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Night Flying

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Ah, fall is finally here.  In Texas, it arrived about a month late, but showed up with a vengeance.  A strong cold front caused a 40 degree temperature drop in 12 hours earlier this week, bringing rain, lower freezing levels, and lots of wind.

Fall means cooler temps, but fall also means less light.  The sun begins to set sooner, plus the fall back time change in November cause darkness to spring upon an unaware pilot.

Before getting in to too many night landings tips, just a friendly reminder, passengers can only be carried at night if the PIC has completed 3 takeoffs and landings to a full stop in the last 90 days during the time period of 1 hour after sunset to 1 hour before sunrise.

Lots of us have been landing long before sunset for most of the past couple of months, so those night flying skills might be a little rusty.  The best way to remedy night flying rustiness?  Call an instructor and go get some practice.

In the meantime, here are some tips as to what to expect for your next night flying experience.

  1. Your Eyes Are Very Important.  This may seem like an obvious statement, but night vision can be affected by many things.  Before you takeoff, you want to make sure you can see in the dark.  The FAA recommends no bright lights 30 minutes prior to takeoff.  They also recommend using oxygen at night as this greatly improves night vision, even at low altitudes.  Use off center viewing to help spot traffic or other objects in the air.  Finally, when preflighting, use a red flashlight as much as possible, but if you do have to use a white light, close one eye to keep one eye from being blinded.
  2. Utilize Approach Lights on Landing.  Night landings are very different then day landings.  It is very difficult to get the proper depth perception, not too mention see obstacles below you on your final approach to a runway.  PAPI’s, VASI’s, and instrument approach glide slope’s become very important.  If you are VFR only pilot, if your airport has a PAPI or a VASI, keep 2 white and 2 red (or 1 white and 1 red) lights.  If you see 3 red (or 2 red), climb.  If you see 4 red, definitely climb.  If you are an IFR pilot, I highly recommend always flying an approach at night.  What if your airport doesn’t have a PAPI, VASI, or approach with a glide slope?  You might not want to utilize it at night.  One side note on VFR flight: Clouds are nearly invisible at night.  If you do fly into a cloud (a clue is your strobe lights start reflecting back at you), don’t panic.  If you have an autopilot, turn it on and execute a 180 degree level turn.  If you don’t have an autopilot, start scanning your instruments, keep your attitude indicator blue side up, and make a shallow 180 degree while maintaining altitude.  Then call ATC, advise them what happened, and ask for help.  One more note:  I highly recommend that if a pilot finds that he/she will fly at night at lot, get an instrument rating and fly IFR at night.  It’s much safer.
  3. Practice Landings Before Carrying Passengers.  The tendency when landing at night is to level off too high before flaring, causing the airplane to bleed off speed and energy too high above the runway.  This can lead to a stall, a hard landing, and/or too high of a pitch attitude at touch down causing a tail strike. A good tip is start your level off when you can see the tire marks on the runway.  Make sure you practice night landings, preferably with an experienced instructor who is night current and proficient, before carrying any passengers on board, even if you are night current, but haven’t landed at night in a while.
  4. Night Emergencies.  For engine failures at night, you are very limited on options.  Unless you have a Cirrus equipped with a CAPS parachute system, you really have two options if an airport isn’t within gliding distance.  Find a wide, lighted road that appears to be lightly trafficked.  A word of caution, though:  be careful of light poles, fences, concrete medians, cars, and buildings.  The LA freeway would not be a good option (though there are exceptions to this rule as is evidenced by the picture below).  The second option is find a dark spot and pray it’s a field (or the Hudson River).  As you get closer, you can turn your landing light on to see what the ground looks like.  If it looks good, keep the light on and continue.  If you don’t like what you see, turn your landing light off and continue….

Flying at night can be the best time of day to fly.  It’s usually smoother, cooler, and you get to see all the city lights.  It is a very different environment, however, so make sure to get some training before darkness settles in on your next trip.

2018 Houston, TX CPPP

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The Cirrus Pilot Proficiency Program is once again returning to Houston, TX the first weekend in November. Henrickson Jet Center at the Houston Executive Airport (KTME) will be the host FBO this year.  If you are a Cirrus owner in the South Central US, the Houston CPPP weekend is definitely worth your while.

What is it?  The Houston CPPP is a combination ground and flight training weekend.  With ground classes ranging from engine management, to loss of control prevention, to avionics best practices, an attendee will not lack a better Cirrus education by the time he or she leaves.

The flight training side of the weekend gives an attendee several options.  A Houston CPPP attendee can do 1 or 2 flights with a highly qualified Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot (CSIP), one on Saturday and one on Sunday (if the 2 flight option is selected).  The Cirrus Owner’s and Pilot’s Association (COPA) brings in exceptional instructors for each of the CPPP events, so the training is top notch.  Folks who want to take in more ground school, but still want to fly a little bit have the option of just doing 1 flight, either Saturday or Sunday, in order to increase their Cirrus knowledge.

The Houston CPPP event will be November 2nd, 2018-November 4th, 2018, a Friday through a Sunday.  The weekend kicks off with a welcome dinner Friday night, then ground sessions and flying on Saturday and Sunday, plus a dinner on Saturday night.

For those who want to challenge themselves, there are simulator sessions available with a challenging instrument approach that doesn’t quite meet up with the normal, ho-hum type of approach.

The Houston CPPP also provides a Partner in Command course for those right seaters out there wanting to learn more about what to do in an emergency situation.

Hank Gibson of Texas Top Aviation will be at the Houston CPPP as a flight instructor.  For more information and to sign up, please click here.

Hope to see you there!

My 2018 Osh Kosh Experience

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I got the privilege of going to the EAA AirVenture at Osh Kosh this year.  It was my first Osh Kosh experience.  I’ll be the first to tell you, walking in the gate on the first day is mildly overwhelming.  There are people and stuff everywhere.  Airplanes, tents selling everything from airplane parts to mattresses (I wasn’t really sure how mattresses tied to flying), vendors, colleges, and loads of people.

Photo Courtesy of William Day, copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved

After I gathered myself from my initial shock, I set out to explore all that I could.  I spent most of the first morning walking around the different manufacturer’s tents, getting a gauge on all the new airplanes I could never afford and only hope to ever fly.

The short of it is, the Cessna/Textron Denali is going to be stellar once it gets completed.  The Epic E1000 (if it ever gets certified) might take a large market share from TBM, though they will have an uphill climb. The Cirrus Vision Jet is very cool and should be a relatively simple step up for SR22T owners.  The Pilatus Jet is huge.  Finally, the Diamond DA62 would be my below 12,500 airplane and the Piper M350 would be my pressurized plane.  Money being no factor, of course.

Photo Courtesy of William Day, copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved

I decided to take in the entire airshow on Day 1, all 4 hours of it.  Upon realizing I would be very stiff necked if I did that each day for the three days I was there, I decided on Day 2 to check out some seminars and learn something.  I took a seaplane ground school course on Day 2, then listened to a NASA presentation on electric airplanes and low boom sonic jet technology (how to make supersonic passenger flight quieter).

The end of Day 2 at Osh Kosh had to be the highlight.  I got to hang out with Cub Crafters at the 51WI grass strip just north of the OSH Class D airspace.  There was a free BBQ and I got to take a ride in a Carbon Cub.  My landing from the back seat was a bit rusty, but still a very cool experience.  Buzzing the BBQ area in tandem was pretty neat.

Photo Courtesy of William Day, copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved

Day 3 brought some cooler temps and some clouds.  We walked out to the vintage airplanes, spending the morning gawking at Cessna 195s and Wacos.  Then I took the plunge to explore all the vendor hangars.  My idea was to walk around and see if I can find some interesting and innovative technology.  Well, after 2 of the 4 hangars, my head was spinning, so I decided to watch the rest of the airshow to let my brain drain out a bit.

Photo Courtesy of William Day, copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved

3 Days was a good amount of time to spend.  I don’t think I could have stayed all week, but only a day or two wouldn’t have been worth it.  I flew up with a former student in his TBM 700, which was a very nice way to travel.  We landed and stayed in Green Bay (KGRB), which was super easy and low stress.  Had a great tailwind on the return and made it to Houston non-stop.

A few closing observations:

The Stratos 716X Personal Jet

If Stratos Aircraft is ever able to bring this to market, it sounds awesome.  400 knots, single engine, single pilot, with 6 seats.  Being a single engine jet, similar to the Cirrus Vision Jet, it’s 100 knots faster, plus with the airflow and engine technology, it doesn’t have that big V Tail in the back, thereby reducing drag.  I have a feeling it would find a good market, but the certification process is a bear to get through.  Just ask Epic.

The Lancair Mako

This is a legit airplane.  Lots of thought was put in to the design of the Mako by the new Lancair organization in Uvalde, TX (KUVA).  The airplane was extremely comfortable, capable, and pretty cool.  The stick is in the center, with throttles on the side (where the stick would be in a Cirrus or Columbia).  AC, full Garmin integration, and the cool factor of the nose gear retracting, but not having a gear handle. Higher useful load than a Cirrus or Columbia, it would be a great alternative (and cheaper) to one of it’s certified competitors.

Avionics

There is a lot of new avionics technology hitting the market.  Dynon, beloved by experimental enthusiasts, is finding a foothold in the certified world with some neat panels.  It will be an uphill battle to take on Garmin, but there is some potential in the retrofit market to offer a cheaper alternative to the Garmin TXi.

Speaking of the TXi, I played around with the 10.7″ panel at the Garmin booth.  It is extremely intuitive. Garmin did a great job of making it a simple touch screen interface, easy to use, and easy to learn.

Avidyne is pushing their iPad integration with the IFD 100 iPad app.  It ties via Wifi or Bluetooth to an IFD 550 or 440 navigator, giving an additional screen in the cockpit to work with.  You have the ability to modify flight plans and such on the iPad and it will show up on the GPS units.

Photo Courtesy of William Day, copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved

All in all, Osh Kosh was an experience I’m glad to have finally experienced.  I don’t think I would go every year like some folks, but every few years, especially when my sons are older, seems like just enough for me, but not too much.

All Photos Courtesy of William Day, copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved

 

Make The Upgrade to Pressurization

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Are oxygen cannulas rubbing your nostrils raw?

Is turbulence giving you back problems?

Would you like to be above the bumps, breathing without tubes stuck up your nose or a mask on?  Would you like a quiet ride?

Sounds like you need pressurization.  Need more convincing?

What’s that you say?  You don’t have a multi-engine rating?  You don’t want to spend the money on a turbo prop?

Have no fear, there are options galore for you to choose from in the single engine piston marketplace, both certified aircraft and experimental.

A word of caution, though; once you go pressurized, you don’t go back….

Here is my review of the certified, pressurized single engine piston options.

Piper PA46 Malibu/Mirage/M350

In 1983, Piper shocked the world with an amazing airplane.  The pressurized, Continental TSIO-520 (310 HP) powered PA46 Malibu hit the market in the fall of that year taking the piston world by storm.  A six seat, cabin class, pressurized single engine piston that easily cruised at 190-200 knots while only burning 16-17 GPH. It was awesome.  It even had an air stair door that felt like getting on a private jet.

I love the original Continental powered Malibu, specifically the ’86-’88 models.  Piper initially had hydraulic flaps, which were clunky and had several issues (most notably, the hydraulic system would randomly kick offline while the flaps were in motion at very in-opportune moments).  Piper switched to the electric flaps in ’86, making the ’86-’88 year models very desirable.

Unfortunately for Piper, the Continental TSIO-520 was not the engine manufacturer’s best product.  There were several Malibu crankshaft problems and engine failures, so much so that Piper decided to go with the Lycoming TIO-540 engine in 1989, creating the Malibu Mirage (all the current Malibu’s operating the -520 engine have been overhauled many times over, so there are no safety concerns with the -520 engine).  The Lycoming powered Mirage (350 HP), cruises a little bit faster than the Continental powered Malibu, but burns about 5 more GPH.  Piper still makes the Mirage, now dubbed the M350, complete with the Garmin G1000 NXi panel.

The 4 seat, cabin class back seat is very roomy (unlike a Bonanza or Saratoga).  There is plenty of rooms for bags, both behind the back seat and in the handy nose compartment, which is wide enough to fit golf clubs, minus the driver.  The 1600 pound useful load (880 pound payload with full fuel), allows for a lot of people and gear to be loaded on board.  The airplane is a little stingy on CG, though.  You do not want to have a CG that is out of the rear limits.

The airplane is fun to fly.  It has a heavy elevator, similar to a Bonanza, which requires a lot of trim on landing.  It’s very long wings cause it to float a bit on landing if the pilot comes in too fast.  It’s very docile in stalls and extremely comfortable for cross country flying.  The air conditioning system works very well, though it is still hot on the front seats when sitting on the ramp on a Texas July afternoon.

Many of the airplanes have upgraded to glass panels.  Most are still equipped with the King KFC 150 autopilot, some with a Yaw Damper, some not.  The KFC 150 is a good autopilot, but when Garmin certifies their GFC 600 for the PA46, that will be a popular retrofit.

If I had my pick, I would buy an ’86-’88 Malibu with an upgraded Continental TSIO-550 engine.  Climbs a bit better and does a bit better in cruise than the original -520 engine.  See why here.

I would rate the PA46 line as the best pressurized single engine piston option out there.

Cessna P210 Centurion

The P210 was introduced by Cessna in 1978.  It also came with the Continental TSIO-520 engine that the Malibu was certified with.  Climbing at about 700-800 fpm (equal to the Malibu), the P210 cruises at around 190 KTAS as well, burning around 17-18 GPH.  Like the Malibu, the P210 had a Continental TSIO-520 power plant, but, unlike the Malibu, the P210 makes the pilot work to keep the CHTs cool.  With smaller cowl openings and a tighter cowl, cooling isn’t as good as the Malibu.

Even though the P210 has six seats, the forward facing, Cessna style 3 rows aren’t quite as comfortable as the Malibu.  The single door on the pilot’s side makes loading and unloading a bit of a chore (especially compared to the air stair door in the Malibu).  The third row of seats isn’t extremely useful, as the ceiling is lower and the proximity of the second row of seats decreases the amount of leg room, making it uncomfortable for a full size adult.  Most operators remove the pilot’s side second row seat to add an aisle to get to the back row for people and bags.  It also has a smaller cabin then the Malibu.

There is less baggage in the P210, with the singular baggage compartment accessed through a baggage door behind the cabin.  The Air conditioning system is also not as good as the Malibu.

It’s hard to get the P210 out of CG and overloaded.  A useful load of 1500 pounds (with 90 gallons of fuel, it drops to only 960 pounds) allows the airplane to be loaded to the gills without being overweight.

There are some engine upgrades out there for the P210 (the Silver Eagle conversion puts a Rolls Royce turboprop on it).  The best piston conversion is the Vitatoe Conversion that swaps the engine out for a Continental Turbo-Normalized IO-550, which is a much better engine than the -520.  You still have to monitor the CHTs, but cooling is less of an issue.  These are much higher priced on the market, though.

Because of the size of the cabin and the true reputation the P210 has of being a maintenance hog, I would rate it below the PA46 line.

Extra EA-400

There are 3 pressurized, single engine piston airplanes out there today: the Piper PA46, the Cessna P210, and the Extra EA-400.  Extra is the famous German aerobatic aircraft manufacturer that created the Extra 300 and 330.  In the early 2000s, Extra tried it’s hand at the pressurized single market with the EA-400 (Extra also tried to get into the single engine turbo-prop market with the EA-500, but the project fizzled before much progress was made).  Sadly, only 27 EA-400s were built before the company ran into financial trouble.

The concept sounds cool.  A fully composite, pressurized, liquid cooled, cabin class piston.  The engine was the Continental TSIOL-550, liquid cooled power plant.  Liquid cooling means no concern about hot CHTs while you are climbing.  The problem with the engine is that there are so few liquid cooled Continental engines out there, finding a mechanic familiar with one could be an issue.

I have never flown an Extra 400, but there are several floating around out there.  Most have steam gauges and the STEC-55x autopilot.  The price on the only one on Controller right now is comparable to the P210N but above the Continental powered Malibu.

If you are in the market, an Extra 400 might be fun to test fly and who knows, you might fall in love with it!

Experimental Options

There are a handful of experimental pressurized singles out there.  I have not flown any of them, so I can’t be a good resource on recommending them.  Here is the list, however.

Lancair Evolution Piston

Lancair IV-P

Lancair ES-P

Lancair LX7

As far as availability on the market goes, there are 8 Malibus on Controller (1 1986 model) ranging from $315,000 and down, 24 Mirages ranging from $705,000 (equipped with the Garmin G1000) and down, 25 P210s ranging from $405,000 and down, and 2 Extra EA 400s, priced at $369,000 and down.  Check out the available Experimental Lancair options here.

Have you decided to upgrade, but don’t know what to buy or how to buy it?  Check out Texas Top Aviation’s Acquisition Services.  We’ll get you the best airplane for you, your mission, and your budget.  Contact Us today to find out more information.

2018 Great American Lancair Rally

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A brand-new event for Lancair owners, the 2018 Great American Lancair Rally will be a multi-stage “grand tour” of the Western US.  Starting and ending in Central Texas, the Rally will take place September 24th through October 5th 2018.

The Rally will begin in Uvalde, TX (KUVA) on September 24th at the Lancair headquarters.  There will be 6 legs, with stops at:

  • Sedona, Arizona (KSEZ)
  • Paso Robles, California (KPRB)
  • Redmond, Oregon (KRDM)
  • Spanish Fork, Utah (KSPK)
  • Taos, New Mexico (KSKX)
  • San Marcos, TX (KHYI)

At each stop, there will be food, drinks, and fun for everyone.

Lancair plans on making instructors available to pilots who would like any kind of training along the way.  Hank Gibson from Texas Top Aviation will be one of the instructors available.

Lancair plan to make the Great American Lancair Rally an annual event, with the 2019 Rally spanning the eastern half of the country.

The Great American Lancair Rally is open to all Lancair owners, potential owners and interested aviators. Fly a different airplane?  All makes and models are welcome!

For more information & to register, check out the 2018 Great American Lancair Rally’s website.