Are Pressurized Piston Twins Worth the Effort?

Discussion in 'Maintenance Bay' started by Ray Jr, Mar 13, 2019 at 9:00 PM.

  1. Ray Jr

    Ray Jr Filing Flight Plan

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    I really like the idea of having a big ole twin to carry around my clan (3-6 adults) around Canada and the USA and Caribbean (400 - 1000 nm) - I don't mind breaking into 2 legs, but probably not 3. I'm not Daddy Warbucks and so a nice new King Air 350 isn't an option.

    I see lots of great stories about the larger piston pressurized twins (C304, 414, 421, PA31 and BE60). However I hear just as many story that start with "these are old air frames and will cost a fortune to maintain".

    For anyone out there currently maintaining one of these birds, What do you think? Is it a hassle? As in is is that much worse than a non-pressurized twin of the same era?

    Thanks !
     
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  2. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    I used to operate and be financially responsible for a 414 and was in the Twin Cessna world for 8 years. I also flew Navajos for quite a while and saw the maintenance associated with those. Note those were non-pressurized Navajos.

    My general feeling was that most of the problems I had with the 414 (and that exist on most turbocharged Twin Cessnas) were related to the engines and various issues relating to the turbo systems. The pressurization itself was trouble-free for me, although if we'd kept the airplane longer I'm sure pressurization issues would've cropped up. That said, it was also a 40 year old airplane with complex systems so issues were expected.

    I do find that Navajos are more reliable than their pressurized Twin Cessna counterparts, however note that the P-Navajos have engines that are unsupported and I wouldn't touch one of those unless it was free. Similar for Dukes. I don't think you'd find a whole lot of a cost savings with a non-pressurized cabin class Twin Cessna (they're all turbo) vs. a pressurized one.

    Pressurization is very nice to have. It gives you more altitude options, more comfort, less fatigue, less turbulence. Whether it's worth it depends on how much you're willing to spend. $650/hr wet is a reasonable average, and Navajos I normally see closer to $500.
     
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  3. bbchien

    bbchien Touchdown! Greaser!

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    650 /hr wet is Pilatus territory...a much nicer ride :)
     
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  4. AA5Bman

    AA5Bman Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Less turbulence? Do you mean just cuz you’re probably higher?
     
  5. Ray Jr

    Ray Jr Filing Flight Plan

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    Thanks for the insight. Sounds about in line with what I've read elsewhere. 650 per hour doesnt sound that bad for what you get really. Compared to slightly less capible planes, theyre only slightly less expensive to operate.
     
  6. Ray Jr

    Ray Jr Filing Flight Plan

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    Really? Is that true? I was just reading that a king air 200 is close to 2500/hour. That seems like a much larger difference than 1 less engine would make
     
  7. James_Dean

    James_Dean Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    Doc, gotta disagree with you there. You’re going to spend $2mm more to get the cheapest PC-12 over the nicest 414. At 5% money the cost of capital alone is $650/hr flying 150 hours/yr. Insurance, hangar, engine reserve, and fuel are going to be another $600/hr and you haven’t turned a wrench yet.
     
  8. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    I should note that the MU-2 is generally also around $650/hr wet, making it noticeably cheaper $/mile than the 414 was. The MU-2 is also one of the cheapest turboprops to operate. Big thing with a PC-12 is that your purchase cost is going to be about an order of magnitude higher than a pressurized piston twin, and with a turbine you have to look at time until HSI, TBO, and then various life limit inspections that can make the range of values much more significant. I also don't personally know what a PC-12 costs to operate, but I'd think when you include all factors, that number is probably in the $650-1k/hr range. $2500 for KA200 is high. As @James_Dean noted there's a big discrepancy on purchase cost and the associated opportunity cost of money. That's part of why I've always flown planes that are on the cheaper purchase price side, and it's always served me well.

    Correct. Sorry, I should've clarified that point.

    There are pros and cons. I really enjoyed flying Navajos, they were a lot more fun to fly than the 414. That said I did appreciate the altitude capability the 414 had. The highest I ever had a Navajo was 17,500 and it wasn't happy up there. If you're flying that far that regularly, I think you'll appreciate pressurization and flying high. We mostly flew the Navajo on shorter trips.
     
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  9. Kenny Phillips

    Kenny Phillips Cleared for Takeoff

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    When one specifies hourly cost, one should always note whether it's DOC (the smallest number, the one that manufacturers like to tout) or some other, more inclusive figure (which can include maintenance, loan service, and even landing fees).
    I can see a PC-12 at at $650 DOC, but not "all-in". Back in the day, Pilatus used to advertise a $400/hour DOC.
     
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  10. James331

    James331 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Does that include the multi million dollar nut of buying the thing?

    Per the OP, not a fan of pressurized piston planes.

    If a pressurized piston plane is on your radar, a PC12 is probably not in your price range. A KA90 or small MU2 maybe, but at that point you also get into the just because you can afford it and legally PIC it, should you be single piloting it?
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019 at 2:59 PM
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  11. Ray Jr

    Ray Jr Filing Flight Plan

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    Thanks for all the feedback. Very reassuring.

    Lets say we agree that this big pressurized twins are at least high maintenance. Where is a budding low time pilot to look to step up into pressurization. The idea of my group of 6 all sitting around with tubes up our noses and phones on our ears doesn't sound like a good time. I have heard even worse things than these twins about the piper single pressurized planes re: engine failures.

    If i was trying to focus on getting 6 people flying in pressurized comfort, what is my first stop coming from lighter pistons? Is turboprop the only way to go? Lets say money isn't an issue (it is) but if it weren't whats the first stop on the pressure shopping list? With safety and comfort being priority 1
     
  12. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    Exactly, and this is what makes the numbers so hard to figure out. This is especially the case when you're looking at depreciation.

    Not being sure how low time you are, I tend to follow the old school mentality that recommends the following progression:

    - Fixed gear piston single
    - Complex piston single
    - "Entry" piston twin (Aztec/310/Baron/Seneca)
    - Cabin class twin (at this point the jump to turbines vs. pistons is generally irrelevant)

    I do recommend some level of time in each on the transition, more than what's required for the sign-off. 10 years ago when I was a new multi pilot they said you couldn't get insurance in a cabin class with under 500 hours. For a while things got very lax and I saw a number of people going straight into 421s as their first twins with <500 hours. Terrible idea, in my opinion, although I saw some people who did fine with it. They also never had a catastrophic failure so there's always that question as to how they would've handled that.

    Cabin class piston twins are normally going to have poor OEI performance. 310s or Barons with 520s/550s are generally about the best for pistons, although the Aztec does alright as well so long as you're east of the Rockies.

    I still think the pressurized piston twin has value. You just have to understand its limitations and the pros and cons that go with it. But if you're a "budding low time pilot", take a look at where you are currently on my list above and chances are you've still got a ways to go before it's even a realistic consideration. You may still have a lot of fundamentals to go through before you get enough experience to realistically move into one of these planes.

    Honestly, a 310 is a whole lot more fun to fly than a 340 or 414. But the cabin class birds are better liked by the family.
     
  13. James331

    James331 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Low time pilot?

    Well option one, BEST OPTION, would be get a 206 or a Saratoga and work your way SLOWLY towards weather, IMC and night, make a hard no go min for yourself and get your instrument rating but stay away from IMC till you have a good deal of XC time.
    Figure a 40% dispatch rate to start and PLAN on a alternate method of being able to get back home that does not involve you flying.



    Option two, less ideal, get your high performance weather plane, hire a experienced pilot/instructor willing to be on call and have him always fly with you for the first couple years.




    I’ll put it to you this way, if you were to hire this out, you’d at LEGAL MINUMS NEED
    “ at least a commercial pilot certificate with appropriate category and class ratings and, if required, an appropriate type rating for that aircraft; and at least 1,200 hours of flight time as a pilot, including 500 hours of cross-country flight time, 100 hours of night flight time, and 75 hours of actual or simulated instrument time at least 50 hours of which were in actual flight and hold an instrument rating or an airline transport pilot certificate with an airplane category rating”

    And that’s LEGAL mins, insurance and the company will only be asking for more than that, will probably want you to have flown a good chunk of that within the last year.
    If you were hiring a plane for your family, would you want a higher standard or just the bare legal minims.

    Now ask yourself where do you stand, and will your family find solace knowing they died due to pilot error, but the pilot was daddy?



    Just because you have the money to afford the high performance plane and to make the long distance flight...
    [​IMG]


    ...doesn’t mean you should fly the high performance plane and make the long distance flights.
    [​IMG]

    http://www.kathrynsreport.com/2012/06/pilatus-pc-1247-n960ka-6-killed-in.html?m=1
     
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  14. James_Dean

    James_Dean Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    BTW, they are totally worth it for family transport.

    upload_2019-3-14_16-3-26.jpeg

    IMG_3516.JPG
     
  15. Ray Jr

    Ray Jr Filing Flight Plan

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    Heres the thing. Im basically trying to figure out if i bother getting a multi rating. When I finish my commercial at some point this year im going to buy my first non trainer and thats going to be either a baron or arrow or something.

    My end goal is the what I described in the first post. A comfy family mover If the answer to that question turns out to be a tbm 700 Ill skip thr multi all together. If its a king air 90, Im next step is multi school.

    My airport is pretty small and nothing like that ever comes through and so neither does anyone who flies them.

    I could always get the multi anyway or go back and get it later but since I know exactly what the end goal is, I want to work directly toward that.
     
  16. Kenny Phillips

    Kenny Phillips Cleared for Takeoff

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    I really, really wanted a Duke when I started flying. Now that I can afford one, I know too much about them! (And $250/hour in fuel costs alone.) I'd buy one if I had an A&P ticket, but otherwise, not gonna happen.
     
  17. Lance F

    Lance F Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    As a current 414 owner I can say your mission is darn close to why I went from a Mooney to a 414. Take a look at my avatar. I wanted to be able to take my two granddaughters, their parents and my wife to the beach (and other fun places). And I wanted A/C and pressurization. Personally I’m scared to death of the potential out of pocket cost of turboprops. So really the only choice was a twin Cessna.

    I can say my 414 has fit this mission perfectly. I have had some unexpected costs, but those were well within my tolerance zone. DOCs are nowhere near $650/hr. I enjoy doing a lot of the maintenance myself, and I probably fly more than average. $400-$450 is probably more realistic.

    If you need more hours or experience to get reasonable insurance rates, for a pressurized twin then start working on it. It is a type that will meet your mission.
     
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  18. Ray Jr

    Ray Jr Filing Flight Plan

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    You nailed it. That's exactly what I have going on here. I agree that these planes do fit the mission very well. I'm just worried that it will end up spending more time on the ground waiting for who knows what part to arrive from who knows where.

    Though, nothing else is really showing itself as an alternative. If I ever get there and do the twin cessna thing, it's a good stepping stone to that king air I always wanted ;)

    Here's a question for you. How's the noise level in the back? I noticed in the pic there that James_Dean posted none of those guys are wearing headphones. Is that standard? I've never flown a big twin like like this like I mentioned.

    Thanks again
     
  19. Lance F

    Lance F Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    James_Dean’s plane is a beautiful 425 with nice big PT6 turboprop engines. It is quieter than a 414. But noise level in back of a 414 isn’t bad at all. We have headsets for the girls, but that’s to make communication easier. If they take them off, it’s not a big deal.
     
  20. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    I had MT props on the 414 and it was a fantastic upgrade if nothing else for the noise. With the stock props it still wasn't bad in back, but it was really noisy up front.

    I had a lot of downtime with the 414, but part of that was because of decisions I made for how to fix certain problems. They could've been fixed quicker at a cost. Basically, the less downtime you want, the more it will cost. But parts are still readily available from a number of sources.

    If you are thinking TBM, keep in mind you're talking a much faster aircraft than a piston Twin Cessna, but also the cabin is smaller than a 414/421 - closer to a 340. So that's something to keep in mind as well.

    My recommendation would be to get your multi after your commercial and start building multi time. Even if you decide the long term answer is a single engine turboprop, the multi time won't be a bad thing. If you decide the long term answer is a multi of any sort (piston or turboprop) the multi time will be invaluable.

    Oh, and don't buy a Baron until you try out a 310. The 310 in my opinion is a nicer plane to fly, and also Twin Cessna systems have a lot of similarities. So if you go from a 310 to a 340/414/421 it'll be an easier transition.
     
  21. bbchien

    bbchien Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Yeah. DOC doesn’t include the cost of money......
     
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  22. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    What? The Swiss aren't offering zero percent financing incentives on a PC-12?? Damn those bankers anyway...
     
  23. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Last time I looked through CharterHub, there were a lot of places chartering B200s for $1500/hr. Presumably, they are able to make a profit at that rate, so I don't buy the 200 being $2500/hr unless purchase price and fixed costs are included at a fairly low number of hours per year. Buy one, fly it for 5 years at 100 hours/year, then maybe.

    If you're wondering whether to get a rating - Always get the rating. I have an hour in a Hawker 800 and another hour in a King Air C90 that I wouldn't have gotten had I skipped the commercial multi rating. @Lance F has some pretty sweet time in his logbook for the same reason.

    I haven't made much other use of it yet (it's hard to find reasonably-priced twins for rent) but I'm glad I got it.

    Yeah, I really wonder what's going to happen in 30 years when all the piston twins are antiques (except the Diamonds). I don't think the turboprops are going to be any cheaper to operate. There's going to be a big gap in price/capability. Maybe someone will manage to certify a new piston twin and make it reasonably priced somehow... Or maybe everyone will be flying Cirruses.

    @James_Dean has a very nice C425 Conquest (pretty much a twin turboprop C414) and it does not require headsets - I rather enjoyed riding in the back of it! The props turn at only 1900 RPM (as opposed to the 414's 2700), which is one of the things that makes it quiet. But, both are pressurized which seems to help quite a bit with noise levels.
     
  24. Ray Jr

    Ray Jr Filing Flight Plan

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    Very interesting. Are there other common mods to these planes that are "worth the effort" - sticking with the theme :)

    That is reassuring really. At least the option is there. Is it hard to come by shops with 400 series Cessna experience ?

    Not the first time I've heard that. Thanks

    Good point

    I had a look on Controller. C425 look great! Maybe 2 or 3 times the price of 414 on average? Conquest II looks pretty great too
     
  25. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    The MTs are the best STC I've done on any airplane, period. Most of the benefits you'll get come from doing things that don't require an STC - making sure your baffles are in perfect shape, removing unnecessary antennas and other unnecessary weight. I also have found that putting in Whelen LED tip/tail nav/strobe lights and removing external beacons makes an improvement in speed.

    The most common STCs on 414s though are the RAM STCs, RAM IV, VI, and VII. These increase the horsepower output of the engines and have some other modifications to them that include an increased gross weight. The higher gross weight is a really nice thing since the standard useful load on most 414s isn't that great. I went through a big weight reduction effort to improve it on the one I flew. If you're wanting to be able to take off with full fuel and your family, you'll probably need a RAM VI or RAM VII. The RAM VII also improves altitude performance notably.

    AA intercoolers provide improved performance (on their own or with a RAM IV or VI, not with the VII) but they don't give you any gross weight increase.

    There are a few shops that know Twin Cessnas the best - TAS Aviation in Defiance, OH is "the best" and DFW AeroMechanix in Dallas is of similar expertise level. However I always just used more local mechanics and did fine with them. They're common enough that someone somewhere usually has Twin Cessna experience. As with anything, finding a good mechanic to work with is the biggest thing.

    425s are a lot more expensive than equivalent 414s. The 2-3x is probably about right. The 441s are fantastic but fetch a very high premium, and that's a much bigger aircraft. As with anything, how much do you want to spend (up front and ownership) is a question.

    But as someone without a multi ticket yet, you've got at least a few hundred hours that you should be putting on a 310/Baron/similar before you make an upgrade like that. I would argue you should spend at least a few hundred hours in a smaller twin before going to a cabin class as well. To elaborate some on the point that @James331 made above, you have a lot of people who have the means and jump into an airplane before they have the background. Those people more often end up in NTSB reports.

    My insurance rates and insurance-derived training requirements have been very low after the first year in the Aztec all those years back. Part of my reason for that is because I've had a progression that has gotten good foundations before moving up. The only "quick" jump I did was the Aztec that I bought at 225 TT, but I went into that having 85 hours of complex in the Mooney I had been flying, and the Aztec is an entry level twin. After that I basically stopped flying singles. At around 900 hours I went into the 310 (which is still something often bought as a first twin, although the Aztec is certainly easier), started flying Navajos around 1100 hours. Got into the 414 at about 2500 hours and the MU-2 around 3000. Keep in mind that after 225 it's basically all multi.

    The fact that when I started flying the MU-2 the insurance said all I needed was the required training per 14 CFR Part 91 Subpart N, and then I was cut loose, was a testament to the background. Now, I chose to fly with a trusted copilot (who had no MU-2 experience but I knew was very good at helping with workload reduction) for the first 50 hours or so. But point is, the insurance let me loose because they looked at my risk as minimal based on background experience.
     
  26. Glen R

    Glen R Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I just read the report. That's horrible.
     
  27. Ray Jr

    Ray Jr Filing Flight Plan

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    All great information. Thanks very much all. What a great bunch of people.

    You will likely see another post by me asking about the ins and outs of 310s before too long :smilewinkgrin:
     
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  28. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    That's easy.

    Get in one and you won't want to get out of one.
     
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  29. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Tag me when you start that one - I was just doing a ton of research on 310s because I think that will be the next airplane my partner and I buy, and I prepared a "brain dump" for him of my results. I'd happily post it on your thread. :)
     
  30. Ray Jr

    Ray Jr Filing Flight Plan

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    That will definitely happen. Thanks !
     
  31. MIFlyer

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    They are PRETTY planes. and for the cost and the speed might be hard to beat. I think we've had like 3 members here buy one in the last year
     
  32. MIFlyer

    MIFlyer Line Up and Wait PoA Supporter

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    are you really going to make us wait?
     
  33. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    650 wet for a Pilatus ? If it was that cheap, everyone would have one.
     
  34. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    They're pretty, they're fun to fly, and they have a fantastic balance of speed/cost/capability.
     
  35. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    No they wouldn't, because the $2M purchase price is out of budget for most people.
     
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  36. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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  37. flyingcheesehead

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  38. MIFlyer

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    Right. If your cost of capital is even a lowly 5% then a two million bird costs 90k a year ,ore than a 200k bird on that factor alone


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  39. hindsight2020

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    didn't you know, everybody is "middle class" up in here. :rolleyes:
    Where have I heard that one before?.....
    upload_2019-3-16_11-0-49.png
     
  40. James_Dean

    James_Dean Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    I was attending APS in Ada a few years ago. Weather was awful and a bunch of arrivals were stacked up in the hold when Brent’s left(iirc) engine decided to eat a valve. He shut it down and shot the approach to pretty low ceilings. It was definitely a ‘bring your A game’ moment.
     
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