Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Electric Airplane

No, I haven't given up Blogging, or flying for that matter. I had scheduled this flight for two weeks, but cancelled for weather both times. (Last week I actually got the preflight done, only to put the tie down ropes back on when I observed lightning in all quadrants. I got back to the office just before the rains hit. On a related but separate topic, my computer took a hit. The only one that could run the G1000 software got toasted. (Creating this image took about 3x as long due to lack of processor power.)

Today the weather was good. Summertime convection and high humidity had built some cells in the local area, but no lightning and only occasional rain meant we could go.

Objectives of this Flight: Introduction and orientation to the G1000 system.

I like technology and this was just too cool to pass up. Plus, in all my time in the sky I have never flown a new airplane. Yes, it is a little pricey but the 'geek' factor is way high. In addition to the glass cockpit, the additional functions and acronyms (AHRS , ADC, TIS, Mode S transponder, Weather datalink receiver, Automatic Flight Control System) are truly wonderful. I had to give it a try.

I actually started with a written test required by the club for all who wanted to venture into this 21st century aircraft. It forced me into the various flight guides, Pilots Operating Handbook (POH), and even FAR/AIM for a few of the questions. I mentioned that I had the simulator running at home until the computer got fried, and still plan to spend some time at school running that.

I got to the airport about 7:00(L) just as my CFI was returning from another flight. I got the dispatch kit and went out to preflight. Since this is a new model, I went strickly by the book (13 fuel drains?!?!). I notice that some things I typically check (flaps & lights) weren't on the list. The CFI briefed me on his plan, which was essentially to implement the enroute automation features available. He stressed the use of the autopilot and what interfaces were and were NOT there. We would use the typical training route: RYY, RMG, 47A, to RYY.

Sitting in a new plane is great. All the plastic works, everything is still clean. It is oh, so much better then a new car. Startup is different with a fuel injected engine. Interesting that the very important "advance mixture to full rich" is on the next page. (More POH study for me!) After the brake check he took the plane so I could play. I entered the flight plan, experimented with setting up frequencies, and validated what I had learned about the Audio panel, etc. Runup was normal with no 'new' or unexpected items.

Take off was smooth, the biggest change being to arm the autopilot at about 200ft. Set for best rate of climb, all I had to do was sit back and monitor. And what a LOT to monitor! I was initially overwhelmed. There was simply too much data to comprehend. The huge attitude gyro is great, but where is the RPM, what are the vectors on the MFD, where are my nav and com frequencies? I was looking at the right stuff, but wasn't comprehending what I saw.

Aviate, Navigate, Communicate - back to basics. Fly the airplane first, and the flight instruments make that easy. Ah, the engine instruments are over there on the MFD (co-pilot side) and its pretty easy to see if they are 'green'. Am I enroute to Rome? Yes, the purple line is still there, and the CDI works just like before, just prettier. OK, leveling off at 4500ft and all I have to do is adjust power. Pretty easy. All right, we're leaving RYY airspace, time to tune in Cartersville CTAF. Nearest/airport, select frequency just like the GNS430. I can do this. OK, lets switch from GPS direct to KRMG to the Rome VOR. Select the new source to the CDI, bingo bango off we go. Slick. Go back to GPS, no problem.

what's going on over on his display? All the engine stuff is there, but he has some additional cool stuff. This is the first time I used Traffic Information System (TIS) and liked it. NEXRAD showed where the clouds were and it also has the Terrain functions. I'm falling in love. Note: this could be a very difficult plane to fly in VFR conditions. There are just too many cool colorful things to look at inside the cockpit.

Enroute to Cherokee County we let the autopilot takes us down to 3500, played with "lean Assist" function and discussed emergencies. Then we made the turn, and contacted ATC for the ILS27. "Radar contact. Come left to 180...'. I turned the heading bug and she obeyed. In the digital world, 179 is not close enough as the panel gives you a precise readout. Although NOTAM'd out, since VFR, we went ahead with a coupled approach. WOW. All I had to do was set the correct power for my approach speed and this 'high wing wonder' did the rest...on path, on glideslope. I took it at about 200ft (set up perfectly) for a nice landing. Simply awesome.

C172s - G1000
Time = 1.2

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Franklin County, Canon Georgia

The weather was good. The high pressure in the Atlantic was holding a cold front to the north and the associated clouds could not quite reach Atlanta. Few to scattered at 6000ft with a slight chance of thunder-bumpers in the afternoon, winds were calm and mostly out of the west.

Objectives of this flight: practice enroute procedures.

I got to the airport about 7:00 (L), picked up the dispatch kit and went out to the airplane. Panel lights were still squawked as inop. Normal preflight and start, but an annoying back-tone on Comm 1. (I played with the various volume controls/squelch adjustments and finally eliminated it after I accidentally pulled off and replaced the button on the GNS430.) As I was doing my runup a beautiful RV9(?) made a low pass. He was clearly having some fun as he pulled nearly vertical to enter a left downwind.

Take off and climbout were normal. I climbed to 3500 completed my cockpit checks and prepared for my "x-country". The GNS was set for 'track up' instead of my preference for 'north up', which I quickly changed with the menu button. I always keep a log of important data I'll use along the route. For this flight I wanted to replace a lot of that information by using the GNS430. Instead of writing down all of the CTAF/Unicom/Tower frequencies, I wanted to use the Nearest/Airport page to pull them up as required. This worked well. It turned out to be very convenient and less prone to error.

I am not pleased with fuel management procedures in this airplane. I can lean the engine by looking at the RPM, but GPH is only a guestimate from the POH. So it looks to me like you do the plan, then stay way conservative with the GPH calculations.

I seldom play with the autopilot, since I have had less then stellar results. This one proved to be no exception. The "wing leveler" had a very annoying oscillation as it constantly tried to hold a heading. I put Electric City (ELW) in the Nav2 VOR and tried to use it to track there, but had the same poor results. No heading bug, no real tracking mechanism meant it is pretty much useless. I wouldn't trust it in actual IMC.

After my problem with the flaky directional gyro, I wanted to play with the vertical compass card on the GNS430 (Nav/page 3) and was pleasantly surprised. Not only does it provide the simulated DG, but also has the pretty purple line showing where your track is in relation to the airplane. Very nice.

There is nothing out in North East Georgia, unless you like poultry farms. I arrived at 18A about 8:30 made my turn, climbed to 4500 and headed for home. This part of the trip was pretty uneventful. I put direct-to KRYY in the GNS430, selected vectors to the ILS27, activated it, and got lined up for a straight in about a gazillion miles out. (The only mistake I made was calling 10 miles out, when I was actually 10 miles from AKONE.) I was little high/fast on final, but acceptable for a night landing. I made a nice touchdown.
Time = 1.9

*I downloaded a new patch for my handheld. Unfortunately my "Flightbook" software fails to accept any data from the new level of code. No stats until/if I can get this glitch fixed.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Independence Day

The weather started out bright and sunny, but by mid-afternoon a high pressure ridge to the south had provided enough moisture to allow some clouds to form. The local METARs had a few at 5000, scattered to broken at 7000, and a few nasty cells. Most of those would be dissipated by the time we planned to take off.

The route would be pretty simple. I wanted to go east to Athens (AHN) for a good look at the weather, then up to Lake Lanier for an aerial view of the fireworks. After that, head south and pick up vectors for the ILS 27 back home.

I got a call from the flying club GM around noon time that they were shutting down to celebrate the holiday. He would leave the dispatch kit with the FBO and I could have the plane for as long as I needed it. After the flight, I could just drop it off with them as well. GREAT!

We got to the airport about 8:00 PM (local), took the cover off and started the preflight. She needed gas so I went for my cell phone to make the call. Kathy asked what I did before we had cell phones? Hmmm, well, I usually had a plane captain that took care of that, and before then I would just fill it up myself. I've gotten spoiled. The rest of the ground work was normal, and ground had us taxi to runway 09 for take-off. She made a very nice takeoff from the right seat.

I took back the airplane and continued the climb to 5500ft, noted rain showers to the north and the bottoms of the broken layer seemed to be about 7,000ft. Visibility was about 4 miles, so I decided to go back down to 3500 ft, where the visibility was closer to 7 miles. The nice thing was it was a very smooth ride. Once east of the rain showers I turned north to head up to the lake. Along the way we could see a few eager neighborhoods launching their rockets creating tiny fountains of color. About this time the panel lights went out.

Lake Lanier had a small shower over it and we brushed the edge washing the airplane as we passed KGVL. It appeared that most of the firework activity was centered on a peninsula about midway on the western edge, so I made some easy turns there while trying to stay out of the shower. ( Just some minor turbulence when I got a bit close on one pass.) By 9:00 the show was really starting and we could see some activity in all quadrants.

We departed the area by about 9:15 and headed south to intersect an extended OBS line for the ILS27 approach. This is when the REAL show started. Gainesville, Buford, Duluth, Alpharetta, Roswell, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Marietta, Smyrna as well as Kennesaw all had things going on. To make the flight even more interesting, some of the cells had not dissipated as we saw a few lightning strikes out in the distance. (I would later learn that Atlanta had to postpone activities at Centennial Olympic Park due to lightning.) Absolutely a beautiful display!

I called the tower at AKONE and was cleared for a visual Rwy 09. The fireworks were still going as we approached midfield and Kathy asked if we could stay up a bit longer. Wow, what a great thing to hear her say. I wasn't about to push my luck and continued with the landing. "Cool landing, is that what you call a squeaker?"

We covered 95.8 miles, climbed to 5015 feet ( but stayed at 3500 for most of the flight) and got up to 151 mph over the ground. This was the first time Kath had flown with me at night.

Time = 1.4

* I forgot to turn the GPS off. After flying we were starved, so went over to Waffle house for a late evening dinner.