Time of day: 5:00 am.
Location: in a cosy bed of a not so luxurious hotel.
The city is still asleep when I open the window, letting in some fresh air as a means of waking up.
What a great day this is going to be. 40 minutes later, a taxi is waiting down below, and we're off to the airport.
It's 6:00 am as we meet with our unique passenger on this first sector, and the captain boards the plane while I do the walk-around.
Minutes later and start-up clearance received, the roar from the engines brings the shiny twin-turboprop aircraft to life.
I've always loved the vibration and noise feeling resulting from the engines rolling over at idle thrust, reminding you of what it feels like to have 1500 hp at your fingertips.
Another three passengers are waiting in Toulouse, and although this is a half hour trip, we'd better get going.
Full thrust applied, we're pushed back deep in our seats while the speed rapidly increases towards V1.
Cleared to 3000ft initially, we're following a SID that ends where the STAR commences.
I'm PM (Pilot Monitoring) on this flight, doing the radio, checklists, and managing the navigation.
Not much time to fully enjoy the view when the sun rises above the horizon, but the intense orange light on the instruments panel is enough to realize how lucky we are to be here.
Toulouse is coming in sight as we are being radar vectored for the ILS runway 32L, runway re-built in 2005 to then accomodate the Airbus A380 tests. 3500m (11,500ft) long, 75m (250ft) wide, it is a lot more than we need to land the Kingair.
While most operators need a 30 min turn-around, we manage a 10 min stop on the apron of the business Terminal (FBO) to pick up our three passengers, joining the three of us already in the plane.
On our way to Paris, cruising at FL220 (22,000ft), we've got plenty of time to discuss the new avionics recently installed. The Avidyne EX600 is actually a superb piece of equipment, capable of centralising information via datalink, display weather information (Metar/taf on any airfield), clouds and cells activity on top of the map, message texting, and an overlay of the radar spots on top of the current map.
All systems are linked to each other. We use the Garmin GNS 530 as a FMS to enter the flight plan, and as a map in flight. The 430 is used as a secondary map and ETAs (Estimated Time of Arrival, for each waypoint) as it displays roughly the same information as the 530, on a smaller screen.
The G600 is used for its obvious purpose: PFD (Primary Flight Display) and ND (Navigation Display), while the EX600 provides us with a complete meteorological service as we need it, and a high def map.
Coming down towards the Capital, I enter the STAR and approach into the FMS for the ILS 25R at Toussus (a General Aviation airfield South-West of Paris).
The procedure takes us right to the edge of the Zone P (Prohibited) surrounding Paris, giving us the chance to enjoy a superb view over the capital and Paris Orly airport.
The ILS approach that follows is pretty much eventless.
On the apron, we unboard our passengers and I get to spend some time catching up with friends and hanging around in the control tower.
6:00 pm, all set up for the engines start-up.
I’m PF (Pilot Flying) on this flight back to the South of France, meaning I get to fly the plane while the Captain is doing the checklists, radio and navigation management for me.
Engines stabilized, I taxi the plane to the holding point for a 25R departure.
Aligned on 25R, I push the thrust levers forward, setting 600 lb-ft of Torque, before releasing the brakes and advancing the levers to 1200 Trq. The feeling that results is a very intense acceleration, the aircraft is almost empty and we are not carrying a lot of fuel. The Captain announces “80 kts”, quick glance at the airspeed indicator and I say aloud “check”, he announces “Rotation” as we reach 95 kts and I remove my left hand from the thrust levers to put it on the yoke and pull it up.
Positive rate of climb, gear up, and the Captain switches on the Flight Director so that I can track the SID tracks, following the command bars.
I fly the whole SID, climb legs, and a further few minutes in the cruise manually, at FL230 (23,000ft). What a pleasure this is to fly!
Half way down the route, we ask for a potential short-cut in the planned route and we get a lucky “direct PPG”.
As the the aircraft needs to have its new avionics tested, I get to fly a procedural hold and a DME Arc to then capture the Localizer of the ILS. Great fun!
Airborne life continues...