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Multi-Engine Training in a Beech Duchess

I started training for a multi-engine rating in a Beechcraft Duchess.

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Lesson 1: Familiarization Flight

Saturday, January 10, 2004

[Beechcraft Duchess]
[Frank at the controls]
[The BE76 panel]
[Practicing a steep turn]
[Sunset off the wing]

The first lesson was the familiarization flight. We spent a good bit of time on the ground reviewing the POH, doing flight planning, and computing performance figures for the current weather, which had shifted to IFR and cold, like 0°F or -18°C.

The heater on the plane had failed in the previous flight, so we were going to scrub the flight. After opening the nose cone to inspect it, and play with the controls, the third time it came on, working fine. So we decided we'd proceed further and test it with a flight.

We did a detailed preflight of the plane. It was damn cold out, so that afterwards, we had to go inside to warm up and decide if it was stil flyable.

The radar showed that things should be clear. So eventually, we decided to give it a try.

The plane had been flown about an hour earlier, nonetheless sitting an hour in 0°F temeratures made the engines a bit reluctant to start. The good thing about a multi-engine plane is that after getting frustrated trying to start one engine, you can switch to the other engine (and get frustrated with it). Actually, it does give the starter a chance to cool. After about 5-10 minutes, we finally got the right engine started, and that seemed to break the will of the left one, as it started on the next try.

We picked up an IFR clearance for VFR-on-top from the tower as we taxied out. After the run-up of the engines, we had a final briefing in front of the runway. There would be no simulated emergengies on take-off. If anything went wrong, it would be for real, and David (the MEI CFI) would take over.

Takeoff was uneventful. We entered the coulds around 2000' and broke out around 4000'. It was totally clear above. And in fact, everywhere except over the airport, it was clear. A beautiful, though cold, day. Typical Lake Effect on a very small scale, from Cayuga Lake.

We did some maneuvers, including steep turns, flying a traffic pattern at altitude and reconfiguring the plane for landing, power off stalls, and power on stalls (not with full power).

David then demonstrated a simulated engine-failure at altitude. Since this was the first one, no surprise was involved. He pulled the mixture back on the left engine (the Duchess does not have a critical engine, by the way, as the props counter-rotate (the left engine rotates clockwise and the right engine rotates counter-clockwise)), and the plane immediately began to yaw to the left. I added power, confirmed the gear and flaps were up, identified the dead engine by my rudder usage, then verified it by retarding the throttle on the left engine (and making sure nothing changed). As I pulled the power back, David put the mixture back in, so the engine would be running at idle power.

Then after "evaluating" the situation, I pulled the propeller controller back to the detent, with David blocking it from going to the full feather position. David added a little power to simulate zero-thrust since at idle power, the spinning prop actually causes more drag than if it were standing still, fully feathered. Zero-thrust allows the engine to be on and running (and available if needed). We flew around a bit in that configuration, climbing, turning, and such. In the cold air, the plane performed nicely, managing a 400 feet per minute climb while at 5 or 6 thousand feet MSL.

After various maneuvers, we decided to head in. The clouds over Ithaca were now around 1400' AGL, so we could get under them and land VFR. Not only was my first multi-engine landing uneventful, it was a downright smooth landing. "You are either really skilled or got really lucky," David said. I have to admit that I think luck was certainly involved.

Read about my multiengine checkride, four years(!) later.

This page last modified Jun 28, 2009.
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