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Friday, April 22, 2011

The Same. But Different.

This past week has been a blur.  I started on the American Flyers CFI Academy, a 4 week long boot camp for future Certified Flight Instructors.  The first 2 weeks are spent on instruments and the "Fundamentals of Instructing", or FOI.  The second 2 weeks are spent on Airplane flying and regulations.  By the time the torture test is done, you have both the CFI-Instruments, and CFI-Airplane ratings, and if you want them, the Ground Instructor Airplane and Instrument certificates as well.

You also have to fly the schools Cessna 172's from the right seat, while instructing (also known as talking about everything you are doing), and flying IFR to the FAA Practical Test Standards (PTS).  Phew - that's a lot.  My first flight was in real IMC, with a 25 knot wind, in an airplane I hadn't flown in 15 years, on a real flight plan in the busy DFW airspace.  At the end, I looked like I'd been beaten up by a pack of very wet assailants.

Still, I did it.  I even coped with ATC changing my clearance in the air, the turbulence, and a GPS unit I'd never seen before.  If I can do that, I can do anything.

I hope.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Start Me Up

"If you start me up, If you start me up I'll never stop"  - The Rolling Stones

After a cross country  flight in the Rocket, my latest instructor (I'll call her Anne) and I landed at East Texas Regional, or Longview airport.  I specifically wanted some instruction on how to do "hot starts".  That's when the engine has been turned off, but is still very hot.  The problem for fuel injected engines like this one, is that the hot soak causes the fuel in the feeder lines and injectors to vaporize, resulting in "vapor lock".  The fuel doesn't flow, and the engine doesn't start.

"You make a grown man cry, Spread out the oil, the gasoline. I walk smooth, ride in a mean, mean machine; Start it up"

I followed the procedure from the Pilot's Operating Handbook ("POH") with no success.  We tried various combinations of fuel mixture, throttle and fuel pump, and could get the thing to cough and chug, but it always stopped again.   Finally, concerned about the battery, we resorted to the old standby, "Call A Friend".  Instructor Anne called her friend who owns a simialr aircarft, a Bonanza with a slightly smaller engine, and a similar fuel system.

The friend read out the instructions from the American Bonanza Societies web page, and we opened the engine cowlings to let the cylinders cool off a bit.  Once I could touch the cylinders without burning my fingers, I buttoned everything back up, and settled in to try again.  The first time failed, but the second attempt got the engine running roughly.  The magic procedure was:

1. Set the fuel mixture to idle cut off, and throttle to full.
2. Run the fuel pump for a full 30 seconds
3. Set the mixture to full rich, and the throttle to about 1/2 way
4. Crank the engine, with a little "goose" from the fuel pump (needing 3 hands to achieve)
5.  Keep it going by rapidly changing the throttle and mixture.

"My hands are greasy, She's a mean, mean machine.  Start it up, If start me up Give it all you got"

Airborne once again, and heading back to McKinney well behind schedule, I set up for a fast cruise.  With no winds, the Rocket was doing nearly 170 knots True Air Speed, or 195 mph.  It's a Mean Machine alright;

"Ride like the wind at double speed, I'll take you places that you've never, never seen".

Monday, April 11, 2011

It not so much glides, as what's the word - "Plummets"

2nd flight with dual instruction in the Rocket, and from the start I feel much more in control.  I still fumble for the right lever once in a while, but now I know what it is that I'm trying to accomplish, and generally how to get there.  After a few landings and take offs (no touch and goes in a Bonanza) at Majors in Greenville, we climb to 5,500 feet, and away from the airfield, I pull back the power for a simulated emergency landing.

Plummeting is an appropriate word for what happens next.  I pulled up the nose to slow down to best glide (105 kts), and we slowed down like landing in a sandtrap.  Then, I had to push the nose waaaayyyy down to stay at 105kts.  Loosing altitude at around 1,000 ft/min, twice as fast as a Sundowner, I thought I'd better find a suitable field fast.  One was about about 2 miles off my right wing, so I made a 90 degree right turn.

By the time I was over the field, we were down to 2,000 ft AGL.  I kept the downwind tight, and turned 180 degrees to final, but I was so close I couldn't get all the way round in time.  I came in on final with just enough distance to make my field, then down came the gear.  ooppsss!  Another 500 ft/min to add to the already scary descent rate, and I realized I would not make it!

With a windshield full of wire fencing and shrubs, I added power to climb again, and pulled up the gear.  We would have survived, but the airplane would have been badly damaged by landing 1 field short.

Lessons?  A Bonanza doesn't glide, it plummets.  It doubly-plummets with the wheels down.  It loses a lot of altitude in a turn.  So try and go straight, and if you must turn, make it tight and fast.  Get over your field and stay there in a spiral, because if you leave to set up a normal square pattern, you probably won't make it back.  And keep some speed in hand in case you need to pull up over an obstacle on the ground.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rocket Man

Got my High Performance sign off after only 2 hours in the Rocket!  It surely helped that I already had a complex sign off, and some time in a complex/retractable aircraft as a result of having gained the commercial ticket last year.

The Bonanza is far removed from the gliders I started out in.  From the outside, it looks about the same size as the Sundowner - the wingspan is only a few inches longer, the fuselage likewise.  The engine cowlings are slightly larger, and it has a 3-bade constant speed prop instead of the fixed 2-blade.

But the experience of flying it (or trying to) is completely different.  It feels like a huge (almost) 300 hp engine with a tiny airplane, basically control fins, behind it. Like a rocket.

Everything about flying the beast is about the engine.  Feeding it, cooling it, trying to slow down for approach, trying to keep up speed with everything hanging out on final.  The airplane itself is sweet, no vices I could detect, but it's all about the IO-520AB in front.

On the runway, following a slow, deliberate pre-flight and checklist, monitored by Instructor Bill, I slowly fed in power - but in vain.  The Rocket bounded to take off speed long before my brain had caught up.  A slight pull on the yoke, and we were climbing at some ridiculous rate, reaching 1600 ft AGL (2200 MSL) before reaching the end of the runway.  Somewhere along the way I managed to pull up the gear.  IB wanted me to level off at 3500ft, but I overshot, ending up at 3800.

I deliberately set very low power (21 in HG and 2300 RPM, or 21/23) to try and slow things down.  A 360 degree standard rate right turn was a little sloppy, but the left 360, followed by two steep turns went to commercial standards.  We did a simulated emergency manual gear down procedure, followed some slow flight (hard to slow down in a Bonanza).  I'm glad I did that, but I wasn't expecting it 30 minutes into my first flight.

Descending and trying to slow down, we made for Sherman (KSWI), and I did my first circuit and landing, followed by 2 more.  By the 3rd one I was feeling in control, so we took off, and headed for the Bonham VOR (BYP) to try out the autopilot and GPSS steering.  We were doing something wrong, and the a/p wouldn't automatically make the turn, but since I have the same GPS and a/p in my Sundowner, I could easily revert to the old way, and set up on the 212 radial for the VOR/DME approach back at McKinney.

My Sundowner, once on the ground rolls and rolls, needing a good amount of braking action.  The Bonanza just stops dead as soon as you pull up the nose for the landing flare.  We easily turned off at Charlie taxiway with almost no braking.  Back in the hangar, IB showed me his comments, and showed me that in his mind, I had met the requirements for a High Power sign off, so he gave me one, right there in my logbook.  So I can now legally fly my Bonanza, but as the insurance (and my peace of mind) require that I have 8 more hours of dual, we'll be flying together for a while more yet.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

DB Cooper - CFI?

Next week I start the CFI school at American Flyers.  I admit to being nervous - there will be a lot to learn, and most of the rest of my classmates will be right out of college.  Will I be able to re-learn how to study? Fortunately, I have never stopped learning, having changed careers several times and learning new networking technologies every few years.

AF does a 4 week "crash course" for wanna-be flight instructors.  Their price is extremely reasonable - $2995 for both the CFI-Airplane and CFI-Instruments certificates, which includes 10 hours of flying for each, as well as all the ground school and exams.  20 hours of complex/HP rental time alone would add up to that amount, so essentially the classroom and exams are free.

Why does AF do this?  They tell me that they need to keep a pipeline of instructors going, as their senior instructors are often building time until they can get an airline of corporate flying job.  So they see the CFI course as a way to do an extended interview of a class of potential instructors, and to hire the best, already trained in the AF way.

As I'm also starting to be transitioned into my own complex/HP V35A Bonanza, there is a lot of learning and flying for me over the next few weeks, hopefully with a fair amount of learning applicable to both.  By July, I'll be able to fly my own aircraft with passengers, and also be a certified FAA instructor for both airplanes and instruments.

Multi-engine next.........

Monday, April 4, 2011

For Sale: 1982 Model Beechcraft C23 Sundowner

N6349C is one of the best equipped Sundowners out there.  Serial Number M-2371 is one of the last Sundowners made, and was used for many years as an instrument trainer by Executive Beechcraft in Missouri, and equipped for the job.  I purchased the aircraft in 2005 with a very low time engine, and used it for my own instrument training and to carry my growing 4 person family around the United States.  The only reason I’m selling now, is that they kept on growing, and I’ve upgraded to a V35A Bonanza.

Originally equipped with all round steam gauges, I upgraded N6349C in 2008 to have full IFR GPS capability, coupled to an STEC-50 autopilot with attitude hold.  Combined with dual LOC/GS ILS, KX-165 Nav/Comm radio, ADF, DME and a WX-8 Stormscope, this is a serious IFR cross country machine.  There are next to no instrument procedures you can’t do. 

For pictures: See this blog, or request a spec sheet in your comment with the pictures in it.  Cover included.  

Also in 2008 I added the Power Flow STC for a tuned exhaust, adding 200 to 300 ft/min to my climb rate, and top speed is now in the 130kt range.  With full fuel and 1 person, moderate temperatures and starting at 600 ft MSL, an initial climb of 800 - 1,000 ft/min is not uncommon (well above book).  I normally cruise at 2500 and 115kts TAS, burning 10.5 gall/hr.  The tail weight makes landing significantly easier than most C23’s, and I have rarely had CG issues (I had to add 50lbs of water ballast to the baggage compartment with my 300lb+ DE for my instrument check ride, but that’s it!)

Specs & Equipment:

5500 TT on Airframe
466 hrs SMOH on refurbished 0-360-A4K 180HP 4-cylinder engine S/N L24864-36A. 
466 hrs on Propeller (Senseich 76EM8S5-O-60 s/n 29392K)
Power Flow Tuned Exhaust STC July 2008 (for extra climb power)
Garmin 430 IFR panel mounted GPS (Nav #1), WAAS (430W) upgrade negotiable.
King KX-165 Nav/com radio (with flip flop buttons) (Nav #2)
STEC-50 autopilot with altitude hold, coupled to GPS and the KX-165 (switchable)
King DME remoted to Nav 1 or 2
Collins 4096 Transponder
Collins ADF
Collins audio panel with ILS marker beacon lights
2 place intercom
WX-8 Stormscope
Lights for IFR night ops (standard navigation, plus taxi and landing lights, strobes)
Tail weight STC P/N169-440005-207 installed 1997 (improves landing and keeps CG away from forward limits)
Bruce Aircraft cover and engine inlet plugs

External Paint – good (7), repainted in 1997
Internal Condition – good (8)
Never based near any ocean


Annual October 2010 – no major squawks
New tires and ELT battery September 2010
Good compression on all 4 cylinders
No metal in oil
IFR certification August 2009
AD’s complied with
Based at McKinney, TX (near Dallas)
My A&P is well known Beechcraft expert, active on Beech Talk

Asking $59,795.27

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Wand Chooses The Wizard

With the arrival on March 30th of 40D, I now have my own private fleet of Beechcraft at McKinney.  The 1983 Sundowner and the 1967 V-tail Bonanza (the 1950's vintage travelair is not mine!)

I started out looking for something that would carry 4 adults with baggage over the mountains or weather at 150kts plus.  My initial thought was to find a late 70's or early 80's A36 Bonanza (the "Truck"), and due to the high price, sell a 50% share.  I didn't plan to start looking for a few more months yet.

My A&P said I should log into Beech Talk, a bulletin board for Beechcraft owners, which I did.  Almost immediately, I saw an advertisement for a 1967 V35 (the "Sports Saloon") in great condition and equipped just as I hoped, located just down the road in Addison TX.  The price was such that I thought I could get it for a very reasonable uplift in cost, if I sold my Sundowner and if the a/c was in the great condition that it claimed.

I went to see the a/c, and what I found blew me away.  It was totally pristine, like new.  Fresh paint inside and out, new interior, low time engine, terrific avionics (3 GPS's, one with XM radar, stormscope, coupled 3 axis autopilot).  It's useful load with full tanks is 900lbs, so it will do the mission I had in mind (I remember several times in the Sundowner wishing I could climb just a bit more), and would cruise at 12 gal/hr (just 1 gall/hr more then 49C), and 165 kts (much more than 49C!)  The owners hobby is to buy older, cheaper aircraft, and over the years, improve them to a like-new condition.  Finished with this one, he was moving up to a Baron.  Perfect!

After a pre-buy inspection which turned up almost no squawks (the A&P, who owns the same model himself, said it was the cleanest a/c he's ever inspected), we agreed on a price and terms.  Delivered a few days later, she's mine.  In Harry Potter, the wand maker Olivander tells Harry that "The Wand Chooses The Wizard, Mr. Potter".  In many ways, I feel like the airplane chose me, rather than the other way round.  She knows I'll take good care of her. 

I noticed a few days later that the posting date was March 13th, my birthday.  Happy Birthday to me!  I have to do 10 hours with a CFI, and then 5 hours solo, before my insurance will let me fly passengers, and the FAA requires that I get a high-performance endorsement from a CFI.  So, I'm a student again!