Sunday, March 29, 2015

Formation flying - b2osh training

Yesterday I did the Bonanza's to Oshkosh formation clinic.  I was a little bit nervous flying so close to other airplanes, but it was a blast.  Here is a video I snapped.

We had a 90 minute safety briefing in the morning, and then flew two "sorties", one in the morning and then a break for lunch and another flight in the afternoon.  The morning flight was just two planes, both of us Baron's although the other plane was a 58TC.  The afternoon flight we paired up with a E33 in a 3 ship formation.  Total blast once I got the hang of all the throttle jockeying.  The 55 Baron is so light and maneuverable I didn't have much trouble pairing with the single engine 35 at all.  Good fun!

Friday, March 13, 2015

BaronPilot flies the TBone!

Today I had my first ride in a Twin Bonanza. Aaron Degryse has a stunning D50E. The sucker was owned by the Rockefeller family and he literally bought it from their pilot. I flew my Citabria over to his amazing hangar today and man, that thing is just freaking awesome.  

Huge windows, I mean huge. The visibility is incredible. It sits high and proud, a different site picture from my Baron but you definitely feel the same DNA. The view out of everywhere is spectacular, but Aaron just put all new windows in his and they are perfect. The front window is enormous and crystal clear. Here is a quick video I shot of us landing at KAUN.

The cabin is gorgeous with tons of space. There was a foot a shoulder room between us, room to get up and move between seats, as quiet as a 421. The speed was surprisingly good, I thought this was a 150 kt airplane but we got to 170 in econo cruise, and leaned out it was only a few GPH more than my plane. Smooth smooth smooth... quiet and smooth.  

We parked on the ramp at KAUN and had a great lunch. Aaron left the air stair door hanging open and probably a dozen gawkers came by to admire. This is before Don Copeland paint... this is going to be show piece. The landing back at KLVK confused the controller when Aaron exited at the first taxiway landing in no more than say 900 ft.  

I really love the plane, and finally have a true appreciation of the cult of TBone! If I hadn't already sunk an unrecoverable fortune in my Baron I could totally see owning one. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

BaronPilot flies the DA42

Today I got to spend a few hours in a Diamond DA42. It's quite a plane! With it's modern composite construction it is very sleek and screams tech! This one had the obligatory G1000 setup and also a GFC 700 autopilot, full FIKI with TKS and Thielert diesel powered. This is an interesting, forward thinking and very capable airplane.  

Now I'm very biased towards Beechcraft because I love the way they look, how they are built, how they stand the test of time and I also love the way they fly... however I really like other planes too, and generally anything with wings and can get into the sky fascinates me. What struck me about the DA42 is that this is the first plane I've ever flown that I really liked and really hated at the same time.  

Hate: I'm a tall guy at just shy of 6'4". I can honestly say that even with the pedals all the way forward I barely fit, and by "barely" I mean I basically don't fit. If you are much over 6'2" I'm hard pressed to see how you could be anything less than slightly uncomfortable in this plane, at my height you're basically at the uncomfortable state and anything taller than me and you'd be miserable. My head hits the ceiling and the top of my shins hit the sharp edge of the base of the panel. In heavy turbulence I'd be seriously bumming. Here is a quick video:

Dislike: Width feels a little narrower than my Baron, but I don't know the dimensions... it was shoulder to shoulder for sure, and with the center stick there was no convenient place to put anything such as charts or an iPad or BoogeyBoard scratch pad. The front window is ridiculous you feel like you're looking out the slit of tank. How could they design the plane with that huge bubble canopy and then make such terrible forward visibility. The irony here is that if you're short enough to fit well, you probably can see even less over the huge panel. One of the things I love about Beechcraft's are the huge windows give a tremendous view and sense of space. I love my Citabria for the same reason.

Like: The DA42 is very quiet... gone is the deep rumble of a big bore Continental, replaced by a chatter if the little diesels and composite props. I liked the sound though and the engines felt solid. Gone is the mixture lever and the prop lever, this is FADEC, full authority to the computer... forget your APS class and your LOP debates! You set the power levers to a percentage of max power and thats it. We set 90% power at 6500 ft and were doing about 155 kts but now here's the kicker... 6.2 gallons per side! Crikey that's Bonanza efficient or better out of a twin. Okay I do actually like my extra levers though, but you've gotta give huge props to Diamond for progressing with diesel.

Dislike: I took the plane through some maneuvers like steep turns and I was surprised at how heavy it feels. It's 10X heavier in roll than my 55 Baron, really. I really expected light roll forces, but you have to muscle it to turn the sucker. It's got what I would describe as neutral static stability though, once you put it in the roll it stays there and is rock solid stable. It's just not that fun to maneuver it like I expected when I saw the fighter pilot stick control.  

Like: We picked up IFR and flew through some rain and clouds and it's rock solid in IMC. The GFC 700 autopilot is also the best AP ever, but even hand flying the plane is just stable. It also has long wings but really rode the bumps pretty smoothly.  

Dislike: The plane has a lot of adverse yaw and requires a lot of rudder pressure. We did a simulated engine out and the rudder pressure to straighten it out was tremendous. It was like being at VMC well over blue line until you put some serious leg strength into that rudder. On one engine at blue line it climbed at maybe 200 fpm, however it will keep that rate up up up since the compression ignition diesel will keep making full power at altitude like a turbo. Also the plane yaws when you put the gear down... I have no idea why, seemed strange to me but with drag comes yaw. The Baron is a cupcake to fly SE by comparison.  

Dislike: Limited baggage space for a twin, the nose baggage had the TKS reservoir and not much room for anything else. You could probably fit a small handbag in there but that's it. The back seats are big enough for two adults and behind that not much space at all for bags.

Hate: The seats are misery... after an hour I felt like I was sitting on a cement slab and I was ready to get out. They are rated for crazy G forces but man, they are NOT comfy. I was thinking about the 6 hour flight I did on Sunday in my Baron and how miserable I'd have been in this plane.  

Summary... it's a cool plane, FIKI and TKS and stable and miserly on the fuel.. so cool that Diamond is pushing forward with Diesels before anyone else really, and creating sleek and modern designs with the latest avionics and AP that are so efficient... albeit the plane I flew probably cost 800k+... that said, it's no Baron!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Loreto Whales 2015!

This weekend I did my first flight into Mexico which was also my first international flight.  I took the family to Loreto with the Baja Bush Pilots.  I'm not sure why, but I was a little trepidatious about crossing the border.  It turned out to be easy and no stress.  Here is my quick checklist for crossing the border:

File a border crossing VFR flight plan with Flight Service.  Baja is effectively VFR for me because the MEA's are so high.

File US and Mexican eAPIS

Make sure you have a customs and border protection CBP sticker, which is good for the year.


Air worthiness certificate and current registration

Pilot certificate and current medical

Mexican insurance policy (printed in English and Spanish)

That's basically all the prep.  Once you're there you can buy a Multi-Entry permit and pay various immigration fees.  The multi entry permit cost me about $100 and the fees for parking and immigration were another $150.

I flew to Palomar KCRQ after the kids got out of school so we could make an early run to Loreto in the morning.  Loreto airport closes at 7pm so no night arrivals.  We departed out of Palomar VFR and headed towards the border.  I opened the VFR flight plan with flight service on 122.5, then contacted San Diego approach and then gave me a squawk code, then transferred me to Tijuana approach once I crossed the border.  A little later into Mexico I was 450 miles from Loreto and they tell you to contact Loreto tower on 118.4 and then you're on your own until 10 miles from Loreto, then you call them up and you're cleared to land.

Flying in Mexico was fun, once I got past the confusion of handing the form to the guy who copies the form, then to the guy who does stamp #1, then to the girl who takes a fee and does stamp #2, and so on and so forth... love Mexico and opening it up now by GA is a whole new ballgame.  It never felt unsafe or threatening either in the air or anywhere on the ground.  The airports felt very secure.

Some photos:

Made it home after 6 hours of flying and not a single complaint from the kids. We had a little bit of everything on the trip home.. flight over open ocean, over clouds, under clouds, scud running and low IFR in driving rain and ice pellets and low topped CB. Once I was through the core of the slag I was able to cancel IFR and get out of the bumps and made it the rest of the way VFR in and out of rain showers at 4500 ft.  All and all the best flying trip I've done yet!