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Will Fly To Food: Texas Airport Diners

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The Hundred Dollar Hamburger (or BBQ plate, or Chicken Fried Steak) still lives!  AOPA released their 2019 Best Restaurants List giving plenty of options to all of us hungry pilots out there.  No Texas airports made the official list, but The Southern Flyer Airport Diner at the Brenham Airport (11R) brought home honorable mention.

Southern Flyer Diner

Looking for some other options?  Here are some other good fly-in eateries around Texas.  These are ranked in no particular order because they are all just really good!  Most of these are located on the airport property, but a few are in town and worth the drive!

  • Lockhart BBQ (50R):  With 4 BBQ options in Lockhart (and City Market BBQ 10 minutes away in Luling), you can’t go wrong with a stop in Lockhart.  Just grab the keys for the giant suburban, and away you go. Most folks who stop off in Lockhart will give it a legitimate claim over Hard 8 in Stephenville.
  • Angelina County Airport Restaurant (KLFK):  This is pure East Texas eating here in Lufkin.  With greasy, tasty burgers and sandwiches, breakfast, and ladies who call you “Sugar” when taking your order, this is down home if I ever tasted it.  Lufkin and Brenham are currently neck and neck for the best Texas burger.
  • Black Walnut Cafe (KCXO):  This airport diner newcomer, located at the Galaxy FBO in Conroe on the north side of Houston, is top notch.  The food is excellent (I have eaten several different sandwiches and have not been disappointed) and you can’t beat the 3rd floor runway view from the patio.  Not a bad place to spend the lunch hour, though make sure you get there before the lunch hour.  It fills up quick.

Black Walnut Cafe

  • Airport Diner (T82):  Right next to the Hangar Hotel, the Airport Diner in Fredericksburg brings back memories of the old soda fountains of the ’40s and ’50s.  With plates like the Warthog (their sausage sandwich with Fredericksburg made sausage) and the Whirly Bird (their chicken tenders wrap), the Airport Diner fully embraces the airport theme.  Better to stop for lunch on a weekday rather than a weekend as their isn’t a whole ton of seating.  Check your NOTAMs as the restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
  • Radial Engine Cafe (KGPM):  A good little stop in the Dallas area for a simple burger, fries, and a Coke. Don’t get the smaller 17/35 runway at GPM confused with the much larger 16/34 runway at GKY just to the west.  Approaching from the south, this can be easily done.
  • Clear Springs Restaurant (KBAZ):  Come for the onion rings, stay for the fish.  Clear Springs is just a 5 minute drive from the airport and there are always plenty of crew cars available.  You could probably make a whole meal out of the onion rings themselves, but the fish is top notch too.
  • The Big Bib (KSSF):  Excellent little BBQ joint inside the terminal at Stinson Field.  Portions are good size and you have 4 different sauces to choose from.
  • Cooper’s BBQ (KAQO):  Llano, TX is known for BBQ.  Just fly in to the airport, get a car, and after a 10 minute drive, you can take your pick of any kind of BBQ under the sun.  Careful, as it’s easy to over order!
  • Hangar 6 Restaurant (KUVA):  The newest restaurant on the list, located on the ramp at the Uvalde Airport, Hangar 6 tips it’s hat to the military history of the Uvalde airport while serving really good food.  Taxi in and walk up to the quaint little joint.  They even have a playground for the kids!
  • Sky Restaurant (KVCT):  Not quite within walking distance, but just a short drive from the FBO, Sky Restaurant specializes on the seafood, but they also have good burgers and steaks.  VCT is popular amongst the Air Force and Navy trainers in the area, especially around lunch!
  • Runway Cafe (KLBX):  The best place I have found for seafood along the Texas Gulf Coast.  With a huge runway to land on and a beautiful FBO next door, this is my go to for Fried Shrimp when I’m in the Houston area.
  • Delta Charlie’s (KRBD):  I just discovered Delta Charlie’s last week.  I usually go to Ambassador FBO, but I heard there was a restaurant in the terminal building and it didn’t disappoint!  With quite an extensive menu (and a full bar for those overnight trips), I will definitely make RBD one of my routine stops.  Rumor has it a new FBO is going into the terminal at RBD, so fueling your stomach and your plane can all be done in one spot.

In my book, these are the other great places to stop on a flight in Texas.  Always make sure to come hungry!  I probably missed a few along the way, so please feel free to add others to the list!

Cirrus Approach

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Earlier this year, Cirrus debuted it’s new Learning Management System (LMS), Cirrus Approach. For several years, Cirrus has led the way in online systems training while using several different platforms for it’s LMS. Cirrus Approach is the culmination of lots of sampling and tinkering, and boy, did Cirrus knock it out of the park.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Cirrus training program, here is the quick rundown. When a pilot who has no Cirrus time buys a Cirrus aircraft, initial transition training is required to familiarize the pilot with the aircraft systems, speeds to fly, power settings, etc. The Cirrus Transition Course is a 3 day that gets a VFR pilot up to speed in the airplane. Under the Cirrus Embark program, those 3 days of training are covered by Cirrus and free to the new owner.

If the pilot is an IFR pilot, then the 5 day Cirrus Advanced Transition Training Course is required. If the pilot has Cirrus experience, but with a different engine or avionics configuration, there are courses for that too. The Cirrus Embark program covers 3 days of training for most courses for a new Cirrus owner.

As part of the aforementioned courses, there are systems to learn about and procedures to understand. This is where the Cirrus Approach LMS excels. Cirrus has done a great job of putting together lots of good videos (that are actually interesting but not annoying) on the airplane, systems, how to fly it, etc. for each course. It cuts down greatly on the time that the training instructor has to spend on the ground with the pilot since the pilot has already compiled knowledge through Cirrus Approach.

Cirrus Approach is accessible online at learning.cirrusapproach.com. To get access to the courses, create an account, then select the Learning Catalog. The courses are categorized based on the type of training (Transition, Advanced Transition, Avionics Differences, Airframe & Powerplant Differences, Recurrent, and Specialty), then further broken down into the type of airplane, engine and avionics (eg. SR22T G6 Perspective+). Make sure the correct engine and avionics configuration is selected! Notice, there is a difference between the SR22T and SR22 (Turbo & Non-Turbo).

Anyone can do the specialty courses. I would highly recommend for everyone to take the Engine Management course as well as the Icing Awareness Course for you TKS and FIKI operators. The Takeoff & Landing course is a good refresher course for a pilot who hasn’t done any training in a while.

The Recurrent Training courses are encouraged for all Cirrus pilots. There is an IFR Refresher, a VFR Refresher, and a Skills Refresher. These are recommended to rotate through with a CSIP (Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot) on a yearly basis. With a little extra ground, a Flight Review and an IPC can be accomplished yearly using these courses.


Interested in Initial or Recurrent training in your Cirrus using Cirrus Approach? Contact Texas Top Aviation today!

Garmin G1000 Updates

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You have just received the keys of your shiny new (to you) airplane complete with a beautiful Garmin G1000 glass panel flight deck. Synthetic Vision, WAAS, and ADS-B are all installed. You are ready to cruise in high technology.

You turn on the PFD and MFD and notice one problem. All your databases are expired. No big deal, right? Your Garmin 530W was easy as pie to update with it’s single data card.

You start looking around and can’t find the data card. Then you notice that there are several SD cards in slots on the panels. SD cards won’t fit in your Blue Jepp Skybound card reader. Confusion sets in which quickly leads to full on panic.

What have you gotten yourself into?!

No need to fear, Texas Top Aviation is here to help with your Garmin G1000 database update confusion (and hopefully not panic).

Database Update Providers

First, you have to choose who to get your Garmin G1000 updates from. You have two options. One is Garmin (fly.garmin.com; always use either Firefox or Chrome to update, don’t use Safari). The other is Jeppesen.

Honestly, there is no difference between the data that each provides. If you had a 530 or 430 before, you used Jepp already. Just keep the Jepp account, call them, and have them get you set up for your Garmin G1000 updates.

If you didn’t have a Jepp account before, I would use Garmin, for a couple of reasons. You get multiple downloads in case you mess something up (Jepp NavData gives 1 download per month, while Safe Taxi, etc. you get 2-3). On Jepp, you have to call in and have them reset the account, which can be a pain if it’s after hours or a Saturday or Sunday.

The other problem with Jepp is since Boeing bought Jeppesen, I have found it extremely difficult to find online where to set up a new account and purchase databases. Yes, you can always call, but, again, problematic after hours or on a weekend.

The only problem with Fly Garmin for your Garmin G1000 updates is Garmin is constantly updating their program. You have to update their downloader quite often, which can be a bit frustrating.

I’m going to use Fly Garmin as my example.

What to Buy

Garmin gives you a couple of different bundle options for your Garmin G1000 updates, the OnePak and the PilotPak. The main difference between the two is the PilotPak includes approach charts that display on your PFD and the OnePak doesn’t. Therefore, the OnePak is about $200 cheaper.

Both include Navigation Data, SafeTaxi, Obstacles, Airport Directory, Terrain, and the BaseMap.

How to Update

Once you have followed all the instructions on Garmin’s website (or gotten Jeppesen set up), here is what to put on which SD card.

NOTE: YOU WILL NEED TO PURCHASE ONE OR TWO BLANK SD CARDS FOR THE NAVIGATION DATABASES. DO NOT PUT THE NAVIGATION DATA ON THE SD CARD THAT IS ALREADY IN THE TOP SLOT ON THE MFD. THAT IS FOR ENGINE DATA LOGGING ONLY. NO NAVIGATION DATA SHOULD EVER BE PUT THAT ON THAT CARD.

Bottom Card, PFD

  • SafeTaxi
  • Obstacles

Bottom Card, MFD

  • SafeTaxi
  • Obstacles
  • Airport Directory
  • Flite Charts

Top Card, PFD & MFD (This is the new blank SD card(s) you bought)

NOTE: REMOVE THE TOP SD CARD IN THE MFD THAT IS ALREADY IN THE SLOT AND DON’T PUT ANY DATABASE INFORMATION ON IT.

  • Navigation Data

Garmin G1000 NXi Users (or Cirrus Perspective + Users)

Ignore everything above and put all databases on the bottom card of the MFD. You have database sync, so you don’t have to mess with multiple cards. When you do an update though, go to the AUX chapter on the MFD and scroll down to the Databases page. Ensure that all dates match what you just put on the SD Card.


For you Jeppesen users, check out the new Bad Elf Wombat updater that works with the iPad JDM app for updates.

The Importance of a Pre-Buy Inspection

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There are multiple ways to save money during the aircraft buying process. To start, since you are buying an airplane, you have some means of positive income in order to afford an airplane. Airplanes come in all different shapes and sizes and usually, an airplane can be found to fit almost any budget, whether is a $20,000 Texas Taildragger all the way up to a multi-million dollar jet.

One way is to stay within your budget. There will always be a shinier, newer, lower time airplane that is just above where you set your budget at. Don’t reach for it! There is a reason you set your budget where you did.

Another way is to shop around and get multiple insurance quotes. Your agent is in charge of engaging underwriters who are going to evaluate you and your airplane as risks, then price a policy accordingly. With most airplanes, you should get multiple quotes to see what fits you best. Beware though, because sometimes, you can get a lower rate, but it will require more training, so you end up shelling out more money in the long run. If you find a policy you like, but the training seems skewed or the liability isn’t high enough, you can always have your agent ask the underwriter to modify the quote. You are still in charge.

Finally, if you evaluate your mission and see that your budget can’t afford an airplane that carries enough or goes fast enough, look into taking on a partner or two to help with costs. Be thorough in vetting your potential partners as a good partnership is worth it’s weight in gold, but a bad one is downright unpleasant and often times hard to get out of. Find pilots who have the same mindset & personality you do and treat their stuff the same way you do. Try to take a ride in their car or go to their house, then you’ll see what kind of shape they will keep the airplane in.

The best way to cost yourself more money in the aircraft buying process?

Don’t do a pre-buy inspection.

A pre-buy inspection takes place after negotiations and once a Purchase Agreement is in place. You are pretty much set on the airplane, you just want a third party mechanic who is knowledgeable on that make and model of airplane (and this is a very important point) to go over it and make sure that it is sound from a mechanical standpoint. The buyer, you, want someone who has never had an association with the seller since the mechanic will be your representative in the process and you want him answering to you.

If you have used a broker or a buyer’s agent, that person should have already gone through the logbooks for you, so you’ll have a basic idea of the history of the airplane. However, knowledgeable mechanics find things all the time that turn out to be the responsibility of the seller to repair since it happened on their watch. Without a pre-buy, you would end up having to pay for that in the not to distant future.

Here is an example of where not doing a pre-buy can cost a lot of money.

An owner bought a late ’70s model Citation ISP, one of the very first Citations ever made. It had been based in Florida (salt & humidity + aircraft don’t mix well) for a while. The buyer didn’t use a broker, but thankfully had someone look through the maintenance history of the airplane. Since it was so old, the logbook reviewer didn’t have time to do anything but a basic overview, but he gave the thumbs up to the buyer.

The buyer decided he just wanted a boroscope inspection and the seller’s mechanics to look over the airplane. Remember what I said before about a third party mechanic? Well, these mechanics didn’t do a very thorough job. When the buyer took delivery of the plane, after about 10 hours of flying, he already had an $18,000-$25,000 maintenance bill.

You may say, well that’s a jet. Jet’s have specialized maintenance and need a more extensive pre-buy inspection.

On the contrary, in my 8 years in the training business, I have seen Cirrus, Piper PA46s, Bonanzas and several other piston engine airplanes that either didn’t have a pre-buy done or the pre-buy was done by someone who didn’t know that airframe. Lo and behold, things started breaking and adding up very quickly that would have been discovered on a good pre-buy inspection.

Don’t skip on the pre-buy inspection. They usually run a few thousand dollars, but save tons of money in the long run.

MMOPA Master Aviator Program

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Last fall, the Malibu & M-Class Owner’s and Pilot’s Association (MMOPA) announced a new program to encourage and enhance safety, the Master Aviator Program.

The MMOPA Master Aviator Program was designed as a system to recognize those in the Piper PA46 community who strive to become the best pilots they can be. Each year, those who have achieved each of the levels in the program will be honored at the MMOPA Convention (the 2020 MMOPA Convention will be in Tucson in the spring of 2020) by getting Wings pinned on.

What is the heart behind the MMOPA Master Aviator Program, you ask? Here’s a quote from the MMOPA Website:

This program is the result of MMOPA having identified areas of flight operation that need improvement to increase safety. It provides a path forward for training for the PA46 pilot, honors those pilots that elect to participate in the MMOPA Master Aviator Program, and rewards those pilots that progress upwards to ultimately reach the highest level (MMOPA Master Aviator).

The main focus areas of the MMOPA Master Aviator Program are pilot flight experience (flying more during a year increases skills), stall/spin awareness, and operations in the runway environment (improper aircraft handling during takeoff, landing, and go around, with a particular emphasis on rudder control).

The MMOPA Master Aviator Program tackles these three areas in each of the different levels of achievement: Aviator, Senior Aviator, and Master Aviator.

To achieve the Aviator Wings, a PA46 pilot must do the following:

  • Complete Initial Training with an Approved Training Provider
  • Fly 100 total hours in a PA46
  • Attend an Approved Mid-Year Training Event (M-Class, MMSTF, MMOPA Safety Standown, MMOPA Maintenance Standown, to name a few)
  • Attend the MMOPA Convention once in the last 3 years
  • No accidents/incidents in a PA46 in the last 3 years

To achieve the Senior Aviator Wings, a PA46 pilot must have received their Aviator Wings and do the following:

  • Completed at least one yearly Recurrent Training Event
  • Fly 200 total hours in a PA46
  • Go through an approved Upset/Recovery Training course provided by an approved training provider
  • Attend the MMOPA convention once in the last 3 years
  • No accidents/incidents in a PA46 in the last 3 years

To achieve the Master Aviator Wings, a PA46 pilot must have received their Senior Aviator Wings and do the following:

  • Completed at least two yearly Recurrent Training Events
  • Fly 300 total hours in a PA46
  • Receive a tailwheel endorsement
  • Attended the MMOPA convention once in the last 3 years
  • No accidents/incidents in a PA46 in the last 3 years

To incentive PA46 pilots, MMOPA offers a $400 voucher to program participants to accomplish the Aviator Mid Year Training, the Senior Aviator Upset/Recovery Training, and the Master Aviator Tailwheel Training. A PA46 pilot is only eligible for one voucher per year.

I received the Master Aviator Award at the MMOPA Convention this year. All told, there were close to 40 participants who received one of the three levels of achievement at the MMOPA Convention in Amelia Island, FL this year.

Interested in applying to be a part of the MMOPA Master Aviator Program? You can find out more information on MMOPA’s website.