September 1, 2011
By Alton K. Marsh
Stuart Woods, a best-selling mystery writer with 46 books published and more on the way, can churn out a chapter in an hour and spend the rest of the day on a restored antique boat somewhere. That “somewhere” could be in Maine, New York, or Key West, Florida.
Woods found public acclaim with Chiefs in 1981 and stays on the New York Times bestseller list with his Stone Barrington and Holly Barker series. Like many popular authors, Woods’ name appears on the cover of his books in larger type than the title. His latest book is Bel-Air Dead. His publisher dictates mandatory nationwide book tours, but, “If I had to fly the airlines, I wouldn’t do book tours,” Woods said. “I like landing, backing the car up to the airplane, and we drive away. That’s my idea of travel,” he said.
His love of flying began at eight years of age when a cousin bought a surplus Piper Cub after World War II and took him for a 15-minute ride. He started flight training in his late 30s when he lived in Plains, Georgia, where he worked on the campaign of then-Governor Jimmy Carter in 1976.
September 2011 Turbine Pilot Contents Turbine Intro: Swapping Avgas for Jet-A: Special section for the turbine inclined. The Ultimate Family Truckster: Soloy bolts a 417-shaft-horsepower turboprop to the venerable Cessna 206. (Not) Straight-In: Approaches in a different way. Turbine Profile: Stuart Woods: No jet, no book tour.
Woods got his private pilot certificate in February 1986 and his instrument rating in May of the same year. He has more than 3,200 hours of flying time, and has owned a Cessna 182RG, a Beech Bonanza B36TC, and a Piper Malibu/Mirage converted by JetPROP with a 750-shaft horsepower Pratt & Whitney PT6A-35 engine. He flew his Bonanza around Europe after a flight across the Atlantic in 1991. He has flown his Cessna Mustang all over the United States, and around Colombia when researching his novel, White Cargo.
The transition from turboprop owner to jet pilot did not come easy.
“The simulator and I had to agree to disagree,” Woods recalls. “I did not handle it well at all. I had about 30 hours in the airplane when I got there, and I think that may have been a disadvantage.”
Woods made his peace with the simulator, and vice versa. “Last year I did the [FlightSafety] simulator at Orlando and I got along just fine. I think everybody should do the full program at FlightSafety. The course is important to a new pilot, especially one who hasn’t flown jets before and is transitioning,” he said
You’ll find the N number of his Mustang in his novels: N123TF. He uses his own N number to avoid making up a fictitious one that might turn up an actual owner. Woods has concluded negotiations for three more novels this year and next, enough to keep the Mustang galloping.
Email the author at [email protected].
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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