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.