to flying and operational safety set the bar for how you wish to fly.
If you are a newly-minted multi-engine pilot with the goal to be in the left seat of a light jet, get your team assembled and begin putting together your transition plan.
Meet Mr. Perfect, the Ideal Move-up Candidate
Let’s talk about the ideal move-up candidate. In fact, let’s strive for absolute perfection. Let me paint the picture for you of what this person is like, in case you haven’t met him. First of all, this man or woman isn’t simply financially successful; our future turbine pilot is very, very rich. This person doesn’t have to be bothered with the day-to-day drudgery of running a company, keeping a schedule, and balancing professional, personal and flying lives. With all this spare time and little or no distractions, he or she can spend as much time as needed to work on ratings and build time. Devoting two-and-a-half weeks to complete an initial type rating is no big deal for our pilot.
Our ideal pilot believes that his logbook isn’t complete without tailwheel time, a mountain-flying course, seaplane rating, upset training in an L-39, and an ATP rating. To round out his training, he attends formal recurrency training every six months, followed by a few hours flying with a mentor pilot who happens to be a former Blue Angels pilot.
Our hero keeps his pristine, state-of-the-art equipped airplane at a towered airport with a 10,000-foot runway and stores it in a climate-controlled private hangar. He has his own NOAA weather station and a private staff of meteorologists so he can stay apprised of changing weather conditions.
Our pilot is a health freak, eats only organic foods, is an elite triathlete and gets regular checkups where the doctor marvels at his low blood pressure and cholesterol. To keep himself mentally balanced, he meditates regularly and practices yoga every morning after a solid eight hours of blissful sleep.
Sound like anyone you know? Probably not. However, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. While insurance underwriters and training providers would like you to be as close to that mythical “perfect” status as possible, no one would ever start a transition program if they waited to have all the right boxes were checked.
What does an ideal turbine candidate realistically look like? If the goal is to fly single-pilot, he or she would have accumulated 1,500 hours total time with equal chunks of high-performance single-engine, twin-piston and turboprop time. Turboprop time always helps, but is not necessarily an end-all-be-all prerequisite. The candidate would have several hundred hours flying behind glass cockpit technology and attended a formal training program to complete the most recent transition.
Your Transition Plan
We recommend writing out your transition plan, with specific goals and a timeline. If you find yourself short in some areas, work out a strategy to bulk up your experience and hours. Be sure to review it with your transition team and incorporate their recommendations.
Develop a habit and mindset of professional aircraft operation. That means striving to perform every flying task – from pre-flight brief to shutdown – with the utmost professional attention and skill. Be detailed, diligent and take no short-cuts. Develop your own set of standard operating procedures and personal minimums that set out how you will operate your aircraft and under what conditions you won’t. If you double as a busy business owner or company executive, this is especially important. Write them down and live by them.
As part of your personal SOPs, get in the habit of doing a risk assessment before every flight. At Kansas Aircraft, our director of flight operations has developed a customized risk assessment form and we require our pilots, regardless of experience, to complete it. This form takes into account weather, aircraft type and equipment, recent IFR experience, time of day, and a health/fatigue self-assessment. It takes but a few minutes to fill it out, but the impartial evaluation it provides is powerful. As PIC, you ultimately make the call to fly or not fly, but the assessment can help you objectively determine whether the cards are stacked against you. (If you are interested in seeing our customized risk assessment, give us a call!)
Many times, we are asked why a pilot must methodically go through steps A, B, C and D to reach their goal. Being gifted – both with piloting prowess and a fat wallet – they wonder why they can’t be the ones who move from a fixed-gear single right into a jet. Certainly, it’s been done. Do we recommend it? Not necessarily. Similar to “What would your mother say?” we’d ask, “What would your transition team say?” Throughout, sit down with each member of your transition team and review your progress, ask what you could be doing differently, and take his or her advice to heart.
Recently, we had a customer develop a strong case of jet fever. He had been casually perusing the light jet listings and discovered what he thought was his dream aircraft. This customer is fairly new to aviation, having attained his private ticket in the last two years. Before the ink was dry on his instrument ticket, he bought a new glass-panel light piston aircraft and began racking up hours with zeal.
As part of our counseling, we worked with this customer develop a transition plan to help him prepare for his eventual move to a light jet. Then he got the siren song from this late model Citation Mustang. We worked through what a move to this aircraft would require, in terms of training, experience, insurance and pilot mentoring, in order to fly the new jet single-pilot. Then we compared it to his transition plan. Guess what? The original plan made more sense than ever.
At the end of the day, our customer made the decision to move into a single-engine turboprop to gain turbine and high-altitude operating experience. It also will allow him to continue to amass more experience operating in the IFR system. Not only was this the smart move and resulted in more reasonable insurance premiums and training requirements, it fits perfectly with his transition plan that will lead him to flying a light jet in 18 months. He recently said he’s relieved that he followed the plan, as he’s found the single-engine turboprop is the right fit at this moment in his flying career.
As opposed to pursuing the shortest distance between two points or the lowest cost, put your focus on the smartest strategy. Listen, plan, and ask a lot of questions of whomever you assemble as your transition team. Dedicating the required time and resources to the endeavor will not only ensure that you reach your goals efficiently, it will add deep satisfaction that you are operating at the highest levels of safety, proficiency and professionalism.
Plan the work, and work the plan.

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