What a cool plane! When I started flying in 2003 my goal was to share this hobby, this passion, with my family, friends, and anyone who was interested in letting me geek out!
I quickly learned that unless the aviation gods looked kindly upon me and I flew something like a PC-12 I’d be sharing my passion with one or two other people at a time.. why? Weight and Balance. Your typical flight school or club PA-28/C172 will have around 800-1000 pounds useful load. You quickly find that this useful load goes fast, especially if you factor in all the incidentals that go along with the trip. It’s not just fuel and humans, but bags, iPad’s, headsets, bottles of water, spare quarts of oil, tow bar, POH, chocks, spare batteries, it all adds up quickly.
Outside of some exceptions most GA piston singles are realistically 2-3 person planes, even the “more capable” planes like SR22, etc., generally aren’t any better on WB than the mid 70s PA-28/C172 most of us got our licenses on. You always have the option of getting clever with the fuel load, but in practice this isn’t really a viable way of getting four people in the plane. For starters, you’d always rather err on the side of safety when doing gas calculations, and when it comes down to it we all know that plane fuel gauges are not to be trusted. I don’t know about you but I’m not good at looking in the tanks and saying “okay, that’s a half inch under tabs, should be about 20 gallons”.. I don’t like playing that game. The fuel straws are okay, but unless they’re calibrated to your specific plane they’re largely also just a best guess.. and lastly, maybe you walk out to the ramp with your 3 friends and find that your fuel calculations have gone straight in the trash because the plane has almost full tanks! What do you do now? I’ve been in the awkward position of uninviting people thanks to WB issues.. more than once, it’s no fun
So when the club Aztec came along a few months ago I jumped at the opportunity to go get my multi, crank out the hours, and get checked out in this plane..
MAN, AND WHAT A TRIP IT HAS BEEN!
I’ve done a few trips now I would not have been able to do in any other small piston GA plane. This is a machine you can genuinely load up with 6 people, comfortably I might add, bring full tanks, and still have room left over for bags and gear. Awesome! It’s got a “big plane” feel with gasper vents for all six passengers, plenty of cabin width and height, hell even the nose landing gear has its own taxi light. All the controls, from the fuel selectors, to the throttles and props, down to the flap and gear handles are proper metal handles and cranks. I can understand now why people call it the AzTRUCK. Plus with two engines, 12 cylinders, and 500 horsepower pouring out of 18 liters of Lycoming love the thing has plenty of power.. no more 300 fpm climbs out of Montgomery (okay, maybe on one engine..)
It’s a heavy plane, but an honest plane that if you stay ahead of is a joy to fly. It’s not snappy responsive but it goes where you point it and isn’t thrown off its balance in the bumps or bothered by a mild crosswind. And on the plus side roll and pitch forces are balanced. It’s very solid and it just goes.. whether it’s you and one other person or you have it full to the gills with 6 full grown men you’ll get a solid climb and a solid true airspeed out of it. I tend to run it on the “gentle” side of things, leaned out and 22/22 (or less) and it just goes and goes, well over 150 knots. Landing performance is mundane, I have no problem coasting (read, no brakes) off the second taxiway at AVX when landing west and coasting to the 23 intersection at MYF
Recently on a trip to Death Valley we had 4 of us in the plane, including our club’s own Manuel Gil as honorary co-pilot, and 2 other friends plus a ton of camping gear and we fit, relatively comfortably, and still had over 100 lbs to spare and no CG issues! We even got a guitar in the third row seat, lengthwise across the cabin! Try that in any other small GA plane
It’s a cool plane and if you haven’t flown it I encourage you to at least go get some dual time in it. I guarantee it’ll be a unique experience. Planes like to fly and we can keep her in ship shape condition if she gets in the air often