Sunday, May 17, 2009

Should I move up to a Baron?

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Should I move up to a Baron?

Frequently BPPP pilots ask the instructors for their opinion on whether they should consider buying/flying a twin. I have a number of stock questions that I ask out of the gate. If the pilot can get through the initial questions, we move on to more detailed questions/responses.

• Will money be an issue? Twins are more expensive to operate than singles. They can be as much as 150% increase over a single; e.g., if you’re spending $ 10,000 per year operating your Bonanza, you can might spend $ 25,000 per year on a Baron.

• Does your flying justify a twin-engine airplane? Are you flying a lot of IFR, over mountains, or night flying? Any one, or combination of the above, could easily justify a twin-engine airplane for your mission.

• Will you fly and train enough to stay proficient in a multi-engine airplane?

• Are you insurable in a multi-engine airplane?

I will say at the outset that as of this writing, the twin market is soft. Due to fuel prices and insecurity in the financial health of the U.S., many Baron owners have put their planes up for sale. The good news is that there are excellent buys out there. To give you an idea, you can purchase a 1970’s vintage 3000 hour TT B-55 with 1000 hour engines and at least one Garmin 530 or 430 for under $150K. I’m talking about a turnkey operation. Perhaps the paint and interior might be a 6 or 7, but a functional, IFR Baron. I’ve recently seen a very sound 1974 BE-55 with an asking price about $120K. This is not an isolated case. Many Baron owners are looking to return to Bonanzas. Some feel that the cost savings justify it; others no long have flight missions that require two engines.

If you decide that the operating costs are not a factor, and your mission calls for a twin, let’s look at your training schedule. It is more difficult to stay competent in a twin because after you complete all the VFR and IFR currency, you need to stay proficient in single engine operations. Engine failures are what usually cause accidents in multi-engine airplanes. An engine failure on takeoff can be handled by a pilot who trains for such an emergency. If you fly a twin, you cannot afford the luxury of getting a flight review once every two years and think that you’re capable. My professional recommendation is a minimum of one BPPP clinic per year and one or two sessions with your local CFI after 6 months.

You will hear many opinions on how much flying you need to stay skillful in a Baron. My recommendation is a minimum of 75-100 hours per year. That’s one and one-half to two hours flying per week. I emphasize that number is a minimum; your personal situation could easily require more time.

As most ABS members already know, the insurance companies frequently call the shots. No matter what the FAA says, the insurance companies have their own requirements. As a CFI I have seen pilots required to first take manufacturers approved initial training (FSI, BPPP, Simcom, etc), then 25 hours dual, and 25 hours solo prior to being insured to carry passengers. Other times I have been asked just to give the pilot a checkout with no minimum time specified. Of course, if you have Baron and/or multi-time in your logbook, it becomes easier to get insurance.

You should always call your insurance agent prior to purchasing an airplane. Sometimes these requirements can be negotiable. One pilot that I fly with was told that he was virtually uninsurable with little multi-engine time. He was purchasing a BE-58 Baron and his insurance agent was very negative. I was able to help this individual get about 20 hours of Baron time in the 60 days prior to his purchase. Miraculously, he was now insurable.

I am a proponent of multi-engine airplanes and strongly recommend Barons to many of my pilots. However, twin engines are not for everyone. A fair amount of soul-searching is in order prior to making the leap. The first time you make an IFR flight at night over water or mountains, you will be very thankful to have an extra engine hanging out on the wing.

paul gretschel


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