Pilot Journal
Saturday, July 1, 2006

The Author's JetPROP


From best aircraft performance to best seller


piperAh yes, the first novel. It’s every writer’s dream to someday pen a novel. No matter what their medium—motion pictures, television shows, advertising, technical manuals or even magazines—nearly all who wield pens for their daily bread, and even some who don’t, aspire to author the next great American novel, to create their own characters, their own stories, even their own worlds.
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It wasn’t until 1985 that the author was able to get back to flying. He received his private license in early 1986 and quickly realized he’d need an instrument rating if he wanted to use his new skill for on-demand travel. Accordingly, he earned his IFR ticket a few months later and, soon after, purchased a Cessna Skylane RG as his entry-level airplane.

Woods made the jump to turbocharging with a Beech Bonanza B36TC, which he flew to Colombia to conduct research for White Cargo, published in 1988. The Bonanza also ferried him across the North Atlantic from Gander, Newfoundland, to Shannon, Ireland, in 1991.

Pressurization was the next logical step, and there was only one piston airplane worth considering. Woods bought a 1994 Piper Malibu Mirage, and flew it for several years before deciding he wanted something with even more performance.

“I’d enjoyed my time with the Mirage, so the step up to a JetPROP seemed only natural,” Woods explains. JetPROP LLC (www.jetprop.com) of Spokane, Wash., replaced the Piper Mirage’s 350 hp Lycoming TIO-540 piston powerplant with a 560 shp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-35 turboprop. The result was a dramatic improvement in climb and cruise, plus engine TBO nearly doubled and reliability increased exponentially.

The Author's JetPROP
The JetPROP conversion vastly improves climb and cruise performance, as well as increases reliability.
“I was primarily interested in the extra speed and the ability to climb quickly above the weather,” says Woods. “The piston Mirage could fly at 25,000 feet, but the JetPROP climbs much more quickly, and even though it burns more fuel, it partially makes up for that with 50 knots more speed.” Woods located an unusually sharp 1998 Mirage already converted to the JetPROP configuration and purchased it four years ago.

Since then, he has put 600 hours on the airplane, flying on book tours, research trips and for sheer fun. While he’s happy with his JetPROP for now, in the next few years he’ll probably step up to a jet. “The new VLJs are attractive, but the backlog is so long, I’d probably have to wait three or four years to get one even if I put in my order today,” Woods comments. “Sierra Industries in Texas is offering an interesting deal—fully overhauled and refurbished Citation 500/501SP models for $845,000, and that’s pretty attractive, about 100 knots better cruise.” At this writing, Woods has logged nearly 2,800 hours of flight time.




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