Friday, December 18, 2009


I stood outside the new BestBuy and watched the Cessna 172 fly overhead. "You could almost touch his wheels" said another shopper. "Isn't it Great!", I replied.

Thursday saw the high pressure area arrive bringing some cold crisp air and beautiful clear skies. I have learned to really appreciate VFR weather here as it is seldom seen. However I was a bit discouraged when I checked local METARs and found that many local airports were reporting winds gusting over 20. Wings was still 'blue' but there were a lot of 'pink' airports displayed nearby. TAFs looked promising.

The preflight was cold. I was sorely tempted to skip the fuel sumps as thought of getting that cold fluid on my hands was not at all appealing. Too much training and safety seminars quickly put that foolishness out of my head. (I was careful.). Start/taxi/run up were all normal. It was gusty and the T.O. required a bit of dancing on the rudders but nothing too difficult. Wow, visibility was probably a hundred miles, just gorgeous.

The mission was a simple one. VFR over to Pottstown Muni, and check out the landing pattern to see how it looks from a pilot's perspective flying over BestBuy. The winds weren't too bad, and the 'nuclear windsock' at Limerick they were mostly out of the north west, Unicom confirmed they were using RWY26 with one in the pattern. I flew just a bit deep to enjoy the view, and rolled out on final just prior to the store, about 500 feet or so. People are still very tiny at that height.

Full stop, taxi back, checks complete and off again. Wind was not a factor. Departed to the south to go and find KLOM. Philly could easily be seen in the distance. CTAF had a few doing some work there. I made my call, flew over the field at 2500' outbound to the quarry and turned back inbound descending to pattern altitude. One in the pattern in front of me, I waited until abeam him on final to turn base. The low sun on the horizon made glare a factor, but what a beautiful sunset. So pretty I had to have another view. So once more round the pattern and touched down just before the sun went below the horizon. aahhh.

Time = 1.1 hours.

*  It was 17 December 1903 at Kill Devil Hills that Orville took to the skies in the first powered flight. Wilbur would fly later that day setting a distance record. Today we should all take a moment to thank them for what they did for our obsession.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cold Front

Two weeks ago I scheduled some time with the CFII to practice some IFR procedures (primarily ATC communications). Some of the GPS approaches at KACY looked interesting and I wanted to see how the avionics would handle the missed approach and holding with multiple way points. I planned a cross country that would take me around and through the Philadelphia Class B into a towered airport.

The weather was IFR. A real cold front was moving in from the west and the rain showers and low ceilings arrived by mid morning. Just perfect for the exercise I had planned. A preflight briefing with the CFII cleared a lot of misconceptions (what does pressing the OBS button do?) and refreshed a number of concepts about GPS navigation. I got a weather brief from Flight Service and filed a plan down and another back from KACY. Preflight was soggy but normal.

An idiosyncrasy at Wings is the need to use a cell phone to call Clearance Delivery from the run-up area. My headset allows a cell phone to be attached, but I was unable to get a call out until I disconnected it and called directly. I made a mistake. Cleared as filed, I thought my Void time was in 5 minutes, instead he said call back in 5 minutes. So, I took off without a clearance. Never a good thing to do as it tends to annoy the Air Traffic Controllers.

As I started to enter the overcast at about 3K, the CFII told me to look out at the wing. Ice. A call to (my now friendly) ATC got an immediate clearance to descend and assistance to execute the GPS RWY24 (Mazie). My transitions were sloppy but I made a nice landing back home.

So in addition to getting a release form ATC before T.O, I should have been aware of the OAT on the ground and not relied so heavily on the wx briefing (frz lvl 9k), especially since I knew the weather was related to a winter cold front. Situational Awareness.

An excellent training flight.

Time = 1.0 hours
Actual = 0.2 hours

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

N31 - 69N

The weather has been lousy. It was already bad before the remnants of Hurricane Ida pushed north and damaged the Jersey shore. I had hoped to join the Northeast Flyers for a lunch at KLNS, but flying was out of the question for me and I just wasn't up for a rainy day drive. It wasn't until mid-day on Sunday that I finally saw the Sun.

Monday morning looked good; blue skies and moderate winds with temperatures close to 60, and when a late afternoon conference call got canceled I decided to call Wings to see if the Cirrus was available. It was all mine for the afternoon.

My objective was to visit some old 'haunts'. The very first entry in my (now well worn) logbook was a local flight out of Slatington (69N). I was asked if that flight included two wings, goggles and a leather helmet, but the truth is it was a grass strip with one hanger and an airplane I would later fly did have to be prop started. My instructor used Kutztown (N31) as 'checkpoint' before letting his students solo. It was noted for the large hump in the runway. I guess he figured if you could land there then you could handle 80% of the runways you might encounter as a student.

While this was essentially just a daytime tour, I wanted to get some practice using all of the systems so I set N31 as a way-point and used 69N as my final destination. All ground procedures went well and I felt very comfortable in the cockpit. I waited at the hold short line for an Eclipse Jet to land and clear the runway. Autopilot was set for a climb on course Heading (060) at 900 fpm and target altitude of 4500'. Passing 1300' I dialed in North and announced my departure. With everything "green" I switched to the map on the MFD, confirmed that N31 was my next on the GNS430, hit direct/enter/enter and engaged GPSS with the Nav button. A slight turn to the left and I was riding on the purple line...pretty slick.

The plane leveled at 4500' as programmed, I checked the gauges and completed checklists and enjoyed the ride. I loaded an approach but had no intention to activate it. I just wanted to mentally brief what was needed and do the set up. It was about this time that I remembered to turn on the hand-held to get the picture at the top of this post. (I'll have to make this a part of my preflight checklist.) A right turn at N31 and off to Slatington. (I didn't see Kutztown since I was right on top.) I switched to Allentown Approach to listen in and when close gave them an advisory that I was in the area. 69N is right on the northern boundary of the Class C and I wanted to sight see just a bit. They now have a paved runway, about a dozen hangers and a bunch of airplanes tied down. They grew up.

Unfortunately Kutztown didn't. I found the airport on the way back and was sad to see the big yellow X's down the runway. The diner is still there, but no cars in the lot. I don't know when the property will be developed.

A quick turn around my house (still there), and time to return to wings. I hand flew it the rest of the trip and found KLOM to be pretty busy with two in the pattern and 3 more entering from the south. They gave way to me and I entered on the 45 to RWY 06 without any problems. My pattern was a bit tight, speed a little fast but a nice landing (on center-line) and easy roll out. As I started back a helicopter announced he would be landing on the taxi way. A brief chat confirmed he would land well clear of me as I told him I would take the throat up to the terminal.

A nice flight.

Time = 1.2 hours

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


It had been awhile. The last time was more of an after thought as I was running out of currency in the Tiger. That was then. Now, this flight was important to me. I've been so focused on flying the system, I needed a chance just to fly, to enjoy the freedom of being alone in the airplane.

The weather was good, but as I have come to learn living in the Northeast, it is always a factor. A low overcast had many of the airports to east listed as marginal VFR, and as I watched the clouds from my office move in I wasn't sure I would be able to go. By 2:00 it looked a little bit better so I packed my bag and started the 45 minute trip to Wings.

As I walked out to the airplane my instructor was helping another student with his preflight for a Cessna. Only a brief greeting as I focused on the work at hand. Preflight, start, taxi and run up were all normal, although much quieter. My confidence level was very good and I was actually quite relaxed. Take off and departure were fine, and I did use the autopilot for the climb and level off. I flew north and dialed in Butter Valley (7N8) to let the airplane fly by my house (it was still there), disengaged for some hand flying, easy turns, climbs and descents, and then headed back to Wings.

I got the weather, listened for traffic and entered via the 45 for a full stop RWY 06. Very good speed control, nice pattern, but landed left of center line. A familiar voice keyed "nice work" from the Cessna at the hold short line.

It had been over three years since the last solo flight. All who read this take note...don't wait that long.

Time = 0.8 hours.

*Note: It took less time for this entire evolution (out and back) then it took to drive out to the airport.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


BFR - complete

Time = 1.7 hours

Friday, October 9, 2009


Wednesday's winds foretold the change in seasons, cold fronts from the northwest chasing warm fronts from the southwest. My backyard weather station recorded winds at nearly 35 mph and checking the local airports all reported high winds. Fortunately I was scheduled to fly on Thursday. It was a beautiful autumn day.

The original plan was to fly north to 1N7 for a x-country validation check, but after reviewing my notes it occurred to me that I had never completed my lesson plan out to Lancaster. So I suggested this to the CFII as an alternate plan as we taxied out to the run up area and he obliged.

A simple flight plan to PTW, then to BOYER into KLNS. I briefed the VOR RWY26 approach in the run up area and departed to the north. The CFII acted as my simulated ATC providing clearance, heading and altitude changes. George and I got along just fine. I had a moment of confusion when cleared to intercept V457 and go DIRECT to DETTE, otherwise the approach went well. I wanted to exercise this because it has multiple step downs requiring vigilance of vertical speed and altitude control. I felt very comfortable using the STEC to accomplish this. We terminated the approach with a T&G.

Next was the set up for the VOR/DME 08. This one is interesting for the arc. I fumbled just a bit to get set up, but overall felt quite comfortable with the system. I was cleared DIRECT to JONJR for a Circle to Land RWY 31. As I was working through my brief I noted that the entry into the missed approach holding would be a teardrop. Nope. So I looked again and the CFII pointed out that hold is defined by the RAV 168, meaning it would be a parallel entry (No, not on the cusp) Good training on this one in use of the alternate navigation sources. While the MFD is great for showing progress, it is really nice to have 'old friends' like the tail of bearing indicator showing which radial you are crossing. Again, while not perfect, I felt comfortable controlling the system to get me where I wanted to go. Flying downwind I was informed that this would be a half flap (50%) landing which went well. We departed the area heading for home.

Along the way he failed my PFD. While you do lose attitude and directional gyros, you retain course deviation and GPS navigation. So you still have all of the means necessary for a complete approach. We had a good discussion about capabilities and continued with the well worn GPS 06 circle to land 24 at Wings. Nice landing. (...and a good lesson on setting the parking break.)

Time = 1.8 hours

Friday, October 2, 2009


You can't teach an old dog new tricks. Lately, I've been feeling like an old dog and when I read this piece it didn't help.

The key paragraph for me was this one: The ability to learn new operating procedures, new aircraft systems and such definitely becomes more difficult as a pilot ages. Recent research on learning has found that older people tend to rely on their previous knowledge, and don't retain newly learned material in long-term memory as well. Thus when pilots set out to learn something new such as a different FMS, they'll rely on the skills and general knowledge acquired over a longer period of time. These studies have shown that older participants (60 to 70) were slower and made more errors than younger pilots, especially on tasks requiring more information processing. One possible cause may lie in changes in cognitive processing associated with increasing age.

Well, I'm feeling a bit better now. Maybe some new neural pathways have been developed and maybe the extra study and time spent running the GNS430 simulator really made a difference. Certainly the patience of a good instructor helped, but all combined to allow me to have a good, solid flight yesterday.

The weather was just OK. A controlling high pressure area over West Virginia was holding back a slow moving cold front over the Great Lakes. Winds from the previous day had subsided and we were left with a broken-overcast layer at bout 5k. Temperatures have dropped down into the 50s. The Plan was to practice two VOR approaches emphasizing the Avidyne, Stec and GNS430 systems.

The Schedule was tight. I had managed to squeeze in a two hour slot to accommodate the airplane, instructor and my home/work availability. So when I got to the airport I immediately went out to the airplane to start the preflight. I only had to wait a few minutes until the CFII arrived and strapped in. After a brief chat about the approaches I had selected, I started the ground procedures and taxied out to the runup area. I set up the radios here and went through the briefing for the first approach. An interesting aspect about the VOR A at Trenton (Mercer) was the overlayed holding patterns. The initial pattern is aligned along the ARD 261 radial, the missed approach pattern is aligned with the ARD 109 radial. On the MFD this is depicted by a bold line for the initial and a normal line for the missed...I mention this because it confused me at first glance, a different look then how they are depicted on the NACO plates. (Old dog stuff)

I held off briefing the KDYL approach, only because I wanted to simulate an actual missed at Trenton and test myself on getting setup for going to an alternate.

Departure was normal as I took headings from the CFII and then from ATC. When directed to go direct I knew what to do and why to do it. I actually had to wait for the airplane to catch up, what luxury! The autopilot entered holding and I was directed to respond when ready for the approach. On the inbound leg, when I was ready, I was directed to take another turn for traffic (OBS button). Next inbound leg I was cleared, managed my vertical speed well (pushed the correct buttons), leveled at pattern altitude and entered a right downwind for RWY24. T&G back to ARD for the the next approach.

This one came at me much faster. My focus here was to insure GNS430 was set up with the correct destination in order to load the MFD with the proper approach. A little fumble, but did well enough. I'm stilled impressed when the plane follows the purple line and does a beautiful procedural turn. Again the vertical speed was fine and I leveled at pattern altitude. SBJ is the VOR for this approach and is about 23 miles from the airport. The radial accuracy at this distance is pretty wide, and the CFII made the point that in actual conditions you might be a mile either side of the runway. We entered an upwind leg to avoid traffic and terminated with a full stop.

At the hold short line the CFII provide some insight to my prior question about deleting the flight plan from the GNS430 to facilitate entering a new new destination. There is a menu item that allows you to do that, but a better option is the "remove approach". A more 'selective' cleanup, this lets you to use the system more efficiently (using things like 'invert FP' to get back home.) An uneventful departure form Doylestown to a VFR entry back at Wings. This was a fun flight.

At the debrief the CFII told me that I had shown a lot of improvement and asked what I had done wrong. The list in my head was loooong, but clearly he had something in mind so I said it was a 'perfect flight'. During the last approach, even though briefed, I had failed to properly set up the comm radios. Dumb.

So, the next one will be a short x-country to allow me to demonstrate the whole package. I'm anxious, and I'm ready.

Time = 1.6 hours.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Finally, the weather was good. A cold front had stalled up in Canada leaving the weather here fairly good. I made the trip along Rt73 out to Wings in the sunshine. It was great.

I was a bit nervous since once again it had been two weeks, but I also had the touch of confidence. I am learning this stuff and felt that I could perform if I just allowed myself to think through instead of react to the situation at hand. I was ready to see what I really know about the system.

The airplane had been flown already so I knew to use the warm start procedure. The destination was quite close, therefore all the radio set up and briefings were done in the run-up area. Take off was normal, actually smooth and I refrained from clicking on George right away. Instead I climbed to 1300 and departed to the North manually. Once comfortable I exercised the knobology for the climb and set up the approach. He brought me in from the north, cleared me for the approach with one turn in the published holding pattern. So with George in Nav mode, I slected the VOR as my source, engaged approach mode as the CDI came alive and used the GNS430 flight plan to scroll down to the proper holding fix. As you can see from my track, I didn't select a great enough rate of descent to get down to the MDA before going missed.

The good news was I understood how to translate my clearance into the proper system sequence to get the airplane to execute the approach. Good stuff! Missed back to holding (learned a trick or two about the rev button) and did approach number 2. This time I chose about 900 fpm descent which got me down in time, and again executed the missed.

The big lesson: He asked me to execute the VOR-B into Pottstown Muni (N47) from the holding pattern. It is always a bit messy to thumb through the approach plates, find the right one and get setup. No paper approach plates in this airplane, insted you load the MFD. Getting this done smoothly will take some polish, but after multiple attempts I did get it done. I also needed to load the GNS430 and found that N47 should be inserted in the enroute section, not under the approach section. I have some research do for homework here, to find the easiest way to set this up. I think pressing and holding the clear button might eliminate the current flight plan allowing insertion of the new destination to be a bit easier. It was a good exercise.

Home to a VFR entry to runway 24 with an acceptable landing. I was really happy with this one.

Time = 1.7

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A difference

We were a bit shocked when the sun peeked through today, after all its been nearly a week of gray skies and gloomy weather. I had a flight scheduled for Friday (9/11) but when I got up for my first conference call I knew it wasn't going to happen. Ugly clouds and a low pressure area generating gusty winds and rain showers was positioned right over Philadelphia. If the water temperatures had been 20 degrees warmer it could have been a tropical storm, instead it was just "Canc- Wx".

Disappointed, I sat back in my favorite chair and picked up the latest issue of "The Aviation Consumer" and started paging through. I liked the article by Bertorelli on page #4, EFIS Report Card. "Glass panels require a lot of consistent usage. It's comparable to using a computer program. If you don't use it every day, you won't know all of the features or be proficient in operation...flying once a month won't do it." Amen to that.

A simple example; going from en-route to a vectors to final. The 'old way' was to brief the approach, ensure navaides were set up and identified, current weather, etc. When the controller said 'Turn Right heading X, you turned right heading X. The 'new way' has the same setup, brief, etc, but a different flow. You see, you're not flying the A/C, George is, and you need to translate the commands so George can understand them. So, "Turn right heading X" means checking on the PFD where the heading bug is, ensure the heading function button is active, push the right hand knob to center it. Next check the autopilot, go from Nav Mode to Heading Mode. Now twist the knob on the PFD to the correct heading. (also, set up the GNS430 to activate vectors to final...but you would do that anyway if you had one installed.)

Does that sound like MORE work? Actually it isn't, its just different.You do more then 'just turn to X' using the old way. Your scan is minding altitude, your checking position with the tail of the needle, trimming, watching for the roll out heading, etc. That all seems natural to the point it almost becomes automatic. Telling George to do it takes care of the flying and more, and all agree that the 'situational awareness' is fantastic, but pushing the buttons is not (yet) automatic. That's the difference.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Finally good weather. Fall has come to the Northeast, temperatures are about ten degrees cooler and the skies have turned to blue.

After another two weeks to fly my easy chair thinking about knobology and procedures, I felt pretty good about getting back into the cockpit. (Not over confident by and stretch, but knowledgeable enough with GNS430 and S-Tec 55 to get from Point A to Point B.)

The CFII suggested we do the VOR-A at Allentown. Now, I've been around enough to know that VOR-A approaches are not necessarily simple. Most have little tricks or nuances that if missed during the setup will almost always cause a missed approach. This would be no exception.

The ground stuff was normal (and not perfect). My mindset was different as I was convinced not to let my errors block my attention to other things. Among these other things, I should have set a more aggressive rate of climb on the autopilot for after take off. Otherwise climb out and departure were normal (and while cautious I was pushing the right buttons.) The CFII did a great job of quizzing me on the approach setup, questioning what needed to be done, where was I on the approach what I should be doing, etc. I'm finally starting to manage the systems, not ahead of them but at least with them. I had set up the approach to go to HOPPS, and worked the navcomms in the GNS430 to define that intersection. When the Controller approved vectors to final I altered my plan and chose the right option. And here I had a brain fart. You see, this approach has a dog leg, 210 into FJC followed by 182 outbound, so my brain told me that 182 was the final approach course. Wrong answer. Now, I had FJC dialed in, I had 210 dialed in and I hit approach mode when my CDI came alive, but my slow cooker of a brain was still trying to reconcile the FAC. In my mind, this means a lot of twisting and turning to get this to all work out. Nope, the plane can handle it just fine. What it can't do is start the descent unless I tell it to. So, I should have started a pretty aggressive descent at BOUNCE, instead I was worried about what was going to happen at the VORTAC. Blew it.

The Tower was very nice when I told him we were going missed and I'm sure he was glad that we were leaving his control to the south. I switched and then canceled Radar Services with Allentown and headed home. One more head work error setting up for the VFR entry. I've always crossed the field 2500' to descend to pattern altitude for RWY24. KLOM was landing RWY06, so again my head was...well not screwed tightly where it should be. The CFII helped me save some dignity by having me fly North to avoid traffic, essentially giving me another shot at it. I got the speed off and flew something resembling a pattern to an OK landing (not great and left of center-line) .

This was actually a good flight. I messed up a lot, but I've been in this place before. I haven't made all possible mistakes, but a large enough percentage that I can start moving forward. I have just a hint of optimism, a dash of confidence, and a better idea of who I am. The journey continues.

Time = 1.2 hours


The weather has been a real challenge this year. While I had scheduled about four sessions, three were canceled before I got to the car for the drive to the airport. Some has been frontal activity but most was just convective buildup. It didn't seem to make much difference what time of the day I tried, weather was a factor.

So I was happy to take some time off on a Friday morning that looked like I could get some time in. Unfortunately It wasn't going to stay clear long enough for me to get my work done. By the time we got out to Lancaster the weather data in the aircraft was showing red and purple blotches on the final approach course. So, with ATC advising us that the cells were ominous we changed our plans and diverted to KLOM. I chose the GPS06 circle to land RWY24. The landing back home was a good one, in gusty cross winds.

So some progress is being made, but not nearly as fast as I had hoped. Basic airwork is fine, and I enjoy hand flying the plane. Headwork is below average; I'm still not thinking like an IFR pilot and making mental errors that I allow to distract me. The most important thing holding me back are procedures. Fortunately, that is something that can be corrected. I'm frustrated, but part of this endeavor is learning more about myself in addition to the airplane and it's systems.

Time = 1.1
0.5 Actual

* I was sitting in my home office enduring yet another conference call while looking out at gorgeous blue cloudless skies. Flying west at about 3000' I saw a four engine piston aircraft. Yes, a B17, probably out of Lancaster following the airshow. Pretty darn cool.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pattern Work

When I got up the weather was gray and foggy, some light showers following the cold front which had brought very heavy showers during the night. A quick check of the weather maps convinced me that we would be VFR by flight time.

I had studied the arc approaches out at LNS, run the GNS430 simulator and felt comfortable that I could replicate them in the aircraft. So, for that and a variety of other reasons decided that it might be good to spend some time in the pattern. It was a good choice.

I have always liked the landing pattern. It offers a little bit of all phase of flight, and the reward of a smooth landing is wonderful. As always, it was time well spent with the instructor. A few bad habits were identified that I can hopefully correct for the next flight.

A great way to spend an afternoon.

Time = 1.2 hours

Saturday, August 1, 2009

New Airplane

from Montgomery County Aviation


MCA is proud to announce the new arrival of the Cirrus Perspective SR 20. For all you G1000 lovers this is your opportunity to check out the next Generation Cockpit and explore all that Cirrus Perspective has to offer. Please call today to make arrangements for your intro flight. We will be having a Cirrus day at the field in the near future so all of our students can come and experience what Cirrus and MCA have to offer. We also have a desktop simulator to help expedite your training at a minimal cost per hour.

Also for the Avidyne lovers we have added another SR20 to the rental fleet as well as the SR 22 which is also available should you have the desire to step up and experience truly the best flying aircraft in the industry. Cirrus is second to none when it comes to cockpit awareness and safety.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Simple NDB Approach

Two weeks since my last flight because the weather in the Northeast is still marginal. I guess I've been spoiled by flying in the Atlanta area. Yes, the weather gets ugly there too, but you can plan around the thunderstorm activity. Planning here is just impossible, so finding a good weather day is mere chance. Thursdays seem to work well for the current cycle.

Having spent so much time on the VOR approach with a holding entry, I wanted to see what the autopilot would do with an approach with a procedural turn. Quakertown (UKT) provides an NDB 29 (with GPS overlay) which includes some step downs along the way.

Preflight was normal, she needed some gas but the oil looked like it had recently been changed. The rest of the airplane looked good (I'm still thrilled to be able to fly a plane like this.) I finished my checklist and turned the key..and waited. No joy. What I should have known prior to start was that the airplane had been flown that day and was still warm...requiring the warm start procedure. Following the normal/cold start procedure flooded the engine. **Note to self, ask if the plane has flown when I pick up the key. Yes, the engine was warm when I checked, but I attributed that to sitting in the sun.

The rest of the ground procedures were normal and comfortable. I let the take off roll go too long, but otherwise the departure went fine. Setup and entry for the approach also went well. I am truly amazed at what the system can do. In the 'old days' I would perform the 5(I used 6) Ts: Time (for reporting purposes), Twist (CDI to outbound course), Turn (to the outbound course), Time (outbound for procedure turn), Transition (to new airspeed/altitude/or configuration), Talk (position report). While I audit those factors, the airplane is capable of aviating and navigating the approach entry hands off. The trick is being able to tell the airplane (through the GNS430) what you want it to do, and there are always a variety of ways to do that. My training is to understand all of those options and to understand the optimal use of the system at any given time.

So, once PT inbound I wait for the 'needle to come alive' to put the autopilot into Approach mode. Now I'm on the final approach course inbound and can make my first step down. How? There is no vertical guidance so I can set a vertical speed and automatic altitude capture, or just push the Alt button when I reach desired altitude. FAF requires a transition (half flaps) and descent to MDA. Again, options to be considered on how to do this with the various modes of the autopilot and I dutifully try each one. (CFII must be going nutz as he has told me this a dozen times, but my training requires me to make the mistake with each unsatisfactory option to fully understand the ramifications.) My rate of descent was too shallow so we missed and headed back for published holding.

A brief discussion about approach plates. Previously I would look down at my kneeboard and see the entire picture. Header, planview, minimums, etc, I would would cross check that plate a half-dozen times while on the approach. The chart function in the airplane has all of this information as well (and more), but it is divided into four views which can be displayed by cycling the view button. I'm getting comfortable with this but still lack efficiency. In this case I could have found and used the optimum vertical speed, but didn't...another lesson learned.

The training I've pointed out above is all secondary to the real key to controlling this technology; mastery of the GNS430. It is simply not good enough to have a basic understanding of some of the functions. This again became clear setting up for the 're do' approach from holding. Choosing the complete approach from Proc button (my choice) tells the airplane to do the whole approach with procedural turn, but realistically, if you're in holding already you don't want that. So understanding what options are available and where they can be found is vital if you expect to utilize the suite effectively.

This was a great exercise, the flight concluded with a GPS 24 back issues. I'm always delighted to fly by Willow Grove (NXX), a former 'stomping ground'. Landing was OK.

Time = 1.9 hours

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Select the Navigation Source

I wanted to go back to PTW to see if I really understood all aspects of the system. I had learned a lot from my last adventure over there and I hoped it was all coming together.

I was fortunate to pick a day between storms, fronts and other weather makers. The Northeast is still being hammered by ugly weather, so picking a time in the afternoon has a really a low percentage of getting airborne. I got out to the airplane as soon as possible, got the preflight done and buckled in. The CFII came out in a few minutes and told me a new Cirrus had just arrived. It is always good news to hear about additions to the fleet, and I look forward to taking advantage of flying a brand new airplane.

The ground procedures flowed normally, and the takeoff went well. As I started puching the buttons on the GNS430 the CFII stopped me. I had chosen direct-to GOOGL..why? Why not just activate the approach? His question was aimed at establishing standard procedures, not the functioning of the box. It was then that another puzzle piece fit into place. I had been studying the manlas for the GNS430 looking to find out why I fumbled seeting up navigation. Sometimes its the simple stuff and the CFII finally got it into my skull, you must have the correct source slected on the PFD BEFORE hitting the the autopilot NAV button.
My eagerness to engage George made me skip that key check. Hopefully a lesson well learned (again). Additional points were made in holding and setup, breifing and execution of the approach. This resulted in a full stop and taxi back for takeoff.

The weather check showed some interesting activity over at Wings. A little purple surrounded by red and yellow on the map didn't look inviting. The buildups were beautiful, but not anything I wanted to get close too. Listening to ATC confirmed that they were overloaded with traffic around the Philadelphia area trying to get around this nasty stuff. We decided to find a clear spot and wait for a few minutes. So I decided to 'hand fly' this pretty lady and relax a bit. Eventually the controller was able to fit us in for a GPS 24 back at LOM. By that time the trouble had moved south and it allowed a nice clean approach and landing.

Time = 1.9

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

FJC V149 LHY V408 V483 FILPS

The CFII suggested that we go out of the local area so that I could get a better appreciation of the departure, en route, and terminal phases of the flight. I suspect he thought I would head south, or maybe east to the beach, but I have a bit of history with Poughkeepsie and decided to venture up to Dutchess County.

I used to pick the route and it provided a very simple PTW-FJC-HUO into KPOU. The CFII filed as I went out to preflight. No problems, engine start was normal, but during the taxi out I cut the corner a bit sharp trying to avoid another parked plane and got stuck on the grass. Another embarrassing start. I did get the opportunity to perform a warm start.

The rest of the ground procedures were normal, I spent the time in the run up area to program the GNS430. I also learned that getting Clearance Delivery doesn't work using the A/C radios, so the SOP is to use the cell phone. OK, so here I am with headset, bifocals and cellphone trying to take copy my can bet it is not 'as filed'. I took down all the fixes and completed the read back. Later, the CFII suggested that I could challenge unreasonable routing's by asking if changing desired altitude might improve the route. I managed to fumble through it and the CFII helped out by re-programming the GNS430. Klutz comes to mind, but somehow we got airborne.

As you can see from the track, TRACON took us north before going east. Eventually we were cleared direct and requested the LOC 06 circle to 24 approach. All other procedures and communications went well, but my set up for the right downwind was WAY too close and actually turned into a modified left base to final. Landing was OK and we went over to Richmor Aviation to stretch our legs. (So if I ever do get the opportunity to fly up on business, I must find a way to expense the landing fee.)

The trip home was a little more direct, with most of the trip used just to enjoy flying. The weather was great and I got to see an old friend, the monument at High Point NJ. I was taken there as a boy on day trips, and passed it a few times as a pilot, including my first xcountry flight. Approach asked me if I had the weather at wings, and while I had been listening, we were still too far out for a clear transmission. Old school, there is a much more sophisticated way to get the weather IF you remember it is available. The flight ended with a LOC 24 back at LOM. Nice landing.

Progress is being made. Satisfactory when I'm on my plan, but not so much when forced to improvise. Think ahead of the autopilot when getting vectors, know what it means to the GNS430 to proceed on course or go direct to the next way point. Most of all, rely on the GPS for the primary Navigation source. While the VOR CDI is an old friend, GPS is driving this system.

Time = 3.0

Friday, July 10, 2009


I scheduled the plane and instructor three times last week. I only got the first one in, the others were canceled due to weather. I had driven out for each flight, actually started the preflight for the one scheduled in the afternoon, but the cumulus built up so rapidly I only got the the sun shade off the glare shield before the CFII said to forget about it.

As I drove out this morning the conditions were better. My weather maps and forecasts all showed lots of low pressure, but no weather makers in the local vicinity. I was pretty sure this would be a go.

The object was to become familiar with the navigation/autopilot systems again. A VFR flight out to KRDG for the ILS 36 followed by an approach at KPTW and finish up with another (LOC06) back at KLOM. The preflight/startup/taxi were all normal...not uneventful, but normal. He gave me a simulated clearance direct PTW, direct HUMEL direct RDG, and I spent a bit of extra time in the run up area getting that all programmed into the GNS430.

I felt good, not necessarily ahead of the airplane, but able to keep up with it. The first big lesson was when to engage the APR function on the autopilot. Since I did that late, the rest of the approach was catchup, which ended in a circle to land low approach to runway 31 and then out to DUMMR for holding. My 'knob-ology' is getting better and at times I can actually anticipate what will/should happen next. However, the chart function in the plane lack some intuitiveness, and I still need to work on my approach/missed approach briefing. We spent some extra time driving the racetrack while I discussed options for setting up the next approach, and while we did that the clouds started to blossom. Requested and received IFR clearance. It has been a very long time since I've seen the inside of a cloud.

The setup and execution for a repeat ILS RWY 36 went well, and so did the published missed approach. A few more turns and I requested to go back to Wings via Pottstown. Instead he gave me direct to BUNTS and then Phila approach approved the LASBE transition. Having selected the right transition in the GNS430 meant I merely had to activate the approach...slick stuff. No issue with the rest of the procedure, I cancelled IFR, broke it off at 1500 feet to enter the traffic pattern. Setup was OK, but horrible airspeed control resulted in a Go-Around. The next attempt (not perfect) led to a nice landing.

Progress. The puzzle pieces are really coming together now. This one felt very good.

Time = 2.7
Actual IFR = 0.8

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Don't move to Pennsylvania for the climate. The weather has been more like Seattle than Philadelphia, only the rain has been harder and more frequent. Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. Lots of activity at work, family events and the horrible weather here in the Northeast had me grounded for six weeks.

I was afraid the traffic going through the little towns and villages along Rt 73 would be heavy during the morning rush hour, but the trip in wasn't bad at all. I got to the airport early and sat for a few minutes in the car composing myself. Nervous. The CFII made it easy, talked about the long layoff and mentioned that so many students were struggling to stay current. This flight would be used to knock off the rust and get comfortable in the cockpit again.

So we did a simple VFR flight to the north, a few truns, climbs and descents an entry and two landings. Most of it came back to me, but my pattern work and landings were lousey. Unassisted, but way below my expectations.
The primary objcetive was accomplished, I had fun.

Time = 0.9 hours

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A better Perspective

Canc: Wx. It was marginal at best. A cold front had moved just south of the area and the low pressure area had lots of crud associated with it. Some airports were still reporting VFR, but most were changing to IFR and many were reporting high gusty winds. Since I wanted to do that )@#^ approach the conditions might be sufficient, but the other work in the pattern might not get done due to the winds. The trends predicted the weather to get worse.

So I drove out to the airport anyway, just to see the actual conditions at the field for myself. As I was getting out of the car my CFII called to offer his opinion and I decided not to go. I went into the office to cancel the flight and schedule another for next week. (If the weather ever breaks I'll try to go sooner, but the 'weather guessers' say its not going to get flyable for awhile.)

The Owner was sitting behind the desk and asked how things were going. I'm making progress, but not as fast as I thought I would. I love the airplane and am having fun, I like working with his staff and the CFII, so things are good. He has a deep background in power plant and systems technology and started asking probing questions about my last 'non-flight'. Evidently resetting the autopilot cb really should not have fixed the problem. He suspects that the controls were not neutralized properly during the check which may have lead to the failed servo indication. Interesting.

...and then the other systems questions started popping. The engine had been at low idle for awhhile, did I consider pushing the power up and burning off possible build up? Why does the book say do a mag check at 1700 RPM (not 2000 like it is for most other aircraft I've flown)? Why do you check to insure the flap light is not on when you do the battery check during preflight? How can you tell if the external lights are working from cockpit indications? What are the nominal engine indications during takeoff or cruise? What key indicator engine indicator should you monitor during Takeoff and climb out? Have you noticed that when you disconnect the autopilot the electric trim doesn't respond immediately?

...and many more "why's" and "how's". It was a good workout, and I'm afraid I didn't do too well. This is partly due to my current perspective. I realize the systems work is important, even vital for single engine operations in IFR conditions, but I'm still at that stage focused on checklists and procedures. I've yet to graduate to the "why" kind of questions.

It was great hanger talk. I'm not sure that all of the questions could be answered by studying the POH. This conversation provided motivation to learn more about the airplane...and enjoy the journey to becoming proficient again.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Why bother? The airplane had just been flown, the engine was still warm. Everything looked great, so why bother with all the ground procedures...Turn and burn, Baby!, not so fast. During the autopilot check in the run up area I didn't get any pressure from the roll servo. Pitch servo was weak and the electric trim didn't seem to have full range. Since I REALLY wanted to revisit the PTW LOC28 with my new understanding of the the navigation/autopilot system, this was a key element for my flight. So, we back taxied to the ramp area for some trouble shooting. It turns out resetting the autopilot circuit breaker did the trick.

We rolled back to the run up area and continued with the checklist. As I pushed it up to 1700 RPM I noticed the #1 cylinder was not responding. (Was it off line during our taxi? Not that I noted, but I didn't specifically look at it either. I just remember seeing green.) Pop Pop, etc. CHT at zero, and EGT below 200 seemed to indicate she just wan't firing. Back to the ramp.

So I got to see how to take the bonnet off and got a good look at the engine. Smaller then I expected and what a beauty. Spark plug changed, buttoned up and subsequent check proved that a failed plug was the problem.

Unfortunately the delay went beyond my planned endurance. So while we had a simply georgeous Pennsylvania afternoon, I was unable to take advantage of it. Rats.

Time = 0.6 hours.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


The weather was just perfect. Very few clouds in the sky and mild temperatures made it a perfect day for flying. I got to the airport on time and spent a few minutes with the CFII to go over the last flight. (VFR entry and pattern altitudes, where documented,, not necessarily in the Airport/Facility Directory.)

Ground work went fine. I took my time setting up the radios on the ramp and was introduced to pulling up charts on the MFD suing the select function rather then loading them from the GNS430. It is pretty much the same method of selecting letters by scrolling through the alphabet. The rest of ground procedures including run up, copying simulated clearance and take off all went well. I engaged the Nav function too soon on departure (still on vectors so should have stayed in HDG mode) but the rest of the air work was OK.

Objectives: Terminal Procedures. The LOC 28 approach at Pottstown is pretty straight forward. Holding pattern in lieu of a procedural turn, Googl Intersection is the Initial and Final Approach Fix and is defined by the final approach course (276) and a radial (160) from the East Texas VOR (ETX).Missed approach is a climbing right turn heading 090 until intercepting the ETX 160 then back to Googl to hold. No tricks involved, all in all as simple as they come.

So if this was so easy how did I end up with this spaghetti?
It all has to do with with interaction of the GNS430, and understanding of the reference points it uses and how it tells the autopilot to fly the various aspects of the approach. The last time I was IFR current I used a GNS430 along with with two CDIs and one with a glide slope. (Also had an ADF that I never used.) My transition is to take the knowledge I had then and apply it to what I have some cases that can't be done.

First Attempt: Late transition, and used too shallow a descent on the autopilot (-500) so never had a chance to get down to the MDA. Executed the published Missed Approach. ETX is in the VLOC2 so I look for my #2 CDI. Don't have one. So I stumble figuring out that I can use the Bearing indicator and wait for the tail to fall to 160. OR, better method would be to switch the source for the CDI to VLOC 2 while flying the HDG of 090.

Once on the 160 Radial then what? Let's go direct to Googl. So, I open the FPL on GPS1, find GOOGL and punch direct. AHAH! Which GOOGL? It makes a difference for the logic of the system. So it took me some time to understand the differences and how it would effect the track the autopilot would choose to fly.

Another Attempt. There is a subtlety setting up the source and switching from VLOC1 to GPS1. You must insure that you GPS is selected prior to initiating NAV GPSS mode, otherwise it generated a "Fail" message. I also asked about timing. There is a timer incorporated under the function button on the transponder. The GNS430 can also be used to provide time to the fix. In all attempts I forgot to use either one.

Final attempt: resulted in a full stop landing.

Next I set up to return to KLOM. Used the Menu button on the GNS430 to reverse the flight plan and planned for the GPS 6 circle to land 24. I copied Radar Vectors, took some heading changes and briefed the approach. My setup was slow, slightly overflying the final approach course. I did get all of the correct indications and understood what the system was presenting and knew it was correct. However I lowered flaps too soon and allowed the airplane to slide above the glide slope as I prepared for the pattern entry. The landing was good, although to much speed on final forced a long roll out.

Fantastic learning session.

Time = 2.0 hours

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Approaches (Simulated)

Different day, different time. I went out to the airport Tuesday evening hoping to get in some actual instrument time, and nearly got through the preflight before we decided to cancel. The weather in the Northeast has been terrible for flying over the past week. I rescheduled for Friday at 11:00AM.

The weather for Friday was forecast to be IFR with embedded thunderstorms. What a pleasant surprise to find the sun shinning. I got to the airport on time, briefed what we wanted to do and I went out to preflight. I still had a few nagging questions that the CFII patiently answered. Ground procedures at a non towered field are finally coming together.

Objectives: Practice flying in an IFR environment.

It had been a long time. I remembered to put my kneeboard on but forgot to take my time copying the simulated clearance. Frustrating to be unable to even copy and readback a clearance correctly, but even here helpful tips about local procedures filled in gaps on what to expect from ATC.

The takeoff and climb out were normal, although warmer temperatures and higher humidity had an effect on performance. It was about this point when the airplane started to get out in front of me. I had not made the mental adjustment to go from VFR to IFR flying. I was concentrating on checklists and hand flying the plane when I should have engaged the autopilot and begun setting up for the next event. So while I concentrated on pushing the "Done" button on the MFD I wasn't working on the procedures necessary to fly the plane in IFR conditions. Aviate/Navigate/Communicate; all suffered.

...but, I learned. Slowly. First the ILS into KABE, Accepted radar vectors, played with the GNS430, and really worked on the relationship between the autopilot and the approach, which was the point of the whole flight. Understanding what the autopilot is programed to do fly the approach for both precision and non-precision approaches.

The ILS went fine but the missed not so well. When it came time to enter holding I was unsure of the entry. Why? I didn't know the outbound holding course. Why? I struggled to find it on the chart. Ah, but the root cause was that I failed to brief the approach! You can play with the toys but the fundamentals can't be ignored. This would bite me again over at Quakertown. Once the CFII helped me find the right chart view, the holding entry calculation was obviously a teardrop. The airplane flew it perfectly.

We left holding and flew to KUKT for a non precision approach with a procedural turn. I was only slightly behind the airplane as I set up the communications and navigation radios. Anxious to get the autopilot set, I pushed the approach button on the outbound leg which told it I was ready for steering for the final approach course. Correcting that, the airplane flew a beautiful procedural turn to set us up for the inbound course. Without an approach brief (which should have been done in the previous holding pattern) I got confused looking for the MDA on the charts.

Enough fun for today, we wisely opted for a visual approach at home base. I was able to use the system to load the airport view and plan for the entry. The approach was high, I made good corrections and a nice landing.

Wow, what a wakeup call! In a previous life this would have been a 'down'. Fortunately I can be educated and am anxious for another try at this.

Time = 1.9 hours.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

GNS430,Waypoints and Enroute Procedures

Hot. Temperatures for the past few days had been in the 90s and a cold front was moving from the west. I would have expected thunder bumpers in Georgia, but here the air was just slightly unstable, with gusts showing up on some of the METARs. Nothing that would keep us from flying.

My prep work was much more extensive this week. I 'flew' every checklist at least once, ran numerous flight plans through the simulators, pulled out the POH and went over some the systems pages, and in general thought a lot about what I was trying to do. I arrived at the airport much more confident and ready to fly.

Objective; finish up the enroute procedures, correctly enter the terminal area and fully exercise "George". The CFII choose to go to Schuylkill County /Joe Zerbey (ZER), POTTSVILLE, PA, Elevation: 1729. Looked to be about a 20 minute trip which should give me time to exercise the system, and myself.

Preflight was normal. Clean oil and a loose screw on an access panel meant she had probably just finished a 100 hour inspection. Ground work was all normal as was the takeoff. We had the opportunity to go through the Auto Lean procedure and with checklist complete began concentrating on the MFD. Charts, trip and nearest pages as well as a review of the weather information (there was some turbulence out there due to the heat).

Next my focus switched to terminal procedures. 12 miles out so I started to get the plane ready. MFD said the airport was on the nose...but I didn't see it. 8 miles, still not in sight. So I triple checked the MFD and it appeared to be just beyond I81 on the other side of the mountain. 5 miles, no joy. At this point the CFII suggested I change the range on the display and with that it became clear that KZER was not in a valley but on the ridge. Beautiful.

Not the best entry I've ever done. But a good lesson in using the available information in the plane to understand the 'lay of the land' and how to make adjustments for a VFR landing pattern.
This was a great choice to do some landing practice. The steep drop offs forced me to concentrate on the runway and the proper procedures. I had a misconception about the deployment of the first notch of flaps which the CFII finally corrected, and there were a few other kinks that I was finally getting straightened. Not perfection...but close to competent, and my comfort level is getting better all the time. I can be trained.

So we departed there and headed for home. I used the system resources to monitor the trip, and was introduced to the Cirrus Satellite Entertainment System. No joke, cool stuff. We discussed and input the GPS 06 approach (Circle to Land) using vertical guidance on the GNS430. That is a page I had not seen before which I think will be very useful. (When do you begin your descent?)
We broke off the approach at pattern altitude, made the necessary transitions to enter the pattern for a full stop at home. (I blew the landing...too nose high...I hate that.) Taxi back, shutdown, etc all normal.

I'm getting there.

Time = 1.9 hours

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cirrus Sr20, glass panel, flight training, introduction S-TEC 55x

OK, so that title should tickle just about every search engine out there for anyone who might be interested in this blog. My son convinced me to add Google Analytics to see who was actually reading this thing so this entry might prove to be interesting.

The weather looked a lot like last week. Three or four fronts were moving through the area and brought very heavy rains with them last night. The next big event was a cold front still moving east across western Pennsylvania. It was going slower then predicted and while ugly, it was still out further then we intended to travel. Flight conditions were definitely 'iffy'.

My preparation was weak. I'm at the stage where I know a lot and I know that there is a lot I don't know. At times I'm completely comfortable, but most of the time...well not so much. I remember the level of proficiency I once had and am eager to get there again, but my knowledge is insufficient at this point. So I went into this session with mixed emotions. Eager to perform but afraid I wouldn't meet my own expectations. I didn't let myself down.

The objective was to get an introduction to enroute procedures using the autopilot. I planned a short hop out to Lancaster (KLNS) which should provide enough time to run the standard checklists and start polishing my use of the GNS430 and its use for terminal procedures.

Rather then humble myself in front of the whole world I'll suffice to say that I made errors from the time I turned the key on until I pulled the mixture to cut off. I clearly need to fly my easy chair a few times before I go up in the airplane again. Having said that, I will also say that this was truly an amazing learning experience.
I anxiously took the runway ready to go. All in the green and accelerating nicely the CFII asked if I heard it? That whistling sound? I initiated the abort. My door wasn't closed properly. BE AWARE! Once clear of the runway a good slam solved the problem. The next try was successful.

The CFII patiently had me go through the climb and cruise checklists and reviewed the auto-lean functions with me. I spent a good deal of time discussing the most efficient way to set up the communications radios. The real 'break through' event was the use of the MFD. That weather supposedly staying west of our destination, wasn't. Deep dark storm clouds were rolling in over the destination airport so the instructor used this to his advantage by pointing out the weather page and going through all of the information available. Truly GREAT stuff.

...and with that knowledge we decided discretion being the better part of valor we would return to Wings. Here again a great discussion on setting up the GNS430 (what if you need to change your full approach to use vectors to final instead?) and interlocking with the S-TEC-55x. You've got to know what you want and be prepared with options.

Next was landing pattern practice. I love this, which is not to say that I have mastered it yet. As you can see my patterns are consistently...inconsistent. Even this shows progress because I KNOW what I'm looking at and what I'm trying to achieve. Some subtle tips and cues from the CFII definitely helped me to get in front of the airplane. The altitude analysis shows I'm leveling off late for the downwind. The deeper pattern is actually the better one and even here I feel high on final. Tuning is required, but overall I'm quite comfortable, especially once over the numbers. Here again I'm learning to be professional. Treat her like a lady with smooth adjustments...close the throttle, don't chop it.

The #1 objective of this entire evolution is being accomplished. Even though I'm still kicking myself for all the stupid, clumsy mistakes I made I still had a grin on my face the entire way home from the airport.

Time = 2.2 hours

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Weather Picture

We were scheduled to depart about 5:00PM local, but the weather gods had connived a horrid plan to keep me on the ground. 3 fronts around a low pressure area, temperatures and dew points nearly exactly the same and gusty winds just to make the stew a little more unpalatable. I knew by noon that we wouldn't be able to make it.

I've had a good run of luck using Tuesdays as my flying day. As I reach the halfway point in my transition training I hope I'll be able to keep my schedule on the same day.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Simulated Instrument

A warm front was slowly moving north and its associated low pressure area was dragging some rain showers along for the ride. The forecast was gloomy, 70% chance of showers, low visibility and low ceilings. So as I looked at all of the weather information at 8:00 am I was pretty sure my flight in the evening would have to be canceled. really didn't look too bad here at home. Perhaps there was a chance the 'weather guessers' were wrong.

I got out to the flight school early and immediately went in search of my CFII. He was in a deep discussion with other instructors about some of the latest simulator technology so I made myself comfortable in the lounge. There I listened to another instructor talk about an adventure with another pilot who had incorrectly set an altimeter. Hanger talk, I love it.

Objectives: Enroute procedures, terminal area procedures, and always my favorite; landing pattern.

Preflight and ground checklists are finally becoming comfortable. I'm not 100% smooth yet, but at least I get that 'uneasy feeling' when I've broken sequence or missed something. The cockpit is becoming familiar enough that I don't feel like a stranger. So as another 'company traffic' Cirrus landed while we waited at the hold short line, I was ready to go and made my call. Immediately my instructor was on the brakes. Huh? (We don't do position and hold anymore...two years of rust has an effect.) Wait until the aircraft has cleared the runway before taxiing into position.

Sub par takeoff as I allowed the plane to drift left prior to rotate. Climb out on course and checklist all went well. He reintroduced me to the auto-lean function, which I understand, but will have to perform before it is a part of me. Then he asked if I wanted to put the 'foggles' on. It take a few seconds to adjust with my bifocals and when he gave the plane back we were in a steep turn to the left...and here is one of the real jewels of flying glass. The attitude gyro..uh, indicator, is HUGE.

We picked up vectors for the ILS into KABE. I squirmed in my seat a bit as I haven't flown any approach in a long time. Again the instrumentation in the plane is magnificent. Even with a weak scan it is very easy to see course and glide slope deviation as it is displayed right where it should be on the PFD. I was pleased that I could stay ahead of the airplane and didn't suffer from the 'snakes' (chasing the needles). Got down to mins, foggles off for an acceptable touch and go. Then we headed out for holding at the missed approach point. My only problem here was trying to find a clock for timing. Of course with GPS you really only have to follow the magenta road.

Next he introduced me to the wonders of the autopilot. Immediately evident is that pilot skills must change. The airplane can handle most of the 5Ts, make the necessary wind corrections and adjust the inbound leg by itself. The pilot becomes a systems master, insuring all are working properly and using his head to plan for the next event(s).

So, what is the most efficient way to plan for the next event? I asked the CFII to take the airplane and demonstrate how he would set up for an approach at KLOM. With a variety of radios, navigation aides, onboard checklists and approach plates, it can be a daunting task to get a systematic flow to insure the all are efficiently doing what they should be doing. The autopilot did the flying, right down to mins where I took it for the landing.

The CFII asked if I wanted to work on the landing pattern. I always answer "YES" to this question. Unfortunately I still wasn't as crisp as I can be. You simply got to know speeds and power settings, and I didn't. Without a good pattern you won't have good landings. The last was 'in the groove' and I was happy with it. The instructor wisely ended the session on a positive note.
I'm anxious to go again.

Time = 2.4
Simulated Instrument = 0.5

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Kick the Tires, light the fires

I'm sure it was really never that easy. As A/C have become more complex the ground procedures to check the myriad systems the pilot depends upon have by necessity become more involved as well. This session focused on those procedures.

The weather was perfect. A beautiful day sandwiched between a fast moving cold front with embedded hail storms and another stationary front funneling rain showers along the low pressure area.

Objective: Familiarization with enroute procedures and practice in the landing pattern. The CFII suggested that we go to Reading (KRDG).

I'm becoming more comfortable with the preflight and initial cockpit procedures. The flow of items make good sense to me. I still bump my head, takes me awhile to adjust my seat and get it started but I'm confident that will improve. As we finished the break check an Eclipse Jet taxied through the ramp area..what a shame.

My attention turned to getting the plane to the run up area. MFD switched to engine functions and checked to insure HSI and turn indicator track properly and manage the speed, with occasional right brake to counter torque. Then make sure the nose wheel is centered once turned into the wind.
Next came the "Run Up", actually the Before Takeoff checklist. I did 'OK" with most of the steps. finally got the autopilot check, although I got confused trying to set the trim when I failed to disconnect it. My major stumbling block this time was the memory items. Anxious to push the power up 'precisely' 1700 RPM, I forgot how I was going to check the alternators and voltages. Rats. Another lesson learned.

We took some time to set up the navigation and communication radios on the GNS430s. Using the chart function on the MFD to find frequencies, approaches and airport data needed for the trip is great.I've made a note to switch my current chart subscription to Jeppeson. Checklist complete, it was time to move to the hold short line.

Unfortunately I couldn't get the plane to turn right. Try as I might to release the left brake I just kept going left. After shutting down we found the left tire was flat. Fortunate to find it here, but nonetheless disappointed our session was over...except for the walk back to the office.

Time =0.6

Footnote: We had a very good discussion about the use of the airframe parachute. Another well known blogger had written an excellent analysis of the situation and what contributing factors may have led to the use of one in Gaithersburg. Key was the discussion about solid head work and decision making that must accompany the added sophistication the Cirrus designs provide.