New to the 421

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    I am a 2,100 hour pilot where ALL 2000 hours was in the same plane, a Seneca II. I have flown that plane since 1994 and it fits like a glove! I fly single pilot IFR down to minimums and would know what the plane was going to do before it did and all my landings were “greasers”. Well that was until I purchased a 1978 421C thinking I was just moving up to a faster, pressurized airplane that would be more comfortable for the grandkids. Now I feel like I’m a student pilot all over again trying to find all the switches, understanding new systems and navigating different avioinics. The two biggest issues I have is the feeling of being behind the airplane and not being able to land as smoothly as I am used to. (Even after spending a week at Simcom). I am sure this will all change with time, but I am looking for anyone else’s experiences (and words of wisdom) with moving up to a 421C. Right now I feel like a fish out of water πŸ™


    Welcome to our “clan”, you will find the 421 a very sound aircraft, as long as it is flown within its design limits, the last few acidents North of the border were all caused by folks asking too much from the aircraft and/or not understanding the systems. As for smooth landings, no one ever got killed droping an aircraft in from six inches, as one who flew from a deck during my miss -spent youth and the flew the heavy iron for a living, smooth landings are not a “must” and looking at this Winters crop of overuns can cost you a lot to fix bent metal, we watched one aircraft “feeling” for a smooth one, only to slide into the snow banks at the far end, his explanation that “the boss wants smooth landings” just did not cut much ice with the TSB! You will find the combined wisdom of the “Twin Cessna” members a great help both from a hands and feet and technical aspect, well worth the membership.


    What runway are you flying into? how long is it? What is your technique for approach and what do you feel is the highest workload part of flying the 421C? Do you have the VG’s?

    My experience is you want to come in with a fair bit of power. I will be at least 15″ and 1700 rpm until ~ 50 ft or less. Have you flown with passengers? Generally, it is always easier to land with passengers in the back.

    Some other feedback – you are now flying in a 7500+ GW 8 seat pressurized twin – The Golden Eagle πŸ™‚ Don’t let ATC or the tower push you into situations where you would have to go slow. Decline all requests for s-turns, 360’s, anything slower than 120 kts in approach, anything slower than blue line on final, etc. Generally towers understand what a 421C is and will give appropriate spacing similar to turbo prop or jet. Watch out for uncontrolled fields, give them your approach speed if needed and watch for traffic entering the runway last minute.

    Single engine, remember that you will not be able to maintain altitude with gear and flaps out, you cannot fly a normal pattern. Gear and anything beyond the first flaps should be deployed after landing is assured. Ideally after the numbers are behind you on the 10,000 ft runway….

    Can the the plane fly slower than 100 kts, can it do s-turns, 360’s, short approaches, late go-arounds, etc? Absolutely! But stack the deck entirely in your favor by avoiding situations where full performance is required.

    From 15k and higher, you should be starting down around 80 miles out. You want to avoid having to scrub too much speed and altitude in the terminal area. The high gear and first flap speeds help if needed – but I like to put the gear out while joining downwind VFR or FAF IFR.

    I started flying in June and have 90 hrs of personal flights. Richard says I am a slacker though, and he is well over 100, maybe 200? πŸ™‚

    Can you describe more where you feel behind in the 421C vs your seneca experience? I moved from a single engine Cirrus to a ME rating in the Cessna 310, to the 421C. So, for me the Cessna 310 was a very similar layout to the 421C and an easier transition. I am still learning every flight, but I do feel comfortable now. I flew 15 dual and 10 solo before passengers in addition to

    Lot’s of new 421C pilot’s over the last year – perhaps we should have a new to Cessna twin fly-in? (all Cessna twins invited). I think we could easily fill the ramp of most airports – maybe talk them into a fuel discount too… πŸ™‚ Somewhere in Colorado this summer?


    Simcom is nice, but nothing will teach you more about flying a twin Cessna that actually fly your plane. Go out and find an airport with a nice long runway and a make a bunch of landings. In a 421 I wouldn’t do touch and goes because its a little harsh on the throttles. Just make landings to full stops. Get your short final speeds down pat and get the feel for the height of the plane and the flair. I’m sure you know this, but keep your eyes way down the runway.

    More import, find an instructor that has a lot of experience in 421s and do some engine out work. It will be very different than a sim. Those geared engines with big props act like speed brakes when they stop working. Also, that instructor knows the little extras about flying a 421. I am very lucky to have Jimmy Garland at S&S Aviation near Atlanta to fly with me, he knows almost everything about 421s. I don’t know where you live but if you’re close to Atlanta call him. I understand that TAS has a similar instructor in Ohio. Good Luck.


    I hopped out of my Seneca III that I had for 5 years and logged 1,000 hours in and it too was like “a glove”. Unlike you, I never learned to land that plane consistently, I just never got that part down. It was a simple plane compared to my 340, I recall taking a deep breath when my 340 was apart during the first inspection.

    My impression on my first take off in my 340 was that I made a mistake; it was going to be too much for me to handle. I remember my instructor telling me I said the same thing about the Seneca. I did 10+ hours of dual before I flew it solo and another 15 before I took a passenger. I set some higher WX minimums and after I had 100 hours in the plane, I was comfortable.

    I fly every year for 2 days with a guy with 1000’s of hours training owner/pilots of twin Cessna aircraft, he has really helped me a lot. You might seek out this type of instructor.

    I rarely have a landing that I am not satisfied with, but it is all about the flying it by the numbers. I suspect all 421’s have similar power settings for flying patterns and approaches – some of the 421 flyer’s I am sure will share them with you and you can tweak them for your plane.

    My old Seneca is in the same hanger as my 340. I look it over now and then and never wish I was still flying it. Welcome to the TC group, you will learn a lot from this group.



    Don’t worry, your comfort level will get there. Yes, the 421 is a complex airplane, but it’s not that bad – in some ways it’s actually easier than my 210 (no flaps on takeoff, easier to manage the engine, no fuel tank switching, etc), but as Eric said, don’t forget that you a flying a 7,500+lbs pressurized airplane in the flight levels and at 200+kts.

    If something does go wrong, FLY THE AIRPLANE. The bottom line is that all airplanes follow the same laws of physics.

    I had a really hard time learning how to land the airplane – that nose is long and the sight picture is hard to get used to. I still can’t grease them on consistently, but my theory is that Cessna added the trailing link gear in 1980 since lots of people were having problems landing.

    I’ve been flying my airplane for just short of a year and have over 200 hours in her and lots of miles. The family loves the plane and I use it for the majority of my personal and business travel. She’s not cheap, but she has proven to be a reliable and comfortable traveling machine.



    Thank you all for the advice. You were right! I now have 224 hours in my 421 and we are becoming close personal friends. That is until the maintenance bills arrive in the mail πŸ™ I believe the 421 is an airplane that should be flown on a regular basis because the pilot AND the airplane need it.


    200 hours seems to be the sweet spot for the 421 as far as flight time goes. Do you have Vg’s. If you have Vg’s I found that approaching at about 85-90KIAS made for much smoother landings on the straight legged 421. Come for some training some time, and I can show you πŸ™‚

    quote DMOORE1:

    200 hours seems to be the sweet spot for the 421 as far as flight time goes. Do you have Vg’s. If you have Vg’s I found that approaching at about 85-90KIAS made for much smoother landings on the straight legged 421. Come for some training some time, and I can show you πŸ™‚

    200 or so was my sweet spot as well. Now I feel very comfortable in the airplane.

    I do want to fly with you sometime Dan!



    I meant 200 hours per year, but I would also agree that at about 200 hours things become second nature.

    Gerald T. Alves

      I hit the sweet spot at 100 hours in my 1980 421C. I now have 1100 hours in my 421C and fly it 200 hours a year. Go fly with an experienced 421C CFI in the right seat and cover up the airspeed indicator on the pilots side “only”. The instructor will have the IAS for safety and you will learn to “FLY” the plane and get a very good feel for it. With VG’s 90 kts on short final and light you can do 80kts on very short final. Do not put the props into high RPM on approach (geared engine) and keep enough power to protect the quill shaft. Single engine remember this, “the plane will not climb with the gear down”, No more than 1/4 flaps for S/E landing and you can wait until just before the flare to BLOW the gear down in two seconds for some critical situations if you can’t afford the drag on the approach.


      Interesting the comment you made about covering up the airspeed indicator. A few weeks ago I was flying into Baltimore and was asked if I could make a “close in” approach while in the downwind. I said sure and immediately fell into my old grove of just flying the airplane. I forgot about approach speeds and simply flew the airplane almost by feel, just the way I had flown the Seneca for so many years before. It felt like home to me! Since then I have merged the two and it is feeling a lot better.

      Thanks for all the input.


      The one thing I’m interested in adding to help especially in those tight situations is an AoA indicator with tie-in to the audio panel. There are some neat systems out there that I think will help safety.


      While flying with instructor A ot B is great and always subjective, going to the Twin Cessna Convention will give you a lot more knowledge and perspective on sunject A to Z. This will not burn a lot of Avgas but will give you a well rounded database on many issues that you can take and use with instructor A or B later; the learning and absorption will be much greater and long lasting, my 3 cents!

      I will be there too and would be happy to share my 7000 hours experience in 421’s with you. Look for us.


      I have mixed feelings about flying with your butt in these airplanes. You do need to be able to do this if you had both airspeed indicators fail. We know certain power settings in certain configuarations with certain pitch attitudes will give us approx. X airspeed. And the C421 is fairly forgiving with airspeed control. But, I am a firm believer in flying your numbers. Keeping your numbers where they belong will keep you alive. Subconsiously, we all fly by the seat of our pants to a degree, but confirm what we feel by looking at the guages. Just think about how many times things felt right, but checking instruments told you you were too fast, too slow, not enough sink, too much sink etc.

      Covering up instruments is good practice and can make you a better pilot, but I would not teach a twin cessna driver to fly by the seat of his pants. If that pilot then moves up to turbine, it becomes even more critical. We need to use all of our senses, but the numbers are king…if the indicator is working. John Travolta had to land his G2 at Washington National at night with a complete (and very rare) electrical failure. So you do need to be capable of doing it without all of the information the ship supplies.

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