Transitioning to Multiengine Airplanes

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Multiengine aircraft can be deceiving. To the uninitiated, the multiengine aircraft appears twice as safe as its single-engine counterparts. Some say that with two engines a pilot has twice the insurance, twice the speed, and twice the redundancy that a single-engine pilot has. They also have twice the chance of having an engine fail.

And herein lies the tale. The multiengine aircraft is a thing of wonder, an aircraft that usually carries more weight, flies faster and farther, and offers the redundant safety of a spare engine. But all of these good points go out the window very quickly when an engine is lost on a multiengine aircraft. A multiengine aircraft operating on one engine can turn into a beast of a different color. And it can be a killer. In the hands of the unskilled or the careless, the multiengine aircraft operating on one engine is tantamount to playing Russian roulette with about five bullets in the chamber.

It’s not that everyone who flies a multiengine aircraft is playing with fire. Quite the contrary. Treated with respect and not pushed beyond the laws of physics, a multiengine aircraft can be a very safe mode of transportation. The increasing complexity of multiengine airplanes dictates the importance of a thorough checkout for pilots who change from one make or model airplane to another with which they are not familiar. The similarity of the operating controls in most airplanes leads many persons to believe that full pilot competency can be carried from one type of airplane to another, regardless of its weight, speed, performance characteristics, and limitations, or how many engines they possess. The importance of acquiring a thorough knowledge of an unfamiliar airplane and the inefficiency of trial-and-error methods of learning to fly that airplane have been well established. So the pilots desiring to add a multiengine rating to their certificates will need some good dual instruction prior to applying for the multiengine checkride.

In order to really learn the operating characteristics of the new aircraft, do not limit familiarization flights to the mere practice of normal takeoffs and landings. It is extremely important to learn the limitations, and become thoroughly familiar with the stall performance, minimum controllability characteristics, maximum performance techniques, and all pertinent emergency procedures, as well as all normal operating procedures.

The pilot transitioning to multiengine should study and understand the airplane’s flight and operations manual. A thorough understanding of the fuel system, electrical and/or hydraulic system, empty and maximum allowable weights, loading schedule, normal and emergency landing gear and flap operations, and preflight inspection procedures, is essential.

The transition from training type single-engine airplanes to larger and faster multiengine airplanes may be the pilot’s first experience in airplanes equipped with a constant-speed propeller, a retractable landing gear, and wing flaps. And all airplanes having a constant-speed propeller require that the pilot have a thorough understanding of the need for proper combinations of manifold pressure (MP) and propeller revolutions per minute (RPM), which are prescribed in the airplane manufacturer’s manuals.

The instructor should include in the checkout of any aircraft at least a demonstration of takeoffs and landings and in-flight maneuvers with the airplane fully loaded. Most four-place and larger airplanes handle quite differently when loaded to near-maximum gross weight, as compared with operations when lightly loaded. Weight and balance should also be figured for various loading conditions.

It is very important that the transitioning pilot readily accept the flight instructor’s evaluation of performance during the checkout process. It is inadvisable to consider oneself qualified to accept responsibility for the airplane before the checkout is completed; half a checkout may prove more dangerous than none at all.

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