Recurrent Flight Training


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



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!


The Go Around Button


Back in the old days, when flying an approach in an early Cirrus SR22 (circa 2004; yes, in airplane technology, those were the old days), performing a missed approach procedure was a lot of work.  You were low to the ground, weren’t able to see the runway, then you had to start climbing so you don’t hit the ground, then push a lot of buttons in order to get the GPS and autopilot set fly the missed approach procedure.  It was very easy to get distracted with button pushing, then forget to fly the airplane, putting yourself and passengers in very unsafe circumstances.  The go around button has changed all that.

Going Missed the Old Fashioned Way

Let’s stick with our example of the 2004 Cirrus.  The SR22 in 2004 was equipped with the Avidyne Entegra system, complete with dual Garmin 430 GPS units, and an STEC 55x Autopilot.  A very capable IFR flying machine (we could use the same example of a 2004 or 2005 Lancair Columbia 350 or 400 that was equipped the same way, except the screens were vertical instead of horizontal).

Avidyne Cirrus Go Around Button

We’ll use the ILS 15 at the Temple airport, KTPL, for our example.  You pass TPL, the outer marker at 1,683 with the glide slope already centered.  Everything is going well so far.  The number 1 Garmin 430 is set to VLOC and the autopilot is showing NAV and APR for the lateral guidance and GS on the vertical, tracking the glide slope.  The last weather report stated the clouds were Broken at 500 feet, so it appears like you’ll be able to get in on the approach.

As you get closer to the Decision Altitude, the clouds aren’t letting up at all.  You hit 1,000 feet on your altimeter, 120 feet above the minimums, and you still can’t see a thing.  Another 100 feet lower doesn’t change anything, so you elect to proceed with the missed approach.  This means things are about to get busy.

Here’s the process:

  • Fly the airplane first, meaning shut off the autopilot, pitch the nose up, add full power, retract the flaps, and step on the right rudder
  • The Garmin 430 is now in SUSP mode, meaning the missed approach point is locked in as the active waypoint.  So, you have to press the OBS button to cause the GPS to cycle over to the missed approach procedure
  • You have to press the VLOC button on the Garmin 430 in order to change the CDI back to GPS
  • You have to re-engage the autopilot by pressing NAV twice (which engages GPS Steering mode)
  • You have to reset your altitude bug (if you hadn’t set it for the missed approach altitude previously)
  • You have to press VS and ALT on your autopilot to have the STEC continue the climb

That’s a lot of work, isn’t it?  Plus, that’s an extensive amount of head down time in the cockpit, with your eyes looking elsewhere other than the instruments while hand flying.  All very low to the ground, I might add.  Can you see how this can be dangerous?

The advent of the Go Around Button has streamlined the process, leading to safer operations where it matters most.  The functions of the Go Around Button vary based on the airplane, but here are two examples, the Garmin G1000 Cessna Corvalis TT and the Garmin Perspective Cirrus SR22.

Cessna Corvalis TT

We’ll take the above situation and swap out the airplanes.  Gone is the 2004 Cirrus SR22.  Insert a 2009 Cessna Corvalis TT, equipped with the Garmin G1000 suite and the GFC 700 autopilot.  The go around button is positioned directly above the twist in throttle.

Cessna Corvalis G1000 Go Around Button

When you push the Go Around Button, here’s what the system does:

  • Disconnects the Autopilot
  • Sets the Flight Director for 7.5 degrees pitch up (which is about your normal climb angle) and wings level
  • Switches the CDI back to GPS
  • Takes the GPS out of SUSP mode and cycles the flight plan to the first waypoint on the missed approach procedure

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Follow the flight director by pitching the nose up
  • Add full mixture, prop and throttle
  • Retract the flaps
  • Step on the right rudder
  • Re-engage the autopilot, then press NAV and VS (or IAS) and set your altitude bug if it isn’t already set

Not too bad, eh?  Makes the whole situation streamlined and safer.

Cirrus SR22

Cirrus Perspective Go Around Button

Same situation, different airplane.  This time, we’ll use the 2010 Cirrus SR22T with the Garmin Perspective and GFC 700 Autopilot. One thing I really like about how Cirrus configured their system is where the Go Around button is.  It’s actually on the throttle itself, making it much more intuitive.  This way, you can press the Go Around button while adding full throttle.

There is one major difference between the Garmin Perspective in the Cirrus and the G1000 in the Corvalis.  When you press the Go Around button in the Cirrus, the autopilot actually stays on.

Here’s what happens when you press the Go Around button in the Cirrus:

  • Flight Director pitches to 7.5 degrees pitch up and wings level
  • AP Mode switches to Go Around mode, following the flight director
  • GPS comes out of SUSP mode
  • CDI switches back to GPS

All the pilot really has to do is add power, take the flaps up, then press NAV on the GFC 700 to get the autopilot following the missed approach procedure.

If you aren’t familiar with the Go Around button or haven’t used the one in your plane lately, it’s good to go up with a knowledgeable instructor and fly a couple of approaches where you perform the published missed approach afterward.  That way, he or she can assist you through the first missed approach, then give you pointers until  you get comfortable with the Go Around button.


Hank Gibson Earns ABS Instructor Designation


ABS Instructor

Texas Top Aviation is proud to announce that Hank Gibson has completed the training to become an American Bonanza Society Instructor, or ABS Instructor.  He is now qualified to give instruction in Beech Aircraft.

As an ABS Instructor, Hank brings over 2800 hours of flying experience in a variety of aircraft to the cockpit of Beechcraft. Along with his ABS Instructor Designation, Hank is also a Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot (CSIP) and a Cessna FITS Accepted Instructor in both Cessna high and low wing piston aircraft (CFAI+). Hank is proud to add the ABS Instructor designation to his list of qualifications.

The process of becoming an ABS Instructor is quite comprehensive. The coursework consists of 20 powerpoint lessons covering anything and everything related to flying Debonairs, Bonanzas, Travel Airs, and Barons.  The ABS Instructor course is quite in depth and detailed, giving the graduate a full understanding of the Beechcraft piston line of aircraft.  To find out more about ABS Instructors, see the ABS website.

Hank is now giving initial and recurrent training in Beech Debonairs and Bonanzas.  Please visit the Texas Top Aviation Bonanza Training page for more information on Bonanza and Debonair initial and recurrent training.  Interested in Bonanza or Debonair training with a qualified ABS Instructor?  Contact Texas Top Aviation today!



Aircraft Purchase: The Logbook & Pre-Purchase Inspections

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Your about to make your dream aircraft purchase.  The plane has low time on the engine, is reasonably priced, and, according to the seller, has no damage history.  You are overjoyed!  Your dream of making an aircraft purchase is finally coming true.  You prepare your offer for the seller, set up the escrow account, and start all the paperwork.

Two weeks later, the airplane is yours!  You start flying it, though, and the engine starts to have some strange vibrations.  After several flights, it starts to get worse.  You take it to your mechanic to get it looked at and you find out the airplane needs three new cylinders along with some other engine work that is going to total a lot of money.  Plus, your airplane is now going to be in the shop for several weeks.

All that excitement you just had?  It just went out the window.

Could this have been prevented?  Probably so, with a logbook inspection and a pre-purchase inspection.

Aircraft Purchase:  Maintenance Logbooks

Aircraft Purchase: Logbook Inspection

Inspecting a logbook can be very daunting when making an aircraft purchase, especially for older airplanes.  This is, however, one of the most vital steps in making a new aircraft purchase.  You can find out many things from looking at the maintenance logs of an airplane.  First, you can check the compression levels of the engine.  Typically, you want compression levels in the 70’s, with it still being okay in the high 60’s.  Anything below 65 and there could be potential problems.

Second, you can find out if there has been any odd maintenance done pointing to possible unreported damage history.  This is rare, as most aircraft owners are honest and up front when talking about damage history.  But, if there is an entry detailing a prop overhaul after only 50 hours on that prop, you may start to ask some questions.

Third, you can find out how well the airplane has been maintained.  If a lot of maintenance was completed at each annual, even if it was a lot of small things, then the airplane has been maintained by a good mechanic who is very thorough.  This also involves a check of the ADs, Mandatory SBs, SBs, and SLs that have been issued for the airplane.  If all that has been kept up with, it’s a well maintained airplane.

Finally, it gives you a good idea of how much the airplane has been flown.  Sure, the ad online will have the total time and time since overhaul, but you can look at the year by year breakdown of how much the airplane has been flown.  It may have been flown a lot earlier in it’s life, but not quite as much recently.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but airplanes like to be flown.

Aircraft Purchase: Pre-Purchase Inspection

Before making an aircraft purchase, it is extremely vital that whenever you are buying an airplane that you get a pre-purchase inspection done on the airplane.  Even better is getting one done by a mechanic who specializes in that type of airplane (eg. Piper Service Center for Pipers, Cirrus Service Centers for Cirrus, Kevin Mead for PA-46s).  A pre-purchase inspection can save you a lot of money in the end.

There is always going to be some kind of maintenance issue with an airplane being purchased, whether it is big or small.  Once a pre-purchase inspection is completed, you can take the findings to the seller and negotiate for a lower price based on those findings, or just have the seller fix the items before the sale is completed.

I would recommend having the seller fix the problems before the sale is completed.  Even though it may take a little longer for the sale to be completed this way, you’ll get to enjoy your airplane right away instead of it being in the shop the next several weeks after you complete the purchase.

There is the circumstance where the  pre-purchase inspection reveals some serious airworthiness issues which would cause the deal to be voided.  Always put this clause in a purchase agreement, giving you, the buyer, an out if there are serious airworthiness issues.

When it comes to making an aircraft purchase, it is not a process to be rushed.  Slow and steady usually gets the best airplane for the money, giving you years of enjoyment in the future.

Looking to make an aircraft purchase?  Daunted by all the work that’s involved to find a good, quality airplane?  Let Texas Top Aviation do your aircraft search for you!  To learn more, visit Texas Top Aviation’s Aircraft Purchase Consultations page.