Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 5, 2011

10 Tips For Stepping Up

If you’re considering the leap from piston to turbine, here’s what you need to know

6. Insurance—It's Not That Bad

There's a common belief that buying insurance for single-pilot-flown turbine-powered aircraft by owner-pilots is cost prohibitive. That's just not true. The current landscape of the insurance market for such activities is quite competitive, with approximately 10 underwriters writing policies for owner-pilots of turbine-flown aircraft. Chappell, Smith & Associates ( is one firm that has had a lot of success in placing owners of turbine-flown aircraft with acceptable insurance. Another experienced broker is Willis (

One of the best ways to attain a favorable quote with the underwriters is to be proactive about your training program. Work with your underwriter and mentor to develop a comprehensive training program that you'll present to underwriters.

7. Do Some Training/Flying In Each Plane

Don't underestimate the value of getting behind the controls of your prospective aircraft type. There are a few options for acquiring stick time before getting your own airplane:

1) Factory demo. The factory will likely bring an aircraft to you for a free demonstration flight. Take advantage of the opportunity, but keep in mind that factory-demo pilots are paid to make you look good.

2) Get a flight lesson. While doing a demonstration flight with the factory is likely the least expensive option, it isn't always the best way to see the full range of capabilities and, more importantly, the limitations of the airplanes you're considering. While renting a high-performance turbine aircraft isn't as easy as renting a Cessna 172 from your local flight school, there are a few reputable providers. For more, see Tip 9.

8. Get Proficient

Do an honest assessment of your proficiency and comfort with checklist-based operations, procedures-focused flying and instrument proficiency. Knowing that you must perform at the highest level, put the necessary time and work into fully preparing for what may be the greatest accomplishment of your aviation journey: flying a personal jet or turboprop.

If you go down the path of flying a jet versus a turboprop, you'll be required to complete a type-rating course plus an FAA checkride. Two instrument-flying challenges conspire against pilots when it comes time to train and test for the type rating in a jet: First, most pilots have become accustomed to heavy use of the autopilot, especially at time of high workload. This is, of course, a sound and appropriate practice, but to earn a jet type rating, pilots must demonstrate the ability to hand-fly maneuvers and approaches, and to do so with equipment that has partially failed or while handling a simulated emergency.

Stepping Down

Visit a website like, the largest online marketplace for aircraft, and you'll quickly find a glut of older (20-plus-year-old) turbine aircraft for sale. Due to the high supply of such aircraft, prices have fallen dramatically, where in some cases, you literally can't give an airplane away. Why are so many highly capable aircraft coming up for sale? The principal reason: cost of ownership. With fuel prices hitting upward of $7 per gallon in some locations, fuel efficiency is becoming more and more of a factor when people decide to buy and/or keep an airplane. Couple that with the increasing expenses associated with maintaining and operating an aging aircraft, we're seeing more and more people stepping out of older/larger aircraft into smaller, more efficient ones.

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