Thanks For Flying With Us!


From our family to yours, thank you for flying with Texas Top Aviation in 2014.  We wish everyone a Happy New Year and a great 2015!

Texas Top Aviation Family

Synthetic Vision Technology


Let’s say you’re flying in the mountains of Colorado on a cloudy day.  There’s a solid layer from the surface all the way up to 14,000 feet.  You’re inbound to Eagle (KEGE) on the RNAV (GPS) D approach.  There are mountains next to you and below you, but you aren’t concerned since you can see them all.  The base of the last reported overcast layer was 3,000 feet, so you know you’ll break out before the MDA and land no problem.

At 11,100 over AWACC, you clearly see the top of the mountain below you.  You are comfortably above it. You already have the runway in sight as well.  You pop out of the clouds on the approach at 9,700 feet, spot the airport and follow the tower’s instructions to circle north of the runway for a left base for runway 7.

How could you see the mountains inside the clouds?  You have Synthetic Vision installed on your glass panel, that’s how.

Aspen Synthetic Vision

Aspen Synthetic Vision

Synthetic Vision, which has actually been around since the ’70s when NASA and the US Military first developed it, was first FAA certified for the Gulfstream PlaneView flight deck in 2009.  Garmin, Avidyne, and Aspen are the main general aviation manufacturers of synthetic vision these days.  All Garmin PFDs are now equipped with Synthetic Vision while Aspen gives you the option to upgrade to Synthetic Vision when you get one of their PFDs installed.  Avidyne gives you Synthetic Vision in their R9 upgrade for the Cirrus.

What is Synthetic Vision?  Basically, it’s a 3-D picture on the primary flight display showing terrain, obstacles, traffic, and runways.  It greatly enhances situation awareness in areas of terrain or high obstacles during IFR conditions or at night.

The goal behind the development of Synthetic Vision was to decrease the amount of controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents.  A CFIT accident consists of a perfectly airworthy airplane flown by a pilot (or autopilot) unintentionally into terrain. These accidents can happen in low visibility conditions or at night, but the reason is mainly due to the pilot losing track of his position in relation to obstacles or terrain (or water as was the case with JFK Jr.).

With Synthetic Vision, the goal is to enhance pilot knowledge of what is around the airplane at all times. When you’re at altitude, the terrain below you looks flat.  When you start descending down amongst the rocks, the hills or mountains start to rise up on your screen.  For those used to the coloration with the 2-D terrain feature on a GPS unit, it translates very easily to the terrain coloration on a Synthetic Vision equipped PFD. Terrain that is between 100 and 500 feet below the aircraft is shown as yellow, while terrain closer than 100 feet is depicted as red.

Garmin Synthetic Vision

Garmin Synthetic Vision


One neat feature on Garmin units is the Highway in the Sky.  When a pilot puts a course or a flight plan in the GPS, the PFD displays magenta boxes at the altitude selected displaying the route.  It’s handy when hand flying to just “fly through the boxes.”  They also display descent angles on approaches.

Synthetic Vision is still optional on Garmin and Aspen units, but I highly recommend springing for it.  It will give you a higher level of safety and keep you out of the rocks.

Pancake Fly-In At KCVB


For those of you in the Hill Country looking to kick off the Christmas month right, head over to the Castroville Airport (KCVB) on Saturday, December 6th and get yourself a short stack of flapjacks.  For just $5, you can get yourself a good hearty breakfast that includes coffee or juice and bacon or sausage.  The eating starts at 0800 and goes until 1200, local time.  Come with an empty belly and an empty gas tank as CVB currently has some of the lowest priced gas in South Texas, currently listed at $4.70/gallon.

There will be plenty of hangar flying, lots of airplanes to look at, and most importantly, lots of pancakes!

CVB Pancake Breakfast

Flying the Piper Malibu


Looking for an airplane with more seats, more useful load, and good speed?  Look no further than the PA-46-310P Piper Malibu.  It feels like a corporate airplane, but this turbo charged piston single is good owner/pilot airplane for taking the family on vacation or using on business trips.

Piper Malibu Texas Top Aviation

The original Piper Malibu, which was manufactured between 1984-1988, is a great next step airplane for Cirrus owners, Saratoga or Lance owners, and Mooney owners looking to move up to a pressurized, 6 seat piston.  The pressurization has got to be one of the best parts of the Piper Malibu.  The ability to climb up to the low flight levels (the service ceiling is FL250, but the airplane performs great between 16,000 and FL190) to catch better winds and get a better true airspeed (the airplane gains about 2.5 KTAS for every thousand feet) without having to wear oxygen makes the ride much more enjoyable.

Equipped with six seats and a 4,100 pound gross weight, the Piper Malibu allows for a lot more carrying ability than a Cirrus or even a Saratoga.  Now, like most piston airplanes, you can’t take 6 average adults, bags, and full fuel, but here’s the great part:  the Continental TSIO 320 only burns 16.5 GPH in cruise at 75% power.  The plane will still fly 200 KTAS at 16.5 GPH.  With 120 gallon capacity, even taking half tanks still allows for a 2.5 hour range with an hour reserve.  At 200 KTAS, that’s 450 miles.  And, you gain an extra 360 pounds useful load at half tanks.  That’s not too shabby.

Piper Malibu PA-46 Texas Top Aviation

The Piper Malibu was designed to be comfortable, fast, and be able to carry some baggage.  There are two baggage compartments, one in the nose behind the firewall and one in the rear behind the rear seats.  The nose baggage is wide enough to fit golf clubs in, while the back baggage is large enough to fit rolling suitcases in (the front baggage has no problem with roller bags either).  Lots of weight in bags?  Again, no big deal.  Just plan on taking less fuel and still flying for 2.5 hours.

From a pilot’s standpoint, the Piper Malibu is a pretty straightforward airplane to fly, though it does require some specialty training.  A lot of PA-46s on the market right now have upgraded glass panels and digital engine monitors, making piloting the airplane that much more streamlined.  Most Piper Malibus are equipped with the KFC 150 autopilot.  Some have a yaw damper installed, others don’t.  Some have the vertical speed and altitude capture installed, others don’t.  It just depends on that specific airplane.  They aren’t like a Cirrus where they are all made the same.

Looking to upgrade to something with more seats, a higher service ceiling, but not a significant increase in fuel costs?  Look into the Piper Malibu.  You can get one in good shape from about $300,000.


Mooney Enters the Training Market with the Mooney M10


Earlier this week, Mooney announced they would be following competitors Piper (with their Archer DX) and Redbird (with their retrofitted 172 known as the Redhawk) into the training market with the Mooney M10 T and Mooney M10 J.  Mooney, which hasn’t manufactured a primary trainer since the Mooney M10 Cadet in 1970, is planning on putting Jet A burning Continental Engines in the new aircraft.  The mockup was unveiled at Airshow China.

The Mooney M10 T is a 3 seat, fixed gear trainer sporting a Continental CD-135 engine.  At 135 HP, the initial design data claims the Mooney M10 T will be able to cruise at 140 KTAS at 75% power, allowing the Jet A engine to burn between 4-5 gallons per hour while holding 42 gallons of fuel.  As with other Jet A piston powered airplanes, the Mooney M10 T will have a Fully Automated Digital Engine Control (or FADEC) system.  This leaves just a single power lever in the cockpit, allowing the pilot to set a percent power and the FADEC computer will set the manifold pressure, prop speed, and mixture.

The Mooney M10 J has a slightly bigger engine, the 155 HP Continental CD-155.  It also is equipped with retractable gear.  Initially, Mooney is predicting 160 KTAS at 75% power for the Mooney  M10 J.  The airplane will come as a two-seater, but will have a third seat as an option.  Mooney says that the Mooney M10 J will allow pilots to make an easy transition to the bigger and faster M20J that has been popular for many years amongst “Mooniacs.”

Mooney M10 Interior

In a new direction for Mooney, the Mooney M10 T Mooney M10 J will both be composite airplanes with side sticks, instead of the traditional sheet metal exterior with a yoke as Mooney aircraft have been in the past. Also venturing from the more powerful Mooney aircraft is the fact that the Mooney M10 T and Mooney M10 J will have two doors.  Remaining, though, is the swept tail that Mooney aircraft are known for.  Both airplanes will be equipped with Garmin G1000 panels, while the Mooney M10 J will also have the GFC 700 autopilot, marketing more toward aircraft owners rather than students.

The only downside that I read about was the time between replacements for the engines.  For the CD-135 engine in the Mooney M10 T, time between replacement is 1,500 hours, whereas the CD-155 only has a 1,200 hour replacement time.

Mooney expects certification and deliveries to begin for the Mooney M10 T and Mooney M10 J in 2017.

Mooney M10T and M10J

Information courtesy of AOPA and Mooney International.  Images courtesy of Mooney International.