Web Site: http://www.airdorrin.com
Posts by fdorrin:
- Rejected takeoff / loss of propeller control
- Using my airplane to conduct a BFR (Flight Review) and an IPC
- Getting night recurrent in my machine
- Visiting my son Mike in Virginia
- Another jet trip
- Master the TFR procedures to get in and out of KILG
- Gross weight trip to Nashville
- 6 new stitches and yet one more injury
- ASPEN: Set heading bug to desired heading (current)
- IFD550: Select the TO Waypoint and activate the leg (LSK)
- IFD550: Press the CDI Nav/Source Knob (upper right) to enter into OBS mode
- ASPEN: Set desired course (radial) to the waypoint you’d like to follow
- IFD550: Automatically re-activates GPS upon intercept and continues with FPL
- How does one uploading checklists from Trainer to the IFD550?
- I need to try out my wireless keyboard again.
- Consider checklists / exporting. I’m having a tough time understanding how to enter these, and then how to use them. Seems I get stuck in edit mode on the highest level and can‘t get out.
- I turned on the Mini Format of the FPL; Turned ON SBAS Channels; and Turned OFF High Altitude Airways. I have no idea if anything has changed, nor do I know what to expect and when.
- I’d like to backup my feature set, checklists, and Comm Presets. Not sure how.
I really wasn’t flying much in September, other than on a few solo practice flights I did to exercise the oil and prepare for an upcoming Flight Review I’ve been wanting to do. As I was prepping the airplane for one such mission, I ran into Kevin at the airport. I had promised Kevin a flight on the PA30, and the stars happened to align on September 29th. I still owe Mr William Smith a nice flight, and I’ll make an effort to align the stars again.
Kevin and I departed Wilmington and decided to do some local flying that included a stop at Easton for lunch. As it turns out, the restaurant there was closed and we fell back on an alternative plan. I think we had decided on Lancaster, but as you’ll soon see, it really didn’t matter. We wouldn’t be getting lunch today, after all.
We decided on a flight to Easton Airport (KESN) in Easton, MD. There is a restaurant there, Sugar Buns, that has good food, and is consistent. I briefed Kevin on the airplane, included the unique baggage door which serves as an alternate exit. I brief everyone on how to escape, and have them exercise the two step latch. I also brief them on where to step, and warn them to not touch the door getting into nor out of the airplane. The door is not designed to support weight, and I have it perfectly aligned at the moment.
The flight down to Easton was uneventful, and I enjoyed having Kevin along. I believe I handed over the controls for awhile, but I can’t recall if we got to that or not. I did the landing and we taxied up to the restaurant ramp.
We shut down and secured the airplane. Once again I briefed on the shutdown procedure, and advised Kevin not to move the props, nor even touch them for safety – just in case a ground wire had broken that day. I pointed out and verified that all the switches were in their proper position, and we exited the airplane.
Only when we approached the restaurant did we realize that it was closed. The website and the hours on the door indicated that was not right, but there was no one there to accept my complaints. I suggested Lancaster Airport for an alternate lunch stop, and we mounted up the airplane once again.
Hot starts can always be interesting. The Electro-Air systems I installed did make it better, as did the firewall forward upgrade I’d done some 300 hours ago. This time the hot start on both sides went according to plan, and I’m beginning to feel that I’m getting better at it.
Calling ground, they had us taxi on Alpha to runway 04 for our VFR departure north. I did my abbreviated run-up, since it was not the first flight of the day. For the abbreviated version, I do not normally do a full set of prop exercises, and today was no exception. The mag check was good on both sides, and the before takeoff checklist was completed. Cleared onto runway 04 for departure, we lined up on the centerline.
Mixtures and Props both forward. Both power levers (throttles in this case) full forward. My eyes naturally go right to the power indicating gauges, and my first call is generally ‘POWER SET’. I call this out after scanning both engine RPMs, MP gauges, and fuel flows, and seeing that all it well. It’s a quick scan as they are all on the same group of instruments and in the same place.
On this takeoff, I never made that call. The left engine RPM indication was showing several hundred RPMs lower than the right, when they both should be showing near red line (governor limited). I’ve seen this before, to a lesser degree, when the left prop was slightly slower to react or when I simply didn’t have one of the prop controls fully forward. I gave it a few more seconds and didn’t react right away. I divided my attention to staying on the centerline and giving the RPMs on the left an opportunity to retract this indignation!
Another few seconds passed before I announced ‘N833DF rejecting takeoff – Runway 04’. The tower controller didn’t understand what I was saying, so I repeated the same words as I’d been trained to do in the jets. When repeating it didn’t get the point across, I slowed down and said ‘we have an issue and are not taking off, I’ll exit the runway when able.’.
We rolled for a bit more because I still had not gotten the power levers all the way to idle. I think my brain was still thinking ‘WTF!’. We rolled slowly down the runway until my brain caught up with the airplane and crawled back inside.
Still, I was pleased with myself in detecting the issue before we gained much speed, and bringing the airplane safely back to taxi speed. I discussed the issue with Kevin, and we decided to taxi back to the pre-takeoff position for runway 04.
Alas, a self-clearing issue this was not. It became clear that we’d lost all control over the left engine propeller, so we weren’t going anywhere. With that, ground control guided me back to Trident Maintenance to see if they could help me.
I was pleased with Kevin. He was not a nervous passenger at all, but rather an effective crew mate. He was right there with me the entire time. We did crew briefings the entire flight, and as you’ll see, he decided to come along on the test flight as well. It was nice having effective crew onboard.
I have nothing but great stories when it comes to getting stuck away from home. I have broken down a number of times of 20 years and two airplanes, and not once did I not come home amazed at the help that materialized. I’ve never once seen anything but fair; over and above treatment by the mechanics I’ve encountered. Today would be no exception.
At Trident, there was one supervisor/manager there, one lead mechanic, and one other mechanic watching us taxi in. We shut down on their ramp, surprising them, but they were willing to help right out of the gate. I told them what happened and we all agreed that I’d probably need parts. That meant it’d most likely be days or weeks to get going again. They’d look at it nonetheless, and most importantly, promised to look after the airplane until the issue was resolved. I could not ask for anything more.
First things first – I called my wife to see if she could pick us up (2 hour drive each way). Beverly is a trooper, understood, and dropped what she was doing to come get me. I know she looks at her hassle free recovery as a means to help me in making the right go/no-go decision on any flight. That type of support is important. With that taken care of, the mechanics told me they’d take a quick look, and then secure the airplane for me. Then they sent us to a comfortable pilot lounge to wait (2 hours) for our ride home.
The next call I made was to Paul Phillips (Phill-Air). He is my airplane’s maintenance guy and is always willing to take my calls. Paul and I discussed what was going on. I explained that I was NOT looking for him to fix anything, nor make the problem go away. I just wanted to keep him in the loop, and use him as a resource as the issue further defined itself. Paul agree to stay involved in my decision making on these maintenance issues.
Good News! After ruminating about the turn of events with Kevin in the Pilot’s Lounge, the supervisor walked in to announce that the airplane was fixed and we were good to go!!! What?!?! Less than 15 minutes had passed!
Before I did anything, I caught Beverly just a few minutes from our house and turned her around. I let her know what I’d been told, and she immediately understood that it may change again. I’d need to do extensive run-ups and preflights before I agreed that all was well, so she promised to remain available. She’d be there if I needed her, and then she reminded me to make good decisions on safety of flight. Yup! I will.
So what happened? As it was explained to me, Lycoming equipped airplanes will have this problem occasionally where the weights in the prop governor get stuck. Simply tapping on them with a brass hammer will sometimes shake them loose, and that might be all you need to do. The mechanic happened to have just completed Lycoming school where they talked about this. He did what he’d been taught, and assured me I’m good to go.
I was speechless and very appreciative. Here I was expecting a wild hunt for parts in our current economic environment. Many hours of labor, and weeks or months without my airplane. Now I’m told I can fly it home and the only cost to me was an hour of labor. Freaking awesome!
The Test Flight: Kevin had heard the same explanation I did, and had all of the same information I had. While still in the Pilot Lounge, I gave him the choice to stay on the ground while I did a few test laps. I’d land and pick him up before flying home. He thought about it and felt comfortable coming along instead.
I paid the tiny tab and we mounted up once again. After an extensive pre-flight and run-up along runway 04 once again, including the full protocol as in the first flight of the day, we lined up for takeoff. The props both came up together, and the takeoff was normal. We remained in the pattern for two laps, exercising the props through a range of RPMs. Kevin and I were both comfortable after that, and we flew north to Wilmington.
I cheated Kevin out of lunch, which we had to skip due to the additional maintenance time we spent down there. The good news is that we had a positive aviation experience. Since this incident, I’ve put an additional 30 event free hours on the airplane in all kinds of weather. I think we are good.
Once again I’d like to thank all of the A&Ps who touch my airplane in it’s travels. I could not live this dream safely without you.
Fly Safe! Trust your A&P
Comments Off on September 29, 2022 – Rejected Takeoff!!
The last update blog I developed was back in August, so I’m going back to capture some of what has happened in the ensuing months. There was a bit of drama in late September, and you’ll get the details with that blog. Overall I’ve accumulated another 40 hours on the airplane into November, so there is a bunch we can talk about.
In late August I flew my grandson Nathan, or rather, he flew me. Nathan is a senior in high school and thought he might want to be a pilot as a career.
The first thing he noticed is that his 6′ plus frame had some challenges fitting into the PA30 business office. I did let him know he’d be even more challenged in other aircraft during his training, but we made it work.
Nathan’s feet are longer than my arms, so I did have to brief him not to put those flippers under the rudder pedals for comfort. That wouldn’t be good. He took the ribbing good naturedly and we headed over to Atlantic City.
The day was clear VFR, but there were bumps down low. Since this airplane if fast and we are surrounded by Philly and other airspace, I decided to keep it low at 3000′. Nathan was not enjoying himself with the bumps, so I changed up a few things.
I stopped explaining what he was looking at while the autopilot flew the airplane; increased the cool air on his face; and had him take the controls. Nathan did a credible job flying us over the the airport, where I helped him fly to a low approach over the water.
Nathan had a much better time flying manually over to lunch in Easton, MD. He definitely got the hang of it, and opted to fly us home to Wilmington. I don’t think he’ll be a future pilot, but he did learn a few things. It’s all good.
I’m in the waiting room on Jury Duty, so I’m hoping to use this time to crank out updates on trips and activities that include:
Life is good. The airplane is flying well and I’m having some fun in retirement.
Comments Off on Aug 31, 2022 – Nathan Flies the PA30
Lancaster Aero: I’ve been vying for a position at the paint shop to address wear spots on the PA30. The image at left is a typical example, but there were also a few dings from maintenance and general usage. The plan was worked out with Kendall at Lancaster Aero, and included calling in August to find a random opening. The airplane would have to be painted outside, the weather would have to be perfect, and an opening would have to randomly appear. I wanted these guys doing the work, so I took a shot.
I called on Monday the 8th and it was arranged I’d drop the airplane off that weekend. I did that, but then a trip popped up that needed me. I wasn’t going to lose my paint spot, so I dropped it off and drove to Latrobe on the 14th.
Flight 93 Memorial: Since I was driving out there anyway, I decided to stop at the Flight 93 Memorial on the way. I spent 2 hours walking the site in the pouring rain. It is a somber experience, as you’d expect, and a reminder of what we are facing as a nation.
Nova Scotia Flight: On the 16th, I flew with a contractor PIC I hadn’t flown with prior. We spent the night in Nova Scotia, and the area was not what I expected. I’d say it was clean, mostly very modest homes, but a bit run-down. Scheduling put us in the only rooms available – an aged and well-worn Travel Lodge on the water front. This place was beat, but at least it was clean. My executive suite overlooked the parking lot one level below.
N833DF Paint Update: I did get some unexpectedly good news when I got to my hotel. An unexpected delay in a paint project had allow them to get my airplane into a hangar. The work I had asked for had been completed, and I’d be able to pick it up when I got home. Out-Freaking Standing!
No rental cars were available on the island, so we cabbed from the airport and out to one of the only restaurants in the area, the Governors Pub. I had an amazing steak and an after dinner Grey Goose before finding the same taxi driver to get us back to the hotel.
Winters must be brutally cold here. The next morning we woke up to a steady pouring rain. No one could find an umbrella at the airport, so I was thoroughly soaked by the time I finished preflighting. Good thing I had another pair of pants and was able to quickly change before the pax arrived. The flight home was uneventful, but it was all right seat time for me on this flight. We landed in Latrobe late afternoon, too late for me to fly home. I had a nice flight home in N833DF the next day.
Landing N833DF in Wilmington: I’ve been doing quite a bit of flying lately. The belly on the right side had accumulated a bit of oil on it that i found during my post flight inspection. That must have been blow out or spillage from the oil that had just been changed, since the levels remained good. The oil on the belly was clean and fresh, so I did not suspect a problem. I’d have to get it cleaned off before the next flight though.
I’ll write a separate post on my first use of the process for returning my airplane home and into the Presidential TFR. I had to arrange that after I returned from this flight. For now – let’s continue with the G280 trip theme.
Kentucky Flight: Each day I continue to get better from my July bout with COVID. It really kicked my ass and the most telling thing for me was the slow slow speed of recovery.
This week I got the call to fly with my good friend Dave M on an easy day trip that was leaving on Tuesday the 23rd for Kentucky and back. Dave had been visiting friends in Roanoke, VA and would fly back on Monday the 22nd so we could travel together in my airplane.
Dave arrived in Wilmington around 3pm. There were thunderstorms about and rain cells developing on the entire flight path to Latrobe. It would be a challenging flight, but I felt more comfortable having a second experienced decision maker onboard. One that could help with the strategy, communication, and decision making.
Dave and I developed a plan and did the flight efficiently. As you can see from our flight path, Dave and I had to work with ATC to change our entire flight path to the north shortly after departure, and then to divert significantly south later on to avoid a line of buildups.
The cells didn’t show up yet on ATC radar, had ceilings around 30,000′ or less , but flying through them certainly wasn’t an option. The turn from south toward Latrobe can be seen on the left side of the image, where we flew between two building cells and finally broke through.
In the G280: The next day was supposed to end back in Latrobe at 8pm. That’d be too late for me to fly home after a long duty day, so I had a room booked for that night as well.
At the last minute, the airplane owner (The big boss) showed up and changed all that. Now we could plan to be back in Latrobe by 4pm. I’m not giving up my room because these flights change inflight. I might be able to get home early, but there was no way to be absolutely sure.
As he was boarding, I learned that the big guy is a nervous flyer. He wants to know who his pilots are, and fortunately recognized the PIC I was with. We were both contract pilots. He knew Dave well, and respected him. He knew my name, and assumed I was full time, but wasn’t particularly happy when he found out I wasn’t. This guy pays the management company big bucks to hire him pilots he can trust, and recognize, but the only full time G280 guy they have is sick with the COVID. None of that is my problem at the moment, but I’d do my best to make everything go smoothly.
The PIC is Dave, and he is a friend who loves flying for these guys. Dave supervised my initial flight in the G280 on a dead leg (no pax). I’ve done a number of flights in this machine by now, but all of them dead legs. This one was live and nervous, but Dave encouraged me to get on with it.
Landing at Lexington: This was Dave’s leg and his landing on RWY22 was flawless. I was surprised to see a runway had been removed at KLEX since my last visit. That was due to an accident where the jet crew did not verify which runway they were on, chose the short one, and it wasn’t long enough to achieve flight. We’d be here for a few hours and then depart for Madisonville in western Kentucky.
I assumed Dave would do all the flying, and stressed that I’d be fine with that. The big guy was back there and good impressions were important. I had less than 10 takeoff and landing cycles in this airplane (hundreds in the simulators), so It’s all good. We left Lexington and headed for Madisonville with Dave flying, when he decided I would be doing that next leg.
Departing Madisonviller (2I0): It was my turn to fly. The winds were calm for my takeoff out of a skinny strip in Madisonville, KY. We were cleared only to 4000′ initially, so I reduced power and limited airspeed to avoid blowing through it. Just a few bumps in the climb and we were on our way.
Broken layers covered the ridges and required us to almost overfly the airport before we could identify it for the visual. I descended for a right hand visual pattern for landing on Latrobe RWY 24. Turning base, I clicked off the autopilot and flew it down to gain some hand flying experience. I’m happy with my landing, and honestly didn’t try to grease it on. After landing I went easy on the Thrust Reversers (TRs) and light on the brakes to ensure a smooth deceleration. Very cool. So very cool.
Dave encourages me to keep getting better and I love flying with him. He makes it easy and knows what he is doing.
I taxied in and we off-loaded the passengers. Ground crew are full time at this company, and also take care of my airplane when I fly out here. I let them knowI’d be leaving in an hour, and asked them to pull my airplane out of their hangar for me. Then I got into my post-flight duties; covering the external devices, dumping the unused coffee, and cleaning and stowing the coffee pots. With that done, I left Dave to the paperwork, jumped in a crew car, to checked out of my hotel. That was only a 5 minute drive up the road, so I was back in no time.
When I returned, the jet was already in the hangar with my luggage still inside. My airplane was being pulled out as I drove up. I transferred my gear, thanked the line crews, said goodbye to Dave, and pre-flighted my airplane for the return flight home.
Flight home: I enjoyed a similar weather experience coming home on my own. It wasn’t as busy, but right in the middle of the flight I had some key decisions to make. I ended up passing within a few miles of a building cell, but came through a cloud canyon and popped out in the clear on the other side.
Now it was a straight shot to BUNTS intersection, the route having been changed for the third time by ATC. ATC does a great job keeping me clear of conflicts, so this isn’t a complaint. Getting closer to home, I asked for 5000′ to get under the cloud layer for smoother air. My descent was granted and the result was as expected. On more ATC re-route to PADRE and then direct Wilmington Airport and home. Moving along at 180 to 200 kts ground speed.
N833DF flew flawlessly and I loved it. One hour and 10 minutes home. The air at 9000′ was crisp and clear, topping the majority of the broken layer. This airplane flies down in the weather most of the time (typical cruise altitudes from 8000′ to 13000′ for me), but it’s fast and the diversions required are less painful.
The next day: I went back to the airplane and washed the belly. I also post flighted the airplane and began to polish the spinners. I’ll get back to those with some fresh polish and a buffer maybe tomorrow. I think I’ll also pull the panels and check around for exhaust mounts and general conditions on each engine.
This was a fun week, and I’m finally feeling alive again with respect to my health. This weeks flying was particularly rewarding. I had a good time.
Fly safe you all!
Comments Off on Aug 22, 2022 – Jet trips and N833DF cleanup
If you read my previous post just a few days ago, you’d know that I was just out to Pittsburgh for a jet trip that ended up canceled. I got home in time to see the July 1st fire works display in Chesapeake City, and prepared for the next opportunity to use my airplane to do jet trips on Monday. I’m using my airplane quite a bit, and even have another vacation flight planned for Florida when I get back from this next mission.
N833DF was ready to go again, or so I thought as I launched out to Pittsburgh Monday around 2pm. The plan was to do a flight Tuesday; go see the Flight 93 Memorial on Wednesday; do another flight on Thursday; and then head home before dark if the weather permitted. Thunderstorms have been the order of the day, and I usually see them building if I’m not dodging them this time of year.
Something happened on the way to Pittsburgh that I didn’t notice what at the time. The JPI data revealed the timing, and gave me the benefit of hindsight in this story telling. In the graph below, notice the change in EFT on left engine cylinder #4 at approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes into the flight. You can see a drop in EGT of about 100 degrees that shows something odd was beginning to happen. Actually, the damage was already done at this point, but I didn’t see it.
At this point I landed and the ground crews put my airplane away. I grab a crew car, and check into the hotel to prepare for the next few days of flying the G280, unaware that a challenge lay ahead on the return flight.
Fun Flying the G280: The flight plans for the jet will take me to Charleston, Naples Florida, and other stops, so this will be fun. I didn’t get any landings on this trip, and the trip scheduled changed constantly, but I still enjoyed the experience. I’m going to ride this train awhile longer, and see how it goes.
Go Home Day: It is the 7th of July. We’d just completed a return flight from Charleston in the jet, and it’s time to pull my airplane out and fly myself home. The developing issue with my airplane reveals itself to me as I level off in cruise. At least this is when I first become aware of it.
The JPI EDM 760 starts flashing with a DIFF warning and my eyes are finally focused on the problem. The alarm was because the EGTs were so out of whack, and now I see that left side #4 EFT is 500 degrees below everyone else. The airplane has been talking to me for a few days now, but I haven’t been listening.
Looking back, the left engine has been starting differently for the last few trips. I could be wrong, but I think I missed several opportunities to look more closely and find it. I think I will need to do a more thorough pre-flight occasionally. We’ll see why as I continue this story.
Now that I’m in cruise with nobody else to talk to, I start thinking through the problem. EGT is low on one probe, and I consider that I’ve had issues with probes during the initial installation. It could be just a bad probe. The engine is running fine; CHTs are normal; no differential power issues; and the props are remaining synced. Oil pressure and temperatures are also good and comparable side to side. In other words, there are no outward signs that the information being presented is valid. I must be a bad probe or bad information, so I decide to continue for the remaining hour until I get home.
The JPI graph below shows you the information I had, including fuel flow.
The storms are building: I’m getting home relatively early and flying through weather that is juicy and prime for thunderstorm development. I needed to do an instrument approach into KILG. Immediately after being handed off to Philly, they gave me a vectors for sequence direction as if I’d been handed off late. I complied and was number three for the approach. The controller never told me WHAT APPROACH I would actually be flying, and I initially assumed it was runway 01. The engines both perform flawlessly during the maneuver, and I thought nothing more about them.
The next thing I knew, Philly gives me a final vector to intercept the final approach course, but still fails to say what approach I was flying. ‘Philly – turn right heading 060 and intercept the final approach course, but for which approach?’ I replay. He admits he never told me, and I’m very happy about all the work I’ve done with the Avidyne IFD550. Just a few moments before this exchange I heard one of the planes in front of me call out a fix, and from that loaded up the RNAV 09 approach. He confirmed that approach, I activated the VTF, and intercepted with plenty of time.
Everything continued as normal after a short landing, 180 deg turn on the runway, and taxi back to my hangar. Not until I brought the throttles to idle did I realize that something else was actually happening. the left engine backfires just before it shuts down. That ain’t right.
It is now Thursday afternoon, and I’m supposed to fly my wife to Florida this Sunday. I decide to call my A&P, Paul Phillips, and talk about what I should do. I’m ready to drive to Florida again, and I tell Paul there is no pressure here unless it is something simple. Last year I had broken my left knee and had to drive instead of fly. Bev and I still saw some cool places and had a great time together. Neither of was overly concerned about driving.
Paul and I convinced ourselves that this is most likely lead fouling on one of the plugs in that cylinder. He asks me to meet him at his hangar, but I decide not to fly the airplane further for fear that I could harm the engine. I also didn’t like taking off with a known issue, so I demurred and offered to just drive and do this work later.
Paul insisted that he could to come to my hangar on Saturday and just bring a plug with him. I reminded him that the Electro-Air system on my engines requires a unique plug, in case both are affected. I liked the idea that Paul would do a detailed inspection with me when he arrives, and I wanted that insurance before I put Beverly in the airplane. The weather was going to be challenging, and this all had to be right.
I STILL didn’t pull the engine panels: I was hot and tired after all the flying I’d done, so after the plan was in place and I believed I understood the problem, I went home. What I should have done is inspected my engine thoroughly before going home.
Saturday Morning Maintenance: Arriving an hour or so before Paul on Saturday morning, I finally pull the panel off of the left engine outboard. The exhaust break is immediately obvious, and I see soot patterns in the compartment. I start looking around for heat damage, but don’t see anything obvious after I clean off the soot. I’d have seen this early and could have done better repair planning earlier had I not been lazy and pulled this panel Thursday afternoon. Check it out below.
Holy hole in my exhaust BatMan! Obviously, I called Paul immediately and caught him at his shop, where he had stopped on the way up from his beach house. That was luck I didn’t expect or deserve. It was Saturday morning and the first time I’d taken off the left cowl. My trip was tomorrow and I was convinced now that we were driving. This system would have to be sent off for repairs.
Paul saves the day. When he saw the pictures, he stunned me by telling me he had an airplane there with a new system on it. He’d remove that one and bring it up for me. So that is what he did.
Paul arrived and removed the old exhaust piece that had failed. Only then did I notice that the hangar had failed (the probable cause of all this), and we both then realized that we didn’t have one. Still not to be defeated, Paul got in his truck and fought traffic down and back from Dover to get a hangar for me. That meant 40 minutes in beach traffic each way. We finally wrapped it all up by 3pm Saturday, and I called Bev to inform her we were flying and I’d be home to pack.
Lessons Learned: I need to improve my pre and post flight inspections. It takes a few minutes pull the four panels and look at the engines, fuel lines, exhaust systems, and exhaust hangars specifically. I’ll start doing this before contract trips and trips I take my wife on. When I have a problem after a flight, I’ll look into it more thoroughly right then, so as to better prepare for appropriate maintenance. Finally, I’ll look at the JPI data with new knowledge, and scan it more frequently in flight. I got lazy and could have caught this much earlier. The JPI did a wonderful job of talking to me, but I missed what it was saying in this case. I didn’t hear it.
Paul was awesome in this case. I’m so glad I overhauled my engines and updated my avionics before I retired. My goal now is to wear this airplane out by using it, and I’m on my way with 300 hours on the engines as of this writing.
I accepted two trips after we get home from Florida, so I’ll be with Paul again before or right after that trip for oil change and AD updates. Then it’s off to Jekyll Island again in September.
Bev and I are doing retirement well.
Comments Off on Jul 4, 2022 – N833DF Problem in Flight
Avidyne Continued: I spoke with Todd at Lancaster Avionics yesterday. Even though Avidyne gave me a great explanation, Todd warned me that my troubles may not yet be over. He is concerned my GPS antenna may be of a very old vintage, and might continue to give me grief. I found the logbook entry for the initial antenna install logbook (before WAAS, so not the currently installed antenna), but I need to continue looking at the logs when I get home to find the WAAS antenna vintage.
I’m not worried. If the antenna is old we’ll replace it asap and move on. While we are at it, I want him to also look at my comm antennas and make sure they are firmly bonded to reduce static in flight. I want them to be as reliable as I can make them. Currently I hear lots of static in flight on #1, which might actually be normal considering the areas I’ve been flying over.
More on that later.
G280 Trip: I’m waking up in a Latrobe hotel this morning at at 5am. Getting up early is normal for me, and I’m happy to have slept well. I’m here for a planned flight in the G280 this morning, down to St Augustine and back.
After I arrived yesterday, I reached out to the PIC that I’ve never met. We had a brief conversation while he was out walking, and sorted out how we’d conduct todays flight. I explained that I knew the airplane well, having instructed in it over a 3 year period. I also told him I had limited operational experience in the jet. Not only was he comfortable with that, he told me I’d be flying right seat on the dead leg home. I LOVE that – flying with someone comfortable enough to share legs like that, which is the way it should be.
This gentleman lives in Houston, and was sharing that it will be midnight before he gets home flying commercially after todays flight. I let him know I flew myself out here in my TwinCo, and could drop him off right in Philly (or Baltimore for that matter). That’d save him a connecting flight and could possibly get him home earlier.
I really want to be home for the Chesapeake City fireworks tonight, and I think I can get this done and still make it home. Our planned flight is to be back in Latrobe by 2pm, which would get me to philly by 4pm with some margin.
Weather is hot with the possibility of storms enroute this afternoon. That could mean delays into Philly and then out of Philly, but the prospect of saving this guy HOURS of sitting in airports is too appealing. I want to do this even if I miss out on the fireworks. As close as I’ve lived to Philly, I’ve never flown my own aircraft into that airport. Dave M (my G280 mentor from FlightSafety) does it all the time, and I figure why not. Baltimore is easy in and out, so maybe Philly can be too.
New ICOM Handheld: I may have mentioned that my last ICOM fell apart in my hands last week. I ordered a replacement and it arrived just after I left for the airport yesterday. Bummer. I’ll play with it when I get home though.
Canceled Trip: Waking up this morning, I checked email and see that dispatch has canceled todays trip. Talking with the PIC last night, he said he wanted to sleep late to prepare for a very late night getting home today. That picture has changed for us, but I don’t want to text him too early and wake him up.
I’m really bummed because I was looking forward to more left seat experience this morning. Then again, I miss Beverly and my home, so it’ll be good to get back before the fireworks tonight. If I get the chance to help this guy by dropping him in Philly, then that will be a really fun thing to do as well.
It’s all good. I’ve signed on to another two trips next week. I’m now wondering if those trips were to pick up the very people who canceled this morning, which would mean that they’d be canceled as well.
Life is good: I don’t like hotel living at all, but I love the flying experience I’m getting to do.
Fly safe and enjoy everyday.
Comments Off on Jul 1, 2022 – Avidyne Continued, G280 Canceled Trip
Yesterday I visited a youth corrections center where my late older sister spent years of her life working in many capacities. Susan was well loved there; so much so that one of her charges became a key participant in painting a mural in her honor. My wife and I spent some time with the amazing people who work there protecting and directing children, and once again we were humbled by their love for Susan and for us.
Flying N833DF and the Gulfstream G280: I’m getting allot of use out of my airplane this year. We’ve done multiple trips for fun and are just back from Mississippi where the engines were smooth and the groundspeed was high. I also have done a few jet trips using my airplane to commute, and have three more scheduled over the next few weeks. Those trips are lucrative and fun, and would not be attractive without my airplane. For those trips I fly to Latrobe, PA and the company I fly for hangars the airplane for me. Fuel gets paid for too, so it is a sweet deal.
In July we’ll fly to Florida and visit the east and west coasts while there. In August we plan to just hang out and enjoy Chesapeake City. In September we are off again to Jekyll Island, where we’ll land and rent a golf cart to get around all week. It’s been an awful lot of work getting to this level of reliability. I’m enjoying it while it lasts!
Altimatic IIIB: Because I’ve been flying allot, I am convinced that the repairs Lancaster Avionics (Jim Good) completed on my autopilot did the trick. The thing is rock solid and I could not be happier.
Having said that, Francois Marquis gave me some advice via my YouTube channel. Francois says:
‘Thanks for sharing this, Frank. A few things that are wrong in your assessment, if I may. Your pitch rate is not adjusted. The C3 are “angle based” autopilots in both roll and pitch. The agressiveness you saw in pitch is because the limit values are not adjusted. A -2.5 and +7 degrees should be set in pitch. To verify this, descents should be made at 18MAP and Vcruise +10 mph. This is all documented in the Piper Altimatic 3 service manual. Also, I noticed the pitch indication is not squared horizontal as it should be. All these are adjusted from the console. While at it, you may also want to adjust the roll limits, along your Aspen GPSS gain. Do not hesitate to ping me if needed, I explored these babies down to the resistor level !
I think it is awesome that he took the time to share this information. I have not followed through yet, but it is on my retired guy project list for later this year. Even if I do nothing at all with it though – I have an effective and completely functional autopilot at this point, and practiced IFR procedures to effectively utilize it.
Fuel Prices: The plan for today is to do a short flight down to Delaware Coastal airport (KGED) where I used to find reasonably priced fuel. Today I might not even land there, as fuel prices approach $8.00 a gallon. I can do better up at Summit Airport (KEVY), so I’ll top it off on the way home.
I’ll have the GoPros running to produce a new video for my YouTube channel, and I’ll add a link here once I produce the video. I learned a few things about my equipment lately that I intend to share both here and in the video.
Avidyne Dead Reckoning incident: In my last post I reported an incident where my Avidyne IFD550 lost all satellite signals in flight, and went into dead reckoning mode within the DC area. I was sure I had an antenna or installation issue. I’ve also been quite sure three other times when I reported other serious issues to Avidyne. All of those cases ended up being user error dealing with this unique and powerful equipment.
When we landed in Pascagoula, MS, I emailed tech support at Avidyne and opened a ticket. They responded with comprehensive instructions on how to download logs that would be useful to them in diagnosing the issue. This ability to troubleshoot is new to me, so I waited until the following Sunday when I could do this from my hangar in Wilmington, DE.
Downloading the logs was straight forward, but took about 30 minutes to accomplish. I sent the logs in on a Sunday, and thought about the fact that I might need an updated GPS antenna to rectify this issue. I was very surprised to see a comprehensive explanation in my inbox on Monday morning (Great Service Avidyne!!). I’ll include the explanation here:
Thank you for sending in your logs and all of the questions Nic requested. I do see in the IFD logs that the GPS signal on your IFD dropped from full signal to search mode on June 21, 2022 at 12:53:41 zulu time. After you reset the IFD the GPS signal came back without issue and has worked ever since.
Typically, when we see that the IFD has an internal fault on the GPS board the GPS signal dashes out rather than dropping to search mode. At the beginning of your flight there was a UTC Mismatch error message that said please restart your IFD when possible at 11:57:13 zulu. This occurs when the IFD and the GPS clocks have a discrepancy in time mark. The IFD was not reset so after about an hour of flight the system was confused and the GPS board went in to search mode to reacquire satellites.
The UTC mismatch can occur at times if the system is turned on while being shaded or blocked from good satellite line of site ( in a hangar or just outside a hangar ). It looks like this was a one time event so I would recommend monitoring the signal and if it happens again please let us know and refer to this ticket number – #IPS———. You can always have Lancaster submit the IFD for a repair/exchange, but if the shop does not find anything wrong with the unit they charge a $75 no trouble found fee.
Field Service Rep | North America
US Navy Veteran
O: 321•751• 8451
New Avidyne Procedure: It is clear that a message came through and I missed it. I missed it because the Avidyne unit produces alerts and messages constantly, and it is human nature to start tuning nuisances out. I also missed it because there is no other navigation unit I’ve encountered that would exhibit this behavior.
The new software release for Avidyne will address the nuisance messages by eliminating the mundane ones (datalink, stale wx, etc). In the meantime, I’ll pay attention to the alerts that are reported when the unit is first turned on, and I’ll also review the alert summary page while holding short for takeoff. I’m happy with their explanation and just learned a bit more about my equipment.
Lightspeed Zulu: My original Zulu headset doesn’t owe me a dime. Again on the flight to Mississippi, my headset ANR went offline right after the GPS issue was resolved. This typically happens with the battery dies, so I replaced the batteries and got it working again. Those were fresh batteries, so I was surprised that the operating light was blinking red, an indication that the batteries were weak. I knew the batteries were tested fresh, but I swapped them again anyway. Same result.
On the flight home, however, the problem disappeared. Like so many other things with airplanes; pause before pursuing an issue that cannot be reproduced later.
Nevertheless, At the same time I sent the email to Avidyne, I sent another to Lightspeed to inquire about their current exchange program. I wasn’t going to repair either of these headsets since I’d done that already once and now they had to be over 10 years old. They replied and offered me $200 off of a Lightspeed Zulu3 $850 headset.
Since both ANR Zulus are working now, I’ll keep them both. What I will do is watch for Oshkosh show specials and buy one more Zulu3 for me. I used them in my airplane and in the jets as well. Then again, maybe I’ll look into a smaller more portable ANR that will work in my airplane and in the jet. Aviation Consumer Magazine here I come.
ICOM Handheld: I rarely ever use my handheld, and haven’t even carried it with me lately. The ICOM A4 is a very basic unit whose features have always been obtuse and hard to remember. I thought I’d test it anyway, so I installed 6 fresh batteries in it and turned it on. Nothing. It would not turn on – period.
I set the radio aside for a few days, and when I got back to it, decided to open it up and see if I could find corrosion. Batteries had leaked in it last year, but I thought I’d cleaned it all up. As soon as I put a good grip on the radio to unscrew the unit, the plastic case completely fell apart. It was like it decayed on its own, and I’ve never seen plastic do that. The only thing I can think happened is that I either crushed it under something, or dropped it at some point and didn’t notice that it had cracked.
I just ordered an ICOM IC AC25 Sport to replace the unit. Keeping my flight bag properly outfitted.
That’s enough for now. I need to go for a walk along the canal, and later on go fly my airplane a bit.
Comments Off on Jun 29, 2022 – G280, Altimatic IIIb, Avidyne, Lightspeed, ICOM
Bev and I are both retired now. I’m still doing contract flights in the G280 now and again, but for the most part we are doing short trips around the country with the Harley or the Twin Comanche as we see fit. This particular trip was an awful lot of fun, so I thought I’d take a few minutes and memorialize it.
Bev and I kind of invited ourselves on a vacation with our daughter and son-in-law; Scot and Leigh Ann. They were planning to drive two of their boys and another cousin south to Biloxi, where they planned to spend time with Scot’s brother Jeff’s family. We’d fly down and hang out with everyone for a few days in the middle.
Getting the trip started: Bev and I flew our Twin Comanche – N833DF – on the first leg from KILG (Wilmington, DE) down to KAJR (Cornelia, GA) airport. Bev and I both have been struggling with cold type illnesses for several weeks, but we recovered enough to make this flight. We were off the ground by 8:10am and passing north of DC westbound at 10,000′ by 8:30am. That is when the first of two mission glitches popped up.
Dead Reckoning in the DC Area: Approaching MRB (Martin State VOR), the IFD550 navigator went into Dead Reckoning mode. I continued the flight using the uncertified Garmin 496 and the autopilot heading mode while I looked into what was going on. The GPS status page showed that no satellites were being received. I was concerned by my proximity to the DC airspace; annoyed that I might have to scrap my direct to routing for the more arcane VOR-TO-VOR routes; and really annoyed that the unit was new and giving me grief.
I powered off the IFD550 OFF and then back ON. It works for windows, so maybe the ship will right itself when I do that. As soon as the unit powered up, the satellites were received, SBAS worked, and navigation was once again available. I continued the flight down with no further issues. I’ll follow up with Avidyne after we land for the day.
Note that I did report the outage to the controller, but only AFTER I’d resolved the issue. I didn’t need to be vectoring and communicating while navigating old school and diagnosing electronics. I wanted to let him know in case the military had caused the outage, or others might experience the same thing (external causes). This controller and the next controller both asked several times if I was still ok as the flight progressed.
Lightspeed Zulu: With the IFD550 issue resolved, now my reliable Lightspeed Zulu headset developed a dead battery. The ANR feature dropped off, making the headset quite useless. I changed the batteries to known fresh ones to get the headset working again, which is not unusual. What was odd, however, is that the red low battery indicator stayed on, indicating that the batteries were inadequate and the unit would fail again. I changed the batteries to yet another set, even though I’d tested all of these batteries, but the red light stayed. Son of a B#@!h!.
At Bev’s suggestion, we switched headsets to avoid my having to deal with the IFD550 issue (should that resurface) with a failing headset. I did have one of the David Clark units in the back seat as a fall back, so I wasn’t concerned. I’ll deal with this after we land as well. I have since decided to put both of the spare David Clark’s in the airplane all of the time now, to be ready in case kids wanted to fly back with us on some future flight.
Landing at KAJR (Cornelia, GA) to get fuel, where we met Bob. This gentleman was working the FBO today as a side activity. It seems that Bob works in R&D for industrial glass blowing for a local company; he absolutely loves the area and is glad he is back there; and really glad he didn’t stay in New Jersey to work in a glass blowing factory. Bob is an amazing ambassador for this Georgia community, and tried to convince us to decide to live here!
Neither Bev nor I need to be sold on the Peach State – we’ve had some great times with great friends here. The FBO was clean and refueling was a non-event. I picked up our clearance by phone, and we were soon climbing away for our destination – KPQL (Pascagoula, MS).
Final leg south: Reaching 10,000′, Bev pulled out our packed lunch and we enjoyed a Jersey Mike’s sub at altitude. The final leg would be less than 2.5 hours, and I very much enjoy passing the time with a good lunch in the cool temperatures at 10,000′. Life is good and this is fun.
It is worth nothing that the airplane, aside of the Avidyne issue, was performing flawlessly. I’ve had some trouble syncing props right away in the past, but not today. Smooth engines; perfect syncing; impressive ground speeds; and an autopilot that was built in 1966 and is working perfectly. I don’t always fly a perfect airplane, but when I do, it’s because I’ve spent a fortune and think it was worth it.
Approaching Pascagoula: I had chosen this airport because it has two approaches; a nice long runway; and there was hangar space available at a very reasonable cost. There is another airport of adequate length within just a few minutes of my destination, but I prefer driving 30 minutes for the added features of this one. If the weather is down low on the way home, I want to be able to get a clearance quickly and efficiently out of there. There also have emergency equipment and services, whereas the local airport did not.
Sirius XM weather is most definitely better than FIS-B weather. I had recently canceled my subscription and saved some $700+ per year in doing so. I did miss it today, however, as the FIS-B regional radar wasn’t reliably updating enough to get a clear picture of the storms brewing at my destination. I had to supplement what I saw with the controller’s knowledge.
With an hour to go on our flight, the destination winds were reported calm and an approach to the south looked doable. As we got closer, the cells grew more intense right over the IAF for the RNAV 17 and it was clear that this wasn’t going to work. I started planning to fly south to get lined up with the north RNAV35 approach. Passing between the building cells north of our destination and the cell developing further east of us and Mobile Alabama was the idea.
Once within 30 minutes of our destination, the RNAV 35 option also fell out of favor as the storm covered the final approach path there as well. It began to appear that I might not actually be able to land until this storm clears. As an alternative, I looked for and found a small airport to the north I could use as a holding point on the ground if need be.
So now it was onto Plan C. I’d fly between the cells, just like I was going to use the RNAV 35 from the south. Only now I’d continue my descent to ensure I stayed out of the clouds and could see where the rain shaft and cells were. I noted that the cell over my destination was dissipating, as was evident from the anvil looking cloud top; the clearly intense rain shaft; and reports of extreme precipitation in front of me.
I called Mobile approach; asked if he could see anyone getting into KPQL. We discussed the plan I had in mind, including my plan to escape over the water if need be, and then come back to an airport to the north and hold on the ground. He thought it might work out well, and gave me a heading to follow with 65 nm to go. I thought it was so much fun developing a battle plan with the area controllers on my way in. I was loving it.
In between two extreme cells we went, heading south toward the coast as I descended to remain underneath the clouds with good visibility. Drop down below 4000’ and then 2000’. Once underneath, I realized that this was going to work! Level at 2000′ I was underneath in 6 miles visibility and cleared to the airport. I kept my speed up all the way as it looked like the cells were regenerating (they were, and would block this path in about 45 minutes). Flying past airports along the coast, I made a mental note to use each successive one as a new escape plan, should I get cut off before my destination. I had plenty of gas and plenty of ways to run away.
Pascagoula airport appeared dead ahead, and we landed without incident behind a helicopter. I was a bit high on final, but was able to grease the landing even with full flaps. We are here! Chris and Hayden appeared from the FBO to take care of my airplane, so I briefed both of them on the nose gear tow limits. I supervised the refueling, and chose to top off all tanks. In retrospect, I should have left the nacelle tanks empty for weight. It’s hot down here.
Follow up on technical issues: When I reached the hotel I fired off two emails. I notified Avidyne of the incident where I lost the sat signals and Lightspeed of the headset issue (the later to inquire about upgrading my headsets). Avidyne got right back to me with instructions for capturing logs, and Lightspeed as well looking for serial numbers.
Legends Hotel: Bev and I checked into the Legends hotel, with the expectation that cigarette smoke would be non-existent or at least at a minimum. The hotel was very nice, but the first room had smoke smell and someone had cheated. Our second room smelled great, so we were all set.
The Legends Hotel had apparently been a senior citizens home before Katrina. It was destroyed by the storm, with all the windows blown out front to back. Since then, the building was restored for use as a hotel with a 40’s and 50’s star theme (Sinatra, etc). I’d definitely stay here again. If you are as sensitive to smoke as I am, check the comments for the hotels in the area before you book.
I put a YouTube video out there for this trip that will give you an idea of how much fun we had going down and coming back. Admittedly, there are more fun family pix than flying pix, but we really had an incredibly good time that included flying; fishing; pools; gators; boating; live shows; little race cars; and a shrimp boil with a bunch of great folks.
We started our trip home on Friday, Jun 24 from Pascagoula airport. Before we left I met Tim who had set up the FBO and led the charge on improvements there. Tim gave us special attention, follow up on a great start that Christy, Hayden, and Chris gave us when we got here.
Hats off to Southern Sky Aviation who took amazing care of my wife; my airplane; and me. Great service at a fair price. Hangared while there. Everyone had a story to share and Bev and I love hearing them. It’s a new thing for me. Realizing how awesome people are right in front of me, and having time to listen. I had an unreasonably great time!!!!
We fired up the airplane when the tower opened at 8am. Even though I was at the runway end and waiting, four Cessna 172’s got off ahead of me. They departed one after another from a short intersection take-off and were out of there. I had learned from Tim that the string of Cessnas taking off in front of us were all fish spotters. They work for the omega fish oil company adjacent to the airport (I am an everyday customer since my eye surgery). These pilots work the boats first for a few years; then transition to flying in circles looking for fish. 6 months on. 6 months off. That’s what they want to do forever.
The Lightspeed headsets are both working normally again for the flight home. Go figure. The Avidyne IFD550 is also working fine, so it will be interesting to see where that goes too.
We climbed to 9,000′ initially and that put us right at a scattered cloud layer. Bumps. I then asked for 11,000′ and climbed up for that, accepting a 10-20kt headwind in trade. Bev and I have been using oxygen the whole time, so the altitude should be no problem. We were headed for Lee County, a fuel stop, and then lunch on the last leg home.
Landing at 0VG (Lee County, VA) we found an airport in between ridges. The view was spectacular and the airport looked like it had just been finished. Everything was new and no one was anywhere to be seen. One single airplane on the ramp was all we saw there.
Unable to get a clearance out of 0VG! Well sir. I started up, taxied out, and called the clearance delivery number to pick up my clearance for the last leg home. The operator told me I was number two for getting a departure clearance, and I waited on hold for 5 minutes. He came back and said I’d need to call another controller (London Control). I called that number and they flatly refused to give me a clearance because it was out of their area. I called back to the first number and he said he couldn’t help me. WTF!
At this point I’d been idling on a hot ramp for 10 minutes and told him thanks. I’d pick it up in the air. Departing via the obstacle departure procedures, I climbed over the airport to 3200′ and procedure direct MRB (Martin State). Passing 4000′ I was finally able to reach a controller to pick up my clearance.
Had the conditions been IFR, I would have pressed the issue further to get out of there. Beautiful airport in the middle of nowhere though.
Wrapping things up: Bev and I landed and put the airplane away. I went back the next day and followed Avidyne’s instructions to download detailed logs from my navigator. I’ll wait to hear back from them – suspecting that a new GPS antenna may be in my future. I also captured the Lightspeed serial numbers, and am considering upgrading those as well.
In my hangar the next day, I sipped a cold beer and stared at my airplane sitting there. I’m so very fortunate to be right here, right now, enjoying the benefits of a life of hard work. Hard work that I very much enjoyed.
Fly safe and be well, my friends.
Comments Off on Jun 21, 2022 – Flight to Biloxi, MS
I was just a little nervous about the annual for N833DF this year. With all the treasure I’ve put into this airplane, I was very much looking forward to sailing through another annual with no issues. I had put fresh engines, props, an upgraded Aspen, and the Avidyne IFD550 in there over the lat two years. Subsequently, I’ve enjoyed two years of uninterrupted reliable operation. Kudos to Paul and Ralph down at Phill-Air (33N)
This years annual was completed with no unexpected squawks, which is what I’d been hoping for. Paul did suggest that I order two fuel boost pumps for next year, stating that wear is evident and losing one would prevent you from starting an injected engine. They’ll be good for another year of operation, however, so I’ll get those ordered for next year. We’ll also be refurbishing the fuel selector at the same time.
I repositioned the airplane back to my KILG Wilmington, DE home base; arriving back home an hour before Biden’s recurring TFR went into effect. I didn’t do any flying this past weekend to avoid the hassle, but I’m going to have to start using the TFR process they have in place. Biden comes home more than a school boy in third grade, so I’m going to have to fly while he is here.
Weekend Reading: This has to be the wettest spring in awhile, so I stayed in while it rained and found the Avidyne book I received with my new navigator. I tried to master the new equipment by reading the basics and flying it. It’s much more fun flying than reading, but when you hit enough snags it is time to read the book.
When I did open the book and started reading again – page for page this time – I was able to better understand a number of things that have been troubling me. The IFD550 is a vastly more powerful tool than the Garmin 530W I was used to, and requires will require overcoming negative transfer.
I’ll layout what I’ve learned or re-learned later in the post. For now – let’s talk about those things I was able to experiment with during a flight in the rain yesterday.
Flying in the rain: I had planned on taking an instructor/safety pilot/friend for a ride yesterday (Monday) to fly three approaches. Before I could do that, however, I was reminded by a phone call that reminded me I had already promised to take a friend flying that day. Fred is a former Marine and was looking forward to going flying, so we flew south and into the incoming rain for a few approaches at Delaware Coastal Airport (KGED).
On this flight I managed to log two precision RNAV approaches on this flight, as well as intercepts and holds. I’ll do another flight and log another four approaches to maintain instrument currency later this month.
Since I had a passenger this day, and was busy with IMC and rain, I didn’t get to do much experimenting with what I’d just learned. This first talk about those things I was able to accomplish. After that I’ll get into what is next.
GPS Status: You can go to the SYS page and cycle through the LSK to reach the GPS Status. I needed to do this when my GPS indicator on the upper right was yellow. I sincerely thought my unit had failed to acquire a GPS signal and didn’t know how to check that signal.
As it turns out, the GPS indicator for this unit remains YELLOW if there is no flight plan entered, as was the case when I left Jekyll Island in February. It will also remain YELLOW if the flight plan is not been activated; if there is no active flight plan leg; or if no GPS signal is being received. This is critical to understand, and is mentioned in a single sentence in maybe two places in this manual.
Note that the Flight Plan will activate itself if you takeoff without doing so.
Oil Change Timer: Apparently, the TIMERS feature can be used to track hours flown. I’ve added a timer, labeled it ‘Oil Change’, and now I’ll get a reminder when I’m within 5 hours of the 50 hour oil change mark. This is also a legal AD inspection requirement for me, so this can be helpful. I’ve never ever forgotten this restriction, so this feature is less than ground-breaking. Still – it’s there and I’m using it.
Adding waypoints to an arrival or departure procedure is possible if you have version 10.2.3.1 or later. I verified that I’m operating with version 10.2.6.1. I may get to use this at some point, but I’ll wonder if I will remember it when I need it. To check your version, go to the SYS page and cycle the LSK until you see Software Status.
Clearing a Flight Plan: Here is one I really wanted to know. When I am flying a complicated flight plan for training or a cross-country trip, I’ve wanted to clean up the waypoints to make it easier to manage changes. Previously I would delete each waypoint individually. During Monday’s flight I had just gone missed from an approach into Delaware Coastal and was cleared direct to my home airport, KILG.
I could add that to the end of the flight plan (which already had two destinations and two approaches). Instead, I added KILG to the end and selected GPS Direct. Then I used the Aspen to go into heading mode for the autopilot. Next I went to the FMS FPL tab; selected Current Route; then pressed CLR. You have to then go back to the FPL tab and add KILG again, but that is all that is there at this point. I do plan to use this procedure and like that I found this approach. In many cases, it will be easier to modify the plan in ForeFlight and simply upload it.
Uploading Data: I’ve had issues twice loading updated Electronic Charts. The solution has been to clear the cache in the JDM application, and also to reformat the USB Key as FAT32. This works to resolve the issues. I’m considering reformatting the USB Key each time as a safeguard.
The features I’ll document a few of the features I that I feel I’ve implemented. Many were rediscovered during this re-read
Mini Flight Plan: This one both excites and frustrates me. I’ve been able to see it efficiently shrink the size of my flight plan by NOT showing me every intersection. Instead it might show me KILG ENO V29.LAFLN KGED instead of all of the intermediate waypoints. While I have this option selected, I haven’t seen it use the more efficient presentation yet. What is missing is effective documentation on what it DOES DO and what I SHOULD EXPECT TO SEE. Frustrating.
Multiple Destinations in a flight plan. Finding out that simply hitting the PROC key multiple times will cycle you through the approaches for destinations in your flight plan was a big learning for me. That was a WIN! On the other hand, I have decided not to use this feature to add repeated approaches to the same airport. I find that far too confusing in the heat of battle.
[FPL] [INFO]: Using the info page. It is more useful if you highlight one of the waypoints on the FPL Tab (airport or VOR, for example) and then go to the INFO Tab. Look on the left side for PASTE and you’ll quickly get the information available for that waypoint. Cool feature I’ll use all the time!
[NRST]: This is a reminder that you can find the nearest VORs, and from there also get the frequency you are looking for. See also the [FPL] [INFO] feature.
[AUX] [AUDIO]: Comm Presets. I added several of these under my user profile ‘Frank’. Now that I’ve loaded them, I need to back them up.
OBS Mode: Upper right button (CDI Nav/Source Knob) switches from GPS into OBS mode. Use this to fly a heading that will intercept a radial to a waypoint (the next one). Reaching the waypoint, GPS mode is reactivated. You can use this method to intercept a DME ARC by activating the ARC leg and then flying an intercept heading.
North Up / Track Up: Switch North Up / Track Up by pressing lower right knob (Multi-Function Knob). Look for north symbol upper right and TRK symbol next to heading or track top/center. I use this all the time.
View Cursor: On MAP page; use View Cursor to walk through and center each waypoint on the screen as you check your flight plan.
Course Offset: On FPL, select the TO Waypoint. Select left side Offset LSK and set value by turning the multi-function knob.
Retry Approach: This LSK only shows up after a Vector-To-Final approach
Bypass a Procedure Turn within an approach: These waypoints cannot be deleted. Simply select the next waypoint and activate the leg instead to bypass the procedure turn.
Random Hold: Go to the FPL page and position the Insert Cursor after the waypoint you’d like to hold at. Press Enter; Select Hold; Fill in the data that ATC directed. Note that ATC gives a holding RADIAL to follow whereas the IFD uses a TO Radial. Therefore you must add or subtract 180 degrees!
Verify the hold is correct by observing that the ‘Hold South of’ type message is appropriate to the instructions given.
Published HOLD: On the FPL tab, place the Insert Cursor after the waypoint you’d like to hold at. Enter / Select Hold. If there is a published Hold or Holds here, you’ll be presented choices.
Present Position Hold: On the MAP tab, rubber band a new waypoint in front of the airplane. On the FPL tab, place the Insert Cursor after the new waypoint you just created. Enter / Select Hold. Accept default or alter data.
Admittedly there still remains a few features that I do not understand, or they simply do not work. In any event, I’ll have to continue researching those until resolved. I do plan to send these unanswered questions to tech support. I’ll read the FAQ first, however.
That’s it for now – I’m off to research further.
Fly Safe! Frank
Comments Off on Apr 5, 2022 – Weather Flying – Avidyne Cool Features
Good Morning everyone!
I’ve been gone for awhile, but I’m back now. It’s time to update you on what has been going on, and where my beautiful Twin Comanche is these days.
To review; Back on Aug 19th, 2021 I had submitted my resignation letter to FlightSafety. At that time I stated ‘This was not an easy decision to make, but my wife and I would like to enjoy the successes we’ve worked for before we get too old to play. I can only do that if I take control of my own schedule.’ I knew if I kept working there I would not be able to travel or do the things that my wife and I had been planning on.
Being Retired: So how do people do this? Be retired, I mean. I’m into my fourth month and I can tell you that you’ll figure it out. The biggest challenge I face is keeping my brain busy and fighting the inevitable boredom that happens when the weather is bad. The activities I love happen in Spring, Summer, and Fall; but rarely in winter.
I’ll start by saying that my highest personal goal will be to lose at least 40# this year. Personal weight management has been the only goal that has eluded me. I’m down 20# since Christmas, and hovering at this weight for a month now. I’m confident as the weather improves and my bicycling increases, I continue to lose this weight.
The balance of my time will be dedicated to traveling with my wife while using my toys. The Twin Comanche will take us places all year, and we’ll use the Harley on local rides and our first trailer trip to more distant locations.
Learning Electronics: I’ve also been self-teaching electronics while building a lab in my house. My grandson and I are designing a prosthetic hand for his school project, and I’m pushing the limits of my understanding to get this done. There is no end to the details I can dive into, and that fascinates me. I’ve always wanted to to this, so I’ll work on this when the weather sucks.
G280 Contract Flying: This has been an interesting twist as spring comes to a close. I’ve turned down 6 different trips since I’ve retired, but finally relented and went for my first class medical just last week. The moment I was given that paperwork I had a trip – my first time flying the machine I’d been teaching in. There was definitely rust I had to shake off, but I was with a great friend and I caught on readily.
I’ll remain current in the G280 through October, so I plan to keep doing trips until then. I believe there will be a demand for it, but I’ll also give a priority to the trips Bev and I plan to take. There is some talk among my friends about coming back to FSI part time, but there are no current plans to do that. These G280 trips are admittedly enticing, so it is possible I could work with them again in order to stay current. We’ll see what develops.
N833DF Update: The airplane is even more phenomenal. The weather is finally nice today, but I have a sinus infection that is keeping me at home.
Last Friday, I flew my airplane home just ahead of the presidential TFR to get it back in my hangar. The annual was completed for this year and no issues were found, except for evidence of a birds nest in the left wing.
I suspect that the nest happened while it sat on the ramp waiting for the annual, as I could not find any evidence of activity in the hangar itself. None-the-less, I added foam pool noodles to block the holes behind the ailerons. Birds will not quit once they find a home. Pool Noodles should do the trick and even blow off the airplane if I am completely brain dead during the pre-flight.
PowerTow: While the airplane was down, I also changed the oil and plug in my PowerTow. It had rust on it, so I applied my deplorable painting skills to clean that up as well.
I had neglected the oil for far too long, so it felt great getting my equipment back in order and cleaning up the hangar.
N833DF Avidyne IFD550: This radio is amazing and frustrating at the same time. Mind you – the frustration part is ALL ME. Between the jets and my Garmin experience, negative transfer is making the typical training flights I do for proficiency a little bit more difficult. Avidyne Technical Support has been right on it though. The three times I reported major technical problems with my radio/FMS/Navigator – it was quickly and accurately diagnosed as User Error.
Typically, I learn by doing and just go fly and figure it out. I was warned that this approach would not work well with this FMS, so I did read quite a bit before I went flying. I’ve made a few mistakes along the way, experienced significant frustration trying to ‘just fly’, but am slowly getting more proficient and understanding how to interface with it.
Since I can’t fly today, I opened the Avidyne book by Michael F Bauer (“Flying the the Avidyne IFD”) and decided to read it from cover to cover. Every page this time, which will mean more now that I have real world experience with it. I’m excited to say that I learned several new things that explain some of my frustration (negative transfer) and will make this investment really pay off. I can’t wait to go try them! Just a few of the features I re-discovered include the mini flight plan option; adding multiple destinations and being able to hit the PROC key to cycle through those destinations to set approaches at each one; additional details about entering unplanned HOLDS and verifying them; clearing an entire flight plan easily; and understanding flight plan activation.
Flying the Twin Comanche: Part of our retirement plan is to travel more. Bev and I decided to start checking out destinations within three hours flying time of home base (KILG). The idea was to look for destinations where we’d like to hang out for a week, and be able to travel using our airplane or the Harley.
Our initial experiment was the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area of Tennessee. I got to know this areas as I flew N833DF back and forth to Dallas, Tx last year. Stopping in western Tennessee and in Kentucky I witnessed beautiful landscapes and busy recreational lakes. The area looked lush and beautiful, and I wanted Bev to see it.
The idea was to fly into an airport near Pigeon Forge; then look for places we might want to rent on a routine basis. Wouldn’t it be nice to find a cabin on a mountain or a lakeside view that would give us an annual adventure to fill our time.
The flight southwest took about 3 hours at 9,000′, and was the first time I had both Beverly and myself on oxygen. We had a smooth ride in mostly VFR conditions, and the scenery was spectacular. I have occasionally been preoccupied and taken this for granted, but not today. I was enjoying Bev’s company and pointing out where I’d been.
N833DF did have a glitch on the trip down. I noticed an intermittent voltage fluctuation, and identified a potential problem with the right alternator shortly. I performed a post-flight check and everything was fine, so I covered the airplane and picked up our rental car. We had landed in Sevierville, just to the north of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.
The town of Sevierville was awash with electric buggies of all kinds. We were surprised at the activity in the town, and apparently timed our arrival to the start of an area wide car show. It looked like this was the place to be (for car lovers) and everyone from the surrounding area had come into the valley towns to fill them up. I went there expecting solitude and beautiful views, but landed among electric golf carts and buggies of all sorts carried senior citizens on the main roads. Ok – let’s see what is here.
Our room was nice enough, so we dropped our gear and started sniffing around on our iPads for a direction to go exploring in. That’s when I realized that the Tail of the Dragon was right here! The tail is a motorcycle route that is infamous for its challenging twists and switchbacks, and it’s be good to see it first in a rented Camry. We headed off to find it, with the secondary goal of spotting a place to rent cabins.
We rode the Tail of the Dragon to its southern end, where we found the Topaco Lounge. This restaurant was full of motorcycle riders with a flowing mountain stream adjacent to the dining area. It was really very nice. My hands were at 10 and 2 all the way over, but getting back by any other route would have added 2 hours around mountains. We headed back over the tail and cautiously drove the tail on back. I will NOT be taking Beverly two up on the trail, thank you. Box checked!
The Tennessee trip was worth doing and we very much enjoyed the trip. We did not find an obvious place to rent, however, so we aren’t planning a return trip any time soon. I do recommend this as a destination if you haven’t see it.
On the flight home I lost the right alternator completely. My A&P came up to meet me; found and repaired a broken field wire.
February 8, 2022. I’d been retired at this point for a month, so we decided to fly someplace warmer than Chesapeake City. Jekyll Island, Georgia had warm enough temperatures and was reachable with reasonable travel day in the Twin.
The trip included a stop in Lumberton, NC for fuel and comfort. We took the time to have lunch is their nicely appointed and clean lobby. I planned this to be a 5 hour trip with the winds we had, but could do it today in 4 hours. Having said that, I want to ensure my wife has the best time possible, so I make sure not to exceed 3 hour legs unless she is dead-to-the-world asleep. In the later case – we’re goin’!
I decided not to land on Jekyll island, but instead to use St Simon’s Island. I wanted a rental car and there are none on Jekyll; only open golf carts. My wife isn’t picky, but she does get cold. We drove the 20 or 30 minutes from St Simon’s to Jekyll and began exploring the island.
Let me just say we are going back. Granted, we were there in February and no one else was. Still, there is endless beaches; you can land on the island and be just fine with a golf cart; and the hotels are very nice. Bev and I plan to return in September, landing on the island this time. There is fuel there.
N833DF is going to our timeshare again in Florida in July. Last year we visited friends on the Gulf Coast and other friends in the Wilmington, NC coastal area. We did that trip by car then because I had an injured leg, but this year we’ll do it in style.
Motorcycle Trips: It’s still damn cold so I hope it warms up by next week. Bev and I have signed up with friends for a local ‘Ride to the Tide’ motorcycle ride. I’m definitely going, but Bev might hang back if it’s too cold. Like the airplane, I want her to be comfortable so we can properly enjoy these toys in our retirement.
Another trip is happening less than two weeks from now too. We’ll use our motorcycle trailer for the first time, and drive the Harley out to Huntington, WV for several rides in that area. This time we found an Air B&B to rent right on the river, and will use that as our base of operations. I’m nervous about using the trailer for the first time, and wondering what the Air B&B experience will be like as well. You don’t know until you try, so I’ll let you know how it goes.
That’s enough for now. Fly safe and be well!
Comments Off on Apr 4, 2022 – Retiree in Training
I have actually retired from FlightSafety at the end of 2021. I am not out there looking for anything either, and getting used to the idea of not working for the first time since I was 14 years old. Now that weekly work schedules are a thing of the past, I have to learn how to do this retirement thing. It’s not coming natural to me, but Bev and I will figure it out.
N833DF State of the Union Address
Avionics Updates: In the past two years I have updated my Aspen to a ProMax, replaced my aging Garmin 530W with an Avidyne 550, repaired my radio stack structure, and ordered a new 30k$ autopilot. I’ve been very happy with the path I’ve taken, and it’s given me something to train up on (which I enjoy). My panel updates are working well together. Upon my retirement, I’ve decided to cancel the new autopilot and continually maintain my Altimatic IIIB.
The IFD550 is a very powerful NAV/COMM that continues to throw me curve balls now and again. While the learning curve has been noticeable, I have finally been able to re-train my brain away from the Garmin 430/530 paradigm.
Engines: The Penn Yan overhauled engines now have 200 hours on them. That is only 10% of TBO life, even after all that Dallas flying. They start well and run smoothly, so no complaints at all. The only fly in the ointment is from the Blackstone Oil analysis where they believe the level of Chrome in the samples is showing higher wear than it should. The trends are the same for both engines, so I’m less concerned that there is a problem. Oil filters are clear and operation is normal.
I had a telephone discussion about this with Tim Hansen at Penn Yan (responsive customer service!). Tim reviewed my JPI data and the Blackstone reports with me, and I relayed the discussion to Paul, my A&P. We all feel there really is nothing to worry about here, but will plan on a bore scope inspection of both engines at the annual inspection to be sure. Tim suggested I call him back with those inspections (including pictures of the cylinder walls) in hand so we can put this concern to rest.
There had been a snow storm earlier in the week that covered the airport with ice. Prior to that, Biden had been zapping Delaware flying for the week between Christmas and New Years, and prior to that I’d been working damn near everyday in December. The result was that I hadn’t flown my airplane for an entire month!
The embedded video is from my breakout flight on January 6th down to KGED Delaware Coastal. There was another storm coming that night, so it was bumpy as hell on the northern segment of the flight. It smoothed out somewhat to the south, and the airplane was comfortable in the sun without the heat on.
Throughout the flight I could feel my reflexes were unnatural. The rust in my process was obvious to me. I was spending far too much head-down time managing and monitoring systems inside the airplane. Far too little time looking outside for traffic. Adding that new radio and the associated monitoring, debugging, and setup is a distraction. Adding cameras is yet another distraction (I only did a quick grab from my phone for this one). This airplane can be a hand-full when you haven’t flown recently; are dealing with traffic down low on a clear day; and trying to practice instrument approaches into a VFR airport.
Throughout the year I’m planning on working with Steve, a fellow PA30 owner and Flight Instructor, to do some practice and stay current in 2022. When it gets warmer, we’ll do single engine work in my airplane; stalls and proficiency work; instrument approaches. I’ll get to practice my own MEI skills by returning the favor for him, so that will be good for me as well.
I’ll be more active in the Northeast Twin Comanche tribe, attending more of the fly-ins that these folks arrange. I’ve only ever been able to attend one of these in Williamsburg earlier this year. I might also return to flying Angel Flights now that I’m retired and available.
Travel while you can!
Bev and I plan to figure out the best use of our new freedom this year. For me, that means seeing where I can insert my toys into the process. We did a 3 day trip to Tennessee a few months back that we still talk about. I’d like to do more trips like that in the airplane this year.
I recently purchased a single motorcycle trailer that works with my Honda CRV and our Harley Ultra-Limited. I’ve been following this young girl on YouTube (#RideForFood) who has inspired me to plan rides in both Tennessee (where we flew the airplane), and Arkansas. When it gets warm (April), we plan to trailer the bike to Tennessee first, and then out to Arkansas. I’ve planned about 15 rides and we’ll do a few of those.
We are in no rush. I am interested to see how much we both enjoy using these toys in this way. If it isn’t fun or worth the trouble, we’ll do something else. I’m not wedded to the toys and can entertain myself with those anytime. The entire point of retiring is to spend more time together while we can still move about the country. There will be plenty of time to sit around when we are old!
Fly Safe! Frank
Comments Off on Jan 8, 2022 – Winter Flight and a New Year