Sunday, April 25, 2010

BPPP completed!

Today I finished the BPPP course... what a work out!  I flew with Waldo Anderson who is a seriously experienced pilot and an FAA examiner.  The guy has been a pilot since 1955.  The ride today was sort of like an instrument and a multi checkride rolled into one, but with a lot less stress.  We started out by planning a short flight to Modesto, spent some time learning how to setup the garmin for the flight plan.  I took off and did the Buchanan 9, then got it on course and the auto pilot flying.  At Baron speeds we arrived few minutes later... the first approach was a coupled ILS, followed by the published missed and hold.  The Garmin WAAS unit hooked up to an auto pilot with GPSS is simply amazing.  I just flipped it into GPSS mode and watched it navigate to the holding fix and then enter and fly a perfect holding pattern.

Then we followed that up with another ILS, this time sans auto pilot.  I'm sure if you looked at my GPS and altitude track it would be very obvious which one was hand flown :)  Then we made a full stop landing, taxied back for another takeoff and Waldo pulled an engine on me at the start of the takeoff roll... throttles closed and hit the brakes, no problem.  Next he simulated an engine failure after takeoff but prepped me for it.  One criticism he gave me was to get on that rudder sooner... at takeoff power you really have to stomp on it and watch your heading asap so it doesn't wander.  We came around and did an uneventful single engine landing.  After that we did a precautionary shutdown and feather of an engine and flew it like that for awhile by hand and also let the auto pilot fly it.  During the preflight he had attached a "yaw string" to my plane and during the single engine work he showed me how to trim the airplane up and get the yaw string centered, which means the plane is not slipping or skidding and you're getting max performance.  Then we did some air work including steep turns, spiral recovery, power on/off stalls and banked stalls.  Then we shot the RNAV approach into TCY, followed by the NDB.  My plane doesn't have an ADF and I hadn't realized you can shoot NDB approaches with the Garmin.  After that it was RNAV back to CCR and we called it a day and put another 4.0 in the logbook.

The BPPP was a great training exercise, a fun way to hang with other pilots and well worth it if only simply to to fly with such an experienced instructor on the final day.  The ground portion was also very well done and great instruction, though if I had my druthers I'd suggest they figure out a way to get people flying each day as I think that would help balance the book stuff with some hands on practice.  Waldo gave me a BFR and also an IPC though I was still technically instrument current.  I'm looking forward to doing it again next year.

Friday, April 23, 2010

BPPP Day 1

Today I did day one of the BPPP... wow what a fire hose of information.  Everyone is super cool and I feel like I'm surrounded by some seriously experienced people.  The morning session was with Dr. John Elkalbar, who is an economist up at Chico and also a renowned flight instructor who has published at least four aviation books that I know of.  Just listening to him talk about flying "by the numbers" really got me thinking about how much more I really should focus more on establishing known pitch attitude and power settings for various phases of flight... There was a an afternoon session where I learned way more than I will ever need to know about the details of LP, LNAV, LPV, RNAV and GPS-Z vs GPS-Y approaches, etc. not to mention a myriad of little tidbits of info on the charts.  Then I had a class on Baron systems with a super knowledgeable guy named Dave Monti who will also be giving my plane a 45 minute once over tomorrow.  That should be fun!  I'm also really looking forward to 5 hours of flying with Waldo Anderson on Sunday.  What a cool way to spend the weekend!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Magic carpet

This weekend I took the aft seats out to make a four seater.  They came out really easily, took all of 5 minutes to remove both.  There is a little pin that secures them and then they slide right out, it really is a slick design.  The bagage area with the aft seats removed is cavernous.  We filled the plane up with luggage and car seats and groceries and just a ton of crap, stuck the kids in there and turned an 8 hour drive from hell from the SF Bay Area to LA into a 1.5 hr pleasure flight and did a trip I wouldn't otherwise have considered but for the awesomeness of my new magic carpet. How else can one leave at 7pm after work on a Friday night and go 300 miles straight shot and arrive in a distant city in time to put the kids to bed and relax with a glass of wine? The extra cost over Southwest is well worth it and I can do it door to door much faster. As long as the gov. doesn't tax us into oblivion or the speculators drive fuel prices through the stratosphere there will demand for this stuff, and if there isn't there really should be... what we do is just so freakin cool there really is no comparison or way to describe it...

This was the first family flight of any length and all things considered went extremely well.  My three year old son Caspian has a bit of a head cold, and on the flight down though he got a bit of a squeeze. The direct flight to VNY brings you up to about ten thousand feet and drops you down to 800 ft within 30 miles once you clear the mountains.  I could have circled for awhile and I probably should have, but it was night time by then and we were all ready to land.  Here is poor Cas looking bummed...

We got down ok and he bounced right back.  We had a great weekend, what an awesome thing it is to be able to fly and pack a jaunt like this into a normal two day weekend.

Dina called the Doc for the flight back and he recommended a bit of pediatric Sudafed which seemed to do the trick for the flight home.  I also made an extra effort to descend slowly by setting the autopilot in attitude mode and setting up for 300 ft per minute descent.  Here is a quick video showing Cas feeling much better and Dina is rocking out to the XM radio.  Junius did great on both legs but refused to keep his headset on... I'm glad I got the super sound proofing insulation upgrade!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

More Dallas flying

Well I couldn't really get enough so today I went down to Addison and rented a 2003 C172 ($141 /hr) with a 250 hour airline bound wonderkind CFI ($45/ hr) and cruised around the DFW area.  Here's a shot of downtown Dallas.  I think JFK was shot somewhere near that grassy area down there... 

BTW - They charge $310 for a Dutchess!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dallas flying

I'm in Dallas on business (yes I work weekends) and had the afternoon free, so I connected with some other Beech owners and we had a little lunch flyout.  Glenn picked me up from Dallas Air Park which is a little residential strip a few miles from my hotel.  Texas is a great state to fly in because the distances are great and there are lots of little airports everywhere, gas is about $1 a gallon cheaper too.  Next time I'm going to take my Baron, I think I can do it in about 7 hours.  We flew from Air Park to KDTO in Glenn's Debonaire which was my first time in a BE33 so that was cool, here is a shot of his Debbie

We met Don and Leldon at Denton and took the crew car to "Cracker Barrel" which felt like a real Texas style restaurant.  Good food and great fun for people watching.  Don is a former Navy pilot and flew A4 Skyhawks and a bunch of other cool stuff, he's also done a hundred and fifty odd angel flights in his beautiful F33A. Here's a shot of it:

Leldon has traveled all over the place including two jaunts to Alaska in his own Debbie.  He also has a nice A36 with DeShannon tip tanks:

It was good fun talking to those guys.  Then we flew over to a tiny little grass strip to meet up with Glenn's buddy Mike to see his Grumman Widgeon.  I've never seen a Widgeon before and that is one funky airplane!  The mixtures are behind the pilots head, everything is all over the place.  What a cool airplane.

Mike also has a spoless Debonaire with a custom engine you could eat off of... apparently this is an IO470K with 520 jugs and makes 308 horses.  Cool!

Then Don and Leldon took off and we hung out with Mike and then went over to meet his buddy Ken who owns and restored an absolutely beautiful Stearman.  Here is a shot:

Ken truly is a master craftsman.  Everything about this plane was perfect, right down to the stenciled US army lettering.  He is also rebuilding an old Stinson which I've forgotten the model number for, but this will give an idea that these planes are stunningly gorgeous inside and out:

Then Ken says that a few friends who are former NASA space shuttle astronauts are coming by, one owns another Stearman that Ken restored and the other is a woman and her husband who are big sky divers and wanted to try jumping from the Stearmans.  Obviously that was not something we wanted to miss, so we hung out until they got there.  It was really cool seeing all the neighborhood kids come by to get their photo taken with the astronauts.  It took a bit of figuring to work out the logistics of the jump

Eventually they worked out how to climb out of the cockpit and drop without smacking the tail, the two Stearmans would fly in formation and Glenn and Mike would slow flight along and try to shoot it on video from the Bonanza.  Pre launch photo:

I stayed on the ground so I couldn't really get any shots of the dive itself, but it looked scary.  There was a low cloud deck so they jumped about 3200 AGL which didn't look very high to me and the drop does look fast.  The flew together for a brief touch and then pulled their shoots.  They both landed easily in the area despite the 15 kt wind.  Very impressive!

Then Glenn and I flew back and he let me have a little stick time in the BE33. Very fun plane and I must admit I was envious looking down and see 11 GPH instead of 24! Glenn dropped me off and I couldn't really thank him enough for the Texas hospitality. A really great afternoon that sure beat sitting in the hotel!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

IPad as EFB

I've been looking for an EFB solution for a long time.  I've looked at the Kindle and the various digital ink readers and haven't been too impressed.  When I got the G600 I was excited to have access to the ChartView, but in the real world it's a bit of a disappointment.  The ChartView on the Garmin is impossible to read when you have the whole plate displayed, it's a bit cumbersome to flip to, it's not georeferenced and the updates are expensive.  Today I bought an IPad in hopes of using it as an EBF in the cockpit.  My plan is to mount it on the control crossbar, though I haven't figured out how yet.  I installed foreflight and so far I'm super impressed.  I shot a quick video that gives an overview:

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bonanza of Bonanzas

I headed out to CCR this morning and went to Sterling to use their computer in order to refresh the XM radio in the plane.  The XM weather has been working great, but for some reason the audio needed to be refreshed and you do that by clicking a link on the website and then getting the unit out of the hangar where it can pick up the satellites.  I refreshed the signal and then pulled the plane out of the hangar and boom, 271 channels of crappy radio piped in to the six way intercom. In truth, the 80's channel isn't bad!

I'm currently shooting for logging 3 hours a week, plus at least 1 currency/proficiency course such as simcom or bppp per year.  It's a bit aggressive given work and family constraints, but it seemed like a good target to shoot for considering that this is a plane which demands proficiency... yes they all do but to a large extent, a technically advanced twin engine plane demands more from the pilot.  An added motivator is that my first year insurance was ridiculously expensive but will go down significantly once I log 100 hours or so.  Todays jaunt was to go down to Santa Maria (KSMX) to hook up with a gaggle of Bonanza drivers for a Beech flyin.  I sent a last minute text message to my buddy Rick to see if he could come too and he pushed his private student back to the afternoon so he could come along.  All told there were about 15 Bonanza's and one other Baron, not to mention what may be the most beautiful T-Bone (twin Bonanza) I've ever seen.  Stunning!  Here is a shot of a few of the planes on the ramp taken by my insurance broker and overall awesome guy who also organized the flyout, Alejandro:

I shot a couple videos but geeked it and left the camera at the hangar.  I'll have to go fetch it soon and load some up, but Alejandro also snagged these shots of us on departure:

We stopped at PRB for cheap(er) gas and I loaded up 100 gallons, prices have gone up quite a bit in the last few weeks so I'll look for deals wherever I can... from a twin owners perspective the crappy economy had its advantages! So I logged another few hours on the plane, had a really fun flight, beautiful day, good people and good food... saw lot's of fine examples of the best plane ever built. What could better?