FICON Reports


Field Condition, or FICON, reports show up in NOTAMs both during the summer time and the winter time. In the southern states, FICON reports are seen more in the summertime during and after hard rains and thunderstorms (with the exception of winter 2021 & 2022, where Texans quickly got familiar with FICON reports after some very unusual winter weather). In cold winter climates, FICON reports are a staple during the winter season, showing up during and after snow & ice storms.

The question is, what do those codes mean in the FICON report? You could see 5/5/5, 3/3/3, 3/4/4 and any combination thereof. And why are there three numbers?

Let’s start with the second question first. The three different numbers in the FICON report indicate the 3 different sections of the runway: the touchdown third, midpoint third, and rollout third of the runway.

Now, what are those numbers describing? The three numbers are the indication of how slippery that portion of the runway is. This is referred to as a Runway Condition Code (or RCC). The lower the number, the more slippery the runway is. The higher the number, the dryer the runway. The scale is 0-6, with 6 being completely dry and zero being no traction at all.

Here is the FAA table for the RCCs.

Now, in order for those RCC codes to generate, at least 25% of the surface must be wet. If there are just spots of standing water, slush or snow, a FICON report will be issued to report the contaminants, but no codes will be generated.

The Runway Condition Codes are only part of a FICON report. In addition to the codes, a descriptor in the NOTAM will be published describing what percentage of the portion of the runway is affected and by what.


Deciphered, that is saying that all sections of Runway 28 have braking deceleration that is noticeably reduced or direction control is noticeably reduced and 100% of each section has 2 inches of dry snow over compacted snow. Sounds like a runway to avoid!

Braking action reports are separate from FICON reports, but also issued via NOTAM. Braking action reports are issued by the airport manager whereas the FICON reports are computer generated.

US Aircraft Expo Returns to Addison


The 2022 Fly In Season kicks off March 4th-5th with the US Aircraft Expo at the Addison, TX Airport (KADS). Cutter Aviation at KADS will be the host for the event. All the major and minor aviation manufacturers will have static aircraft displays. Come see all the new Cirrus innovations, the Piper M600, and the Diamond DA62. All the latest and greatest technology will be available for your viewing enjoyment.

If you are planning on flying in, the FBOs at ADS are Million Air and Atlantic.

The event will run from 10am-3pm on both days, March 4th and March 5th.

For more info, check out the US Aircraft Expo website.

Don’t forget to check out other big fly in events in 2022: Sun N Fun, the Texas Top Aviation Fly In at Santa Fe, and Osh Kosh!

Garmin GFC 600 Autopilot Certified for the Piper Meridian


In the fall of 2021, Garmin announced the long awaited confirmation that the Garmin GFC 600 autopilot is now certified for the Piper Meridian. The Garmin GFC 600 autopilot has been certified for all other types of the Piper PA46 line of aircraft, but the Meridian was last in line. The airplane has to have been manufactured prior to 2009 and have Avidyne avionics, Meggitt, or have been retrofitted with a Garmin G500 (no G1000 aircraft since those already have the GFC 700 autopilot).

The Garmin GFC 600 autopilot is the ultimate digital autopilot. The integration with the Garmin G500, GTN 750 and GTN 650 units is a beautiful thing. The autopilot communicates with all the heading and altitude bugs, flies approaches smoothly, and even has a level button.

In the latest technological marvel from Garmin, Garmin Safe Glide, the GFC 600 autopilot is critical in reducing pilot workload in an engine failure situation. It flies the airplane for you and takes you to the nearest airport, reducing the stress and allowing the pilot to troubleshoot the situation.

Texas Top Aviation recommends Abilene Aero in Abilene, Texas for any and all avionics installs. They have worked with several of our customers in the last year, are extremely knowledgable and do excellent work. Call them for a quote on a new Garmin GFC 600 autopilot in your Piper Meridian.

Garmin Smart Glide


Recently, I was training a customer who had a brand new instrument panel installed in his TBM 700. The avionics shop that did the work (Abilene Aero, who I highly recommend for any panel installs, located at KABI) told us when we picked the plane up that the new Garmin GTN 750Xi had the most recent software update, which included the Garmin Smart Glide.

I had never used the Garmin Smart Glide before, so I was eager to check it out during our training. When we got to engine failures, we pushed the Emergency button on the Home page of the GTN 750Xi, and then the magic happened.

The plane was also equipped with a Garmin G600TXi PFD and the Garmin GFC 600 Autopilot. In order for Smart Glide to work, there has to be either a GTN 750Xi or GTN 650Xi installed, along with a G500TXi or G600TXi and a Garmin Autopilot. Garmin is working on getting the legacy G500 as well as the GI 275 and G5 to work with the above GPS units for Smart Glide as well.

Here’s what happens. The plane loses it’s engine. The pilot’s workload and stress level suddenly goes way up. Trim the airplane for best glide, find the nearest airport, attempt restart. Do it quickly so you have time to focus on the glide. Oh yeah, squawk 7700 and declare your emergency. All the while plummeting toward the ground in a somewhat controlled crash. Yikes.

Garmin Smart Glide takes over the flying part, allowing the pilot to handle the restart, while making it much easier to squawk, talk and plan the engine out landing. On the home page of the GTN 750Xi/650Xi, the pilot simply taps the Emergency icon on the bottom of the screen. The Autopilot comes on and goes into IAS mode and maintains best glide while descending. The GPS immediately analyzes the Glide Advisor, and turns to the nearest airport in the glide ring (if there is no airport within gliding distance, the GTN 750Xi advises the pilot). Then, the Autopilot flies directly to the Nearest airport, allowing the pilot the ability to take attempt a restart.

Once it is determined that the engine won’t start, the Garmin Smart Glide has excellent situation awareness tools. On all screens, the pilot is constantly being advised of how high AGL the plane is currently, while advising also of how high AGL the plane will be over the airport that the glide is set up for. There is also a short cut on the screen to tap to squawk 7700 as well as runway length information at the airport.

The Garmin Smart Glide Button wasn’t installed yet in the TBM, but that will make things even easier when it is (it will be certified in January). This is amazing technology that all Garmin GTN 750Xi pilots should have their software updated to. Remember, you have to have a Garmin Autopilot and a Garmin PFD for it all to work.

MMOPA Safety Foundation Training Videos


The Malibu and M-Class Owner’s and Pilot’s Association (MMOPA) announced new Safety Foundation Training videos in September. The videos are aimed at both new Piper PA46 pilots and existing Piper PA46 pilots, all in the effort to fly the Piper PA46 to the highest and safest standards.

Six videos have been released thus far, with the promise of more to come. The topics of the first videos are:

  • Instrument Approach
  • Visual Approach
  • Manual Gear Extension
  • Emergency Descent
  • Descent Planning
  • Takeoff and Climb

Eventually, the goal is to release high quality training videos encompassing all aspects of Piper PA46 flying.

To view the videos, you will need an MMOPA membership. The link to the MMOPA Safety and Education Foundation video page is: