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The Glass Panel Cockpit Seminar

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Have you looked longingly at the Aspen PFD or Garmin G500, imagining those beautiful glass panels set in your airplane?  Think it’s too advanced for your flying skills?  Well, think again!  Hank Gibson of Texas Top Aviation will be hosting a seminar at the Redbird Skyport FBO at the San Marcos Airport (KHYI) on Thursday, September 25th  at 7pm to enlighten everyone on all the different glass panel and modern GPS options out there.

Aspen 2500 The Glass Panel Cockpit Seminar

No panel is too complex!  No GPS is too complicated!  Come hear about how you can upgrade your steam gauge airplane to a modern, glass panel cockpit that will be the envy of all your pilot buddies.

The seminar begins at 7pm in the large conference room at the Redbird Skyport.  Come see this beautiful facility which hosted the AOPA Fly In this past April.  There will be two drawings for free flight training in your airplane, so make sure you get your entry in once you arrive.  WINGS credit will also be given.

Redbird welcomes pilots flying in for the event.  If you are flying in, please show your support for Redbird by purchasing fuel!  

Signup is required for the event.  To sign up, please click here.

We hope to see you there!!!

The Flight Director as a Backup

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I’ve noticed that a lot of general aviation pilots tend to ignore the flight director on the attitude indicator.  A lot of pilots don’t even know what it’s there for or how to use it.  Talk to any airline pilot, though, and he or she will tell you how important the flight director actually is.

In most high performance airplanes, the flight director comes on when the autopilot comes on.  Essentially, the autopilot is following the flight director, which tells the autopilot where to go.  The flight director can also be used with the autopilot off, when hand flying an approach, for example.  By turning the flight director on, it will show you where you need to fly to stay on course and on glide slope.

Flight Director

The flight director is most often controlled by the autopilot controller.  The same buttons you use to put the autopilot in heading mode also tells the flight director to follow the heading bug when the autopilot is off.  When you move the heading bug (or change course on the GPS, depending on which mode you have selected), the flight director will show you when you need to turn and when you need to stop turning.  It directs your flight attitude, hence the name.

I recently discovered it’s a great backup when you have some instruments on the fritz.  I went on a long flight in a steam gauge Piper Malibu and the attitude indicator started reading erratically.  While flying straight and level, it would randomly indicate that I was in a 10 degree bank to the right, swing back and show wings level, then show a 3 degree turn left.  This went on for a while.  We were in VMC conditions, so legality wasn’t a problem, but it was kind of disorienting.

After a little while of this, the autopilot started acting up.  It would start oscillating the pitch up and down, making it seem like we were going through a moguls course in the air.  I ended up turning the autopilot off and hand flying the airplane.

This led to a conundrum, since my attitude indicator was unreliable.  I could definitely look outside, since it was VMC, seeing when I was level and when I wasn’t.  That would create a higher workload for me, which on a long flight like I was on, would lead to an increase in fatigue.  The solution?  The flight director!

I turned the autopilot off, but I left the flight director up.  It wasn’t referencing the bank angle that the attitude indicator was showing since the KFC 150 goes off of the turn coordinator.  So, if I just followed the attitude indicator, I could just keep scanning the instruments and relieve a little bit of my workload.

It actually worked really well.  By just following the flight director, I was able to stay on course and on altitude with only minor attitude adjustments whenever we hit turbulence.

So, if you’re attitude indicator and autopilot decide to stop working on you, then bring up the flight director, push the same buttons you would if you were using the autopilot, and it works as a great backup.

Avidyne Entegra Chart Updates

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Columbia 400 Avidyne Entegra

There are a number of airplanes out there equipped with the Avidyne Entegra PFD and MFD system, most notably the Cirrus SR20 and SR22 models from the early 2000s and the Columbia 350 and 400 from the same era.  The Entegra is pretty simple and easy to learn, but doesn’t have the capability that it’s Garmin glass panel counterparts do (I have not, however, tried the R9, which could prove much more capable than it’s predecessor).  I have found that pilots master the Entegra a lot quicker because of the reduced functionality.

One of the nice features of the Avidyne Entegra is the CMAX Chartview option.  With a yearly subscription, you can get all the Jeppesen approach plates and airport diagrams for the entire US on your MFD.  Just like your GPS, though, you have to update the charts monthly to keep them legal.  After a period of time when you don’t keep up with the updates (I believe it is 90 days), then the charts disappear.

The update process is a little tricky if you don’t have someone to explain it to you.  Once you go through it a few times, you’ll have it down pat.  Here’s the process for the Avidyne Entegra Chart Updates.

Jeppesen Subscription

The first step in performing your Avidyne Entegra Chart Updates is to create an account with Jeppesen, who handles all the GPS NavData and MFD Chart updates for both Garmin and Avidyne.  If you already have a Jeppesen subscription, you can skip down to the next section.  To do that, simply go to jeppdirect.jeppesen.com, and then do the following:

  • Click on Avionics Data on the upper left hand side
  • Click “Purchase Avionics Subscription”
  • Then, click on “Create Account” in the new users section
  • Once you’ve created an account, login, then put in your aircraft information and select 1 update for the Avidyne Entegra EX500 EX 5000
  • Click Continue at the bottom and you can put in your payment information

Software Needed

There are two different programs depending on if you have a PC or a Mac.  If you have a PC, you need the Jeppesen Services Update Manager (JSUM).  If you have a Mac, you need the Jeppesen Distribution Manager (JDM).  Download whichever one you need, then login, and your updates will show up.

Downloading the Avidyne Entegra Chart Updates

First, we’ll go through the process of performing the Avidyne Entegra Chart Updates process for a Windows computer, using JSUM.    You’ll need two 2 GB USB drives formatted to FAT 16.  Here’s how to format to FAT 16.

  • Go to My Computer after inserting the USB drive
  • Right click on the drive
  • Click on Format, then select FAT and press OK

Once the USB drive is formatted to FAT16, open up the JSUM program.  Login and your updates will be displayed on the screen

  • You’ll need to set the Avidyne CMAX Key Code
    • Right click the Avidyne Electronic Charts Service and click Set Avidyne Key
    • To get the key code, visit MyAvidyne.com and create an account using your JeppView subscription number and your serial number for your Avidyne MFD (found on the AUX page) and your PFD serial number (displayed on startup when the PFD is warming up)
    • Once you get the Key Code, copy and paste it in the window and click OK
  • Click on the service and click Start
  • The program should automatically detect the drive (if it doesn’t, click browse and select the drive)
  • Click Continue and the charts will start downloading and automatically programmed to the USB drive
  • If you are updating NavData on the MFD as well, follow the same steps as listed above in order to update the NavData

Next, we’ll go through the Avidyne Entegra Chart Updates process on a Mac, using the JDM program.  You’ll need two 2 GB USB flash drives formatted to FAT 16 (the easiest way to format to FAT 16 is on a Windows computer, using the process above).

  • Open the JDM program and login
  • Insert the first USB drive
  • You’ll need to set your Avidyne CMAX Key Code
    • Click Service Details under the Electronic Charts Service
    • Click Set Avidyne CMAX Key Code
    • Program automatically detects the USB drive
  • Click and drag the Electronic Charts service over to the USB and release
  • The service is downloaded and copied to the USB drive automatically
  • Eject the USB drive
  • Insert the second USB drive (or plug the USB drive in to your MFD, do the update, then reformat the drive) and follow the same steps for the NavData

Updated the MFD with the Avidyne Entegra Chart Updates

Avidyne Cirrus

Once everything is programmed the your USB drives, the rest of the process is simple.  Just go out to your airplane, plug in the first USB drive with the Electronic Charts on it, turn your battery on and the avionics master, and the system will upload the information automatically.  Once it’s finished, turn everything off, pull the USB drive out, then insert the second USB drive and do the same thing.

Now, you’re all updated!

If you’d like to see a video on the process, Jeppesen has some very good videos on the updating procedure.  The links are below.  If you have questions, please contact Texas Top Aviation and an expert will help you through the process.

JSUM USB Programming Procedure

JDM USB Programming Procedure

Avidyne Entegra Chart Updates Upload

Recurrent Flight Training

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As all pilots know, the Federal Aviation Regulations require licensed pilots to go through recurrent flight training in the form of a Flight Review every 24 months.  The regulations require 1 hour of ground review and a 1 hour flight.  This is all that a pilot has to do to legally maintain his or her VFR currency to fly alone in an airplane.  Of course, when passengers are aboard, the pilot has to have done 3 takeoffs and landings in the previous 90 days.

What if the pilot in question hasn’t flown in 20 years?  All the regulations require is 1 hour of ground review and a 1 hour flight.  Kind of scary, isn’t it?  (Any instructor worth his salt would not, however, turn a pilot loose with just those flight review minimums if they haven’t flown in 20 years without an extensive amount of recurrent flight training)

Now, a lot can happen in 2 years in between those flight reviews.  Regulations change, airspace is modified, and skills change (for the better or worse, most often for the worse over a period of not flying).   For a current pilot who flies once or twice a week, those minimums are no problem.  Here’s the thing, though.  Even those current pilots typically don’t do a lot of stall practice or emergency procedure practice on their own.  These are the most critical areas of flight and to only do them every two years leads to a lot of rust building up, sometimes even causing safety concerns in some instances.

Recurrent Flight Training

How to remedy this?  Scheduling recurrent flight training as often as possible with a good instructor who puts you through your paces.  Do this often enough and stalls will become second nature.  The stall warning horn goes off?  Well, lower the nose and add power.  Engine failure?  Switch tanks and set best glide.  Recurrent flight training allows you to become as familiar as possible with your airplane, allowing you to know what to do in every circumstance.

What’s a good recurrent flight training schedule?  There are several options out there.  The WINGs program is a pretty good option, though you will only have 3 flight training sessions in those two years instead of 1, but it’s a good start.  In recent years, the FAA has put out Advisory Circular 61-98B encouraging pilots to begin personal currency programs for themselves.  The suggested schedule for VFR recurrent flight training is every 4-6 weeks.

Faa safety team

Texas Top Aviation highly recommends this suggested schedule, for both VFR and IFR.  The AC doesn’t have a specific recommendation for IFR recurrent flight training, but flying 2-3 approaches a month with an instructor helps keep pilots as proficient as possible in the IFR environment.   This way, the instructor can introduce circumstances in a controlled environment that simulate abnormal conditions that might possibly be encountered in flight.  If those abnormal conditions are encountered, then it will be second nature on how to handle them, leading to less accidents and safer flying habits.

Try to schedule your recurrent flight training every 4-6 weeks and your piloting skills will stay top notch, keeping you safe and proficient in every circumstance.

Cirrus SR22 Owner Completes First Solo

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Monte and N565TV

Congratulations to Monte James who, on July 31, 2014, completed his first solo flight!  Monte is the owner of N565TV, a 2007 Turbonormalized Cirrus SR22.  N565TV is a G3 model with an Avidyne panel.  Monte was very excited to complete his solo flight.  He reported very good landings during the flight (he even said the last landing, which was probably his best yet, caused him to break into laughter!).  Texas Top Aviation’s Hank Gibson, Monte’s instructor, took pictures and continued the tradition of cutting Monte’s shirt tail to commemorate the flight.

Congratulations to Monte!