Matching the Airplane with Your Mission

Matching the Airplane with Your Mission


Has it come time to buy your first airplane?  Have the skies been calling your name?  Or are you just tired of standing in the airport security line then getting shoved in a long metal tube with no leg room?  Or, maybe you are a businessman who does business in remote areas that have local airports but are hard to get to commercially.

Wherever your need is, you have decided it’s time to make a purchase.  If you are familiar with aviation, you may have an airplane in mind that you would like to have, but is that the right airplane for your mission?  If you are new to aviation, you may have no idea what airplane to go for.  Here are some helpful hints in narrowing down the different airplane options out there to fit your specific mission.

Flying For Enjoyment, but Not Going Far Fast

Piper Cherokee

If you’re just a weekend flyer who is tired of dealing with flight school rentals, but you don’t need to carry a lot of people or go very far, your options are pretty numerous.  Anything from a Cessna 152 to a Piper Cherokee, maybe a Beech Sundowner, or a Bellanca Viking, or anything in between.  If you are content with taking a weekend hop for a hamburger at 100-110 knots, you have limitless options for airplanes.  Tailwheels (Cubs, Citabrias, Huskies) are excellent birds for you well.

Getting Places Fast With Only You and Maybe One Passenger

Need to go 200-300 miles fast and not worried about weight?  A Cirrus SR22T, a Columbia 400, or Cessna Corvalis might be just what you need.  Cruise speeds on those are all around 180-190 knots at 10,000 feet. All are oxygen equipped if you want more speed higher up, as the service ceilings are 25,000 feet.  Payloads run in the range of 400-500 pounds with full fuel.  All these have air conditioning options, too.

Hauling More Weight, but Still Need the Speed?

Cessna 206 Mission

A little slower (150-170 knots) but a little bit more payload options are A36 & B36 Bonanzas, Piper Saratogas, Cessna 206s, or Cessna 210s might suit your fancy.  All come in turbo models if you are a high elevation dweller.  The Cessna 206 has been used for many years as cargo and people haulers in remote regions like Alaska, South America, and Africa.  I’ve even seen pictures of snowmobiles being carried in a 206.

Tired of Oxygen Cannulas?

The next step up from a Cirrus, Corvalis, or Saratoga is the Piper Malibu.  A bigger brother to the Saratoga, the different PA-46 models offer one of the best options for a single engine piston out there.  All except the Matrix (PA-46-350T) are pressurized, all the pistons cruise about 200 knots, and all are configured with club seating with plenty of leg room.  Useful loads range around 1200-1400 pounds (they hold 120 gallons of fuel, so payloads range from 480-680 pounds).  The original Malibu (PA-46-310P) only burns 16.5 GPH so that allows partial fuel to be carried to allow more people and bags.  All have 6 seats.

Need to Carry Even More Weight?

It’s time to get into the piston twin market, then.  A Cessna 414, a Cessna 421, a Cessna 340, a Beech Duke or a Beech Baron are all pretty good options here.  The 421 and the 414 have the largest cabins, while the Duke has the highest useful load.  Cruise speeds range from 200-220 knots, but the cabin is roomier and you get a few more pounds useful load than a piston single.  If you do get into a 421, get good training as they are equipped with Continental geared engines, which can be tricky to operate if you don’t know what you are doing.

Need to Carry a Lot of People and Go Fast?

Turboprops are the way to go for you.  King Airs have the most utility while  the Pilatus PC-12 is the cream of the single engine turboprop crop as you can put almost anything you want in it.  If you have 4-5 passengers, stay away from a Piper Meridian as you can’t carry a lot of weight.  Those are better for 2-3 passengers at the most (plus a pilot).  The TBM 900 is pricey, but fast (300-325 knots).  The original TBM 700 can be had for under a million bucks, you get 280 knots, and a very usable useful load.  You still can’t fill all 6 seats with full fuel, but you can do more with it then a Meridian.

Have a Boatload of Money Sitting Around?

A jet might be for you then.  Fuel, insurance, maintenance, and hangar costs are high, but jets will get you places real fast with room for all your friends and family.



Cirrus G2 Vision Jet


Well, that was fast.

In January, Cirrus announced the Generation 2 SF50 Vision Jet.  After getting the Generation 1 Vision Jet certified in late 2016, Cirrus didn’t waste any time in starting in on improvements.

The improvements are pretty sweet, making the G2 Vision Jet even easier to fly and step into for Cirrus’ target market, SR22 owners.

Here are the improvements on the G2 Vision Jet.

RVSM Approval

The G2 Vision Jet has received RVSM approval, allowing the airplane to fly at 31,000 feet.  RVSM stands for Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums (read more about RVSM here).  RVSM airspace starts at 28,000 feet, the G1 Vision Jet’s ceiling.  Now that the G2 Vision Jet is RVSM certified, it can fly at 31,000 feet.

For piston pilots, you are left scratching your head as to the advantage of this.  In a jet, the higher you go, the thinner the air, so the faster you go, and the less fuel you burn since the thin air needs less fuel to mix with.  This caps out at a certain altitude and the speed begins dropping and you start losing efficiency (even though the fuel burn is quite low).

According to Cirrus, at 31,000 feet, the G2 Vision Jet cruises over 300 KTAS and gets a range boost to almost 1,200 nm.

Garmin Perspective Touch+

Cirrus & Garmin have taken the new NXi interface and paired it with the Garmin Perspective Touch to create the Touch+.  You can read about the improvements on the NXi here, all of which are included in the Touch+ in the G2 Vision Jet.

The big improvement that is included in the Touch+ is Autothrottle capability.  An Autothrottle is integrated with the autopilot.  It automatically adjusts power settings and speeds based on the phase of flight without the pilot having to touch the throttle.  Pretty cool.

New Cabin

The G2 Vision Jet has a redesigned cabin as well, making it an extremely passenger friendly airplane.  The second row has been redesigned and equipped with a center console.  There is also a drop down TV screen that allows passengers to connect their mobile devices to it to watch movies or videos while traveling (no internet on board, yet.  That’ll probably be the G3 Vision Jet!).

Cirrus also put in more noise reduction in the cabin, creating a quieter ride for passengers.  Cirrus also allows for multiple different seating configurations, depending on the needs of the owner.

As always, Cirrus is on the leading edge of airplane technology, creating airplanes that are easy as well as fun to fly.  I’m excited to see how they continue to improve the design to both the SR22 and the Vision Jet.

I Love the Piper PA46


A lot of my customers ask me which airplane that I train in is my favorite.  The Cirrus and the Columbia both are very good airplanes, but if I had my pick, I’d go with a Piper PA46, specifically an ’86-’88 Malibu.

I love the Piper PA46.  6 seat, cabin class, pressurization, air conditioning, great ramp appeal, 17 GPH (in the Continental TSIO 520 or 550; Piper changed to the Lycoming TIO 540 in ’89, which you run rich of peak and burn 22 GPH, decreasing a little bit of the awesomeness).  What more can you ask for?  The interior is roomy, there is plenty of baggage space in the nose and in the rear of the cabin.  They are downright fabulous airplanes.  Plus, you can get into a nice one that has had some panel upgrades and a mid time engine for around $300,000.  That’s not bad.

Cessna tried to make a pressurized single with the P210, but it just doesn’t match up with the Piper PA46. The Piper has more room, more baggage space, a higher max differential pressure and service ceiling, and better air conditioning to boot!

Don’t know much about the Piper PA46?  It’s been called several things.  Originally, it was the Malibu, with a Continental engine.  Now the TSIO 520 was not one of Continental’s better motors.  However, most of the original Malibus have been upgraded to the much better TSIO 550C engine, which is a great product. Cruise around at almost 200 knots at FL200 and burn only 17 GPH.  It’s beautiful.

Piper changed to the Lycoming engine in 1989 and changed the name to the Malibu Mirage, later shortened to just Mirage.

Then, in 2016, Piper upgraded a lot of the avionics, cleaned up the panel, and dubbed it the M350.

Piper made the ill fated decision in the mid 2000s to quit making the Saratoga and instead make an unpressurized version of the PA46 called the Matrix.  It didn’t last long, only about 10 years or so, and hasn’t been very popular (see:  don’t buy one).  Piper took the best part about the PA46, the pressurization, and took it away, leaving an airplane that you still have to wear oxygen in to get the advertised high speeds in the upper teens and flight levels.  Who wants to be cruising around in a cabin class airplane with oxygen on?  Piper needs to bring the Saratoga back to give folks a low level, high performance option.

What would be my dream Piper PA46?  As stated above, an ’86-’88 model Malibu (Piper started off with hydraulic flaps in the ’84-’85 models and it wasn’t a very good system.  They changed to electric flaps in ’86) with a Continental TSIO 550C upgrade.  The Garmin autopilot isn’t out yet, so I’d go with the STEC 3100 Autopilot w/ a Yaw Damper (the airplane originally came with a King KFC 150, which is a really good autopilot, but most of them are getting old and are getting difficult to fix.  King’s replacement KFC 325 is still slogging through certification.  Garmin’s GFC 600 would be ideal, but that isn’t expected to be certified for the PA46 fleet till late this year).  A single Garmin 10.6″ G500 TXi with EIS tied to a Garmin GTN 750 GPS with a Garmin GTR 225 Nav/Comm as the number 2 radio.

Then I just put gas in it and go.  That would be my kind of airplane.

Merry Christmas 2018


So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son (John 1:14).

From the Texas Top Aviation family (Hank, Kelsey, Everett, Cooper, and Cord) to your family, we wish you a Merry Christmas!  We are thankful for how the Lord has blessed us this year.  We pray for blessings on your family this coming year.

Keep the wheel side down and the sunny side up!

Merry Christmas!

The Go Around Button


Back in the old days, when flying an approach in an early Cirrus SR22 (circa 2004; yes, in airplane technology, those were the old days), performing a missed approach procedure was a lot of work.  You were low to the ground and weren’t able to see the runway.  Then, you had to start climbing so you don’t hit the ground, then push a lot of buttons in order to get the GPS and autopilot set fly the missed approach procedure.  It was very easy to get distracted with button pushing, then forget to fly the airplane, putting yourself and passengers in very unsafe circumstances.  The go around button has changed all that.

Going Missed the Old Fashioned Way

Let’s stick with our example of the 2004 Cirrus.  The SR22 in 2004 was equipped with the Avidyne Entegra system, complete with dual Garmin 430 GPS units, and an STEC 55x Autopilot.  A very capable IFR flying machine (we could use the same example of a 2004 or 2005 Lancair Columbia 350 or 400 that was equipped the same way, except the screens were vertical instead of horizontal).

Avidyne Cirrus Go Around Button

We’ll use the ILS 15 at the Temple airport, KTPL, for our example.  You pass TPL, the outer marker at 1,683 with the glide slope already centered.  Everything is going well so far.  The number 1 Garmin 430 is set to VLOC and the autopilot is showing NAV and APR for the lateral guidance and GS on the vertical, tracking the glide slope.  The last weather report stated the clouds were Broken at 500 feet, so it appears like you’ll be able to get in on the approach.

As you get closer to the Decision Altitude, the clouds aren’t letting up at all.  You hit 1,000 feet on your altimeter, 120 feet above the minimums, and you still can’t see a thing.  Another 100 feet lower doesn’t change anything, so you elect to proceed with the missed approach.  This means things are about to get busy.

Here’s the process:

  • Fly the airplane first, meaning shut off the autopilot, pitch the nose up to about 7 degrees, TRIM, add full power, retract the flaps, and step on the right rudder
  • The Garmin 430 is now in SUSP mode, meaning the missed approach point is locked in as the active waypoint.  So, you have to press the OBS button to cause the GPS to cycle over to the missed approach procedure
  • You have to press the VLOC button on the Garmin 430 in order to change the CDI back to GPS
  • You have to re-engage the autopilot by pressing NAV twice (which engages GPS Steering mode)
  • You have to reset your altitude bug (if you hadn’t set it for the missed approach altitude previously)
  • You have to press VS and ALT on your autopilot to have the STEC continue the climb

That’s a lot of work, isn’t it?  Plus, that’s an extensive amount of head down time in the cockpit, with your eyes looking elsewhere other than the instruments while hand flying.  All very low to the ground, I might add.  Can you see how this can be dangerous?  (Note:  The Avidyne IFD 550 has made this a little easier with automatically switching from VLOC to GPS and automatically engaging the missed approach procedure in the flight plan)

The advent of the Go Around Button has streamlined the process, leading to safer operations where it matters most.  The functions of the Go Around Button vary based on the airplane, but here are three examples, the Garmin G1000 Cessna Corvalis TT, the Garmin G1000 Piper Mirage, and the Garmin Perspective Cirrus SR22.

Cessna Corvalis TT

We’ll take the above situation and swap out the airplanes.  Gone is the 2004 Cirrus SR22.  Insert a 2008 Cessna Corvalis TT, equipped with the Garmin G1000 suite and the GFC 700 autopilot.  The go around button is positioned directly above the twist in throttle.

Cessna Corvalis G1000 Go Around Button

When you push the Go Around Button, here’s what the system does:

  • Disconnects the Autopilot
  • Sets the Flight Director for 7.5 degrees pitch up (which is about your normal climb angle) and wings level
  • Switches the CDI back to GPS
  • Takes the GPS out of SUSP mode and cycles the flight plan to the first waypoint on the missed approach procedure

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Follow the flight director by pitching the nose up and TRIM
  • Add full mixture, prop and throttle (prop & throttle should be full already)
  • Retract the flaps
  • Step on the right rudder
  • Re-engage the autopilot, then press NAV and VS (or FLC) and set your altitude bug if it isn’t already set

Not too bad, eh?  Makes the whole situation streamlined and safer.

Piper PA46-350P Mirage

Same situation, different airplane.  You’ll notice the procedure for the Piper Mirage is almost exactly the same as the  Corvalis procedure.  The difference between the two airplanes is where the autopilot controller is.  In the Corvalis, the autopilot controller is positioned on the left side of the MFD, making it easy to scan back and forth while pushing buttons on the autopilot.

The Piper Mirage autopilot controller is positioned below both screens and in front of the power quadrant. With this positioning, the pilot’s eyes have to go a lot further to see which autopilot button he is pushing. In this case, it becomes very important to get the airplane climbing and trimmed before going down to engage the autopilot.

As in the Corvalis, here is what the Go Around button does:

  • Disconnects the Autopilot
  • Sets the Flight Director for 7.5 degrees pitch up (which is about your normal climb angle) and wings level
  • Switches the CDI back to GPS
  • Takes the GPS out of SUSP mode and cycles the flight plan to the first waypoint on the missed approach procedure

And here’s what you have to do:

  • Follow the flight director by pitching the nose up, then TRIM
  • Add full mixture, prop and throttle (prop & throttle should be full already)
  • Retract the flaps
  • Step on the right rudder
  • Re-engage the autopilot, then press NAV and VS (or FLC) and set your altitude bug if it isn’t already set

Cirrus SR22

Cirrus Perspective Go Around Button

This time, we’ll use the 2010 Cirrus SR22T with the Garmin Perspective and GFC 700 Autopilot. One thing I really like about how Cirrus configured their system is where the Go Around button is.  It’s actually on the throttle itself, making it much more intuitive.  This way, you can press the Go Around button while adding full throttle.

There is one major difference between the Garmin Perspective in the Cirrus and the G1000 in the Corvalis. When you press the Go Around button in the Cirrus, the autopilot actually stays on.

Here’s what happens when you press the Go Around button in the Cirrus:

  • Flight Director pitches to 7.5 degrees pitch up and wings level
  • AP Mode switches to Go Around mode, following the flight director
  • GPS comes out of SUSP mode
  • CDI switches back to GPS

All the pilot really has to do is add power, take the flaps up, then press NAV on the GFC 700 to get the autopilot following the missed approach procedure.

If you aren’t familiar with the Go Around button or haven’t used the one in your plane lately, it’s good to go up with a knowledgeable instructor and fly a couple of approaches where you perform the published missed approach afterward.  That way, he or she can assist you through the first missed approach, then give you pointers until  you get comfortable with the Go Around button.