Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mustang Teaching Machine?

Flying the airplane is easy. Mastering the systems is the challenge.

At least, I tried to. Garmin's attitude minder decided that was a little too aggressive for a utility category airplane and automatically rolled back to the right and pitched forward. GESPS has no connection to the throttle, so it won't add power to help you recover, but it does practically everything else to keep you from straying too far from straight and level.

Air show pilot Sean Tucker obviously didn't have such a system aboard several years back when he flew a full aerobatic routine in the earlier Columbia version. Admittedly, Tucker confined his show to standard positive maneuvers—loops, rolls, hammerheads and spins—but it was still a strong testament to the airplane's maneuverability.

Cessna expects the TKS de-ice system to be FIKI certified by mid-2013, and it's planned to be fairly idiotproof. The FIKI system has four modes, Normal, High, Max Flow and Backup, and the readout of fluid remaining will be in time as well as gallons, based on the rate you select. Max capacity is 10 gallons, and even at the high position, you'll have nearly an hour to get out of trouble. The TTx will have spray plates from root to tip, and they'll be contoured to the leading edges rather than glued in place as on the former uncertified Evade system. Ice lights will be mounted in the fuselage, focused on both wings.

After our air work, we headed for Hutchinson, Kan., for a few landings. The TTx is restricted to a max landing weight of 3,420 pounds. That means you'll need to burn off a minimum of 30 gallons if you depart at gross, or you'll have to convince a 180-pound passenger to bail out.

Speed brakes are standard on the TTx, and they expedite a descent without shock cooling the big Continental. Like many heavy singles, the Corvalis does its best work in the pattern with some power on all the way to the ground. Ortega recommended 85 knots to the threshold, and the airplane seemed to paint itself onto the runway with little input from me. Full flap stall is only 60 knots, so you could easily use 75 knots for a short-field effort. The Corvalis nosewheel is non-steerable; differential braking is mandatory for directional control on the ground.

I've been lucky to log several flights in Cessna Mustangs, the company's entry-level Citation jet, and you can't help but think the Corvalis could be a great step-up airplane for pilots ascending the ladder of complexity within the Cessna family. Apparently, at least one Cessna buyer has reached the same conclusion. He's planning to earn his private license in the Corvalis TTx, then step up to a Mustang. Rich Manor, president of Pacific Aircraft Sales in Long Beach, Calif., says he has a customer coming the other direction, as well. The pilot plans to step up from his Skylane to the TTx.

The panel layouts of both the TTX and the Mustang are comparable, bug landing speeds aren't that dissimilar, and with the benefit of FADEC, the jet's systems aren't that much more challenging. If you can learn to handle the systems on the Corvalis, you should be able to manage the Mustang.

Overall, the piston-powered Corvalis flies like it should have Breitling instruments and Northrup controls. It's an impressive package with genius level technology in the service of super-fast.


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