PIREP: Austin Executive Opens a Control Tower


Austin Executive Airport opened a control tower on Friday, February 23rd 2018.  The airport is now officially Class D airspace.  The charts and A/FD are not updated yet to reflect the tower, but there is a NOTAM with the tower and ground frequency information.  The tower hours are from 6am to 10pm.  The weather frequency remains the same.

Make sure you check those NOTAMs if you are headed to KEDC anytime soon!

KEDC Tower Frequency:  120.3

KEDC Ground:  119.45

Bruce’s Custom Covers


I have used a few different sun shields in airplanes in my flying career.  I have found one that I really like. Bruce’s Custom Covers knocks it out of the park for usability and ease of storage.

Let’s start off with functionality.  Like other window sun shields, Bruce’s Custom Covers fit very nicely into the airplane glare shield and side windows. Depending on the type of airplane you have, some of the window covers use the suction cups and others don’t.  I recently had 2 customers order from Bruce’s, one that owns a P210 that uses the suction cups for all windows, including the glare shield, and the other owns a Cirrus which doesn’t use the suction cups on anything.

They work great.  They do the job of blocking the sun and keeping the cabin much cooler while the airplane is sitting on the ramp.

The thing I like best about Bruce’s Custom Covers is their storage.  Other sun shields require you to roll them up and lash a tie around them. Bruce’s, on the other hand, come folded very neatly in a black canvas bag.  The folded covers don’t take up nearly as much room as the rolled up covers, plus they are really easy to just fold up and store.

Bruce’s Custom Covers also sells plugs for cowling, pitot tubes, etc., as well as aircraft exterior covers.

Bruce’s Custom Covers gets my recommendation for anyone wanting to get some new sun shields.  For those of you in Texas, you know you need them!

Lightspeed Headsets and Modern Audio Panels


I love Lightspeed headsets.  They are very comfortable, durable, and reasonably priced.  Plus, when you call Customer Service, you are actually talking to someone who works for the company and knows what they are talking about.

One thing to watch out for with Lightspeed headsets is the Mono vs. Stereo option.  On the Zulu 3, there is a very small control panel underneath the battery compartment to change from Mono to Stereo.  If you have any kind of modern audio panel, you will definitely want to do this.  Here’s why.

I was flying in a Cirrus SR22 G5 last fall with a Garmin 350 Audio Panel.  Everything worked fine talking to the ground and tower controllers.  Once I took off and was switched to approach, everything went quiet.  I could hear the approach controller, but couldn’t transmit.  I thought my headset had bit the dust. There was another set in the plane that I switched to, but I thought the transmit function of mine was out.

I sent the headset back to Lightspeed for repair.  The headset was still under their 5 year warranty, which is really nice!  I got it back a few days later, plugged it in to another Cirrus, and still had nothing.  I was getting frustrated, but then a light went on.  One of my colleagues had mentioned something about mono and stereo in the Lightspeed.  I popped the batteries out, flipped the switch over to stereo, and wa-la!  Everything was fully operational.

If you get Lightspeed headsets, you’ll want to make sure it is set on Stereo, as they all come from the factory on Mono.  If you get a PFX, there is an easy access button on the side of the battery unit to switch from Mono to Stereo.

Flying to the Bahamas


A couple weeks ago, my employer informed me that he wanted to take a group to Nassau, The Bahamas. I thought, no big deal, this should be an easy trip. The more I started to read, though, the more I realized it wasn’t going to be just a “normal” trip.

If you aren’t a member of AOPA, I would highly recommend joining. AOPA’s website was where I started researching. They actually have a checklist to help you along the way.

The first step is getting the paperwork started. All souls on board are going to need a valid passport. In our case, a couple of passengers need to get theirs. Since it was a little shorter notice, we had to go through the expedited process. It’s fairly simple. A quick internet search gave me a couple of people that helped the process along.

Next was making sure the aircraft had all it’s paperwork. The airworthiness certificate was easy as it’s always in the plane (or should be).

The registration certificate was next to check. We recently upgraded to the King Air 350 so we had to make sure we had the original issuance registration certificate. The Bahamas supposedly doesn’t allow Temporary Certificates and I really didn’t want to test that policy.  Thankfully after a couple of calls between owner and the FAA we got the original.

The aircraft and pilot are both also required to have an FCC Radio License. This is only for international flying, but not an everyday thing pilots think about.

After that was flight planning. I use The actual filing of the flight plan was very easy. I use the prescribed routes from the website. In the remarks section of the flight plan put ADCUS (Advise Customs). This advices ATC to let customs know of your arrival. It’s basically an added safety net in case you forget to call ahead or your flight times end up being way off.

The other item when dealing with flight planning is dealing with eApis. There are numerous companies who will provide this service for you. I elected not to use one of those. If you go to the CBP website, you can set up an account and do all of it yourself. Take your time and really plan the flight out well to make sure your arrival times are as close to real time as possible. If you’re way off, this will make any customs agent very frustrated and that is not something you want to be dealing with.

Approach charts and en route charts are another hurdle. Thankfully Foreflight has you covered. With my subscription, I already had en route charts. The approach charts were the real issue. In the Bahamas, the only places that have approved instrument approaches is Nassau and Freeport. Fortunately, we were going to Nassau. Foreflight does charge almost $400 for the Caribbean and Bahamas charts.  Emailing the FBO is a good option as they can usually supply approach plates for international flights.

You’ll also need a CBP sticker. This goes on the outside of the aircraft showing customs you’re in the system. This can be found on the CBP website as well. It takes a little bit to get the
sticker in the mail. However, once you pay for the sticker, the receipt can be used in place of the sticker.

The final thing I focused on was picking an FBO. I chose Jet Aviation. They had CAA which gave us a Jet fuel discount. Their facility was excellent and staff was very friendly. The thing that put it over the top for me was how they handled customs. I emailed Jet Aviation all the information for myself and passengers and they pre-filled all the customs forms for me. When we arrived, customs took all of five minutes and then my passengers were out the door.

While in Nassau, I stayed at Breezes Resort. It’s all inclusive so that helps keep the costs down for your owners if you’re a corporate pilot. It’s next to some of the other bigger resorts so there were shuttles available to get to other amenities. The only complaint I might have was the power kept cycling on and off and the internet wasn’t reliable. This proved challenging when trying to plan for the return trip.

The return trip required a lot of the same preparation. Again it was nice to have a good FBO to help prepare the paperwork required to clear customs. Jet Aviation handled the General Declarations for me and my passengers. All I was required to do was file the flight plan and file eApis, which was actually challenging while my internet at the resort was on the fritz.

Don’t forget to call US Customs at your Port of Entry! As this was Ft. Lauderdale for us, I called them twenty four hours in advance as prescribed. The customs agent was friendly and helpful with any questions I had. I think the best advice I can give throughout this whole experience is call ahead and ask lots of questions! Did I say that already?

The morning of the return trip went off with no hitches. Again, Jet Aviation had set up a driver to pick me up and he was on time. Jet Aviation had all the General Declarations paperwork pre-filled out for myself and passengers. Again, I use to file my flight plans. Their service performed flawlessly even though I had heard rumors of flight plans not going through. To curb my bet, I talked with the staff at Jet Aviation and they made a call to tower for me to verify that the flight plan had gone through; of course, it had.

The actual flight out of Nassau was pretty uneventful. The last real hurdle I had was dealing with customs in Ft. Lauderdale, and hurdle it was. When we landed at FLL, ground instructed me over to customs ramp. There was no one to tell us where to park on the ramp. This was extremely frustrating.

A Learjet taxied in prior to us and had taken up most of the ramp but, we found a spot and shutdown. Once we shut down, no one came out to our aircraft. I walked in to talk to someone and was greeted by a Boarder agent who was less than helpful. Since the Learjet had parked first, they got to go through first. Evidently, we were not allowed in the building until they were done. This didn’t make my owner too happy!

Be prepared, though, if another airplane is on the Customs ramp before you arrive.  You are not supposed to get out of the airplane until a Customs agent comes and meets you, even to go to the bathroom.  This can result in large fines.

Once we were allowed in, the process went smoothly. We had to put all of our bags through the x-ray machine. Beyond the x-ray machine, CPB didn’t require any other security measures. On other crossings I’ve done, CPB had opened up bags and sifted through clothes, so just doing the conveyor belt was a surprise. The rest of the trip was fairly commonplace. We stopped in Destin FL for dinner before making our final leg into Dallas. All in all, it was an excellent trip and I’m excited to do another one.

Ryne Bergren works for a Part 91 operation in Dallas flying a King Air 350. Being a Part 91 outfit, he doesn’t get to rely on a “dispatch” or “company” to help with any international flight planning. This was a learning experience for him. Hopefully this will be a help to anyone for future trips.

3 Tips to Better Landings


In my 3,000+ hours of flight training, I have developed some tips and tricks to help people fly better.  With teaching landings, I have 3 specific tips that will make smoother landings every time, guaranteed.

A Good Pattern

A wise flight instructor whom I would love to give credit to (but don’t know who it is!) once said that a good landing starts off with a good traffic pattern.  So true!  A good landing all begins with the setup.  This is true for a VFR rectangular traffic pattern or an IFR instrument approach.  Flying the proper speeds and being at the proper AGL altitudes helps immensely in making a good landing. Being at 600 feet AGL on a 1/2 mile final (or the alternative of 60 feet off the ground on a mile final!) makes it hard to make a good landing.

Proper Use & Understanding of Pitch and Power

Once flaps are used in the pattern, the plane is now on the back side of the power curve (or in the region of reverse command).  Power is now being used to control the plane’s rate of descent while pitch is being used to control airspeed.  The key is, both pitch and power work together, so if the pilot changes the power, he’ll also need to change the pitch and vice versa.

The common mistake I see here is when the airplane gets low on final, the pilot tends to (quite naturally) pitch up.  All this does is bleed off airspeed and cause the airplane to sink faster.  The proper input would be to add power, then adjust the pitch for airspeed.

Look Down the Runway

Now that we have gotten to the point of the round-out and touchdown, it’s the most important part.  The best thing the pilot can do to make the best landing possible, is to look at the trees at the end of the runway.  When I worked with college students, I told them to find the owl in the trees at the end of the runway.

The tendency is to stare at the pavement (or concrete) the whole way down to the landing.  When a pilot’s eyes are fixated on the ground, this destroys his depth perception and causes a level off too low to the runway, resulting in a 3 point landing and/or a bounce.

By looking at the trees at the end of the runway, this gives the pilot much better depth perception and allows him to properly judge where to level off the airplane.

The question now is when should the pilot start looking at the trees?  My recommendation is crossing the threshold of the runway.  For some, it works better to start looking at the trees when turning final.  Others, right before the level off.  Regardless, find that owl!