Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy new year!

2015 was my best aviation year yet.  Here is my year summary from Pilotica.

Yowza, 474 hours!  Happy new year!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Simulators everywhere

The flight school I teach at just bought an Allsim 200MCC which is one of those monster simulators with the full wrap around 120 degree field of view projection screen in an almost real cockpit.  As a sim geek I'm excited to start teaching in it, especially for IFR.  Here is what it looks like:

The panel is configurable but will most likely be set up like a 172.

I've also been inspired to improve my home sim.  I've been learning more about electronics and how to interface custom components with the computer through Arduino micro controllers.  I bought a custom GNS 530 that was built this way and I also ordered some components to start playing with.  My goal is to eventually have a totally custom Baron panel with mostly real hardware instead of the Saitek stuff which is plug and play but feels like a toy.  Here is my panel as of now...

A little bit haphazard but it's a work in progress.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The non-copeland masterpiece

Today I few my friend Alex down to Arizona to pickup his A36 which has been down for some time for new paint.  He didn't go with Don Copeland, but Master Aircraft Service at Wickenburg did a mighty fine job.  We were scheduled to leave this morning but on Friday up at Sacramento I hopped in my Baron and found a vacuum gauge reading zero and my backup AI toppled.  Doh... double vacuum pump failure?  Actually it would seem one of them failed some time ago but I just didn't notice the little plastic ball popped out on the gauge.  Then the second one failed and I only noticed then... so much for twin redundancy.  duh.  Since we had some weather the last few days I preferred to have working pumps because they drive the backup AI, the boots and the Autopilot which works off of the backup AI.. so we hopped up to JetExe and had them fit the new pumps before setting off.

They were new when I put the engines on in 2011, but I guess these dry pumps only last about 500 hours.   No wonder everyone is moving to solid state.  I wouldn't want to depend on one of these $800 suckers as my only instrument source.  No way.  When the veins inside seize up there is a little nylon grommet that breaks free and so it doesn't seize up the accessory case on the engine.

So we got a late start getting the new pumps installed but made it down in about 3 hrs, with 40 kt tailwinds and mostly VMC conditions climbing to 12k to get on top.  It was cold and howling wind at Wickenburg but they had Subway sandwiches for us and a beautiful plane waiting.

Similar scheme to mine, I love the dark top with white bottom look.  Then we set off in our respective chariots towards the waning evening sun and a moonless nighttime return flight, mission successful!

Thursday, October 29, 2015


I've always been a bit of a hardware geek.  I've got Arduino's sitting around and more half finished technical projects than I care to admit.  When I saw that someone had basically hacked together a DIY portable ADS-B receiver I figured it was probably a kludgey diversion, wouldn't work well and would take eons to setup and get going.  Man was I wrong!  I finally succumbed to temptation and bought the shopping list from this Reddit thread:

After no more than 10 minutes of unpackaging an box and snapping together the parts I had an ADS-B receiver on my counter.  A simple upload of the Stratux OS took about 3 minutes, and boom she was alive.

This morning I took up the Baron into 30 kt headwinds and tried her out.  To my amazement, my iPad connected to the Statux right away, picked up 2 ADS-B towers, and started uplinking traffic and weather!  All for $113.  Similar devices cost 600-1500 and this one works perfectly.

I've got traffic and weather in the Baron already, and truth be told the ADS-B traffic is nowhere near as good as my GTS-800 active traffic radar system, and the weather isn't as good as XM from my GDL-69A, but hey this was a hundred bucks.  Also I don't have traffic or weather in my Citabria and now I do!

Here you can see plenty of targets, but until everyone is equipped with ADS-B out it's a limited subset of the actual traffic.  Weather came in great and I was able to get nexrad radar returns and airport weather no problem as well as winds aloft.  Pretty stoked on this little gem, now I just need to 3D print a case for it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Flight training

Looks like I made the newsletter for TakeFlight San Diego.

I'm famous!  haha...  lately I've been instructing a lot.  I currently have 3 private students and 2 sport pilot students and also doing flight reviews and aircraft checkouts, IPC's etc.  Hey wait a sec, this is starting to sound like a job, which I was trying to avoid.  Hmmm...  it's good fun though.  I get paid to fly around all day and show people how to fly airplanes!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Flying Samaritans

After some gentle prodding from Todd Makayama and Doug Wirzberger, last weekend I flew down to Mexico with the Flying Samaritans.  Since it was my first trip with the "Flying Sams", Doug rode with me and helped show me the ropes.  The mission was to pickup dentists Charlie and his wife Mary at KRHV, head south and clear Mexican customs at Mexicali, then fly another hour south into Baja to a little ag-worker town called Los Pinos.  This place would be difficult to get to by any other means other than light aircraft, but the strip is paved and about 4,000 ft long so it's quite an easy flight.  Here we are in Mexicali.

The Baron made quick and comfortable work of the flight.  Mexicali officials were friendly but we think it's bureaucratic here, I had 35 pages of print outs just for the weekend trip to Mexico!

Fortunately the Flying Sams have a good website that generates all the forms you need to clear customs efficiently.  I had all the forms printed and in a little folder, and Doug helped me through the process of knowing which form to hand to which official.

The town is essentially rows and rows of greenhouses and tomato orchards nestled along the gorgeous beaches of the pacific California peninsula.

But the real mission is a humanitarian one.  The doctors and dentists we brought down provide critical medical and dental services to a very poor community with few if any other options for healthcare.  The next day we got to work.  

The doctors and dentists were amazing to watch.  Sadly most of the dental work were tooth extractions.  It's rare for a mother to breastfeed...  either for lack of education or perhaps because the mother is working in the fields all day.  Often also the kids are abandoned and raised by grandparents.  Since the local people cannot afford formula or breast pumps, the kids end up drinking sugary water as a substitute and rotting out their teeth.  It was really inspiring to see such a dedicated group of doctors and dentists helping out, and the people themselves were so sweet and friendly and thankful.  The Flying Sams organization also gave out scholarships for school for the kids, clothing and sunglasses.  Inspiring is the only word I can use to describe it.

Of course I have no medical skills whatsoever, but I learned to operate the eye refractor machine and was giving out eye exams and having a blast practicing my kindergarten level Spanish.  I really need to practice more, and this is a great way to do it.

I had a really good time and it felt great to contribute.  It was only a 4 hour flight but to a different world.  We don't think twice about spending $100 on dinner but it puts things in perspective when that same money pays for a child to go to school for a year.  It was also just a great group of people to hang out with for a weekend.  A finer group of generous, caring, good humored, fun people you will not find anywhere.  I'll definitely be back.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Passed CFII

On Saturday I passed my CFI Instrument Rating check ride, so I'm now an official CFII.  I again went down to San Diego and spent a week with Dave Simpson at TakeFlight San Diego.  It was a bruising week but Dave whipped me into shape.  It has been 15 years since I got my instrument rating and a lot has changed while a lot has stayed the same.  I fly in the IFR system a fair bit but in the real world you really only use a fraction of what you need to know to teach this stuff so it was challenging.  Also it's so easy now with my G500 and GTN 750 I get spoiled.  I did the ride in a steam gauge Archer and so it was back to flying the needles, the 5 T's, etc.  It was great training and even had a fair bit of it in IMC since we always got an early start and San Diego always has a morning marine layer.  Here is my full ride report in case anyone is working on their CFII.

The check ride started at 7am.  We began with the aircraft logbooks although this time the examiner just wanted me to show him the plane was airworthy vs teaching him like a student how to verify that the plane was airworthy and all the regs that go along with that.  We had already done that on my CFI initial since he was also my initial examiner.  After that we went into the regs with currency requirements for IFR, what's required for an IPC (rating table in PTS).  Then we went into endorsements he asked me what's required to sign someone off for the instrument check ride, logging the ground time and making sure to make log legible entries in logbooks.  Then we went into the flight instruments.  He asked me to draw the airspeed and the VSI on the board without looking at my diagrams.  He wanted to see that I could explain their inner workings without having to refer to a diagram.  Make sure you know where the static ports connect on the VSI and exactly where the calibrated leak is.  

After that he had me teach him about cross country flight planning.  I had a navlog drawn up and he asked for an overview of what was on it and how I derived it but he never questioned any of my calculations and assumed I had done it correctly.  I then went into a scenario where I described a student who was trying to get to his daughters wedding the next day.  I started with risk management discussion which he liked, PAVE and IMSAFE, 5 P's etc.  Next we discussed weather.  I had printed translated Metar and Taf reports but he wanted to see I had resources to refer to in order to teach the student how to read coded data.  I had the aviation weather book handy with notes about relevant pages, as well as some cheat sheets I had downloaded and printed and he was good with that.  We discussed the surface analysis chart, radar summary chart.  He asked how to get weather enroute, whats available on HIWAS, flight watch and flight service.  He was big on Notams and wanted me to tell him about FDC notams, what they are, where to find them and why they might be significant.  I gave the example of raised circling minimums at MYF due to a temporary crane and he really like that.  Not reading the not in a circle situation would put you only 20 ft above the obstacle!  Then he asked about minimums at the alternate, what's required if I don't have WAAS in terms of RAIM and whether or not an airport with a GPS only approach can be filed as my alternate.  He wanted to make sure I knew where to refer to the regs on all of it.  

Then we discussed the charts, symbology and make sure you know everything on the chart.  He asked me about approach control areas of operation and where to find it.  He also asked me to teach him how to brief an approach plate.  He was big on briefing contingencies such as lost COM, so make sure to brief the MSA and what you would do if you lost COM in terms of route and altitude.  He also wants you to brief the runway lengths and circling procedures.  Basically read him the entire plate... he was not satisfied with the basics and always wants you to be getting your student to think about what happens if it doesn't go according to plan.  We discussed the enroute chart, crossing altitudes, the ORACA and what would I do if I lost COM in various areas.  (AVE F) but also know where this is in the regs.  

All this took about 3.5-4 hours and then he was satisfied with the oral portion, we briefed the flight.  We ended up flying VOR-A at OKB with the published hold - 1 turn, followed by the ILS to a touch and go, cancel IFR and a VFR departure to the DME arc on the 083 radial off of OCN, then compass turns and timed turns, followed by unusual attitudes under the hood and a steep turn, and ended with the GPS 17 back to KSEE.  Everything went well except make sure to time the outbound at OCN for the VOR-A, I was late on the timer but as he pointed out it's required since this is a VOR-A and I could use DME but still needed to time it.  Also he seemed to not like that I navigated to the missed approach with the GPS instead of the VOR on that approach, obviously I flew the approach on the VOR though.  On the ILS he wanted me to descend to the glideslope as soon as the needle came off the peg.  Also he asked me what would I teach a student to do if we lost COM while being vectored on downwind to the ILS and the correct answer is to climb to the MSA and then navigate to the IAP and begin the approach from there.  Also make sure to brief lost com before takeoff.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Flying the KingAir

My friend is a corporate pilot and flies a C90 KingAir Blackhawk.  He asked me to join him on an all day mission to make a couple runs to Idaho, since he could use the help of a second pilot.  Umm... twist my arm!  We woke up at o-dark-thirty and made a pre-dawn departure out of CCR in the plane.  On each leg we alternated between being the pilot flying with the other pilot handling the radio calls.  It was really cool to work in a two pilot crew, and the flight ended up being really educational.  The KingAir is an incredibly powerful and stout airframe and it flies best in the mid-twenties which is right where most of the weather seems to rear it's ugly head.  In my Baron I'm typically underneath most weather such as thunderstorms and navigating around underneath primarily by reference to the "big picture" on the Nexrad display.  Even though I have an old weather radar system I've been thinking of getting rid of it because I almost never use it, and it's heavy.  In the KingAir you're flying around and between cells and tactical weather radar becomes a really key piece of equipment.

This C90 has an old CRT EFIS, a WX500 and a KLN-90B gps.  Pretty simple actually in comparison to the equipment I have in my Baron, but entirely capable.  The WX500 turned out to be super useful since we encountered dozens of thunderstorms on our route.

We were about to enter this sucker when I saw a huge bolt of lightening out the front.  Umm... time to make some deviations!  We ended up threading our way through using the weather radar.

Boots worked well and shed most of the ice.

And a beautiful clear day on the other side.  The KA C90 is an incredible plane.  We burned about 75 GPH of jetA, but were cruising at 270 kts true in pressurized comfort above the bumps.  I really could get used to flying the KingAir!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Flying the A320

Yep that's right, I flew an Airbus A-320... sort of.  My friend is a first officer at Virgin America, and he snuck me in to their training facility to try my hand at their full level-D training simulator.  Wow.  I thought my home simulator was cool... I got a few pics but they don't do it justice, insanely realistic.. a perfect cockpit replica, full motion and intense visuals.  I managed to land a Cat1 ILS to minimums, and it was actually a piece of cake.  The Airbus is so automated.  Even in hand flying mode, you basically just guide it to what it wants to do.   It's so automated it follows the program, you set the speed and it sets the throttles, you set the fix and the altitude in the FMS and it handles the rest.  Fly by wire.

The visuals were intense and the whole experience was basically indistinguishable from flying the real plane.  In fact, my friend said his first flight in the real plane was with a full load of passengers.  Nice.

Monday, July 27, 2015

New interior to Osh!

Tim Hallock (Aviation Design) finally finished my new interior, and it looks awesome... and just in time for Oshkosh!

Here are the new side panels which are made from carbon fiber and have a recessed armrest that gives another inch or two of width to the interior.

The seats are also leather in a carbon frame with recessed headrests and newly webbed seat belts.

The yoke is now leather wrapped and I got a new carbon fiber glare shield wrapped in leather.  It's still sitting too high for the panel so I'm going to have Tim adjust it.

Here are the front seats, super comfy.

I flew her up to KSAC to get the G500 firmware updated and also replace the avionics cooling fan which had failed.  Thankfully it was only a $60 part.

Here is my motley crew after 6 hours of flying, 300 NM from OSH.

We made it.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Another Copeland masterpiece - TBone!

My friend Aaron and I had a fun time dropping off his Twin Bonanza in Eloy Arizona and then picking her back up this week after 12 weeks of the Don Copeland makeover. What a difference a few weeks at Copeland's makes! I dare say Aaron must have the most beautiful TBone on the planet now... it's really incredible in person and these shots hardly do it justice.

She fires right up. Love the throaty roar of the TBone!