Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Double Down

From Dream to reality: Moving Up from a single Engine to a twin story

Jerry Temple represented many of the best 340s on the market (he only lists planes with world-class pedigree), and in fact, had sold many of the same 340s more than once. We learned most of what we needed to know watching the marketing videos he makes for every listing. The videos are about an hour long, and he narrates every inch of the aircraft and offers his insights gained from his many years buying and selling 340s. The truth is, if you want a capable pressurized piston twin in today's market, you're going to be looking at a plane 25 to 30 years old because a new one doesn't exist. The continuing market for these amazing aircraft provides a living for a whole twin Cessna industry over which Temple may be the captain. We narrowed our search down to four airplanes, and Temple represented them all.

Temple introduced us to TAS Aviation ( in Ohio, one of the finest twin Cessna shops in the country, and N400HC had been maintained by them for more than 20 of its years in existence. Temple had sold the airplane to a businessman in Iceland, and when that owner traded up to a turbine, Temple sold the plane to a pilot in Virginia who was retiring last fall and was flying the heck out of the plane to run out the engines. The timing worked out well: We made an offer and I flew out to Virginia between jobs to inspect the plane. When it was time for the pre-buy, there was no doubt we were taking it to TAS.

Tony Saxton's family flew cancelled checks for the Federal Reserve Bank all over the East Coast and the Midwest in a fleet of piston-twin Cessnas. They put thousands of hours on those planes, and that's how Saxton learned how to take care of them. That evolved into what we know today as TAS Aviation, with years of hard-earned experience in a friendly family atmosphere that made the purchase one of the most enjoyable experiences of my flying career. Marla Pancake is Saxton's capable no-nonsense sibling who was my main contact through the whole process, which she coordinated with precision. As soon as I knew N400HC was the one, I made the call to trigger a process that ended at home, in Santa Monica, two weeks later in the new twin—trained, checked out and insured.

The first step was to get the plane from Virginia to TAS in Ohio for the pre-buy. Pancake had arranged for Phil Kennedy to fly commercial to meet me and fly the plane to Defiance. He's a retired Northwest captain and has flown twin Cessnas around the world for TAS for 20 years. He walked me through the preflight, and we were off in unseasonably warm and clear weather. The 1,900-hour RAM VIs were past TBO, but the plane screamed off the runway and climbed to altitude very quickly. The pressurization checked out, as did the autopilot and avionics. I remained a passenger on this flight, but there was a lot to take in.
I dreamed about owning a twin since I learned to fly, looking up to the pilots who had them as if they were the real deal.
Minutes after we arrived in Defiance, TAS rolled the plane into the hangar and started the pre-buy. The field is a county airport, but it really consists of TAS and a runway in the middle of green forests. I went over a short list of squawks with Pancake and made myself comfortable in the large office she shares with Saxton. They pulled the interior and the inspection panels, and put the plane on jacks. I think the whole process took two days. Pancake threw me the keys to the TAS ramp car, and I spent the evenings in town at the Hampton Inn. During the day, I peeked in on the work being done and was very happy to see a clean and corrosion-free airframe. Our goal was to find a very clean airframe with decent paint, interior, avionics and run-out engines. I sat in the hangar and asked a lot of questions while reading the POH cover to cover. I was in perfect company to get acquainted with the new airplane. Pre-buy completed, Temple and I finished up the negotiating and the deal was done. All parties had good reputations, the product was good and we trusted each other, so it went very smoothly.

Now it was time to get started on the insurance training requirements. I had passed my multi checkride only weeks before with Joe Justice at my home airport in Santa Monica and hadn't logged a minute in a 340. It was intimidating, and I was told more than once that turbocharged piston twins are among the most complicated airplanes to fly. Pancake organized another trusted associate from her deep arsenal, James Duval, to begin my 340-specific training. He spent several hours with me on the ground during the pre-buy, and once the sale was completed, we started flying. Duval is a very easygoing Midwestern soul who made the experience comfortable, and he instinctively knew how to coach me through the process. I was thrilled beyond words in the left seat for the first time. I had already purchased the airplane without having flown it once, and while I was relatively certain I was going to love it, it was nice to have my expectations exceeded. With those two fat fuel tanks on the wingtips and 6,000 pounds of gross weight, my first impression was that this is big and very stable. You set the power and point it where you want to go.


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