Transitioning From A Piston To A Turbine poweredAirplane Image Credit: Flying
Transitioning From A Piston To A Turbine poweredAirplane Image Credit: Flying

Transitioning From A Piston To A Turbine-powered Airplane

It’s A Rare Pilot Indeed Who Learns To Fly In A Single Engine Airplane And Never Dreams Of Jumping Into A Larger, Sleeker Machine That Carries More People, Flies Faster And Farther, And Of Course, Is Outfitted With All The Latest Electronic Navigation And Communications Gear.

Rob Mark

For pilots able to climb that ownership ladder—often men and women who plan to use that larger airplane for business—these dreams used to mean stepping up to a light, unpressurized piston twin such as a Cessna 310 or a Beechcraft Baron. But the days of piston-powered twins have come and gone.

Now, a move-up airplane translates into at least a high-performance pressurized single such as the Piper M600, the TBM 900 series or a Pilatus PC-12, offering better weather and cruise speed options. These aircraft operate with just a single powerplant—like the other big player in the move-up market, the Cirrus Vision SF50 jet.

Turbine powerplants seem to be a significant factor in these decisions, with Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PT6 being a popular option. And what’s not to like? Starting a turboprop these days is pretty simple thanks to the full-authority digital engine control system installed on most. Often, it takes no more than the time needed to taxi from the ramp to the hold-short line for a turboprop to be ready to go. PT6s also don’t mind pilots yanking the throttle to idle or slamming it forward in the rarified air of positive-control airspace (now known as Class A). Turbine powerplants do come with one limitation: spool-up time. Shove the throttle forward on a pure jet engine with no propeller connection, and the response is not immediate, as it will be with a piston engine.

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