Web Site: http://www.airdorrin.com
Posts by fdorrin:
- 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.
- QWERTY KEYBOARD: On the screen primarily. Small bluetooth keyboard is mentioned.In general, I’ve had to get used to touching my radio’s screen. The kids that worked for me in energy trading used to chuckle at my lack of tolerance for people touching my screen while they leaned over me to make a point. Back then touchscreens did not exist, and I just hated people putting their hands all over my clean screen to explain anything. I just hated it. Do that and I generally stopped listening.
They learned.Fast forward to today – I use an iPad all day long and touch my phone screen constantly. I’ve had to adapt. I’m getting used to it because I had to. I’ll have to learn to effectively and safely clean my screen now, but that will happen.I have only one Avidyne unit, so the QWERTY screen appears on my one screen.
Martin has two Avidyne units, so entries on one screen pop up the keyboard on the other. Cool feature. In order to minimize screen touching on my brand new radio, which I aspire to, I will use the Avidyne IFD100 app on the iPad. It works fine, but I’m not in a routine yet.The mini bluetooth keyboard is a footnote. It is a joke, in my current estimation. I can’t see mounting this in any other place than the yoke where my iPad sits, which I won’t do. I can’t see using this thing in turbulence – ever. I could be wrong, and I will try it eventually, but I doubt anyone uses it. Ever. Yes – I jumped to this conclusion and put it back in it’s box.
Scheduled Flight Testing: Nothing specific. I’ll be using this from iPad and from the box as required, and you’ll figure it out too. I’ll report back any issues or useful findings.
- Datablock Customization:This is over the top outstanding, in my estimation. I’m not sure what ultimate selections I’ll make, but holy S$h!t this is freakin’ cool. I have a traffic radar embedded where I want it, and just found out I can add a CDI in there too. Very Very Very excellent feature.Easy to configure. Tremendously useful.
Scheduled Flight Testing: I want to have traffic, the CDI, ground speed, vertical descent rate, and next waypoint items up and ready. On longer flights I’ll have the opportunity to play more with these.The trouble with a PA30 is that it is so fast that you don’t have much time to fiddle with radios while you are preparing for an approach that is only 30 minutes away. Flying professionally while also learning and being solo is not easy.
- Multiple Approaches: I’d never thought of this nor heard of this capability in any other system until I saw Martin’s video. The user manual documents it, but do not try it in the air for the first time.In order to make this work, you have to enter in a route or flight plan that includes two approaches to the 33N airport. In my example, I initially enter the RNAV 9 into 33N airport from the JOSEM intersection with a procedure turn. After the missed, I wanted to fly the RNAV 27 from JODSI to the same airport.Martin says you can do it, and the book verifies his assertion, calling it a ‘Cool Feature’. I don’t see the steps required to do it anywhere, however, so I tested the process and have documented the steps to make it work.
Note: Bonus points if you find details in the documentation that I missed.You basically follow the normal process for the first approach. Add the same airport as a waypoint after the missed approach (bottom of the active route). Then enter the data block for that airport and directly enter the next approach you want. In other words, DO NOT try to use PROC to manage the second approach.
Note: If you fly this approach and go missed, you may not get auto sequenced to the missed approach waypoint on the first approach. I’m currently attempting to document what happens on each page, but finding it difficult while flying solo. Manual sequencing may be required.
Note: If the first missed approach waypoint from the initial approach calls for a turn, you might get busy trying to over-rule it by activating the second approach waypoint. In my example, the second approach was in the opposite direction.
- AHRS and Synthetic Vision: This is what sold me on changing out the Garmin 530W/FlightStream 210 combination. Not primarily, but useful in emergencies.The display is beautiful and packed with information. The sidebar data is retractible and very useful. The lateral and vertical direction indicators are very useful as an emergency backup and alternate approach display.
- Airway Navigation: I was so bedazzled by the features and functions in the basic demonstrations I’d seen that I fully expected to see low enroute charts for planning. For awhile there I was even thinking that Foreflight, the preeminent aviation application might be threatened by the power of this thing. Fear not, however, that hasn’t happened.
The IFD550 data subscription includes Jepp charts along with SIDs, STARs, and airport diagrams. The low and high enroute charts are not included, so I’ll use the powerful ForeFlight app to get that done.
I do have to consider whether I need to buy a Jepp chart subscription for the iPad or just use live with the free NOS charts. I can use them for work to be consistent, but I haven’t done that just yet.
I do have to figure out the why and when I need to switch from the SVS, FMS, and MAP pages. There are messages related to missed approaches and such that pop up when you are on one page versus another, and I just managed to notice the differences there. More work to do.
* SVS to get lateral and vertical guidance.
* FMS to change the route or activate a leg or approach (I think)
* MAP to monitor flight progress
- Custom Holds: Present position hold easily done. The other holds are readily implemented, and I did manage to reprogram an approach I’d entered at the last minute to include an extended hold.Note: One challenge with this new equipment is that things done infrequently will not come to me quickly in a pinch. I’ll focus on the basics that will allow me to stumble through anything when I have to, including a manually flown hold if I cannot get it programmed in time. It’s all possible, but flying a twin in weather gets busy.
- Vertical Navigation: I like seeing the top and bottom of descent. You get to see a Green Banana showing where you’ll achieve your altitude goal (up or down). It is not driving the autopilot, but it is useful already.
- Ease of Database Updates: I’ve done this once so far by using the Jepp JSUM application I already had for the 530waas, but downloading the data to a simple USB. You get all the obstacle, nav data, and charts that way.
One difference with this process – uploading data into the radio instead of Garmin’s approach where the data stays on a static card – is that I have to power up the airplane to update the radio. Minor thing but it changes my process.
- IFD100 and iPad: This free additional application works directly with the radio via wifi. I’m very surprised by how useful this can be, and have been playing with it quite a bit. It’s early yet, but this is a game changer for N833DF.
In order to use this I’ve learned to run dual apps on my iPad side-by-side. Foreflight on one side and the IFD100 on the other with the iPad oriented in landscape. I’ve changed from mounting my iPad in portrait mode on the yoke with just ForeFlight, so I can try this out and develop a process.
- Flight Plan transfer via wifi: Thus far I’ve tested and shown that I can plan my flight on ForeFlight and upload in the airplane directly. Shorter flights can be developed on the IFD100 by itself and that new route will be available on the airplane’s radio when they link. Foreflight uploads and downloads, but on demand and not automatically.
It’s early, but I think I already have everything I need and I’ll continue to find more capabilities there. I’ll evaluate what displays to have up enroute as we go.
Note: I run in split screen with an iPad mini5, so half screen is pretty small for controlling the IFD550. Controlling this way keeps wear down on the radio, so I like that approach. More playing is required.
- Weather and Traffic on the map: GTX345 does a nice job passing along the weather. Another decision I have to make at this point is how effective the weather displays at this point. The higher resolution on both the IFD550 and the IFD100 is noticeable. I am wondering again if I need to continue with Sirius XM weather.
- Fuel Endurance and range rings: The primary page I’ve been using is better than the Garmin equivalent. Truth be told, I never really researched the 530’s full capabilities since I had so many other new things going on in the airplane since the new engines went in.
Note: I see Martin zooming out to see fuel range limits, so I’ll try that this afternoon. I carry almost 7 hours of fuel and move at 175 kts, so I’ll have to scroll out to see those ranges.
- Weather displays on the information page are higher resolution and clear
- Fuel range rings are included, and usage information is better
- Jepp charts right on the IFD550 is useful, convenient, and easily readable
- Jepp charts repeated on the IFD100 are another excellent option, although if the IFD550 fails you’ll lose this too. Foreflight NOS charts can back you up.
- The Garmin 530 data package included Jeppesen charts for my iPad. The Avidyne package does not.
- Training and practice is required, but I love the unit. My jet training on Rockwell-Collins Proline units helps, I think, but you’ll master it if you take the time.
- Traffic is much better in the 550, but different. I missed the big rings, but after 5 flights I have learned where to look now, and find the Avidyne more powerful.
- This unit changes the way I will use Foreflight
- The SVS display has no heading bug. Interesting. Not sure if that is normal yet – investigating
- Routes / Flight plan updates in flight flow from ForeFlight into the 550 and then to the IFD100
- Update process: Proprietary card and USB uploader for Garmin is now gone. Avidyne uses a standard USB key that includes Nav and Obstacle data (at least in the trial)Note that updating the Garmin could be done with a card swap with the airplane powered down. Updating the Avidyne takes a few minutes with the radio powered up and the USB inserted. Not a big deal, but different.
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
Catching You Up on my news since the last post. I have been busy with life and I haven’t been blogging much. That may change as I have more time, and you’ll see why in the next post.
We launched a major update of our home on the C&D canal, which has absolutely dominated the scene is our house. After my wonderful father in-law and then mother in-law both passed away relatively recently, it was time to update a significant portion of our house. In order for that to happen, I had to move the Harley to my hangar and get into the habit of moving the cars around every morning to make a work space. That part has been mildly painful.
Airshow Incident: Back on Jun 19th of this year, I had the pleasure of attending the Ocean City Airshow. After the second day of the airshow, after having had a number of beverages during the day, I decided to go in the water for a quick swim. I waded in to find the surf to be very rough and the sand to be on a considerable incline down to the waves. Ok – maybe I should try this tomorrow morning when it might be more fun. I turned around to rejoin my wife on the beach and find something else to do.
Just as I turned I was hit from behind by an aggressive wave. Attempting to recover my balance, I stepped in a 2 foot deep hole with my left leg fully extended and the wave pushing me down. The weight of the water and my forward momentum fractured my left tibia. That didn’t feel very good – although the Grey Goose prep work I’d done did help for awhile.
Vacation Interruptus: We had a planned flying vacation to Florida; to both coasts and the Keys. That had to change to accommodate driving instead of flying. Now I am generally adverse to staying in other peoples homes when we travel, being concerned that we’ll impose on them without realizing it. I tend to find a hotel to stay in to ensure that doesn’t happen, but in this case, was convinced to do otherwise. We were met with open arms on both coasts and suddenly spending time and staying with good friends looked like great opportunities to explore.
We had a blast visiting with Charles and Kathy on the Gulf Coast of Florida, and then Ed and Simone on the Inter-coastal Waterway in North Carolina.
Charles and Kathy invited us to stay, but the timing didn’t work out for us this trip. They made us very comfortable while we were there for the day, however, and insisted we stay with them the next time. Eddie and Simone were similarly accommodating on our trip home. While we had planned to stop for just a meal with them, since we hadn’t seen them in so long, they convinced us to start home early on Friday and stay the weekend. Ed even set up a fishing trip off the NC coast for me that Saturday that was an awesome surprise! I am incredibly lucky to have such friends. Bev relaxed at their beautiful home with Simone for the day. We had a great time, and look forward to flying down to see them the next time as well. Both of these couples have beautiful homes and are all set up for their retirement. That got me thinking…..
The trip to Florida was a great success and I’m glad Bev and I got away. We returned to see some progress in the construction at home, but there was still a ways to go on the project.
July 30, 2021 – Special Programs in Dallas: I was able to start flying again at the end of August, and the first trip was back to Dallas. The leg was still sore, but I could apply full rudder pressure as necessary. The airplane flew flawlessly, and it was good to get moving again. An additional plus was being away from the construction as home for a few more days. I love getting the WOW factor when I come back and see progress.
August Play Time: Bev and I are so very blessed. We were invited out on a boat for the day with some very good friends early in the month. That led us to several places throughout today, ending up at a Rum Bar in Chesapeake City South. I cannot tell you how relaxing that day was. Following that, we had a wonder beach party with 10 or so couples we see just a few times a year.
Still – with all those captured opportunities, there were others that Bev and I had to forego because I’m working. These events would enable us to stay in touch with a wide net of friends we both value, and enjoy the successes we’ve earned. I’m getting frustrated saying no too often (mostly in the summer).
August here in Chesapeake City is almost over at this point. It has been wet, hot, and muggy. My work schedule continues to frustrate me with its unpredictability. The next blog will cover an important IFD550 experience on a flight I just completed, and a change in career direction for me.
Comments Off on Aug 25, 2021 – Summer Flying
N833DF has been updated: I’ve recently updated my comms and cleared up ALL of my squawks in the panel. The engines are running great and I have an awesome machine. I’ve done 5 or so flights since the IFD550 was installed to replace the Garmin 530WAAS/FlightStream 210 combination, and I’m still trying things out.
I’ve learned enough that my personal minimums are back to that – minimums.
Advice: If you want to get up to speed quickly on the basics of your new IFD540/550, I suggest you start by watching Martin Pauly videos on YouTube (link below). This guy puts the time in and produces quality videos that are easy to watch and listen to. After you’ve seen what quality video editing looks like and begin to understand what the IFD550 unit is capable of, you can then search for AirDorrin and watch my own videos as I implement his suggestions. You’ll see that the devil is in the details. you can learn from my mistakes, and send suggestions.
I began my journey in learning this new equipment by reading the pilot guide, and then loading the IFD100 and IFD540/550 Trainer on my iPad. I had done all that before my radio installation was complete. While I flew the trainer and read the book, I also surfed YouTube and found Martin Pauly’s video, 12 Favorite Things [that he likes about the Avidyne units]. This stood out as a great starting point after the very basic stuff was mastered.
This blog will be a discussion of what I learned trying to implement Martin’s top 12 things he liked about the unit. I agree with him on most of it, but found effective testing while flying an approach in a light twin to be challenging at best. Be careful and take someone with you to be eyes up if you can.
In my opinion, the radio is not necessarily intuitive to the Garmin crowd. The steps in each process are not vastly different than other FMS systems or the old Garmin units I have used. They are different enough, however, to cost you precious button pushing and head scratching time in the middle of critical flight processes. In other words, flying a light twin on an approach while trying to observe subtle differences in radio Idiosynchronicity can be challenging.
Bullshit – it is challenging and my hands were full.
What follows here is a focused discussion of the features Martin called out. I’ll add my own opinions on each one, and more importantly, tell you how I tested and implemented them in the training app and in the airplane. Keep in mind that Martin has had his unit since 2019 and I’ve had mine for maybe a month or so. I’ll give myself time before I declare myself competent.
12 things Martin Likes about the Avidyne units:
Martin also calls out a wish list of things he’d like to see added to the software. Automatic Syncing would be nice between ForeFlight and the IFD550. It’d be nice to have the radio signal the autopilot to fly the VNAV profile, and it’d be nice to be able to build custom holds at waypoints along the track. I’d like to see present position hold done more easily.
My next steps are to reposition my radios to provide better information on actions page by page. The excellent simulator they provide does not do everything the same as the radio, so you can’t do all your testing on the ground.
Enough for now…. Fly Safe and thanks for reading along.
Comments Off on Jun 9, 2021 – Flying the IFD550
Nav/Comm reliability: I recently experienced escalating radio issues with my radio stack. The primary (#1) NAV/Comm Garmin 530WAAS had been having squelch issues which the shop had addressed once already, so I began to suspect antenna the connections were compromised. The KI-209 that acts as a backup localizer / glideslope indicator for my #2 Nav/Comm, the KX-155, failed it’s glideslope indicator. Finally, my historically strong and trustworthy KX-155 (#2 NAV/COMM) began to develop intermittent power issues on it’s own, requiring it to be taken out and re-installed just to get it turned on. Something had to be done.
I’d already decided to replace the Garmin 530WAAS with something newer. Working with my shop, they told me the newer Garmin was physically larger there was no room for it without panel modifications. I like my panel, and didn’t want to change it.
Introducing the Avidyne IFD550: Paul Phillips is my A&P working out of 33N as Phill-Air. Paul owns lots of STCs on these birds, and was the guy who actually convinced me to consider this type in the first place when twin shopping. I was there for an oil change a month or so ago, and Paul and I got to talking. He shared with me that he was working on becoming a dealer for Avidyne, and had become familiar with their radios. He wanted me to look at the IFD units before I committed to Garmin, and at least think about it. Paul had an airplane in the shop at the moment with an IFD550 up and running, and insisted I take a look at it. We did just that.
Based that on previous experience flying SR20 displays some years back, Avidyne products weren’t even on my radar. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with the units or the company, just that there was nothing amazing about them that might pull me away from proven Garmin units.
So we fired up the Avidyne in this airplane to play with it. My level of knowledge on the new FMS style interface wasn’t enough to figure out how to drive the unit without any preparation. I’d heard that these units weren’t intuitive to the Garmin crowd, and I’d say that is true. I paged through what I could until I stumbled across the SVS page showing that this unit had its own internal AHRS and a useful (beautiful) AHRS display. I sat up and took notice. No – it was more than that. I decided right then that I’d consider one of these if I used the trainer and liked the way it operated after having some experience.
Deciding: I downloaded the IFD550 Trainer for my iPad, read quite a bit about the radio, and spent some time understanding how to use the trainer itself. YouTube videos helped in all regards, and a particular shout out to https://www.youtube.com/user/martinpauly
I began to see how powerful this approach might turn out to be. It would also solve the panel problem, and slip right in as a Garmin 530W replacement. I’d have an ADI with synthetic vision in the center panel for the right seater and as a ProMax backup. I can’t believe it but I decided to order the Avidyne IFD550 to replace my Garmin 530WAAS. Let’s do this.
At this point I’d be getting a new #1 GPS NAV/Comm that would ensure my reliability from that position. That replaces a 20 year old radio and if the new radio showed any signs of weakness, I’ll know for sure I have antenna and/or connection issues.
Plot complication: I had ordered the new #1 radio and scheduled the installation when my #2 NAV/Comm started having sympathy issues. I’d power up the airplane only to have the KX-155 panel completely dark. What fresh hell is this? This radio has been a reliable stalwart of my airplane, so this experience supported my suspicion that there was an issue with the radio rack(s) themselves. When the #1 radio was out, I asked that both radios taken out and the racks and connections looked at closely.
When the IFD550 went in, the rack was found to be broken in the back. I happily paid for new rack components and now have a brand new #1 IFD550 and a solid KX-155 as my #2 NAV/Comm. While they were at it, we swapped my failed KI-209 so I’d have a functional glideslope on my #2. I am actually at zero squawks at this point and looking forward to learning the new system.
I continued to use the IFD550 simulator, and then set up an additional iPad to simulate a panel mounted IFD550 talking with an IFD100 on the other iPad. Avidyne had done quite allot of geeky work to support the learning process.
Teething Pains: Avidyne had an offer out there to extend the warranty to four years. The process for doing that was not smooth and their website seemed to be playing catch-up. That seemed odd given all the quality I’d seen with the products in the field, and finding the right person to talk to was a pain. I got that done though.
I took the new unit flying and it worked great. However, I could not get the WiFi to link to the iPad. I wasn’t concerned and looked into it after I’d landed. You need know the wifi password for one thing, and know where to find that (AUX pages). Once that is in, you will get no error messages or indications as to why it won’t link. I did find a reference to data related issues that prohibit the units from tying together if the data in each doesn’t match, or if the data is out of date.
My unit was new and the sample data had expired by 1 day. I went home and updated the data via JDM to a conventional USB, then downloaded the same data onto my iPad. The two connected readily on the next flight.
Understanding Jeppesen subscriptions was the next thing I had to do. I wanted that 60 day trial, but it wasn’t clear to me if the shop had signed me up or I had to do it. Communication from the shop on these issues were unclear because the shop hadn’t done many of these, and they didn’t fully understand the steps required after installation. Jeppesen cleared that up over the phone and got me set up on my trial data. I’ll wait to buy a subscription at the point where the trial runs out.
Note that I used to get a free Jepp subscription for one iPad, but that isn’t available for the Avidyne units. Interestingly enough – you may not need one.
Foreflight works well with the new unit, as you’d expect. The route transmission takes slightly longer and looks different than Garmin’s, but it basically stays the same. Traffic and weather data moves freely.
I started using the new iPad features that allow two applications to run simultaneously as well. Having Foreflight running along side the IFD100 app is interesting. It is giving me more capability than I need at the moment, given that the radio itself is so much more capable. I may even start flying without a yoke mounted iPad, depending on what failure modes I decide to prepare for.
First trip with the boss: Beverly and I took the airplane down to Newport News for an overnight. I thought I had everything sorted out at this point, but noticed that the boresight showed an inappropriate pitch attitude on the Synthetic Vision display. It was showing 2.5 degrees nose low and that was confirmed by my Aspen display.
I fumbled around with FB groups and other resources, thinking that’d be faster. I did get some guidance there to give me confidence that this was easily adjustable.
My avionics shop did help, but was really learning along with me. Next I sent an email to Avidyne, but was thinking they might not want me touching the maintenance screens. I delayed this communication because I suspected they’d want me to fly to the shop to have them adjust the unit.
Not so! Within an hour I had the instructions in my hand and they were clear. I decided to try it before leaving Newport News for home. My excitement faded, however, when I found a maintenance PIN was required. Avidyne did a poor job on this particular page, because it made me stop there for a moment.
In order to continue, I decided to try a simple ‘1234’ entry as a code, but that didn’t work. I didn’t know this, but as it turns out, all I had to do was use the big knob to right past this screen and do what I had to do. I flew home wondering if my shop put in their special code, and that started pissing my off a little. Assumptions!
Once I got home I called the shop and figured out what actually had happened. They confirmed I could have skipped right by this page, but what I accomplished by trying 1234 was to initialize a maintenance PIN which is normally blank. What a pain in my ass. Now I had to document that PIN so maintenance can access these pages in the future. Grrrrrrrrr. Avidyne didn’t make this page clear at all. Remember though that I don’t have the installation manual, so maybe they do make it clear to the installers.
So I did find the page and added a 2.5 degree adjustment to fix the issue. I assume that the adjustment I added will do the trick, but can easily do it again once I see the results. I’m going to fly again this morning just for that test.
Reliable radios once again. The IFD550 is far superior to Garmin GTNs, in my humble opinion. Hands down more powerful and intuitive once you use it. I’ll make some objective points here:
Traveling again: Bev and I are flying to Florida in July, and I’ll be taking it to Dallas again right after that. Pulling out the oxygen again and using this new equipment.
Comments Off on May 20, 2021 – Garmin 530W versus the Avidyne IFD550