Over the last few months, I've been flying more types of aircraft than I can remember. Almost. But the one type I flew the most in the previous year was the Caravan and people keep asking if I miss flying the 'Van. My answer is always an immediate "sure I do," followed quickly by "but I don't miss the schedule or the pay." Still, there's something about the smell of jet-a, the sound of a PT6, and the preferential treatment that ATC gives you.
So imagine my surprise when I was offered the opportunity to provide instrument instruction in ... an almost new Grand Caravan.
If someone had told me that there would be a demand for the intersection of my Caravan flying experience and my holding a flight instructor certificate with instrument airplane rating, I would have told them they were crazy. And I would have been wrong.
So what's it like to give instruction in a Grand Caravan as opposed to flying freight in a Caravan Super Cargomaster? The procedures in the two planes are virtually identical, with the exception of the air conditioning in the Grand Caravan. The air conditioning makes a huge difference on longer flights in warm weather; You just don't get as fatigued as quickly when you're cool and comfortable. Another thing that's certainly better is the pay. And the windshield on the Grand Caravan is so clean and clear compared to the freight aircraft it's hard to believe the view.
It was a bit odd to be in the right seat, at first. It's also weird to give instruction in slow flight, stalls, and unusual attitude recovery in a Caravan, but hey, I'm adapting. I've demonstrated a couple of landings from the right seat and that was unremarkable aside from the fact that I couldn't get used to where the torque meter was located. Also disorienting was demonstrating an ILS from the right seat - it almost felt like a different plane. Almost.
What feels the same is the stability and predictability of the Caravan. It's a sweet flying airplane with few bad habits. Fly it by the numbers and you'll seldom be disappointed. And I've seldom seen an aircraft type that is so fascinating to other pilots and to controllers alike.
If you need any proof that life is full of pleasant surprises, strokes of luck, and wonderful opportunities, then consider my good fortune. And I've been around aviation long enough to not ask how long something good will last. I'm just enjoying my incredible good fortune.
I still can't believe what I see when I look over my left shoulder - not a bunch of boxes under a cargo net, but carpet and rows of leather seats. What are the odds?