Redbird Skyport Bluebonnet Fly-In at KHYI


Bluebonnet Fly In

Come out to Redbird Skyport at the San Marcos Municipal Airport on Saturday, May 30th for the Bluebonnet Fly-In.  Hank Gibson from Texas Top Aviation will be giving a safety presentation at 2pm in the large conference room entitled “Is The Approach Activate?  Flying Garmin Approaches.”

Join Texas Top Aviation and Redbird Skyport as we open the summer together at the Bluebonnet Fly-In.

To Register for the Safety Seminar, please click here.

The Anatomy of a Hot Start


Are you one of those pilots who hates fuel stops simply for the fact that the engine doesn’t have time to cool off?  You pump gas into the plane, hit the bathroom, get in the plane and the oil temperature is still up at 160-170 degrees, leading you to have to figure out how to get the plane going again with a hot engine.  For those without proper training, this usually means a lot of jockeying around with the throttle, mixture, and fuel pump to try and get the thing started without flooding it.  After coughing and wheezing several times, the engine finally comes to life, leaving you to only guess what worked and without the knowledge of how to duplicate it.

Hot Start 2

Let’s take a step back for a minute to see what is actually happening with a hot engine.  Once the engine is shut off, the fuel in the lines leading from the tank to the engine is vaporized, meaning there is more air in the fuel lines than liquid fuel.  In the engine block itself, there is still liquid fuel in the injectors, but only enough for the engine to cough then quit if started.

When a normal priming and starting procedure is performed, too much fuel is forced into the cylinders and the engine becomes flooded.  A flooded engine just means that the stoichiometric ratio is way too rich, meaning there is too much fuel and not enough air.  The prime does the trick of getting the fuel vapor out of the fuel lines, but it shoves too much fuel into the cylinders.  Once the engine is flooded, it’s a waiting game to allow air into the engine to get the mixture right.  Lycoming powered 200HP engines in Piper Arrows are notoriously easy to flood when hot.

So, what’s the solution?  By taking a step back to see what is actually happening, you can attack the problem from the source, which is the fuel lines.  You need to get the vapor out of the fuel lines and get some liquid fuel in there.  The procedure for this varies based on the make and model of engine, but I’m going to use the example of the Continental IO-550-N that is in a Cirrus SR22.  I found this procedure in the Continental Engine Manual and it works every time.

(Bonanza owners with the 550-B, the procedure differs slightly, as does the procedure if you are flying a Turbo Cirrus.  I’ll make notes of the differences.  The procedure for the Cirrus SR20 with the Continental IO-360-ES is the same as the SR22 )

  • Mixture:  Full Lean (this allows fuel in the fuel lines, but prevents it from going past the mixture control into the engine, sending all fuel back to the fuel tank; a small amount of fuel leaks past the mixture control providing prime for the engine)
  • Throttle:  Full (throttle stays idle in a Bonanza)
  • Low Boost Pump:  Run for 30-60 seconds (see note below)  (15 seconds in the Turbo Cirrus, High Boost for 30 seconds in the Bonanza)
  • Mixture:  Full Rich
  • Throttle:  Cracked (In the Bonanza, throttle to full and prime until the Fuel Flow hits 14 GPH, then throttle cracked)
  • Boost Pump:  Off, but have your finger on Low Boost (Fuel pump stays off for the Bonanza for starting)
  • Starter:  Crank (engine will turn over a few more times before firing, this is normal)
  • At the first indication of start, turn the Low Boost on and adjust the throttle for 1,000 RPM
    • The engine will fire right about the time you start thinking it isn’t going to work

A few notes regarding engine temperatures:

  • If the oil temperature is above 150 degrees (170 degrees in the Turbo), a hot start will be required.  If oil temp is close to 200 degrees, run low boost for 60 seconds.  If oil temp is 175, run low boost for 45 seconds.  If oil temp is 150, run low boost for 30 seconds.
  • If the oil temperature is between 125-150 (150-170 in the Turbo), skip the hot start procedure, don’t prime the engine, leave the boost pump off, and crank the engine, then boost pump on when it starts
  • If the oil temperature is between 100-125 (120-150 in the Turbo), skip the hot start, don’t prime the engine, and perform a normal start with the boost pump on
  • If the oil temperature is below 100 (120 in the Turbo), perform a normal prime and start

If you’re a Lycoming operator, completely ignore everything just stated.  With Lycoming’s the best thing to do is leave everything lean and idle, turn on the fuel pump, crank it and hope that it starts.  Don’t give it any fuel at all until the engine fires.  The turbo’s especially, you don’t want to add any mixture when trying to hot start them.

There are other “procedures” for hot starting out there, but most of them involve starting with full throttle, which can lead to the airplane shooting ahead on a ramp or taxi way if the brakes aren’t properly set.  This can lead to high repair costs, so always be cautious.  Figuring out what is happening when the engine is hot will give you a better chance of getting it started right away.

The Aunt Betty Directive: PFD Failures

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Glass panel displays, ballistic parachute aircraft recovery systems, portable tablet computers enabling paperless cockpits, and widely available three axis autopilot systems have changed the way we fly, the way we train, and the way we are expected to perform on check rides. Our training and testing paradigms have tried to stay in synch, yet always seem to be catching up to the latest levels of technology.

This is very apparent when we instructors are preparing a student for an FAA practical test. When training aircraft had no autopilots, no GPS, and certainly no parachutes, the general philosophy was that during training, the student should have the lowest level of technology available. This was also the expectation on the check ride. This theory has changed over the years and now the Practical Test Standards require that an applicant integrate all available technology while demonstrating mastery of his or her aircraft. This raises numerous questions from instructors and students about what technology will be available for each task.

One example of this dilemma is found when contemplating an instrument airplane practical test in a Cirrus SR20/SR22. The test requires the task “Instrument Approach without Primary Flight Display”, which has taken the place of what was the partial panel approach, accomplished without use of gyroscopic heading and attitude indicators. In the Cirrus, the standby attitude indicator, standby airspeed, and standby altimeter are available, as is the Multi-Function Display. Guidance from the FAA has us shooting a GPS approach using the moving map display on the MFD after disabling the PFD. Those of us who trained and tested in steam gauge aircraft think that this task should be fairly easy. With a fully functional Attitude Indicator and a nice big moving map display showing our course, a reasonably competent instrument pilot should have little trouble adapting to this setup and flying a good approach.

But, in the Cirrus specifically, and perhaps in other aircraft as well, another question comes up. Can the applicant use the autopilot (which still works just fine after a display failure) during the approach without the PFD? A rather famous DPE who writes for a national magazine says “yes”, opining that not to allow its use would be introducing simultaneous multiple systems failures, which is strictly forbidden in the minds of some. If we follow this logic, we would not test simulated engine failure emergencies in these aircraft either, because to do so would imply failure of not only the engine, but the CAPS parachute system as well. In my former role as a pilot examiner, I always said no, that the approach should be hand flown. Here is my logic.

I was amazed that flight instructors and examiners would accept the substitution of autopilot technology for the skill required to fly an approach without the PFD. I would argue that the intent and the well described emphasis of the PTS is that the applicant must demonstrate the ability to control the airplane after a loss of the primary flight display, not observe and monitor the autopilot controlling the airplane! This argument was generally unpersuasive, so I approached from a different point of view, that of a concerned family member.

“Aunt Betty” represents a future passenger flying with the soon to be rated instrument pilot. Here is the question posed to Aunt Betty: “When we train and test pilots for instrument proficiency, we require them to demonstrate the ability to safely and skillfully fly the airplane without their primary instruments. Now, Betty, in this airplane, we can test this task in one of two ways. We would like your input on which way you would prefer, seeing as you will be a frequent passenger with your nephew. We can either have the pilot (might be your son, brother, husband, or nephew) demonstrate that he can fly the airplane by hand without the PFD, which does require a little more skill and a slightly different technique, or, we can require the pilot to perform this task using the autopilot so that the pilot basically monitors the airplane flying itself on the approach.

“Now, Aunt Betty, a pilot allowed to use the autopilot system on this approach may not have the skill or technique to fly the approach by hand in the clouds should the autopilot shut down due to turbulence or mechanical failure. Should this happen to a pilot without the skill and practice normally required, the odds of a fatal accident occurring would be quite high.

“So what do you think, Aunt Betty? Would you feel more comfortable flying with this fellow if he has demonstrated mastery of the aircraft (sans PFD) without the autopilot or only with its assistance?”

This leads us to a larger discussion about the use of other technology, iPad, GPS moving map, and more. If technology is used as a replacement for pilot proficiency during training and testing, we end up with less skillful, less competent and ultimately less safe pilots. But, if we require that our students demonstrate mastery with the lowest available level of automation and technology (which, by the way, implies excellent fundamental aircraft control skills) then, when technology is added into the equation, we have a safer pilot.

Technology can be a value added safety multiplier, or it can be a crutch needed to make up for lack of fundamental and advanced skills. Crutch or Safety Multiplier, which one will you choose? I know which one Aunt Betty prefers.

Charles McDougal is a flight instructor, corporate pilot, and former DPE ‎who offers basic and advanced flight instruction in the San Antonio area.  To find out more information about Charles or to contact him, visit his website,

Present Position Hold


When I was working on my instrument rating back in 2007, my instructor and I did a lot of unpublished holds.  In ground school, I heard a lot about holding for weather or holding due to a traffic delay.  At my first job, my chief flight instructor was also a Continental (now United) captain and he told me a lot about having to hold for weather going into different places.

I heard all this, but I figured it would never happen to me when I’m flying GA airplanes.

Boy was I wrong!

I was flying a Piper Malibu into Phoenix with two passengers for Super Bowl weekend and the weather was awful.  No thunderstorms, but moderate precipitation and low ceilings.  We were coming into Deer Valley (KDVT) on the north side of Phoenix and about an hour out, ATC advised me that arrivals into DVT were having to hold and to expect a delay.  The controller said the delay would be about 30 minutes, so by doing a quick calculation, I determined the delay would probably be all cleared up by the time I got in the area.  At the time, I didn’t know if the delay was due to weather or traffic congestion.

Twenty minutes later, the controller advised me that there was still a delay.  I queried what it was for and he informed me it was due to weather.  He asked me if I wanted to hold or divert.  I listened to the ATIS and heard the ceilings were variable from just below the minimums to just above.  I told him I would hold as the TAF I saw predicted the ceilings to go up.

“Malibu, hold present position, hold east, expect further clearance 2140 Zulu.”  Gulp.

At this point, my autopilot had gone out, it was turbulent and I was definitely in the soup.  This was going to be fun.

After recovering my wits, I read back the clearance, then set about setting up this hold without getting too far from my present position.  The Malibu I was flying had a Garmin 530 which I was using as my primary means of navigation.  I was on V190, but I didn’t have all the fixes in my flight plan.  What to do?  And what to do fast?

The 530 has a rarely used function called a User Waypoint.  It comes in handy in situations like these.  On the moving map, you can turn the cursor on, move the cursor to any point on the map, and, by pressing enter, create a User Waypoint.  This is what I did on V190.  After I created it, I had to go to my flight plan, find the right spot, and input the User Waypoint just like I would any fix.  Just a note here, when you create a User Waypoint, make sure you remember what you named it so you can find it again.

After I input the User Waypoint in the flight plan, I had to go back and activate the leg that the User Waypoint was the end point on.  Then, to make sure the flight plan didn’t go to the next waypoint once I crossed my User Waypoint, I had to press the OBS button on the 530 in order to put the GPS in suspend mode.

Keep in mind, my autopilot wasn’t working, so this involved a lot of multi-tasking!

That’s how to do a present position hold using the Garmin 530.  Got all that?  Here’s a concise review:

  • Create a User Waypoint
    • Turn the cursor on by pressing the FMS knob
    • Move the cursor to the point where you want your User Waypoint
    • Press enter and name the User Waypoint
  • Press the Flight Plan button
  • Input the User Waypoint into your flight plan at the proper point
  • Activate the leg that the User Waypoint is the end point on
  • Finally, press the OBS button to put the GPS in suspend mode
  • After you’re cleared onward, just press the OBS button again to take the GPS out of suspend mode

Reading Weather Prog Charts

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There are a multitude of weather products out there today to assist pilots in preparing for a flight. is the best source for getting all the information a pilot needs for planning a flight. is the National Weather Service’s source for all aviation related weather products.  When I teach about weather and weather briefings, I recommend to my students to utilize in the planning stages, but still call the Flight Service Station to get a full fledged weather briefing before takeoff.

When preflight weather planning, one of the best ways to get a picture of what is happening over a broad area is utilizing the Low Level Significant Weather Prog charts.  The Prog chart gives a forecasted 12 and 24 hour picture of what type of weather to expect over the US.  The Prog chart gives the expected flight rules, areas of turbulence, and where the freezing level is located.  If you’re looking at the 4 panel view, the Surface Prog chart shows fronts, pressure areas, and areas of expected precipitation.  That covers just about everything, doesn’t it?

I believe the Prog charts are underutilized in planning.  Foreflight and Garmin Pilot have given easy access to radar pictures, satellite pictures, METARs, TAFs, and several other sources of weather information.  But, a lot of the easy access data you can get from those apps is current data (with the exception of the TAF) while a lot of the forecast data takes some hunting around.  So, products like Prog charts aren’t often utilized.

The other problem arises when pilots know about Prog charts, but don’t know how to read them, then don’t know how to find the legend to decipher the chart, the chart is often set aside and quickly forgotten about just because of a lack of knowledge.  Have no fear, though, as now we will use an example 4 panel Prog chart to decipher the lines and colorations.

Low Level Sig WX Prog

Just looking at the Low Level Significant Weather Prog Chart above, it can be a little confusing.  That’s why they make a legend!

Low Level Legend

Coupling the legend with the chart above, we can determine some things.  First, California, parts of the Pacific Northwest, a small part of southern Arizona, and a good portion of the Midwest and East coast are going to have marginal VFR conditions in the next 12 hours.  Wisconsin, Illinois, a good portion of the Northeast, and a small portion of the Pacific Northwest will suffer IFR from IFR conditions.  There are going to be a good amount of low level turbulence in the northern and eastern parts of the country.  Finally, the freezing level starts at the surface running in a jagged line across the midwest states and curling up into the Northeast.

That’s a good bit of information, isn’t it?  If a pilot is planning a VFR flight into the Northeast tonight, it would probably be best to wait for another day, according to this chart.

Now, to see what is causing the conditions above, we need to look at the Surface Prog Chart.

Surface Prog

The green circular areas above show that some form of precipitation is in that area.  The circular dots with the triangle located in Mexico and Baja California are depicting moderate rain showers.  If the triangle was gone, it would just be moderate rain.  In the northeast, all those symbols are showing moderate to heavy snow showers.  Across the plains, we see a lot of high pressure, meaning visibility and nice flying weather.

These charts are invaluable when it comes to flight planning, especially over long distances when the weather could be changing a lot over the period of your flight.  Put them to use the next time you are planning a trip and you’ll learn you have a much better picture of what the weather is doing.