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Garmin GFC 700 Autopilot

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The Garmin GFC 700 Autopilot is an amazing machine.  Fully digital and fully integrated with the Garmin G1000 glass panel, it makes a pilot’s workload a lot easier, especially in busy airspace.

I train a lot of pilots in airplanes that have the Garmin GFC 700 autopilot.  The Cirrus SR22, the Columbia 350 & 400, the G36 Bonanza, and the Piper Mirage and M350 to name a few.  The most common problem I see for pilots transitioning into the Garmin GFC 700 equipped aircraft is that it doesn’t act like other autopilots.

STECs and DFC 90 Autopilots function like this:  you push the button for the mode you want on the autopilot controller and that turns the autopilot on.

Not so on the Garmin GFC 700.  If you push the button for the mode on the GFC 700, then the flight director engages, but not the autopilot.  This confuses folks a lot who move up from different autopilots because their autopilot primacy side of their brain is telling them the autopilot is on whenever they push one of the buttons on the GFC 700 controller.

Here’s an example:  A pilot has just departed and is ready to turn on course.  In his old airplane with an STEC 55x autopilot, the pilot pushes the direct to key to go to his first waypoint, then pushes NAV on the autopilot controller and the STEC 55x comes on and starts flying on course.  Then he presses VS and ALT to initiate a climb.

With the same scenario and a Garmin GFC 700 autopilot, the same pilot (who is used to a 55x), pushes the direct to key, then pushes NAV on the autopilot controller and pushes IAS or FLC to initiate the climb.  He lets go of the flight controls thinking the autopilot is engaged.  The airplane starts nosing over and he starts panicking.

Why did this happen?  The pilot in the second scenario never pushed the AP button on the Garmin GFC 700 so the autopilot never engaged.  All he did by pressing the NAV button and IAS button was to turn the flight director on.

How to remedy this?  Get in the habit of checking your scoreboard.  On the top of the G1000 or Garmin Perspective PFD, there is an autopilot annunciation strip (or scoreboard as I like to call it).  In the very middle of the scoreboard is an area to show if the autopilot or flight director is engaged.  AP means the autopilot is on; FD means the flight director is engaged but the autopilot is not.

I teach pilots to be in the habit of checking your scoreboard each time you get done pressing buttons on the autopilot controller to ensure the Garmin GFC 700 is in the proper mode.  This saves some of those panic moments when it is supposed the AP is engaged, but it’s only the FD.

Shock Cooling in a PA46

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We’ve all heard it said…”reduce the throttle by no more than 1-inch every minutes to ensure you don’t shock-cool your engine”. Does this advice apply to a PA46 engine? Can a PA46 engine (Lycoming 540 or Continental 520/550) really be shock-cooled? How should the engine temperature be managed?

Metals expand and contract with temperature, and the various metals in an air-cooled aviation engine expand and contract at a different rates. Shock-cooling supposedly occurs when the engine changes temperature quickly and the different metals in the engine cool (and therefore change shape) at different rates. When the change occurs dramatically supposed scoring, rubbing, and marking of the metal can occur, which can cause catastrophic results.

So, let’s back to the original question…can a PA46 engine suffer shock-cooling and should a pilot operate the engine so as to avoid shock cooling? Simply put, I’ve never seen nor heard of any piston PA46 engine suffer shock-cooling. In 5000+ hours flying the piston PA46 and 16 years of flying/managing/training in the Malibu/Mirage/Matrix, it simply has not happened to me nor anyone I know. Does it mean that it cannot happen or has never happened? No. But, it is certainly not a prolific threat to our fleet.

Should the owner/pilot operate the engine with a cautious eye cast toward the potential of shock cooling? Well, sort of…but, let’s flesh this out. My suggestion is that a pilot should operate the engine with conservatism in movement of temperature, but only because this is a good operating practice with any machine, and any flying machine is (by definition) not “overbuilt”. And, there are many ways to change the temperature of the engine…not just by reducing power. Here’s a partial list of ways to cool your PA46 engine:

  • Reduce power: Obvious…yes. When the engine produces less power, less heat is generated. Reducing power in a piston engine will almost always result in less temperature.
  • Lower the nose: By descending (and leaving power in a cruise setting) the airspeed will increase and cool the engine.
  • Enrichen the mixture: Fuel has a cooling effect on the engine, so the richer the mixture the cooler the engine.
  • Lower the landing gear: Yes…you read that right…engine cooling will occur when you lower the landing gear because more air will flow over the cylinders. Notice the landing gear doors on the PA46 have air louvers. Air flows into the engine nacelle on the front, passes down through the cylinders (along with the oil cooler, intercoolers, and other components) and then out the louvers of the closed gear doors. When the landing gear is lowered the “back door is opened” and a LOT more airflows over the cylinders.

My suggestion is that a pilot only perform ONE of these actions at a time when beginning a descent. This suggestion was presented to me by Chad Menne (Owner, Malibu Aerospace) some time ago and I’ve operated engines this way ever since. If you are at a higher altitude and simultaneously reduced the power, lowered the landing gear, started a big descent, and enrichened the mixture in one flail swoop, I think there’s a chance that your engine would suffer some negative effects that could be called “shock cooling”. So, when you do start a descent, pick one “cooling action” to accomplish at a time. I’m sure you’ll not hurt your engine.

Simply put, shock cooling is not a huge factor in the PA46 community, and a PA46 pilot does not need to be overly cautious. The “one inch per minute” rule may apply in some other airframes, but in the PA46 world it is not applicable.

Joe Casey’s aviation story began in 1990 with his first flight near Nacogdoches, TX in a Cessna 172. From lift-off, Joe knew he would have a lifetime passion flying just about anything that will leave the ground…He was completely hooked.

Along with being an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), Joe is an ATP/CFI-AHMG and Commercial Rotorcraft/Glider Pilot in the civilian world and also a UH-60/AH-64 Pilot-in-Command/Instructor/Examiner Pilot in the US Army Reserves.  His passion for the last 19 years, however, has been the PA-46 Malibu/Mirage/Matrix/Jetprop/Meridian. Has has amassed over 6,500 hours in various PA-46 airframes and believe it to be one of the finest flying machines available for the serious cross-country pilot with an eye for efficiency.

Now, Joe has flown more than 12,200 hours in just about every imaginable environment. Whether providing initial/recurrent training in the PA-46’s, TBM’s, instructing in NVG’s in a UH-60 Blackhawk, flying the King Air series of airplanes, giving tailwheel endorsements, or taking kids flying for the first time, he simply loves flying machines and the people who fly them.

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