Thursday, October 19, 2017

A G36 CROSS-COUNTRY TO REMEMBER


It is quite compelling when with a guilty sense of the “rush,” you fly closer to the ground and watch it slipping by at a quickened pace. When your heartbeat matches the tick of the clock in the rhythmic resonance and you proclaim, “Ah Life!”

Now mind you, it has happened before but nothing like this. I’ve flown different aircraft for many years and my favorite one had been the laminar flow version with a turbocharge attached. I started flying the low to mid-teen dry-hypoxia inducing air with a nasal cannula stuck in my nostrils. It was good, looking at the GPS winding down the time and winding up the speed. It was good. But something was missing…

Then came the day when I and a friend picked up a 2007 G36 from Nevada. I had to bring this gorgeous beast all the way to the East Coast. But, there was a caveat; A new 0-timed engine that had to be treated with gloved hands and the travails of an October month. Gloved hand care, we gave it but the October sun was complicit in our delights only for half the way.

So, we, my Bonanza flying friend with close to 5000 hours in a three engine TBO-ed V-tail, decided that 7500 feet would be the best-case scenario to keep the 75% power schedule at 20 degrees Rich of Peak across the hills for ring seating and cylinder smoothened cross-hatching mechanism. And that, was what we did! Ever run a mile in 20 seconds? Well that is how it feels as your heart races and the body is comfortably seated held up in the air by a set of powerful wings!


The late-afternoon departure from Carson City, NV was ordinary with my first shot behind the yoke and a G-1000. We navigated close to Victor 6 Airway as possible, so we could have communication with the Air Traffic Control, playing the valleys as we went along. “We’ll turn left around that outcrop and then right around that one.” The G-1000 showed the outcroppings as elevated terrain in yellows and reds. The Red color were peaks above our flight altitude. Soon, the dry bed turned into drier bed of arid land with outcropping of mountains at 9000 and 10,000 feet poking their tops around us. An endless desert of possibilities. The G-1000 at times not happy with the GPWS proximity alerts piped in with “Terrain, Pull Up, Pull Up” warnings. Happily, it was VFR with scattered layers above and the big blue above and a nifty steady 10-knot tailwind of a 23 knot crosswind along the way. In reasonable smooth air, we gave the peaks a wide berth, swinging through the flatter valleys. Ever ride a motorbike on a winding road? It feels like that at a much slower but more thrilling pace. After all we were not in a kerosine burner tied to our backs like the Jetman. 


The ground rolled by faster than the TAS at 174 knots by a few knots as we got closer to Salt Lake City and then the wonders of nature just usurped the entire thoughtfulness, leaving me speechless. The purple Salt Lake, the mountain range and the causeway splitting the purple salt bed from the blue water, all merged to create a dreamscape one sees conjured up by movie directors and CGI experts.


The Salt Lake Approach (KSLC) was unlike the high-powered-rat-a-tat East Coast ATC.


Quiet, discerning and very helpful. Near Ogden (KOGD) we climbed to 9,500 feet at the gentle urging of the controller and soon the blotches of red turned into pinpoint red peaks to negotiate again and terrain clearance was safe and legal.


Finally, we arrived late in the evening at a plateau hosting a 10,000-foot runway aptly named Rock Springs (KRKS). 


The next morning at sun up and after a thorough preflight evaluation of the IO-550B and its confines, which remained speck-less, we departed into the smooth air of the rising sun. Gorgeous is all I can say. The G36 revved up to its broadcast 174 knots at 7,500 feet again and off we went looking for Don Quixote leaning against the Wind Farm silos that floated by. The terrain after Cheyenne, Wyoming started to fall a bit and we entered into some crosswind with a small headwind component. The cloud deck below went from scattered to a solid undercast and the only way into Des Moines was via Instrument Rules.


A bit about the G-1000 and its integrated Autopilot. It is like an airliner. Nary a twitch, the magenta line and the approach all beautifully choreographed in a seamless dance. The barometric pressure changes, you input the data and the “George” or “Jeeves” does your knob-bidding. Use the FLC and a touch of reduced power and it claims the new lower altitude preselected at the cruise speed. Ah the wonders of gizmos and the ease of flying never cease. Essentially, after a fuel stop at Sydney, Nebraska (KSYD) we filed Instruments to KDSM (Des Moines, Iowa), we had to go down to the DH (Decision Height) at 200 feet above ground to go below the clouds, on the ILS approach into KDSM. After breaking out, I took over the controls from "George" and made a soft 15 knot right crosswind landing on Runway 5. “Man,” I thought, “this G36 makes a pilot look good!”


Departing KDSM was a blur of clouds and in-between layers. The autopilot negotiated the magenta line with expertise, any master aviator would be envious. A little rain here and there, but mostly clouds and minor turbulence, the rest was all grey. There is isn’t much poetry in those next 5 and ½ hours that ensued, except ATC making our straight magenta line into a warped crooked one to get to our destination around some busy airspaces. Arrival was a non-event in 800-foot ceiling, light rain and 7-mile visibility and we were back to sea level residency.

The story of this travel was the G36. Comfortable, OMG as one would say, Awesome! Humming all the way for 13+ hours with less than half a quart of oil. Now that is what I call a machine’s machine. if you ever happen to encounter this kind of possibility, take it! You will thank me for it.



Loved it. What a wonderful adventure, attributable to the folks who made this beautiful flying machine; Beechcraft Bonanza G36.

Hats off to them!!

Monday, October 16, 2017

A G1000 PRIMER

“I've got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty
I've got whozits and whatzits galore” – Ariel

Of all the advances in aviation science, besides the jet engine that is, there is little that beats the G-1000 suite or its forerunners. From the steam gauges to the “Glass” is a short hop into nirvana. Imagine if you could…disregard that, we need to get there and I have to help get you there.

G1000
Turning On:
After the battery is turned on and the Reversionary Mode has been successfully viewed, turning the Avionics Master Switch does the trick. The G1000 goes through its system check and then wants you to accept its status with an ENT button.


PFD:
Displays the 6 steam gauges on a single screen and many more. The Speed and Altitude on an Up/Down Ribbon as well as the VSI adjacent to the Altitude. There are small magenta ribbons that tell you the projected speeds and altitude if one stays on the trend trajectory. An embarrassment of riches awaits you to get yourself involved inside the cockpit, but don’t. Learn to scan the relevant information and then scan the horizon for others, even with an ADSB virtuoso installed. Remembering flying is an art and not a video game. That having been said, let us go filtering through the catacombs of this brilliantly crafted machine.

The Attitude Indicator is based on the AHRS and has no vacuum pumps to worry about. The Display is centered with the Speed and Altitude Ribbons on both sides (arrows). The Speed Ribbon on the bottom also gives the Calculated TAS enabled through the Air Data AIRNC.

Normal Mode of PFD and MFD depicted below…


The Attitude Indicator is the entire horizon depicted across the screen, so you cannot escape the Blue over the Brown/green (right side up analogy). There is a command bar on top that tells you what operating mode is on display. If the Integrated Autopilot is on it will tell you AP + GPS (Magenta Line Navigation) + ALT + XXXfeet + NAV or HDG. IF either the ALT or NAV are disabled by pressing twice on those buttons then ROL for NAV and PIT for Altitude become operative. The Desired Track, ETE and DTK and Track are also up there. For most $200 hamburger flyers, there is a DIRECT TO button that gives the shortest magenta route to that burger. And if you should care to now what Airports are nearby, just press the NRST button and a range is presented in the MFD. The information about these Airports can be readily available by pressing the FMS button and outer knob to navigate to desired airport and getting all the data upfront. If you have flown a 530 or 430, the G1000 is like them on steroids; awesome. The Multipage Flow Diagrams for some of the SOFT KEY Functions are detailed below...






The Soft Keys below the screen have different functions when the First level, second level or other level pages are used. For instance, in the First level page if the ENGINE soft button is keyed, it will display LEAN/ASSIST modes which when pressed will take you to those pages.





On Second level page for example, if WIND is pressed it gives you options for Wind Direction, Crosswind, Headwind and Tailwind components. It is logically hierarchical.
The HSI can be configured to give the Compass rose of 360 or ARC HIS.


AUDIO PANEL:

The Audio Panel has many Superior qualities. It can isolate the Pilot/ Pilot + Crew. It can allow the Pilot and Co-Pilot to monitor different Frequencies. And the Red Button below is for the Manual Reversionary mode if One screen goes blank then the other takes over as the PFD. Some of the functions may be disabled depending on the aircraft model.

An INSET button on the Soft Keys on the PFD will plant a miniaturized MFD data on the left lower corner of the PFD in reversionary mode, so one does not have to swivel the head too often.


MFD:
Simply a huge map that can be zoomed in and out with the Range button. A Flight Plan (FLT) to insert inputs. (Garmin Pilot App interfaces with the latest version of G1000 software and uploads the Flight Plan via special hardware insert)

Below the MFD MAP there are Functions that can be entered by turning the FMS Knob on the Right lower corner of the MFD Display. Each of those Functions have multiple Page displays that can be entered by using the small FMS Knob. You can turn to the AUX page and review the GPS data, Current Software and more such goodies on those pages.


On Start:
The System Engine Page always ON, on the MFD gives you read outs on the MP (if there) or the RPM. Fuel Flow, Oil temp, Oil PSI, Gal Remain, Gal Used, Endurance, Range in nautical Miles and Electrical Information. Engine LEAN can be used to lean the engine at altitude to desired temps and there is an ASSIST button to help pick out the peak (with a hollow blue rectangle on top) on the Cylinder number to use as a guide for lean of Peak or Rich of Peak aircraft performance.


If a Flight Plan is ACTIVATED then the Integrated Autopilot will fly the magenta line, anticipate the turns on the proposed plan and give distances and times to the next Waypoint. If there are various Altitudes that the specific Waypoints require to be flown at then the FLIGHT PLAN screen box can be made to set those Altitudes manually and the GFC700 Autopilot will fly them accordingly. A real nifty little feature is the VS (Vertical Speed) Toggle that button and then punch in the Up or down button (for each push up or down the VS climb and descent of +100 feet/ minute is activated). On the other hand if one presses the FLC button with a Hard Altitude set on the Altitude box and the power is diminished 500 RPm or 5 Inches on the MP, the GFC700 will command the aircraft to descend at the specific IAS to that specified Altitude, when the Throttle can be advanced again.


Okay this article is getting long on the tooth. So, let me sign out. More next time, if you like this one, let me know. 

Next time perhaps an IFR flight on the G1000?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

LAMENTABLE TRAGEDIES


Pilot error is the single most important cause of fatalities in aviation. Especially when you allow the statisticians their free reign at numbers. The percentages that pile up suggest upwards of 80% of all fatal accidents are pilot related. One wonders then how these lamentable tragedies don’t ease up? If we as pilots know of all the various ways of crashing an airplane, why do we keep doing it? To get better at it? No, possibly not for that reason. There is something else here that escapes the eye. Let us dig deeper into this morass of prejudged eventualities.


Why does a VFR pilot fly into the clouds only to lose his way in the soft bitter blindness of grey? To be a little considerate of this poor bloke, let us look at how that is possible. Given the mind’s judicious use of fuzzy logic to plant an image where one does not exist, is one way. As the visibility lowers in haze, the mind continues to fool the decision maker into thinking that the buildings he was seeing are still there albeit a little hazy. He soldiers on, only to suddenly realize that the there is not there and panic sets in. I remember flying in a flight of two on a summers day with a VFR-only pilot and his companion. As the visibility lowered and my eyes diverted to the instruments, I realized that the other pilot did not have the same capability. I asked the Air Traffic Control to tell my “company aircraft” to reverse course back to our departure airfield. Upon landing, we checked the weather and further west of our 180-degree site had gone IFR.

Preflight is another big bugaboo. Multi-hundred-hour pilots will treat flight as if it is riding a bicycle. They will assuredly “kick the tire and light the fire” and off they go, as if they are exempt from the rigors of human fallacies. Most times it is okay, but then there is that one in thousand NTSB report that makes your heart sink. How could he? Why do we ignore a good and thorough preflight? Mostly because, a) we expect it to be okay, b) it is a time drain and delays our ultimate thrill to be up in the air, c) heuristics of laziness d) all others you can conjure up. But preflight is when you find all sorts of things that can go wrong: a) contaminated fuel, b) a broken spring on the landing gear, c) cowl plugs plugged in deep, d) a bird-nest e) open baggage compartment door, f) a fouled plug or a broken ceramic spark plug, g) low oil, h) a flat spot on the tire ready to go, i) a blocked pitot tube and myriad other potential maladies that can lead to those lamentable tragedies.


The pilot is the Commander of his aircraft. No one has the authority other than when he or she delegates to a flight instructor or another pilot in the right seat. One of the mainstays of safety is never ever to abrogate one’s authority to fly the aircraft. You are the boss. You make the decisions (you may elect to recognize other’s opinion especially if it is a contrary opinion for inclusion sake) but the ultimate responsibility still weighs heavily on the pilot. You decide if the rudder or your authority is breached in a crosswind landing. You decide on an alternate airport as the weather deteriorates. You decide on the weight and balance. You decide what is the safest and most favorable approach to a safe arrival at your destination. You are it. You are the Big Cheese! Take that responsibility seriously but with a dose of humility.

Above it all, as a pilot you must learn to respect two very important things: 1. The Aerodynamic limits of the airfoil and 2. Your own Experiential Limits. Never let the latter exceed the former and never let yourself be seduced into trying to find the edge of the aerodynamic envelope without first experiencing it with a more experienced and knowledgeable instructor.


In the end, then, all lamentable tragedies are a learning experience. They titillate the journalists into writing hyperboles but at the very core, these disasters are learning experiences. Unfortunately, others have shed blood and bent aluminum not to be rendered as a “stupid mistake” or an act of “incoherent idiocy” or be subject to the glowering mean judgmental eye, but they are to be used as a mechanism to learn from and avoid similar errors. Safety is like climbing on the shoulders of others and seeing what they have seen and learning to avoid where they might have erred.

To Err is Human

Did you make a mistake today? If you said no. I would beg to differ. We make tiny errors in our daily lives that go unnoticed because they are isolated mostly and of little consequence. The adage is “To err is human. To err is universal. To err is inevitable.” But here is the question, “Is To err a bad thing?”

To answer that question, we may have to ride the train backwards in time. During WWII planes were falling from the sky. More lives were lost from mistakes than from enemy aircraft shoot-downs.


We obviously learnt from those mistakes. The fatal aircraft accident rate in the United States gradually declined dramatically. From 1959 when the fatal accident rate was 1 in 100,000. A remarkable feat from just 7 years before. As 2016 became history the fatal commercial aircraft accident rate declined to an astonishingly low rate of 1 per 10 million flights. Imagine the log reduction in loss of life! A proof worth hanging your hat on. Education about Loss of Control, Fuel Management, Decision Making and Judgement were the mainstay to bring the number down. Yet if we were to look at airline safety data from 2009 (without jinxing anything) there has been a zero-accident rate in the seven-year period. That is incredible.


The General Aviation Accident Rate per year however is a different story. It is presented below and is based on the NTSB data available to date. The higher rate of fatal accidents in the general Aviation Community is partly because of lack of professionalism, single pilot operations and the “bold pilot” mode of thinking.

YEARS
GA Accident Rate/100,000
GA Fatal Accidents
GA Fatalities
FY10
1.1
272
471
FY11
1.12
278
469
FY12
1.09
267
442
FY13
1.11
259
449
FY14
1.09
252
435
FY15
0.99
238
384
FY16
0.91
219
413

So, let me get back to the issue of is “To Err” a bad thing?

The answer is a qualified NO. However, with a caveat, to repeat an error made by others, which has been used as learning event, is definitely a bad thing. It is important to know that the NTSB data was created out of bent metal and loss of life. Errors made by expanding the envelope of flight teach us what not to do. The FAA rules are created based on the NTSB information for pilot’s personal and his or her passenger’s safety and based mostly on the erroneous adventures of others.


The FAA has in place a NASA form just for this purpose. If you make a mistake or believe you might have, it is important to fill out the form and send it along for record keeping. The form is evaluated based on ATC tracking data and if no accidental errors were made, the pilot receives a response in kind. If however, there was an error committed, the pilot has protection by self-reporting of the error. A pilot is forgiven for any errors committed over a three-year period. A continuous flow of errors however point to the pilot’s competency and decision making that might require a rehabilitation and remediation strategy.

ASRS Form available below

Assuming you are in a hurry and wish to fly for a $100 hamburger with impatient passengers tapping their toes. Allowing them to influence your preflight decisions to not drain the fuel or check the oil content, hazards will loom in that flight. These risks may remain only as risks and not bite you or your passengers, but the “kick the tire and light the fire” does have adverse consequences if repeated. And one day, when all the gremlins go for their “Labor Day vacation” watchout!

Based on the FAA…


The Top 10 Leading Causes of Fatal General Aviation Accidents 2001-2013:

1. Loss of Control Inflight
2. Controlled Flight into Terrain
3. System Component Failure – Powerplant
4. Fuel Related – contamination, starvation or exhaustion
5. Unknown or Undetermined
6. System Component Failure – Non-Powerplant
7. Unintended Flight in IMC
8. Midair Collisions Low
9. Altitude Operations
10. Other


Aviation Safety is no accident!