MU-2 - One Year Report

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by Ted DuPuis, Jan 1, 2019.

  1. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    On January 30th, 2018 Cloud Nine took delivery of our "new" aircraft - a 1972 MU-2. I discussed the purchase in this thread.

    Although not yet at exactly a year with the plane, we had it for almost all of 2018 did a lot with the plane. The following major events occurred:

    - Getting initial insurance
    - Delivery (that's what matters most, right?)
    - 14 CFR Part 91 Subpart N mandated training (so that I could fly it)
    - Hot section on the right engine
    - First 100/200 hour (annual) under my care
    - Second 100-hour under my care (because I flew it on a lot of mission)

    I ended up flying a total of 12 Cloud Nine missions saving 374 homeless pets and just over 216 hours total on flights that spanned from coast to coast, and as far as Puerto Rico and Costa Rica. It's been a fun year.

    Going in, I had anticipated that costs per mile would be similar to the 414. Thus far, I've found that to be fairly accurate, but it depends on how you look at it. The 100/200, second 100 hour, and then adding an EGT harness that needed to get replaced bring the hourly maintenance cost to around $150/hr. That is significantly cheaper than the 414 was, and I am now taking it to a Mitsubishi authorized service center rather than using a small private shop. One of the side effects of this has been shorter duration shop visits and thus more time available to fly.

    I am obviously not including the hot section in the above numbers, but I don't think it's entirely reasonable to as that's a once per 1800 hours (per engine) expense, and your resale value changes significantly with your engine times (both SMOH and SHSI). That came out to just under $70k, but that was a really expensive hot section as a lot of items needed to get replaced. It was also the engine's second hot section, so not entirely surprising. The 414's engines were going to cost $70k to overhaul for the pair, so in terms of a short term expense it came out about the same.

    As I've built hours and comfort in the plane, I've gotten to know it and learned a few things.

    Although these engines are only rated to sea level and 75F, they perform a lot better than that. The EGT limit for takeoff is higher than max cruise or "max continuous" (which has a vague description in the POH other than "for emergency use"). I haven't had issues getting max torque or close to it. That's a good thing.

    Originally I had expected to do most of my takeoffs as flaps 5 and most of my landings as flaps 20. Options for takeoff are flaps 5 or flaps 20, and options for landing are flaps 20 or flaps 40. In training my instructor said that he typically did and recommended flaps 20 for takeoff and landing, and after doing a couple flaps 5 takeoffs and flaps 40 landings I agreed that seemed logical. With some hours in the plane, I've expanded that a bit more. Flaps 40 is great if you have altitude you need to lose, as it basically turns the airplane into an elevator. I've used it a few times in VMC conditions for that reason, but I would never use it in IMC. I've become friends with the man who flew this plane for 25 years, and he always did flaps 40 landings, but was based at a 3200 ft strip. In those days the guidelines for flaps 40 were also different and allowed for slower speeds coming in. They changed the guidelines because of some crashes, and I can see why. There's a lot of drag, and an engine failure when slow with flaps 40 I don't see as being something you can power out of unless lightweight and performance was in your favor. Flaps 20 is more logical in my opinion.

    For takeoffs, I've started playing around with flaps 5 some more and am finding I like those better when relatively lightweight and cold, but it definitely eats up more runway to do. I normally take off from a 6800 ft runway though, so no big deal. What's nice about flaps 5 is that you have less drag and a bit more speed in the event of an engine failure shortly after takeoff, as rotation speeds are roughly 7 KIAS faster for the same weight. I'm still evolving my personal preferences.

    For climb, I initially did 160 KIAS and went from 100% RPM down to 96% RPM passing 9,000 ft, which is where the manual says you should for engine efficiency. I've switched from doing that to 100% RPM for climb and Vy, which varies with altitude and weight but is roughly 135-155 KIAS. This ends up reducing my time to climb noticeably, which also reduces my total fuel burn.

    Oh, right, fuel burn. And speed. Initially I'd figured around 270 KTAS on speed. The plane will do that and more if I really want to push it, but doing so requires being in the hight teens or very low flight levels and burning on the order of 70 GPH. For the most part I'm cruising at FL200-250 (ceiling is FL250) and that is 52-60 GPH combined for 250-260 KTAS depending on weight. I also fly at 96% RPM in cruise almost always as that burns about 4 GPH less combined for not much speed loss, is quieter, and also is cooler on the hot section (which should increase life). The exception to this is if 100% RPM will get me to a higher altitude than I could get at 96% RPM (due to the extra power) and that somehow benefits me for winds/efficiency/etc. Then I'll run at 100% RPM until I burn off enough fuel to get 160 KIAS or better at 96% RPM. 160 KIAS is best efficiency speed. One thing that's nice is that even with a stiff headwind, I almost never see under 200 KTS ground speed. It has to be a really bad wind for that. So even with a bad wind, I'm still making good time.

    I generally aim for 500C EGT, which is roughly 20C below the max cruise limit in general. The plane seems happy there. With the winter winds I've had a couple times where I've had to fly in the mid teens and the fuel burns go up significantly, but those have been pretty rare. Best ground speed so far was over 400 KTS in a dive with a 100 kt tailwind.

    I never found the fuel costs to be less for the MU-2 vs. the 414, but I also was burning a lot less fuel with the 414 than most Twin Cessna owners, so that wasn't a surprise. A few years ago, Jet A was way, way cheaper than 100LL. That's less the case now but when you factor in the extra speed and better maintenance costs, the average cost per mile is still less than the 414. In the end, I've shaved about 25% off of block times vs. the 414. A trip that took 16 hobbs hours in the 414 takes 12 in the MU-2, almost exactly.

    My personal minimum for runways is still 4000 ft, which is what I set for myself after training. Can the plane do shorter? Absolutely. Could I? Sure, I proved that in training. But, things happen quickly with rotation and landing speeds around 100 KIAS and I just don't think that the risk is worth the benefit. Operationally it's not an issue, either. The only runway I would have liked to fly into that's <4,000 ft is Gaston's, and if we really decided to go we can land at Mountain Home and thumb a ride.

    For the first 50 hours or so I did almost all my trips with a co-pilot along, and developed a "Co-Pilot SOP" that basically said "This is what will kill us, make sure I don't do any of it." I found that very helpful as initially got used to the plane. I still find it nice to have a co-pilot along since nobody's perfect, although I'm comfortable flying the plane solo.

    I tell people that it's basically two different planes - the plane above 160 KIAS and the plane below. You really feel the difference at lower speeds and it doesn't feel like a normal airplane because of the reduced roll authority of the spoilers. My wife's first impression flying right seat going into Houston with it at 130 KIAS (a normal approach speed, if anything a hair fast) was "This is too slow." It feels that way and low speeds take getting used to. That said it's still an honest airplane. Energy management is important as you can easily blast into the pattern at 230 KIAS. The big thing is that speed doesn't bleed off very quickly until you hit about 130 KIAS, and then it bleeds off very quickly so it requires attention. This is what killed Pascal (along with a whole string of bad decisions leading up to it) when he was bleeding off speed and then found himself below 100 KIAS at flight idle with flaps and gear out with his head looking at the clouds instead of at the instruments.

    I have a great deal of respect for the plane, but the basic flying of it is not complex and the flows/checklists are straightforward. I check the "6 things that will kill me" before takeoff (3 trim settings, flaps, condition levers, and bleed air), flaps and gear have their appropriate speeds and easy flow on those - <175 flaps 5, <160 gear, <140 flaps 20. Flaps 40 requires <120 which is not particularly comfortable to be adding all that drag and it needs a lot of power added back in.

    It's impossible to get this plane out of aft CG. The problem is actually forward CG. The W&B envelope reduces max takeoff and landing weights as your CG goes forward, so my issue is typically having the CG aft enough and that is typically what restricts my fuel load. That said, the plane is efficient enough and carries enough (366 gallons) that it's rarely an issue. For the long trips I have to make a stop, but I've eliminated many fuel stops I had to make with the 414, which is part of why it saves so much time.

    @James_Dean had issued a challenge between the ChickenHawk Express and the MU-2. We haven't done it yet, but my thoughts are:

    - The MU-2 will win a brick approach, hands down
    - The MU-2 will win on MPG
    - The 425 will win on outright speed, being a Blackhawk, as well as time to climb
    - The 425 will win on cabin and cockpit comfort, hands down

    Ultimately, it's a great plane and very rewarding, and most importantly a great fit for Cloud Nine's mission. I have always loved MU-2s, and it was a long time dream to get to fly one. The reality has been just as good as I'd imagined.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2019
  2. Greg Bockelman

    Greg Bockelman Administrator Management Council Member

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    Man, I wish I were in the neighborhood.
     
  3. ja_user

    ja_user Pattern Altitude

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    You used to be :)
     
  4. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    You should let me know when you are.
     
  5. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    Few things I realized I'd omitted from the original report, specifically regarding upgrades and tweaks.

    In reality I haven't had to do a lot to this airplane thus far. I've removed about 35 lbs from the plane in defunct avionics plus a 20 lb ballast in the tail. I expect to be removing more weight as the avionics upgrades happen, but still waiting on those. With the removal of defunct parts also came the removal of some unused antennas, including a big bulky ADF one.

    I also replaced the nav/strobe lights in the tip tanks and the tail with Whelen Orions. I used these in the 310 and was a big fan, so I put them in the MU-2 as well, but took the Aveo Engineering landing lights out of the 414 and put them in the MU-2. Part of the Whelen STC is that you can then remove other beacons from the plane, so we removed the beacons on the belly and on the tail. This drag reduction combined with the antenna drag reduction did seem to help performance a bit, although as I was also learning the best way to get the most out of the plane (not saying that process is finished, but I've come a long way from day 1) it's hard to say with certainty. Let's just say that removing drag couldn't hurt things any and leave it at that, and if I gained a few knots, all the better.

    Weight makes a big difference in this plane, and with roughly 2,000 lbs of fuel on board, carrying extra fuel ends up costing you fuel. This is true with any plane, but it's the most noticeable in this one. Because of the forward CG tendency, I would like to move the main battery aft, but I doubt that will happen. It's a big (read: expensive) job, so I'll probably just live with it and try to remove unnecessary weight as much as I can otherwise.

    Right now I have an avionics shop visit planned in April in conjunction with airframe inspections. The goal with that shop visit will be ADS-B. With funding not that great I'll probably end up going the low dollar route of upgrading the 530 to a 530W and the GTX 330 to a GTX 330ES, with the plan of later adding a GTX 345 when I do some work to the center stack.

    Last year I'd said I'd wanted to put MT props on the plane. Part of me still does, but I don't see it happening. The pricing is very high. I also asked my shop about when they thought I should plan to overhaul the props on the plane. The same company operates the MU-2s at Tinker on the government contract with the same props I have. Their response was "We never overhaul ours, we just keep an eye on them and do IRANs when needed." Good enough for me. Since the 3-bladed props are known for being very durable, I'll probably just continue to run with them.

    I have added a Bose A20 (with the Bose jack, since the plane had those already) and it does help. The big benefit of the MTs vs. Hartzells is noise. The A20s do a good job of helping to keep that at bay. With the props being more or less in line with the middle of the plane, the rear seat passengers need headsets more than was required in the 310 or 414.

    Really, it's a great plane and other than upgrading the panel, I can't think of anything else I want to change on it, just keep it flying. That's pretty unusual for me, the eternal tinkerer, but it's just well built and this one in particular is a good example. One of the MU-2 gurus has known this particular plane for 30 years, and has told me on more than one occasion that it's his favorite F-model MU-2. We lucked out.

    So, hopefully we can continue to raise money towards the panel for April.
     
  6. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    Oh, and I put these shiny throttle knobs on yesterday that a friend made for me. The factory knobs were "comically small" (per @bradg33 ) and not very comfortable. These are much better. I swear I'm done. Really. Maybe. Probably. Ok who am I kidding. :D

    IMG_2945.JPG
     
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  7. AnthonyS1

    AnthonyS1 Pre-Flight

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    Very nice write up! Some flying pics would be cool too!
     
  8. Mtns2Skies

    Mtns2Skies Super Moderator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Here's one on a dreary Wisconsin day that Ted came by, without many of his avionics to boot :eek:. I can attest that it's a beautiful plane and will suit him, his family and Cloud Nine marvelously. The last time I saw it was me ferrying my new plane home with it in his hangar before training was complete.
    IMG_20181201_113911.jpg
     
  9. kayoh190

    kayoh190 Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    Very cool Ted!
     
  10. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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  11. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Final Approach

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    surprised those aren't brass......:confused:
     
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  12. bnt83

    bnt83 Final Approach

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    Its funny you mention that because there are CFIs that don't consider partial flap landings as "the right way" even in small underpowered trainers where recovery from sinking air or sloppy power management can quickly turn into an emergency.
     
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  13. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    One thing with the MU-2 is that the recommended practices have continued to evolve over the years as we've seen more about what kills people in it. It has a tremendous amount of capability and versatility in what it can do by design, but this includes some risk areas that in reality most pilots should just avoid. This then results in revisions to the checklists and POH. The flaps are a hugely integral part of flying this airplane, especially being full length fowler flaps. Mitsubishi doesn't recommend flaps 40 landings in general and that's the official doctrine, however there is debate from some about that as with anything in aviation from some folks. I don't think most Part 23/CAR 3 aircraft have had the same level of evolution in recommended procedures that the MU-2 has had, although there has been some.

    In your standard spam can my opinion is the flaps don't make a huge difference. Sure they make a difference, but reality is you can land the plane without flaps just fine. In the MU-2 the book says to add about 30% if you do a no-flap landing and you have to come in at 140 on final and 110-124 KIAS over the numbers. That's not slow.
     
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  14. Shepherd

    Shepherd En-Route

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    I can't tell you how much I enjoy reading your reports on this plane.
    Thanks for sharing.
     
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  15. benyflyguy

    benyflyguy Cleared for Takeoff

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    My buddy has an MU2 and he doesn’t see himself flying anything else. Loves it, fits his mission, faster-higher-safer. He had the chance to fly a king air recently as well as a citation, when the MU2 was down, and for the money the MU2 outperforms them all. Noisy - yes.
    His plane on the left. My club plane on the right. If we go somewhere I get to leave a lot sooner, a lot!! B24165AD-AAC1-4EBD-B5BF-E1B081B36CEA.jpeg
     
  16. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    I looked up the tail number and I know who your friend is, he's on the MU-2 mailing list. :)

    His sentiments are common among MU-2 pilots. Like any aircraft type you have people who buy them as a stepping stone, and you have some people who buy them and realize it's more airplane than they need/want. There are a large number who buy them and are just very happy with the price, performance, etc. They have a cult following, but for those of us in the cult, we're mostly there because we want to be and sought out the airplane.

    When I look at this compared to other airplanes, I'd say I'm there as well. Here's my progression as I see it:

    - Aztec: My first twin (and first airplane), purchased largely because it was a good opportunity and good price. Thought I would end up keeping it forever because I didn't expect I'd be able to afford any sort of upgrade. Loved it, but I did want more.
    - 310: I fell out of my chair when the eMail came in about donating the plane. A wonderful aircraft that I loved and had good speed, but also had its limitations in terms of carrying capacity and altitude. When I moved to Kansas, I said to my wife "We need to either upgrade, downgrade, or get out altogether." She said "Well 2 and 3 aren't options." Words cannot express how much I love this woman.
    - 414: This was a stepping stone and was a plane that I went into not expecting to keep forever, but had a "5 year plan" for it, since I'd kept the Aztec for 4 years and the 310 for 5.5 years. But, it checked the boxes. I learned a tremendous amount with it, and it helped me build some necessary time. But, I never had great love for it. It just did the job.
    - MU-2: As my wife put it when I was telling her about the MU-2 convention a few months after taking delivery: "You have finally found your tribe." I've always found the speed and efficiency appealing, and an aircraft that is capable but requires mastery is rewarding to me. It's built like a tank.

    I've gotten asked the question "What's next?" quite frequently over the past year. I wouldn't say no to any donation be it a Lear or a 172, but I'm happy with this plane. With the 310 I was getting bored with it once I ran out of things to do with it. This thing, other than avionics I don't have much to do on it, and I'm happy just flying it and learning how to master the machine.
     
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  17. Tantalum

    Tantalum En-Route

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    Always thought the MU2 was a seriously badA$$ plane. Thanks for the pics and write up.. awesome stuff
     
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  18. will44s

    will44s Filing Flight Plan

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    Funny how fuelers always take there lunch break when a mu2 shows up.
     
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  19. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    Never had that issue, although I do have a policy that the plane only be fueled with me present. The one exception being at the shop, since they fuel the things multiple times a day.
     
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  20. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Final Approach

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    and to be fair....that is the one major single point failure mode in your ride....:confused:
     
  21. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    Which - me, the shop, or the fueling?
     
  22. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Final Approach

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    yup....pick any of those. :D
     
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  23. James_Dean

    James_Dean Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    This is good stuff. We’re going to have to define the terms of the challenge in a way that is equatable and equitable. I think a 500 mile round trip on the same time/day, with the same payload would suffice? I'm not certain that for equal speed I'm going to burn any more fuel than you've outlined if I'm allowed to go at/above FL250. I was at FL270 yesterday and was pushing over 285ktas on 71 GPH and this was a gross weight departure with all seven of my family aboard with all their Christmas presents and baggage.

    https://flightaware.com/live/flight/N425XP/history/20190101/1700Z/KDVT/KSXK/tracklog

    Yes, the tailwind was really nice. Burned a total of 200 gallons on this flight. 22 minutes to FL270 with three level offs. Bazinga! Ok, not "Jet" Bazinga, but pretty good performance for me.
     
  24. gkainz

    gkainz Final Approach

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    Fun stuff to read, Ted. As part of my Air Intercept Controller training in the Navy, back in the 70s, a company (Flight International, maybe?) had a contract to fly as part of Air Intercept and Air Combat training. I recall controlling MU-2s as both interceptor and bogie from Miramar. Was an interesting setup, especially back then, that we had radar from San Clemente (I think it was) remotely displayed in an E-2 Hawkeye backend trainer at Miramar, and we ran intercepts and controls from there as they flew out in the Channel Islands area.
     
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  25. Lance F

    Lance F Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    I have to admit, an upgrade like this sounds very tempting when Ted describes it. Thanks for the report. I sure hope to see the plane live some time this year.
     
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  26. Kritchlow

    Kritchlow Final Approach

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    Single point or overwing fueling?
     
  27. Pascal Forget

    Pascal Forget Pre-Flight

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    Thanks a lot for the write up Ted. I found it extremely interesting!
     
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  28. will44s

    will44s Filing Flight Plan

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    I was an A@P for one many years ago and I still remember it being one of the most rugged well built planes I have worked on. It compares to Beechcraft in the same way Beechcraft is to piper. The only finicky thing I remember is resetting the landing gear after a manual extension.
    Problem with fueling is there are six fuel tanks up high and when it comes time to fill the tip tanks you have shuffle back and forth filling them evenly. Also, unless you want a jet fuel shower definitely heed the warnings on the tip tanks.
    Very fun airplane. I think it was the speed and slightly uncontrolled feeling on the ground that always got my adrenaline up.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
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  29. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    I definitely can't beat 285 on 71 GPH at any altitude. I'm not even sure if I can get 285 out of the plane at any altitude, but if I can, it will be high teens or low flight levels with a higher fuel burn (high 70s I would imagine). There the combination of the longer wingspan and the bigger engines that carry power up higher help you. If I was even allowed allowed to go to FL270, I doubt I'd be able to get much above 260 KTAS, and that would probably still be pushing it and require being fairly light weight and a cold day.

    The round trip on same time/day with same payload would probably be the best way. Another comparison would be MPG for a more economy cruise. For example, at FL250, our relative fuel burns to go the same speed. Fuel load is important here, at least for the MU-2, as too much fuel means I can't get high enough to get max economy.

    Overwing. Depending on how you look at it, the MU-2 has 5, 6, or 7 tanks. 5 tanks, but the main tank is divided up into three compartments. The outer two compartments each have their own fill port and then check valves let the fuel flow into the center compartment. The tip tanks are 90 gallons each, which is a lot of weight in the wing. So if topping the tips with a single hose, you're required to put 45 gallons in one tip, go over to the other side, 90 gallons in that tip, and then back to top the first tip. Oh, and the tip tank are pressurized (that's how they transfer fuel to the main tanks), so you need to release the pressure before removing the caps. Basically just pop the caps and let the pressure bleed off before opening them. Line guys who've never seen this before inevitably have a jaw drop effect when I pop the caps for them (which I always do).

    So 5 tanks, 6 fill ports, 7 compartments.

    Two hoses is the way to go. Then you just fill the inboards (main), outers (only 15 gallons a piece) and tips. If you're doing it solo, it's a lot of running around with a ladder.
     
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  30. jsstevens

    jsstevens En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Ted, you commented above on the cabin noise. Do you do anything to protect the dog’s you transport hearing or do you figure a lifetime exposure of a few hours is negligeable?
     
  31. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    This is a question that has always come up since I started flying dogs 10 years ago. I’ve never done anything for hearing protection on the dogs (including my own) and have not changed practices for the MU-2. Reality is it’s not very practical when flying 30-45 dogs at once anyway, and with so many different sizes it would be dizzying to keep track of that many sets of Mutt Muffs. For the 3-6 hours of flight time they spend in the plane on a transport, I don’t think it harms their hearing significantly. Decibel wise when I’ve measured it’s still under 90.

    The noise has never seemed to bother any dog, and even human passengers sometimes opt not to wear a headset. But while I used my Clarity Aloft headset in the 414, I decided the Bose A20 was a necessity in the MU-2 to protect what’s left of my hearing.
     
  32. Groundpounder

    Groundpounder Line Up and Wait

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    I worked line service for 10 years, and there was a flight department at our airport that had 3 MU-2's. They always seemed to call at shift change for all 3 to be fueled, and sometimes we'd only have one guy to spare to send up there. The chief pilot would normally watch us fueling, and yell at us to hurry up, and nitpick everything we would do. Needless to say they weren't my favorite company to deal with.
     
  33. N53KL

    N53KL Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Were these "KC" aircraft?
     
  34. AdamZ

    AdamZ Administrator Management Council Member

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    I haven’t seen Ted’s plane in person yet but I’d say one glaring downside is its not a V-Tail ;)
     
  35. Groundpounder

    Groundpounder Line Up and Wait

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    I will neither confirm nor deny that statement.....

    And it wasn't the chief pilot that gave us heartburn, but he sure pretended he was in charge.
     
  36. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    Ha - now that does present an interesting thought experiment. If you took the V-tail from a doctor killer and put it on the Japanese Death Machine, what would you have?
     
  37. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 Line Up and Wait

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    A Kamikaze! Beechcraft did look at a V-Tail Baron at one point, but discovered the obvious.
     
    Ted DuPuis likes this.
  38. C-1 PILOT

    C-1 PILOT Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Ted, they need to update the website, still showing the 310!
     
  39. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    Yeah, I really need some help on the website.
     
  40. N53KL

    N53KL Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Ha! BW was like a nice nice guy who loved to fly his Mits (remember N302X?). Went to flight school with JP....interesting character. I see they still have a short and long body MU-2. Must have a zillion hours on them now.