Checking The Stall Warning Horn

Checking The Stall Warning Horn

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When a pilot first glances at the title of this article, the first thought that probably goes through that pilot’s head is, well that’s easy.

And it is, if you are flying a high wing Cessna. On other airplanes, there are a few tricks to checking the stall warning horn. If you get them wrong, you’re liable to get a bill from your maintenance shop for an hour of labor for a problem they couldn’t duplicate.

Cirrus SR22

Let’s start with the Cirrus. On the pre-FIKI Cirrus aircraft, there was a small little hole in the wing that contained a diaphragm. That diaphragm sensed a change in airflow at a certain angle of attack just below the critical angle of attack and set off the stall warning horn. Unfortunately, the only way to check that is to suck on the hole during pre-flight.

I don’t. I verify the hole is clear and that’s about it.

On the FIKI Cirrus aircraft, there is actually a stall warning vane. It looks like a high wing Cessna vane, but if you turn the batteries on and try and get it to come on during your light and pitot heat check, nada.

Here’s the trick, and the checklist doesn’t do a good job of describing this.

  • Turn on the Avionics Master
  • Turn on the speaker
  • Put the flaps to full
  • Then move the stall warning vane and you’ll hear the horn

The speaker and the Avionics Master are so you can actually hear the horn (if you had the headset on while you were doing this, the speaker would be unnecessary). The flaps have to be full because the pitch attitude for the critical angle of attack is lower with the flaps down, so the horn goes off when at a different angle. You then don’t have to use as much force to push the vane.

Piper PA46

The early -310P Malibus are pretty simple and straight forward. Move the vane, get the horn.

In the -350P, you can’t get the horn to come on by moving the vane. So, Piper put a stall test button that’s hidden underneath the upper left side of the instrument panel. Push that to test the horn. On the G1000 PA46, it is located directly above the PFD. On the Avidyne, it’s below and to the left of the pilot’s yoke.


Testing the stall warning horn is a very important part of pre-flight. A pilot needs to know if the aircraft is close to a stall. The advent of Angle of Attack indicators in small, GA aircraft, have added a greater awareness to the angle of attack during all phases of flight to avoid those stall spins.

If the stall warning horn goes off or the AOA shows yellow, lower that nose immediately.

Stephanie Mertz Joins Texas Top Aviation

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Texas Top Aviation has added a new member to our instructing team. Stephanie Mertz was hired in March 2019 and will be specializing in G1000 & Instrument instruction.

Stephanie graduated from LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas with a degree in Aeronautical Science, earning her commercial single and multi ratings while there. She began her aviation career in Ontario, California flying a Pilatus PC-12 for charter and medical trips. While operating the PC-12, she gained valuable experience flying all over the US and Mexico.

In 2013, Stephanie moved back to East Texas with her husband where she worked as a contract pilot flying a variety of Citations as well as a Falcon 10. A few years later, she became involved in her local Ninety-Nines chapter and joined their mentorship program.

After earning her CFI, CFII, and MEI, Stephanie returned to her alma mater to pass on her flying passions to college students through flight instructing. After a year of teaching at LeTourneau, she and her husband, with their first baby in tow, moved to the Austin area. Now she is instructing with Texas Top Aviation while acting as a mentor for other women working on achieving their flying dreams.

Fly Away Destination: Lajitas Golf Resort

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Talk about star treatment.  The Lajitas Golf Resort rolled out the red carpet for the 2019 Texas Top Aviation Lajitas Fly In.  I had been to Lajitas twice before; once in July when it was hot, miserable and bumpy.  The second time was the week before our Fly In.  Both times, everyone from the airport folks to the bus drivers to the front desk and restaurant staff were top notch.  It made for a very pleasurable experience.

If you haven’t been out to Lajitas (or don’t even know where it is) and you’re a pilot (you don’t even have to play golf), you have missed a sure gem.  Lajitas is positioned on the southern tip of the Big Bend area of Texas, right on the Rio Grande river.  Lajitas has great lodging with several different room options from big to small, an excellent restaurant for 3 square a day (and even a bakery for sweets, coffee, and breakfast tacos in the mornings), and a 5 star golf course in Black Jack Crossing.

Why is this all relevant to us aviators?  Lajitas has it’s own private airport, 89TE.  Complete with a 5,500 foot asphalt runway, VFR conditions most of the year, and reasonable fuel prices, Lajitas is the pilot’s gateway to the resort and the entire Big Bend area.  If you wait until the fall, a brand new, 7,000 foot concrete runway should be completed and an IFR approach should be available.  An AWOS is in the works too.

The resort and airport are so far south, radar and radio coverage with Albuquerque Center is pretty poor below about 15,000 feet, and non-existent below 10,000 feet.  This isn’t a big concern as any airplanes in the area should be on 122.9 and the airport manager will make contact with you, give you a weather report, and assign a runway.

Once you are on the ground, there will be a resort bus waiting to whisk you and all your friends to the resort for your getaway.

The 2019 Texas Top Aviation Lajitas Fly In was a big hit.  We had 7 airplanes total:  5 Cirrus SR22s, 1 Piper Matrix, and 1 Citation M2.  There were 15 attendees total, including 13 golfers.  Everyone raved about the resort and the golf course.  The only hiccup in the weekend was the cold front that blasted through on Friday afternoon, kicking up a lot of dust.  Golfing on Saturday was windy too, but Sunday morning was absolutely perfect.

Thanks again to the folks at Lajitas for the star treatment!

Interested in participating in the next Texas Top Aviation Fly In?  Contact Us or Sign Up for Our Newsletter and we will make sure you find out about the next one so you don’t miss out!

MMOPA Operating Practices for the Piper PA46

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I have the privilege of serving on the Malibu & M-Class Owners and Pilot’s Association Safety Committee.  Along with 6 other Piper PA46 instructors, we were tasked with two things last year leading up to the MMOPA Convention in Colorado Springs last October.  The first was to develop a Master Aviator Program (more on that in a later article).  The second was to develop Operating Practices for the Piper PA46 fleet that we as instructors could all get on board with to teach the same thing, allowing everyone in the fleet to fly approaches and patterns the same way.

When I started instructing in the piston Piper PA46 line (the Malibu, Mirage, and Matrix), I was surprised to find that there were no recommendations anywhere that I could find for approach and pattern power settings and airspeeds.  This led to some experimentation on my part trying to find out what works well for the airplane.  I had originally been given good training in a Malibu, but hadn’t flown one for several years, so my numbers were a bit rusty.

I have been in the Cirrus world for a very long time.  One thing I greatly appreciated from an instructing point of view about Cirrus was the abundance of guidance the factory gives instructors and pilots on how the airplane is supposed to be flown.  All CSIPs and all Cirrus pilots should (theoretically) be teaching and flying the exact same way.

I was quite surprised that Piper didn’t put out similar information.  I wasn’t as familiar with MMOPA at the time, but was surprised they didn’t have any information either.

I apparently wasn’t the only one with a desire to have a little bit more standardization.

So, without further ado, here are the MMOPA Operating Practices that the Safety Committee put together.  If you are a new Piper PA46 pilot, these numbers are what you will expect to use when you do your Initial training.  If you are a seasoned Piper PA46 pilot, you probably fly these numbers, or pretty close to them already.

These are tried and true power settings and speeds for the approach phase and landing phase.  They work. That was the goal of the Safety Committee:  put down in writing something repeatable to enhance safety.  I believe we have accomplished that.

I Learn To Speak Seaplane

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From the time I started flying, I have always had the dream to learn how to fly a seaplane.  As I learned in November, it’s actually learning to land a seaplane, and the veterans call them floatplanes.

ProMark Aviation at the Burnet Airport (KBMQ) offers a weekend float plane course that is high on fun and low on stress.  The school has a Piper PA12 Super Cruiser on amphibious floats (amphibs as I was corrected at one point.  I mean, if you’re going to fly a seaplane, er, floatplane, you have to know the lingo) that will land and takeoff on water, but does little else with ease and grace.  At 150 HP with those big floats and all the associated rigging hanging underneath the airplane, you are lucky to get to 500 feet before you get to your destination.

We weren’t working on setting any speed records.  I was learning the lay of the water.  I learned about the step, the keel, pumping the floats, how to read the water, currents, ducks (yes, ducks and birds are important to know about when you are flying low on the water), buoys, docking, and ditching.  Step taxiing was fun as you are basically at 3/4 throttle screaming across the top of the water just below flying speed.  It’s the best way to taxi a seaplane (truly, it is.  You get more air in your engine, you can see better, and you are moving.  Just don’t try and turn sharp).

Floatplanes also don’t have any shock absorbers, so the higher the wave, the more you get knocked around, so wind velocity and, in turn, wave height is very important.

A very important nuance of an amphibious floatplane compared to a straight floatplane (one that doesn’t have wheels that come out of the floats), is at one point, you want to make sure your gear is down for landing (runway landing) and at another, you want to make absolutely sure your gear is up for landing (water landing).  If you land wheels down in the water, you will capsize, 100% of the time.  Thankfully from my good instruction, I did not capsize.

Ken Wittekiend, my instructor, and I spent the majority of the weekend landing and taking off on Lake Buchanan (I was informed by locals it is pronounced “Buk-cannon”, not “Bue-cannon”), which is more open and therefore has more waves.  We did one landing on Inks Lake so my kids could see me land, which they thought was the best thing since cheese sticks.

There is a check ride at the end of the training, but, as Ken reassured me, it’s the most fun check ride you’ll ever have.  I still hate check rides, but that one I think I hated least of all.

I hope someday I can put my floatplane skills to practice, but for now, I can vouch that I now speak seaplane!