Thursday, August 4, 2016

Holding short for Virgin Galactic

Had a trip to Mojave (MHV) and tower says "Hold short for low pass traffic". When I realized what it was I had just enough time to fish out my camera. Bad ass!!  

Astute readers will note I wasn't in my Baron but the Pilatus PC12-NG that I fly for the corporation that owns it.  I've got over 100 hrs of turbine time now between flying the Pilatus and the KingAir C90.  Love them both!

Back in piston world...  I took off in my Baron the other day and shortly after takeoff I lost 800 rpm on the left prop... of course the critical engine.  Say what?  I got a big yaw moment and thought I lost the engine but looked down at the JPI and all engine params were good.  It was like someone just yanked the left prop lever back.  I flew it straight to my shop at LVK and they pulled off the left governor and sent it to the guys at Stockton Propellor.  Turns out the governor ate one of it's fly weights.   Shop said they haven't seen anything like that in a long time.  Oh well...  $2800 later I've got a freshly overhauled prop governor.  I wonder if something about the Colemill P600 STC caused it because I push close to red line on the props when generating all 300 HP.  I'm going to start pulling the props back below redline on takeoff.

While all this was going on the shop said my right accumulator was leaking oil and it would be $750 to overhaul it.  Hmm... accumulators...  I never really use them, it's not a trainer.  How much do they weigh?  about 8 lbs each.  Ditch them!  When I practice engine outs I can always restart with the starter.  Seems like an easy way to regain 16 lbs of useful load, not to mention save $750.  So now my plane is sans accumulators and I'm fine with that.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

FlightStream 210

Just when I think I've got every Garmin gadget imaginable they come out with another one.  I bought a FlightStream 210 which is a little bluetooth device that physically sits on top of my GTN 750 below the glare shield and wirelessly transmits data to my iPhone and iPad.  The new transponder I bought also has bluetooth, but inexplicably Garmin doesn't allow data to be uploaded through it, only sent out.  So while I could get ADS-B data on my iPad with my new GTX345, I couldn't upload flight plans or control my XM audio.  Now I can do both.  Also the FS210 has a backup AHRS and sends that data to my iPad as well.  Pretty cool little device.  The main reason I bought it is that Dina usually sits in the back and now she can DJ the music from her phone.  Cool!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

An SR22 ride at last

I've been dropping hints for years to various Cirrus drivers that I'd love to take a ride in an SR22, but none was ever forthcoming.  I did fly an old SR20 years ago, and I wasn't particularly impressed.  It seemed underpowered and a little twitchy.  This was a Gen1 plane though,  seemed to always be in the shop and I was well aware that Cirrus has made a ton of improvements to the plane.  Everyone I spoke with about the Cirrus let me know the SR22 was a different animal.  I also had some preconceived notions about the plane.  Not necessarily negative ones, I just wasn't particularly enamored with the airplane because they all seem exactly the same... completely interchangeable.   Seen one, seen them all, or so I thought.  Those notions were blown away as I finally got to fly my friend Alex Disessi's beautiful and totally custom Cirrus SR22 G3 with the Tornado Alley turbo normalizing system.

This plane has a totally custom paint job... not the standard white pill bottle of all the rest.  It's in a Nascar inspired theme with gorgeous lines.  The interior is also completely custom designed, with black leather.  It's just gorgeous and spacious to sit in, with comfortable leather seats and plenty of room for 4 passengers, the doors latch smoothly.

The avionics is the Avidyne R9 system which is very much like the fully integrated G1000 but better in many respects.  Everything is totally integrated, with an FMS style interface reminiscent of the Honeywell Apex but much easier to use.  Large screens and synthetic vision as well as a fully integrated autopilot.  Nice.

The plane was quiet, smooth and handled beautifully.  The side stick felt nice and solid and not at all twitchy.  The plane is fast and efficient.  I was very impressed.  Overall I really loved this Cirrus.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


I've always been on the fence about installing ADS-B.  I get no real benefit since I have an active traffic radar system in my plane through the GTS-800 and XM weather through the GDL-69A.  Seemed silly to add another box to the plane and also I found the whole dual band, 978/1090ES thing very confusing...  Yet, I'm paying $60 a month for XM, so it would be nice to kill that off since FIS-B weather is free.  Also the ADS-B traffic symbology is pretty cool, now I can not only see traffic targets but also see their N-number and trend vector.   Of course, ADS-B is also going to be a requirement in 2020 so when Garmin announced the GTX-345 I went ahead and ordered one.  I also ordered a FlightStream 210 so that I can upload flight plans from my iPad to the panel.  Yesterday I picked up the plane from AirTronics after the install.  All working great!

Not a great photo but there is the GTX-345 at the bottom.  Notice it has my N-Number.  Also the traffic on the GTN's is depicted as an triangle arrow shape if it's an ADS-B target, and a square block if it's a radar target.  Cool.

I also had the shop wire up the GTN interface to control the transponder.  I could have done that before with my old GTX-330 but it was never hooked up for some reason.

I also had the shop wire up my flight director from my AutoPilot.  It's only recently that Garmin allowed the FD interface from the C-IV autopilot, so this is a pretty cool addition for me.  Hand fly an instrument approach is now as simple as following the command bars.  Way cool.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Vans factory tour

The most boring part of working in corporate aviation is long stretches of waiting around.  On a day turn trip you usually wake up at o-dark thirty, get your passengers to their destination and then wait around all day until it's time to take them back.   It actually works very well for me because I have a software project I'm working on, so I just crack open my MacPro and work.  If there is time we can also grab the crew car and go hunt for a good food spot, go for a hike or whatever.

A recent trip landed me in Aurora Oregon for 7 hours.  Turns out that Aurora is the home of Vans Aircraft, and it also turns out they are pretty friendly folks.  I wandered over there and asked one of the guys if I could get a tour of the factory.  "You bet!" he said.  The factory was impressive.  A huge warehouse basically with brisk activity and the sound of rivet guns and boxes moving around everywhere.

Here is a set of QuickBuild fuselages I think for the RV-9.  These are assembled in the Philippines but the build quality looked very good.  The riveting was perfect.

It's kind of like Home Depot of RV parts.  Here the rafters are stacked with wing assemblies.  Others have fiberglass canopy assemblies, engines in crates, and all manner of various pieces of aircraft parts.

After the tour we went to the hangar to look at the completed aircraft and my guide said, "Want to take a ride?".  Uhhhh, twist my arm!  I had my pick from any of their planes and I was kind of torn on which one to pick.  The LightSport looks fun, and the RV-10 looked like a cool 4 place... but I settled on the RV-14 which is like a big daddy RV-9.  Here she is...

I had a great time cruising over the Oregon country side at 1500 ft.  The plane handles so smoothly and is so responsive as well as being perfectly balanced in pitch and roll.  It has a slider canopy and a center mounted stick so it feels like a little fighter.  I could really see myself buying one of these one day, though I doubt I'd want to stick 2,000 hours into building one.  The plane is dead simple to fly and pure fun.

Then it was time to hop back into the jet where it's all two crew coordination, long checklists and button pushing.  A very different kind of fun!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Mr. Corporate Pilot

Somehow I've managed to jump into the corporate pilot world, and I'm having a blast.  I'm now flying a KingAir C90 and a Pilatus PC12NG for a couple owners under part 91.  That alone is amazing, I love both planes.  Yesterday though my mind exploded as I started my first part 135 gig flying right seat in a CJ4.  Wow!

This was a seriously awesome experience.  I soaked up a whole bunch of information which was like drinking from a fire hose.  Brand new systems and new avionics in the Proline 21, which is a very confusing system at first but became straightforward once I started to figure out how it thinks.  The main thing that's counterintuitive is that you type commands into the "scratchpad" and then you press the button where you want that to go.   For example, if you wanted to insert a waypoint into the flight plan that's five miles before Redding airport, you type "KRDD/-5" into the scratchpad and then push the little button on the FMS flight plan page to insert it there.  It's the opposite of most systems I've flown where you press a button to activate the thing you want and then type or twist to set the data for it.

The power is amazing, when the engines start ripping the acceleration pushes you back in the seat and the speed tape starts rolling by like crazy.  I'm supposed to call out the speeds but by the time I'm calling out V1 we're already well through it.  Once gear is up we start climbing at 4,000 fpm and if you have a level off altitude you're doing it almost immediately.  Everything happens insanely fast.  I've still got a ton to learn and felt like I was constantly playing catch up.  But hey, I now have 3.7 hours Jet time in my logbook!  I should have my SIC type rating soon and I'll fly that for a year or so and then go for the PIC type rating.

Monday, February 15, 2016

PC12NG !

Today I logged my first few hours in the Pilatus, a beautiful NG model. Wow, to say that it's an incredible plane is a serious understatement.  Everything is so incredibly well engineered.  It looks and feels solid, the throttle control moves so smoothly and intuitively, the handling is so light for a big airplane, the power is incredible and yet it's smooth and quiet.  My only complaint is that the pilot seats are pretty hard and my butt was kinda numbing up after a few hours, but I guess I'm spoiled by my Tim Hallock seats in my Baron.

Flying someone else's 4.1 million dollar plane sort of changes the way you think about things a bit.  Fortunately I have a good mentor pilot and he keeps reminding me, "you know what happens if you screw that up? it results in a mandatory inspection and a $25,000 bill".  Yikes!  Here I am doing the preflight.

The main challenge for me is learning the FMS and the Honeywell stuff after years of Garmin.  On the one hand, it's not as intuitive as Garmin.  On the other hand, it's got a certain flow to it that makes sense once you learn it and it's already starting to seem fast and efficient.  Once you start to think like the FMS, you can see what pro pilots really love it.  It's going to take me some time though, especially after being so comfortable in my plane and nearly every other plane I fly has Garmin stuff.

The plane is the real deal.  Here we are at 22,000 ft truing out at 263 kts.  Nearly BlackHawk KingAir speed but with a cabin that's the size of a B200 and burning only 60 gallons an hour.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Runner lights!

When Tim did my interior I had him add a little extra splurge and install LED runner lights.  He installed them along the base runner at the top of the carpet, but didn't hook them up because they don't really do electrical stuff.  I waited until the annual and had Chris and the guys at TriValley aviation LVK hook up the wiring and install a runner lights switch in my panel.  The result is really awesome, the night look now is like a brand new BMW.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy new year!

2015 was my best aviation year yet.  Here is my year summary from Pilotica.

Yowza, 474 hours!  Happy new year!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Simulators everywhere

The flight school I teach at just bought an Allsim 200MCC which is one of those monster simulators with the full wrap around 120 degree field of view projection screen in an almost real cockpit.  As a sim geek I'm excited to start teaching in it, especially for IFR.  Here is what it looks like:

The panel is configurable but will most likely be set up like a 172.

I've also been inspired to improve my home sim.  I've been learning more about electronics and how to interface custom components with the computer through Arduino micro controllers.  I bought a custom GNS 530 that was built this way and I also ordered some components to start playing with.  My goal is to eventually have a totally custom Baron panel with mostly real hardware instead of the Saitek stuff which is plug and play but feels like a toy.  Here is my panel as of now...

A little bit haphazard but it's a work in progress.