Piper PA46 Maintenance Shops


Sometimes, it’s hard to find a good shop that does quality work and communicates well without charging a fortune. Luckily for the PA46 owner, there are lots of good options. Here are the Texas Top Aviation recommended Piper PA46 maintenance shops.

Lubbock Aero (KLBB)/Abilene Aero (KABI)-Texas

Lubbock Aero and Abilene Aero are owned by the same company. Both are Piper service centers. I have had some Piper PA46 maintenance interactions with Chad at Lubbock Aero over the last year and have been impressed.

The folks at Lubbock Aero are friendly, knowledgeable, and keep the customer abreast of what’s going on with their airplane. I haven’t been to Abilene Aero, but I suspect that the same quality of service exists there as well.

Chuck’s Aircraft (KEDC)-Austin, TX

Chuck’s Aircraft has been a Cirrus Service Center for a number of years. Recently, Chuck’s put several mechanics through Kevin Mead’s M-Class which educates mechanics on the ins and outs of Piper PA46 maintenance. Chuck’s is a great, convenient spot to get your PA46 worked on.

First Line Aero (KJSO)-Jacksonville, TX

Located on the same airport as Casey Aviation, First Line Aero specializes in Piper PA46 maintenance. Walking up to their hangar, it’s loaded with Malibus, Mirages, JetProps, and Meridians. Charles Crossman, the owner, has been turning wrenches for a lot of years. Anyone recommended by Joe Casey has a stamp of approval in my book.

Midwest Malibu (KHUT)-Hutchinson, KS

One of 2 nationally renowned PA46 shops, owners bring their PA46s from all over the country to Midwest Malibu. Owner Tony Beauchamp has personally assisted multiple of my customers when they have gotten in AOG situations with their PA46s.

Des Moines Flying Service (KDSM)-Des Moines, IA

I have not had any direct interaction with Des Moines Flying Service, but I have several customers who have. The reviews have all indicated knowledgeable mechanics, good work, and good communication.

Malibu Aerospace (KANE)-Blaine, MN

Malibu Aerospace (the second nationally renowned Piper PA46 maintenance shop) has done many great things for the PA46 line of aircraft. From the M1 Cooling Mod that alters the lower cowl and add baffles for cooling air getting to where it needs to go, to the M5 TSIO 550C upgrade for the original PA46-310P, the Malibu Aerospace guys know what they are doing with the PA46.

Hetrick Aviation (KTOP)-Topeka, KS

I recently learned about Hetrick Aviation in Topeka. I met a customer there to pick up his plane where it was having a pre-buy and annual done. Keith Hetrick, the owner, has worked on a lot of PA46 airplanes and was very knowledgeable in my discussions with him. He is also a pilot, so he flies each airplane after maintenance is done to make sure no bugs are present when an owner picks it up.

Those are the Texas Top Aviation recommended PA46 shops. Have another one to add? Post in the comments below and we’ll get it added to the list.

AOPA Air Safety Institute: More Difficult Decisions


The AOPA Air Safety Institute is making it’s annual loop through Texas this January. The topic for this Safety Seminar is “More Difficult Decisions: Choices & Consequences.”

The seminar is geared our the decision making process that we as pilots face on each flight. Some decisions are easy (what altitude should I pick?) while some have much greater consequences and should be taken very seriously.

This event will be interactive for the participants as several scenarios will be presented. The goal is to help pilots learn to think through each decision, weighing the consequences along the weigh to arrive at the safest outcome of the flight.

The first area seminar will be held on Tuesday, January 21st at the Stinson Field Airport (KSSF, 8535 Mission Road, San Antonio, TX 78214). The second area seminar will be held on Wednesday, January 22nd at the TXDOT office in Austin (200 E. Riverside Dr., Austin, TX 78704). WINGs credit is available for all attendees.

Learn more here.

Garmin Perspective Tips & Tricks


The Garmin Perspective and Perspective + are awesome pieces of equipment.  There is so much a pilot can do with this system that it can sometimes get overwhelming. There are two very important features of the Garmin Perspective that all IFR pilots need to know, but are tricky to do if the correct buttons aren’t pushed.

The two features of the Garmin Perspective I want to focus on today are the “Load Airway” feature and the “Hold at Waypoint” feature.  The “Load Airway” feature is especially handy when flying IFR long distances with several airways as part of the clearance.  Here’s how to utilize both on the Garmin Perspective.

Load Airway

  • On your flight plan page, insert the waypoint where you will be joining the airway, or, if your clearance was radar vectors to join an airway, then insert the waypoint on the airway that begins the leg you will be joining on
  • Press the Menu key on the keypad
  • A menu will pop up. Scroll down to highlight Load Airway
  • Highlight the Airway you want from the next menu that pops up then press Enter
  • Then, a list of waypoints will display to exit the airway. Highlight the waypoint where you will be exiting the airway and Press Enter
  • The cursor will then move down to Load at the bottom of the menu. Press Enter to load the airway
  • The Airway and all the waypoints in between your entry and exit waypoints appear in your flight plan
  • If you are getting vectors to join the airway, you’ll need to use the Activate Leg function to activate the leg you will be joining the airway on
    • On the Flight Plan page, highlight the waypoint that ends the leg you want to activate
    • Look for the ACT LEG soft key on the lower right hand side of the MFD and press
    • This Activates the leg on the airway. Then, just simply fly the heading assigned by ATC until the CDI needle centers showing you are on the airway

Hold At Waypoint

The Garmin Perspective allows pilots to place a holding pattern at any waypoint that is in the Nav Database (or any user created waypoint).  Here’s how to do it.

  • On the Flight Plan page, highlight the Waypoint that you want to hold over and press Menu on the keypad
  • On the menu that pops up, highlight Hold At Waypoint and press Enter
  • On the next menu that pops up, input either the inbound or outbound course, right or left turns, leg time or distance, and the EFC time, then highlight Load and press Enter
  • You will see the hold now as a Waypoint in your flight plan

Piper PA46 Partnership in San Antonio


A Piper PA46 partnership is being formed in the San Antonio area. Two to three partners are being sought to purchase either a Piper PA46-310P Malibu or a ’90s model Piper PA46-350P Mirage.

The Piper PA46 Malibu is the original Piper PA46 airframe. It is equipped with a Continental TSIO 520, 310HP engine (though many have been upgraded to the Continental TSIO 550C engine, which is a great upgrade), is complex, and pressurized (the best feature about the airplane!). The six seat airframe travels around 185-190 KTAS at FL200 on 16-17 GPH, giving an incredible range with 120 gallons of fuel.

The Piper Mirage is what Piper designated the PA46 when it switch to the Lycoming TIO 540 350HP engine in 1989. The airframe remained the same, but the engine eeks out a few more KTAS at 22-25 GPH depending on how high the cruise altitude is.

Both the Piper Malibu and the ’90s model Mirage are equipped with the KFC 150 autopilot. A lot of the Piper PA46 airframes still have a Garmin 530W/430W or dual 430Ws, but a large number have been upgraded to the Garmin GTN 750/650, while a few have opted for the Avidyne IFD 540/440 GPS units. There are a fair number still with steam gauges, while some have upgraded to Aspen units or the Garmin G500 or G500TXi.

If you are located in the San Antonio area and interested in a 3-4 way partnership on a Piper PA46, please Contact Us. The purchase price will be between $300,000-$450,000, so only interested parties that can afford a budget of $100,000-$150,000 please.

The plane will be based at Stinson Field (KSSF) or New Braunfels (KBAZ).

A Tow Pilot’s Near Disaster


by Lance Stick & Hank Gibson

A couple of months ago, I had a life-threatening experience while flying. Thankfully, with my flight training, along with a lot of luck, I am here to talk about it.

One of my many piloting jobs is as a glider tow pilot. For those not familiar with gliding, since a glider doesn’t have an engine, every time a glider pilot goes and flies, it’s a team effort. A powered airplane (anything from a Super Cub to a turbine powered Air Tractor) is attached to the glider via a tow rope, which is about 200 feet long. Once the glider pilot gives the go ahead over the airport’s CTAF, then the tow plane begins it’s takeoff roll, pulling the glider along behind it.

The glider becomes airborne prior to the tow plane, then the tow plane will circle the airport environment till it get’s to the pre-determined altitude to release the glider. Some tows are pattern tows and some are higher (not usually above 3,000 AGL), depending on the request from the glider pilot. Once the altitude is reached, the glider pilot pulls a handle in the glider to release the tow rope, then begins his glide. The rope stays attached to the tail of the tow plane, which in turn descends back down to the runway and lands. The tow plane also has a tow rope release handle in case of emergency.

On this particular tow, the plan was to tow the glider up to 3,000 AGL. Upon reaching 2,500 AGL, the glider pilot called me on the radio and stated that his rear canopy had opened up. I looked over my shoulder and sure enough, the rear canopy was fully opened while he was still in level flight behind me. I asked him if he wanted me to tow him closer to the field, but he didn’t reply.

Now, as an experienced tow pilot, I know a glider canopy popping open should not be an emergency situation. It’s definitely abnormal, but would be similar to a door or window popping open in a powered airplane. Not a big deal. If too much force from the relative wind is applied to the canopy, it would snap off; however, a glider can easily land without a rear canopy.

About 5 seconds after I radioed the pilot (and received no reply), I felt my tail instantaneously lift up into a completely vertical position, which caused my nose to go straight down. The next thing I knew, a whole lot of earth suddenly filled my windscreen and I was in what’s known as a graveyard spiral.

A graveyard spiral (as defined from the Airplane Flying Handbook pg 4-23), “is a descending turn during which airspeed and G-load can increase rapidly….the airplane is flying very tight circles, in a nearly vertical attitude and will be accelerating since it isn’t stalled.” It’s also known as a spiral dive.

Back to the story. At this point, I tried to reach for the glider release handle. Unfortunately, due to the shoulder straps holding me against the seat, plus the g’s, and also the quart of oil and tow bar that flew forward and hit me in the back of the head, I couldn’t reach it. I was semi-upside down at a certain point, which dislodged the oil and tow bar from the floor of the baggage compartment. They sailed over the seat and nearly gave me a concussion.

At this point, 2,500 feet above the ground, I had a choice to either fight for my life at a very low altitude or to sit back and become part of a big explosion.

I decided to fight for my life.

As I was spiraling to the ground, I felt the tow rope snap. Up to this point, I had still been attached to the glider. The rope snapping was a good thing, as my airplane was now under my control, not attached to, and being affected by, a glider (more on that later). I now had a lifeline, no pun intended.

After I felt the rope snap, my instincts and training kicked in. I initiated the spin recovery procedure using the PARE acronym. This task was difficult to do as I had a lot of debris flying from the rear of the plane to the front, blocking my view out of the windshield. There was also debris around my feet, hampering my ability to use the rudder pedals. The spiral finally stopped and I recovered approximately 500 feet above the tree tops. It took my heart a lot longer to stop spinning.

After barely regaining my emotions, I tried to evaluate the condition of the plane. Were all the pieces of the plane still there, was the engine damaged, did my control surfaces still work?

Once I advanced the throttle and saw an increase in my engine RPM, I started an immediate climb to give me altitude to get back to the airport. I had engine power but I wasn’t sure how long it would last if I had damage. Now, what they don’t teach you during spin training is that when this happens unexpectedly, you will become very disorientated. You have just been spiraling unexpectedly and your equilibrium will be out of whack. As I leveled out just over the tree tops, I was too low to visually see any landmarks, nor could I see the airport. Once I was able to climb, I was able to orient myself and figure out where the airport was.

I had to be very careful getting back to the airport and landing without radio communication, since my radio was knocked out with all of the FOD from the baggage area. Thankfully, the landing was uneventful. After I landed, I saw the glider limp in over the trees. The rear canopy was totally gone, while the front canopy and other parts of the glider had suffered major damage. Miraculously, my airplane wasn’t damaged, except for the wire from the radio which came loose during the spiral.

So, how did all this happen, you ask? Well, the glider pilot made 2 huge mistakes. First, in gliding, the moment the glider pilot loses visual sight of the tow plane, you are supposed to release the tow rope. He did not do that and almost killed both of us.

Second, as pilots we are taught to always fly the airplane first. Everything else, no matter what it is, always comes after flying the airplane. As I stated previously, the loose canopy is not an emergency situation, but since the glider pilot did not aviate first and was distracted, it was almost a fatal day for 2 people and 2 airframes.

So, what caused this chain of events? By getting distracted by the open canopy, the glider pilot inadvertently pulled back on the stick while trying to close the canopy. Then, by not releasing the glider from the tow plane, the glider pilot climbed rapidly with an excessive rate of climb while still being attached to me. The rapid climb is what pulled my tail up, causing my nose to drop and put me into the spiral. The tow rope snapping set into motion my recovery, since up till that point, I literally had no control. An extremely high lift wing was attached to my tail, pulling it up, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

We all spend time practicing and demonstrating emergency maneuvers during our flight training and during flight reviews. Many times you might think, I’ll never need to use this stuff. Thankfully, some of the procedures I learned in the past kicked in at a time of need, even though my heart was beating out of my chest.

At some point in every pilot’s career, some type of spin training or Upset Recovery Training would be highly recommended. Then, when things go wrong, remember to always aviate first, then handle all the other things that need to be handled.

Interested in spin training or Upset Recovery Training (UPRT)? Check out the list of Malibu & M-Class Owner’s and Pilot’s Association (MMOPA) approved UPRT vendors and schedule UPRT training today.