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Lightspeed Headsets and Modern Audio Panels

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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

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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 FltPlan.com. 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 FltPlan.com 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

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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!

After Market Ice Protection

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It’s winter time, so that means winter weather for the aviation community.  For single engine piston pilots, that means dealing with icing conditions.  For us Texan flyers, ice only presents an issue for maybe a week out of the year (the exception being for those Panhandle residents!), but it’s nice to have some protection.

Most single engine pistons do not come with ice protection from the factory and, of those that do, most are not Flight Into Known Icing (FIKI) approved.  The systems are “get out of jail” systems that can reduce the amount of ice you pick up if you accidentally get into icing conditions and you are on your way out.  The Cirrus SR22 line of aircraft has had the TKS system option since 2006, with the new FIKI system being available since 2010.  The Cessna TTx has a FIKI option that was debuted in 2014.

The above mentioned airplanes use TKS systems.  There are a handful of single engine pistons that use boots that are FIKI certified:  the Piper PA46 line (Malibu, Mirage, and Matrix) and the Cessna P210 and T210 line (though not all are equipped with boots).

If you find yourself flying into wintry conditions often and want some protection for your clean wing airplane, there are some aftermarket options for a lot of airplanes now.  Do note that all these systems do come with a pretty hefty price tag, but can be worth it if you fly into icing a good bit.

CAV Ice Protection TKS Systems

CAV Ice Protection is a TKS system outfitter.  What is TKS fluid?  According to Flying Magazine:

“TKS systems dispense an ethylene glycol-based fluid with a freezing point below minus 70 degrees F through porous titanium panels attached to the leading edge of the wing and empennage. The fluid is released through thousands of the panels’ laser-drilled holes, which are not much larger than the size of a human hair. As air flows over the wing and empennage, it disperses the fluid, coating the surfaces, and preventing the formation and adherence of ice.”

The advantages of a TKS system are the whole entire wing gets coated to get rid of any extra ice that adheres to the top or bottom of the wing surface.  The disadvantage is there is only a finite amount of fluid, so when it runs out, you don’t have any more protection.  The fluid also adds extra weight agains the useful load of the airplane.

CAV Offers a Basic TKS system for the following single engine piston aircraft:

  • Beech Bonanza
  • Cessna 182, 206, 210, 350, & 400
  • Columbia 350 & 400
  • Piper PA32
  • Mooney M20

CAV Offers a full FIKI System for the following single engine piston aircraft:

  • Beech A36 & G36 Bonanza, and Baron
  • Cessna 210 & TTx
  • Commander 114
  • Mooney M20

For more information, check out CAV Ice Protection’s Website.

Ice Shield De-Icing Boots

Ice Shield is another after market de-ice option.  Ice Shield makes boots for wing leading edges.  The advantage of boots is they activate instantaneously, getting rid of ice where it builds up first, on the wing leading edge.  No running out of fluid and only the added weight of the system.  Ice Shield also offers heated windscreens for several the Piper Saratoga line and the A36, B36, and G36 Bonanza line.

Ice Shield has boots for the following single engine piston aircraft:

  • Beech Bonanza F33A and -36 line
  • Cessna 210 line
  • Piper Pa46 line

For more information, check out Ice Shield’s Website.

One other company, Kelly Aerospace, makes an electric leading edge de-icer called the ThermaWing for the Cessna/Columbia 350/400 line.  You can read a review of the ThermaWing here, or check out Kelly Aerospace’s website.

The RDD LX7

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Have a Lancair IV-P?

Want to make it better than a Cirrus or a Cessna TTx?

Meet the team at RDD creating the LX7.  Just make sure you are sitting down as you are about to be blown away.

RDD (Research. Design. Development) is a professional building company for the Lancair line of experimental aircraft (Lancair unveiled the Mako at Osh Kosh this summer, which performs slightly less than the advertised values of the LX7, but is available as a new kit).  For those unfamiliar with the experimental world, when an experimental kit is bought, the owner/builder can build the entire aircraft himself, partially build it then send it to a completion center, or have a professional build company put it together.  This last option is what RDD did with Lancair aircraft before Lancair moved from Oregon to Uvalde, TX.

Once Lancair was sold, RDD started thinking on how to make the IV-P better.  Boy, did they.  What resulted is the LX7.

The LX7 is a retractable gear, single engine piston, pressurized aircraft that sits 4.  See it on the ramp and it looks like a Lancair or a Columbia.  Sit in the cockpit and you’ll know something is different.

Starting with the power plant, RDD put a Continental TSIO 550-E engine in the IV-P airframe, giving the airplane 350 HP.  They redesigned the wing to hold 180 gallons of usable fuel and a much better stalling envelope (anyone who has looked at a Lancair IV or IV-P wing knows that there isn’t much wiggle room with angle of attack on those airplanes), lowering the stall speed to 62 knots dirty.

The cabin is roomier and the panel is beautiful.  Equipped with 2 or 3 Garmin G3X Touch panels (the experimental equivalent of the G2000), plus a GTN 750 and a fully digital backup flight instrument from Grand Rapids, plus ESP technology built in to the autopilot, this plane seems like a pilot’s dream.

I haven’t even gotten to the best part:  the speed.  Being pressurized, the LX7 has a 25,000 foot service ceiling where it can achieve cruise speeds of 260 knots at best power (24 GPH) and 250 knots at best economy (18 GPH).

Yes, I did just say 250 knots at 18 GPH in a single engine piston.

With 180 gallons of fuel.

Make sure you bring a Travel John.

Worried about an experimental?  The airframe is equipped with a full BRS system similar to the Cirrus SR22, keeping everyone safe and sound.

There is one flying LX7 currently and RDD is working on 3 more.  The price tag for the full conversion is $550,000.  The kicker is, the owner has to provide the Lancair IV-P airframe.  There are currently 10 Lancair IV-Ps for sale on Controller, varying in price from $200,000-$400,000, bringing the total price of the project to $750,000-$950,000.  Owners who already have a IV-P or a IV-P kit can send it on over to RDD to get started on their project.