Monday, July 17, 2017

Float mania

I took a family trip up to Alaska.  We did a cruise so I didn't fly us up there, but man was it cool seeing all the float planes.  I really got a bug to do the float rating now!  The video above was from the deck of the ship.  There are so many cool little GA float planes flying around up there it's ridiculous.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Way to go Idaho

Had a great trip to McCall Idaho to attend a big BBQ pig roast my buddy puts on.  The more I go to Idaho, the more I love it there.   We departed out of Concord VFR and headed GPS direct straight to McCall airport KMYL.  You need to cross the Sierra Nevada mountain range so flying high is a good idea.  Winds were smooth and no major bumps at 11.5 so I leveled out there.  Once you cross the big rocks you're over the Nevada desert and we crossed Black Rock desert and noticed it's actually still flooded from all the rains last winter.  There is about a 50 mile stretch where I lost ATC due to radar coverage.  Total flight was 3 hrs exactly with a minor detour to fly over the lake.  My Twin Bonanza does about 165 kts in cruise so the flight would be about the same time in our 182RG.  

So awesome that in less time than it would take to drive to Tahoe I can load up the airplane and be in Idaho.  Not that Tahoe isn't beautiful too, but Idaho is pristine, cheap and reminds me of Tahoe 30 years ago.  Magical!

The flight back brought some big headwinds and continuous moderate turbulence at 12,500 ft.  The return flight added about 30 minutes to the flight time, but 3:30 still isn't bad and we still made it home in time for lunch and faster than we would have on the airlines.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mr Avionics Shop

Yowza, these IFDs are RAD. I did the install myself, no issues. The guide that comes with it walks you through it step by step. I think I could do it now in < 10m. I went out for a little test flight this morning and I was amazed, everything *mostly* just worked right out of the box. Even the AHRS is perfectly aligned. How did they do that? 

As for the *mostly*. It's not reading my GDL-69A. Apparently I need to update it to the latest firmware 4.1..  need to be an avionics shop to do that part. Also I couldn't get the boxes to go into track up... they seem stuck in North up. I went to the user settings in the aux page and set it track up but still showing north up. RTFM!  You need to press in on the right knob and change the map orientation.  Duh.

I've got some learning to do to master these suckers but overall it's an awesome addition to the panel at a great price considering my G530w trade-ins and the free ADSB deal.  15k for a 1090ES transponder, 978 UAT ADSB-In, an IFD 550 with built in AHRS and synthetic vision as well as a backup IFD 540.  That's a lot of avionics for the scratch!  Of course I had two 530w's to trade in which are probably worth 8k each.  But the big deal for me was no downtime!  Of course, I need to have a shop install the ADSB stuff and upgrade my GDL69A firmware, but I'm guessing that's a 1 or 2 day project at most.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Garmin guy goes Avidyne

My partners wanted out of the Citabria and so we sold it.  Consequently I had a wad of cash burning a hole in my pocket.  Rather than doing something responsible with it, like put it in the kids college fund, I figured I'd waste it on the airplane and buy some stuff for the T-bone.  Why not!!  I've always, always been a Garmin guy... I'm even a freakin shareholder.  I love Garmin stuff.  But...

The new Avidyne units look really cool.  The IFD 550 has a built in AHRS which would make a nice backup for my Aspen.  I thought about just adding a flight stream 210 to my Garmin 530's, but that would be $1500 at least and an install job.  Besides, the G530's just look ancient at this point.  It's like viewing a CGA display.  For a few grand more I could have a brand new Avidyne unit as an upgrade, with modern technology, hi resolution touchscreen, and a factory warranty.  Truth be told if Garmin had come out with a new G500/600 I'd probably have bought it and ripped apart my panel and done a big new Garmin install with dual 750's etc.  But alas... they left me hanging with their last uninspiring announcement of new audio panels and a bunch of cool stuff for the experimental guys.  I really don't want to spend big bucks for a G600 that already looks ancient by experimental standards.  I might as well look at other options...

The other big factor that weighed into this decision was the fact that the IFD's come with a self install kit, and literally slide into an existing 530w tray.  Since I have dual 530's in my Twin Bonanza, this is about as easy an upgrade as you can imagine.  The thought of ripping out my beautifully laid out panel just bothers me... the IFD units are a slide in upgrade.  Hard to beat that, especially since I'm completely enamored with flying this plane and the thought of weeks of downtime for a GTN install just seems untenable... not to mention thousands more dollars.  So I ordered a new IFD550 and an IFD540 on a trade-in deal from AvionicsSource (Thanks Chase!!).  Add in an ADSB deal where Avidyne throws in a free 1090 ADSB transponder and UAT receiver and it was just too good a deal to pass up.  I'm looking forward to doing the self install and seeing how these suckers work in the real world.  I must admit, part of me just wants to learn something new and these things just look like a fun project to master.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

First family trip in the tbone

Well, the 2nd really. The first one was just a 35 minute jaunt so I'm not counting that one. This was a 2 hour flight each way down to Malibu where I got a crazy good weekend deal on an Airbnb on the hill overlooking the ocean.  The family of 4 plus Grandma with room to spare. I could do this mission in my former 55 Baron, but this was definitely a more comfortable trip with the load. When my boy asked for his iPad it was nice to simply say, "go get it from the back, and get me a beer while you're there". Just kidding about the beer part! Loving the twinbo. I'm finding flying her strangely addictive, nothing like it!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

So long Citabria

The Champ was getting a little neglected... not maintenance wise, we took great care of her.  In fact she just got a brand new prop.  I was quite surprised to see her gain an additional 15 mph from it too!  It was revealed at the annual that the old prop was a seaplane prop and was actually 1/4 inch too long for the size tires we had.  We either had to get the bigger tundra tires or swap the prop, so we got a brand new Hartzell which seemed to boost the speed.  That plus an extensive annual and we even got a brand new rudder from American Champion.  The plane was dialed in...   the neglect was my partners neglecting to fly it.

One partner who also flies a TBM 850 added up his share of the bill for the year, and divided it by the 1.5 hours he flew the plane and decided it cost more to run the Champ than his TBM.  Long story short, my partners wanted out.  In truth I've gotten quite busy myself with real life, especially work, and so the days of hopping on out to the airport for a turn around the patch and a lunch run have greatly diminished.  In short, it was time to sell.  On the bright side, we got a great price for her and didn't lose any money (other than routine maintenance and hangar, gas etc).  She was a great plane in near perfect condition and I'll miss having a tail dragger to fly now and then!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Bone is home

It was a long wait but I finally picked up my new plane.  The Twin Bonanza is home at last!

Beauty.  It's hard to put into perspective how big the thing is when you look at a photo, it fills up the entire 50 ft wide hangar.  That nose strut is the same as on a King Air.  It's a tight fit so I'm going to need to be more careful when putting her away.

The ride is sweet.  I'm 6'4" and I can stretch my legs out straight in the pilot seat with no bending whenever I want to.   There is 2 feet of width between me and the copilot passenger.  Passengers can get up and change seats.  I can stand under the outer wing, and it's a LOW wing!  The geared props turn on about a 2/3 reduction so they turn slow and therefore it's fairly quiet for a big rumbling twin.  The engines are smooth as butter and the sound coming from the augmenter tubes give it a deep throaty roar.  I'm still getting used to the avionics and autopilot but slowly getting the groove of the knob twisting on the 530's again.  It will be a few more flights at least before I take her into IFR.

The fuel system is also a bit more complicated than my stone simple Baron.  Now I've got mains and aux tanks to deal with but it's pretty simple once you know how it works.  If you don't understand how it works it's pretty easy to screw it up too.  The D50E is well designed and the return lines return the fuel to whatever tank is selected, which simplifies things somewhat.  Speaking of fuel I'm pleasantly surprised at the burns and the speeds.  I'm about 15-20 kts slower than the Baron on only a few more GPH.  In cruise we were truing out at 160 kts and burning 26 gph after some extra leaning. The pressure carbs do a pretty good job on their own so you don't really need to touch the mixtures, but I found I only lost a few kts to save about 6 gallons an hour.

The plane was in Griffin Georgia and so it was about 16 hrs of flying getting her home.  On the way home the line guy at Santa Monica thought it was a turboprop so I'm going to need to be careful when fueling.  I've resolved to only fill it myself or at least be there whenever it's fueled.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Honda Jet

I got my first 1.0 hrs of dual in the Honda Jet!  Wow, what an airplane.  It's super high tech and totally automated.  I also spent an hour on the ground getting up to speed on the G3000 system which came pretty naturally because, well it's just Garmin.  Think of a G1000 mated up to a GTN 750.  Totally intuitive if you've got Garmin time.

Our flight was only an hour, Reno and back.  The really thrilling thing was the acceleration off the block.  Engines come up with feet on the brakes, the throttles go to the TO position which is full throttle, brakes come off and you launch forward with roller coaster like acceleration.  You're pressed to the back of your seat and before you know it you're through V1 about 109 kts and climbing at 4,000 fpm.  It's also by far, the quietest airplane I've ever been in.  You can barely hear the engines when you power them on.  Headsets are not even close to being necessary for passengers.  At cruise it's just as quiet as can be.

I thought it rode the bumps fairly well.  We had weather up to 13k ft and bouncing along for maybe 2 or 3 minutes before we were on top in smooth air humming along at 380 kts at 24,000 ft.  Up high it goes faster and burns even less fuel, but this was such a short hop we didn't bother to go any higher.  Amazingly, we burned within 20 pounds of what the C90 used to burn for the same trip.  Good fun. The plan is to get 75 to 100 hrs in the thing before going for the type rating and combining that with my ATP ride.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Columbia 400

Today I got my first time and a few landings in the Columbia 400.  To say I really loved this airplane would be an understatement.  The pushrod controls are smooth as heck and the thing smooth and fast like a rocket.   It had been awhile since I've flown the G1000 but it came back quickly.  Awesome airplane with great avionics and autopilot but still fun as heck to fly.  Why are these not as popular as the Cirrus?  With the twin turbo we were getting 170 kts over the ground at 15 gph.  Really cool airplane.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Mega hangar operational

The hangar is now cleaned up and I'm fully moved in.  All the disgusting crap that was left in there...

is gone, those nasty carpets were the worst.  Underneath was an oil soaked and extremely poor quality asphalt job.  I decided I needed some professional help to fix this and I'm sure glad I did.  It turned out to be an F-ton of work.

First, a trip to dump to get rid of all the old crap, and a power wash.  Wow, looks better already.  Some fill repair on the worst areas of the asphalt leveled the surface and removed the pot holes.  I decided to go with a brand new floor but rather than digging out all the asphalt and replacing with a concrete slab, I went with a less expensive hybrid solution.  The new floor is made from a fiberglass mesh that is laid on top of the asphalt.  The mesh holds a synthetic refinishing product that is basically like a thin layer of concrete.  It's rated to hold 10 tons per sq ft so it should last.

Here is the thinnest concrete layer laid onto the fiberglass mesh.  You can see it's only maybe 1/4 inch thick so no big lip to push the plane up over.

And the final product.  I got to pick the color and I was really unsure.  I wanted something light to brighten the place up, but I didn't want something too white which would show the dirt too easily.  In the end I chose "Mountain" which came out a little more brown than I thought but it looks pretty nice.

A full day of moving crap from my other hangar and finally I'm moved in and I have a suitable home for my new airplane.  Speaking of...  still not ready.  Grrr.  I'm beyond making predictions at this point and resigned myself at this point to call the shop every single day asking for updates.  It's gotten beyond ridiculous.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

A home for the tbone

The TBone is still back in Griffin Georgia.  I was supposed to head back there yesterday to pick her up but as happens in aviation, things are taking longer than expected.  I'm getting shoulder harnesses installed as well as a new headliner, and well...  two weeks estimated has turned into four.  I'm hopeful it will be done sometime this week and then I can plan to fetch her.  In the mean time, I've got some work to do on the new hangar.  Unfortunately the prior owner didn't clean the hangar, and I guess "as is sale" means "including all my old crappy junk that you'll have to get rid of yourself".  Grrr.

Those carpets are just disgusting.  They are probably 20 years old and dusty and covered in grease stains.  This photo is after I filled up an entire dumpster.  The rest is going to the dump.  The plan is to power wash the floor, put down some nice tile on the sides and clean the center runway for the plane and either do an epoxy coating or else perhaps go big and do a slab on concrete.  I'd like to lighten the place up and make it look nice, but as you can see there's a ways to go...

Friday, March 3, 2017

PC12 design flaw

Here I am cleaning two weeks of turbine soot off the sides of the fuselage and tops of the wings at the root. Clearly they made a design flaw when they put the the engine in the nose with the exhaust stacks sticking out the sides. The entire plane gets quickly coated in carbon soot! They never think of the poor shmucks who gotta clean the damn thing.

Honda on the other hand got it right ! No soot anywhere near the fuse, tail out of the exhaust stream.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

BE50 shoulder harness

One thing I really want taken care of right away on my new TBone is the lack of shoulder harnesses, at least for the pilot and copilot positions.  It just feels strange to settle into a pilot seat and not strap in.  For safety and for my own peace of mind, I need a shoulder harness!  As I researched it I am amazed that there is no STC for them in the TwinBonanza.  I know this was the era of the big Cadilac where no one wore seat belts and kids rode around in the back of pickup trucks... but really?  Even the curmudgeon's at the FAA recognize that they need to be accommodative in this regard.  Someone sent me this missive from the FAA that basically sets policy for FSDO's to be ready to do field approvals in the name of safety.

Great.  Now I just need a field approval.  Luckily it seems the TBone community is tight nit and awesome and I found someone who has done it and he sent me the 337.  Score!  That will save a bunch of time and money figuring out how to do this.  In case anyone ever needs it, here it is..

Friday, February 10, 2017

My new ride

Well, something quite amazing and cool fell into my lap and I just fell in love it it.  I'm now the proud new owner of TwinBonanza N787SC.  This is an absolutely gorgeous TBone with low total time, low engine times (250 hrs), and just oozes style and class from a bygone era.  The plane literally drips with nostalgia and although it's not a turboprop, and it's not pressurized, I just had to have it.

I expected I'd go plane-less a bit longer than this, but when I stumbled on 7SC I felt I should move quickly since  I really didn't want anyone else to snatch it up.  She's a top of the market TBone, just out of annual at Todd Thacker's place.  Complete logs, only 4,000 hrs total time and in tip top shape with no deferred maintenance, according to Todd's shop which just finished the annual.

I went out to see her and Todd took me flying.  She was so gorgeous and smooth and obviously well cared for, I just went with my gut and said screw it...  I bought the plane as-is where is with no prebuy!  Yikes, but as soon as I saw it I knew I was going to buy it so why not?  If I understand correctly there just a handful of nice D50E's left flying and I now own one of them.  My friend Aaron has another one which is a stunning example.  Between gawking at Aaron's gorgeous bird and always being enraptured by the steadfast and dedicated work of Gregg Cadieux,  I simply decided I need own a TBone one day... and so one day is now!

I had said I wanted something bigger, faster, higher, further... well I ended up with one of those things at least, bigger!  Basically I traded some speed for size.  The TBone is substantially bigger than my Baron...  in fact it's seems absolutely ginormous and the ramp presence is incredible.  The wingspan is 45 feet!  I'm 6'4" tall and I can basically stand fully upright under the end of the wing, and it's a freakin low wing!  Perfect shade for Oshkosh.  Man this thing is cool.

Panel wise it's actually pretty well equipped.  Like I did with my Baron, the prior owner dropped some serious coin into the panel on this plane although the GPS units are a generation old now.  It's got dual 530w's, an Aspen, a panel mounted 796 and an STEC 60-2 autopilot.  The props are alcohol but no boots so I'll need to be a bit more cautious about avoiding ice.  It's got VGs, the air-stair door, nice interior, leather seats and great windows.  Paint is in very nice condition with just a few specs of filiform corrosion on the tail feathers.  I think there are still a few things I can do to her to make her a real gem and restore her to full glory.  Right now she is at Todd's shop and I'm having a new headliner installed since the old one looked pretty crappy, and I'm installing 4 point harnesses for the pilot and copilot seats since it only has lap belts right now.  My plan is to fly it as is for awhile and then I might consider some more upgrades.

Without further ado, here are a few pics.  In a few weeks when the work is done I'll head back to Georgia to pick her up and fly her back across the country.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Life after the Baron

The rumors are true...  I've just sold my beloved plane and watched her fly away with the new owner into a misty overcast.  I no longer own the "G55" Baron.  Crazy I know, everyone is telling me I'm a dolt and a fool and they're probably right.  I'm pretty confident I had one of the top three nicest BE-55's on the planet, the best Colemill 600 and certainly the best fully deiced 55 I've ever seen.   I went through every detail of the plane...  from the SRS aluminum elevators to the chromed gas caps, to the carbon fiber recessed side panels, glare shield and headliner with touch led overhead lights...   and of course, those plush Tim Hallock seats and carpet which provided a stately view when looking out of those big, beautiful DBM windows.  I literally restored every inch of the entire plane including putting factory engines on it and a stunning Copeland paint job... did I mention the panel?  Everything was done, and at no small expense.  But alas, the song of bigger, faster, further, higher...

Like many planes of this caliber, it never hit the market.  It went to a fellow BTer and all around awesome guy.  Of course I lost my shirt on her, but it was a fair enough deal for a top of the market plane and I didn't have to deal with marketing it or tire kickers.  I'm just tickled that it's going to such a great guy and family.  It served us well for 7 years and 1,000 hrs and I'm sure it will continue to be in great hands.  A frictionless sale with literally not a single argument or point of contention.  Yes, I do have first rights of buyback should he ever decide to sell!

So... what's next?  As I said, I'm thinking bigger, faster, higher, further.  Of course aviation is a compromise so I can probably pick one of those criteria...

You don't have to convince me that a turboprop is a game changer.   The "personal" turbine seems to be the Meridian so I researched it.  I wanted to love it... I really did.  I joined MMOPA (great group),  and even took a test ride with an awesome an knowledgable owner.  But try as I might I just can't fall in love with the plane.  Compared to the expansive view in the Baron it feels like looking out of two tank slits.  I wormed my 6'4" frame into the pilot seat and sat awkwardly and somewhat uncomfortably.  It feels smaller than my Baron inside...  but it's a turboprop!  and pressurized!  and it goes 260 kts!  but oh my the expenses...  The yearly taxes alone would dwarf my entire maintenance budget on the Baron, not to mention the purchase price.   My mission is family trips.  The replacement plane will have no real job.  I fly professionally 400 hrs a year but this bird sees 100-150 hrs a year at most.  A turbine would be great but hard to justify with that amount of usage.  Maybe a partnership in a bigger turbine?  If only one were forthcoming...  

Pressurized piston twin?  Well the cream of the crop is the 421 in my opinion.  Bigger, yes.  Faster?  Not really.  But it's pressurized.  So much junk on the market.  Do I really want to climb the maintenance mountain on a 30 year old pressurized piston twin?  Not really... maybe really definitely most likely no?

My wife would love something pressurized that rides the bumps well.  My oldest son gets airsick super easily.  That would help.  I fly my mother in law a lot, and she always struggled to climb the wing and get in the Baron with her bad back... air stair, cabin class would be nice.  Something faster would be great, could we fly to Minnesota to visit my wife's sister in a reasonable amount of time?   What we really need is a Pilatus or a Honda Jet!  Some day, later...

Anyway it's a tough call.  I've got my mind on one model that tugs at my heart strings, and I bought a big hangar that will fit it.  But we shall see...

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Monster hangar

Well I finally bit the bullet and bought a hangar.  I love my home airport and not planning on going anywhere, so I might as well just own the thing.  If I'm going to own a hangar, I might as well own a big one, just in case I ever own a bigger plane.  Who knows, could happen!  So I bought the biggest hangar on the north west side of the field which is where all the cool kids hang out.  Here she is!

It's a port-o-port executive IIb which is this:  but with 2.5 foot extensions on both sides so it's fifty feet wide!

Sweet.  I couldn't take a photo of it opened up because there is a tenant in there and I need to get him out first.  Oh the joys of being a landlord...  I gave him 30 days notice and I can't wait to it all cleared up and start pimping out the new man cave.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Monster tug

A hangar neighbor down the way was cleaning out a hangar and asked me if I wanted to buy his non-working monster tug.  These things are about $4000 new so I offered him $200 for it and he accepted.  So I'm the proud new owner of this huge tug that I could move a KingAir or a jet with.

Look at that sucker... it makes my old gas tug next to it look tiny by comparison.  I put some fuel in it and it promptly leaked all over the place.  The battery was corroded and totally shot.  The oil sump was bone dry.  I was just hoping it hadn't seized up.  I was going to hire a mechanic to try to fix it but then I decided maybe I could just do it myself.  I bought some oil, a new fuel line and a new battery at AutoZone.  I took the old corroded fuel line off, attached the new one, filled up the oil sump, wired up the new battery, filled the tires with air... pulled the motor through a couple times to get it lubed up, and then...  hit the starter and vroooooom.  She started right up!  Awesome.  The thing belched smoke for a few minutes but then started purring like a kitten.  What a deal.