Here is what the first flight aboard an airplane like GXRP might be like for a young pilot. Imagine a flight instructor hovering around, as the story unfolds.

You walk toward the airplane. It’s considerably larger than the two- or four-seat trainers you’re used to. The tail is huge, the nose is long, and there is a black tip. You are told that a weather radar dish sits up there. You wonder how to use it. Then there are two wide engine nacelles on the wings. Each engine is larger than the one you’ve been flying behind until now. You can see little doors around the landing gears. You realize that the wheels retract for flight, and are reminded of stories of pilots forgetting to lower them again for landing. That’s a very expensive mistake you intend never to commit (but then, nor did they).

As you get closer, you realize that it’s a low-wing airplane, and the main cabin/cockpit door is way up over the right wing. You circle around the wing, and notice a little step hanging off of the fuselage, and some hand-holds higher up and forward. Aha, step, pull, step, pull, and you’re up there. Standing on the wing, you see a bunch more antennas than you’ve seen up close before. The cabin looks wider, longer, and looks a little like a chubby but sleek fish. You open the door, after pressing and yanking on the recessed handle.

You look back, and see a middle and a more cramped rear row of seats. It’s too cramped to move around or stand up fully, but once seated, it looks comfortable enough. The leather and carpeting is not perfect, but is not worn-out like the airplane rental fleet you’re used to. You drop off your coat and bags in the footwell behind the pilots’ row. It’s all easily reachable from the front anyhow. You lean in, roll a seat or two back, and carefully take your place in the front left. Your legs have to be maneuvered carefully to avoid kicking the levers in the central (power) quadrant, or the lower (fuel) quadrant. Once you sit down, you find there’s plenty of room to jiggle sideways, for your legs to move. You just can’t easily get up.

Your eyes turn toward the instrument panel. The co-pilot seat is probably folded forward, so you push it back. Holy cow, what a bunch of instruments and controls. You worry you’ll never understand them all. Your hands run over the controls for the first time. The yoke has just a little bit of play in the roll axis, but is quite heavy in pitch. You remember how large the horizontal stabilizer was back there, and realize that it is that whole mass of metal you’re trying to move. You hope that, once airborne, the control forces are much lighter, and in fact you’d be right.

Being a twin-engined airplane, you recognize the reason for the paired engine controls, and the paired monitoring instruments over on the right side. You rightly assume that all these paired controls and indicators should be identical normally. This is the first constant-speed properller airplane you will fly, which means that the middle (blue) propeller RPM control levers, and the manifold-pressure indicators are new. You have heard some theory about how this sort of thing works, but don’t know why bother, or when to use them. You will learn.

You look around for a checklist. Ah, there it is, in the pocket on the left side, along with a little clipboard for notes and a pen. It’s long – there are a lot more systems on board and more phases of flight than you are used to. The checklist author must have spent a lot of time getting it all down to one two-sided sheet of laminated paper. Oh, there’s another sheet too, for emergency procedures. You wonder how you will ever memorize the essentials.

It’s time to start the pre-flight check process. Two checklist sections apply, one for you to do, and one to discuss with any passengers. You turn on only parts of the electrical system, and just temporarily, to check basics like fuel level indicators and landing gear lights, and to drain some fuel lines of potential soot. You check a few other items on the list, after finding all the associated controls. Now you’re ready to get back out of the cockpit, and inspect the airplane. You hope you find nothing problematic, so that you will get to fly. You’re also excited by the novelty of looking closely at this unfamiliar aircraft. You hope that this excitement doesn’t turn to a mere chore later.

Part 2.