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Pilot Diary (Part II)

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Meanwhile back at the ramp...I pre-flighted her slowly and gently until I felt the time was perfect to peel away the sheer fabric covering her delicate turbine fan blades... "OUCH!!!". I had been concentrating so hard on doing a thorough walk-around, that I hadn't noticed the rogue chock on the tarmac until after I had tripped over it. I quickly raised myself off of the pavement (which unfortunately for my face didn't magically disappear on such close "inspection" like I remember it doing in 2002) and quickly looked around to see if anybody was watching. Nope, no witnesses... my pride was still intact! Like I really needed to worry - except for the occasional pilot busy working in his cockpit, there's NEVER a soul out here on the ramp - I suppose everybody's indoors trying to stay cool (Alabama summers can be brutal)! As I prepared to board the airplane, I noticed something I hadn't noticed before - this new Learjet had a door... and it was open. I don't know why I noticed something as mundane as a door... it just seemed oddly different. As I sat down in the left seat, I instantly felt that familiar sense of comfort and confidence (with just the slightest pang of hesitation) that I always feel; but this time, I felt a little more anxious than usual. "What if it crashes?" To clarify, I'm a good pilot and crashing an airplane is pretty much the last thing I worry about (although I did land a Cessna 182RG gear-up in Hiroshima last year... I guess I won't ever be flying that model again!); but this new Lear has a glass-cockpit AND it's a new model. What if the computer crashes?!?! My co-pilot, Bruce, must have noticed the concerned look on my face and offered up some encouraging words... "Don't worry, the new flight computers are XP-based - they're not going to crash." Armed with this new information, I regained my confidence and had the aircraft ready for engine-start within minutes.Except for not being able to find the avionics master switch, preparing the cockpit was simple (probably too simple) - unlike most complex aircraft I'd flown recently, there were no electrical, hydraulic, or environmental controls to configure... heck, it didn't even have a "Fasten Seat Belts" switch - I guess the XP computer must do all this stuff automatically. But with all of the high-tech automation, I was intrigued by one thing... instead of the typical Honeywell EFIS/FMS system one would expect to find in a corporate-class jet, this Lear had a Garmin GNS500 GPS attached to the center console (was that bubble-gum peeking out from under the mounting bracket)... Oh well, 10 Steps forward, 100 steps back :-)! Not that I have a problem with the Garmin - it has served me well in many of the multi-engine pistons and turbo-props I've flown. I'd be lying to call it user-friendly; but it has a great map display and it's kept me out of more than my fair-share of Restricted Areas... I just didn't expect to find it in a Learjet. I imagine if you stuck a unit like that in a Boeing 737/767/777, the captain wouldn't have a clue how to use it!O.K., we were about ready to crank; but Bruce informed me that our passenger, Tom, was running a little behind schedule. Word on the street has it that Tom is a big internet executive... runs some kind of aviation web-site. Although he claims that his enterprise doesn't make substantial profits, some of the folks in the forums claim he recently topped Donald Trump on the Forbes money-list. Personally, I believe Tom - what better way to survive the passing of the "Dot-Com" era than to not make any money in the first place? What an ingenious financial strategy! I was just curious how he could afford to charter a Learjet. Anyway, waiting for Tom gave me a chance to look around the cockpit... somehow, things seemed more "spacious" in this model. As I was becoming more comfortable flying the Lear, I no longer felt the need to keep my eyes constantly "glued" to the front panel. "Wow, this cockpit looks good! It's like a "Virtual" pilot's paradise in here!" I looked over toward Bruce to express my excitement; but the right seat was empty. "Woah, were did he go...? Oh, there he is!". Bruce had gone back in the cabin to help Tom and his usual entourage of associate editors take their seats.I checked the ATIS while waiting for Bruce to get back. "Montgomery Airport Information Romeo, 2-1-2-3 Zulu, Wind 2-1-8 at 7...", I continue to wonder why the tower controllers refuse to round the wind direction to the nearest 10 degrees like the rest of the world does, "visibility blah, sky condition, blah, blah,blah, landing and departing runway 28...." Ah, runway 28. I dialed 276 (runway heading) into the Autopilot and was about to call Clearance Delivery when *POOF* - the cockpit suddenly went blank. "Bruuuce!???!!!" Bruce methodically made his way forward and quickly assessed the situation, "Ah that dumb factory battery must have gone dead again - I had our mechanic, Pete, install a backup - I can't believe he had the nerve to actually charge me for it; but now I'm really glad I forked over the cash." Bruce flicked a few switches and the instruments came back to life. All right, with potential disaster averted, it was time to pick up an IFR clearance.Before leaving the house, I had filed my flightplan with Flight Service and requested direct KBHM with a final altitude of 12,000 feet - just a short hop. I contacted Clearance Delivery for the IFR and was cleared "as filed" to maintain 10,000, talk on 121.2, squawk 5267 . They didn't tell me to expect 12,000 within 10 minutes; but no big deal as I was willing to stay at 10... I just wished they would quit calling me Learjet "November" 4-5 Lima Juliet - it sounded... so... "goofy". Anyway, I had the ATIS, I had my clearance, and was about to press the right starter button... when I had a vision! I was suddenly all alone in the woods (no doubt, planted by Autogen) and it was very, very dark. As I stumbled through the underbrush into a clearing, the fog gradually began to lift and I saw before me an open door... it was laughing at me! On closer inspection, the door led up into a Learjet cabin and it was laughing because it knew I had no idea how to close it. Without warning, a high-pitched, almost girlish scream erupted from the cabin... it was Horrible! Abrubtly, the vision faded and I realized that Tom must have spilled some coffee in his lap. "Uh, Bruce, good pal, good buddy, do you think you could do me a favor and make sure the passengers are comfortable... and, while you're back there, make sure the hatch is secure. Thanks." To be continued... (I might even get airborne in the next installment :-))Marc

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Excellent read Marc, look forward to the next installment :-)Much better than reading all those doom laden stories of FS9 ;-)

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:-loli love it mate,keep it coming...a refreshing read inbetween all the "black" fs9 stories!

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