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Hard to rush

Trying—and failing—to speed through multiengine training

I have a goal to earn a commercial multiengine rating, and since I work at a GA airport, I thought I’d quickly have a coveted temporary certificate in hand. 

Unfortunately, today’s frenetic level of flight training activity has forced many of us to change course more than once while we pursue our goals and dreams. Aircraft, instructor, and designated pilot examiner (DPE) availability—not to mention routine maintenance, weather delays, and the demands of family and job—make putting together the pieces of the flight training puzzle downright challenging.

My first step was to find a suitable multiengine airplane. I always seek a training aircraft that I find interesting, so I chose a bright orange and white Piper Aztec I’d admired at the local flight school. Its two 250-horsepower engines sounded just about right to me. The school recommended two of their multiengine flight instructors and gave me access to its online flight scheduling platform. The first availability of both Aztec and instructor was several weeks out, so I booked a few lessons. All good; I’d have time to study multiengine procedures and Aztec systems. Soon, however, I learned there were no DPEs available for several months who could administer a commercial multiengine/instrument practical exam. The pace of my training was beginning to slow.

The week before my first multiengine lesson, I received an email canceling my flights. The Aztec was going in for its annual inspection. Ugh—two weeks had passed, and I hadn’t even begun training. A call to the school revealed a second multiengine trainer would soon be added to the line: a 2020 Tecnam P2006T. An uncommon sight in the United States, the P2006T is an Italian twin powered by two Rotax 912 S3 engines putting out 100 horsepower each—adequate power considering the airplane’s gross weight is only 2,716 pounds. I’d flown Rotax-powered aircraft but didn’t realize these engines could be equipped with full-feathering constant-speed propellers, as they are in this application. The P2006T was designed to loiter during search and rescue missions, and its miserly fuel consumption (9 gallons per hour for both engines combined) also makes it an economical trainer. I finally caught a break when a student needed to cancel his P2006T flights scheduled for the following week, and I lucked into three consecutive days of multiengine training in the modern machine.

Familiarity with the operation of Rotax engines helped make the exotic (by U.S. standards) P2006T more approachable on my first multiengine training flights. Burping the engines prior to checking the oil level—necessary to move the oil from the engine crankcase to the oil tank—isn’t easy on this high-wing airplane, but at least it was a procedure with which I was familiar. There were many other procedures yet to learn including starting two engines using the correct sequence of chokes, electric fuel pumps, fuel tank selections, electric fields, cross buses, and more—all verified through myriad analog gauges (this airplane does not have the Garmin G1000 NXi). The instructor was great, and I found the airplane easy to taxi, fly, and land—a byproduct of its light weight and docile engines—providing a low-stress training platform on which to begin memorizing and practicing the many emergency procedures that are part of any multiengine training.

Following the third flight, my instructor informed me the Tecnam was due for its 100-hour inspection and would be unavailable for several weeks. When he texted me a few weeks later that the airplane was back in service, it was already booked three weeks out. I sighed and reserved a few flights. When the day of my next flight arrived, my instructor told me he had an interview with a regional airline the following week and would soon be leaving the flight school. Oh, and our lesson had to be canceled because the ceilings were below 3,000 feet. I left feeling a bit deflated.

On the positive side, this experience taught me a few lessons to help minimize flight training delays. Contact a DPE before you begin training for a new certificate or rating to determine the likely timing of the checkride. Interview the CFI to see what their long-term availability will be. Schedule multiple flights as far out as possible. Inquire about the maintenance schedule of the aircraft you’ll be flying. And check with the flight school often to see if cancellations have freed up your preferred airplane or instructor.

While the pace of flight training can sometimes be frustratingly slow, we shouldn’t give up. Advanced planning, pertinent questions, and persistence will enable us to achieve our dreams. Instead of focusing on rushing through my training, I’m going to instead focus on enjoying the journey.

Alyssa J. Miller
Kollin Stagnito
Senior Vice President of Media
Senior Vice President of Media Kollin Stagnito is a commercial pilot, advanced and instrument ground instructor and a certificated remote pilot. He owns a 1953 Cessna 170B.

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