Saturday, April 23, 2011

Local Flightseeing in Tampa Bay

As often happens with pilots, I am often focused on some destination.   However, this morning I truly had no destination and thought it would be a lazy Saturday morning.

But a friend of mine (Kevin) was in town and wanted to do some sightseeing in Tampa Bay.  Since I am always looking for an excuse to fly, I offered to take him for a flight and he quickly jumped at the offer! 

Kevin is also a pilot.  But he flies a VERY different kind of plane.  He says he "doesn't own one (YET).. But usually rents a Remos light sport aircraft or an ancient Cessna".  He was so excited to fly in the Cirrus (and even more excited to press as many buttons as I would let him on the R9)!

We got a leisurely start on the day and took off on runway 5 @ Tampa Executive Airport into a very typical, clear blue FL sky.  After climbing runway heading and clearing the class B airspace shelf, we leveled off @ 4500 FT.  With everything stabilized and trimmed out, I let Kevin take the controls for a bit.  He did quite well and gave me the opportunity to setup some camera equipment.

With both cameras setup and ready, I took the controls again and called Tampa Approach requesting the typical Class B clearance.  In Tampa, the preferred route is an East to West Transition @ 3500 directly over Tampa International.  This is a wonderful routing because it takes you adjacent to Tampa Downtown and points you directly to Clearwater Beach. (A better view could not have been planned by a travel agent)

Here is a slide show of some of the pix along the way:

After we had our fill of pictures, we made a quick stop for breakfast @ the Flightline Grill @ Bartow Airport and then made our way back to Tampa Executive.

Despite not having any real destination, we certainly enjoyed the views and the journey today!!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Learning New Tricks in Hilton Head

After 300+ hours flying behind the R9 screens, I thought I knew everything there was to know about R9.  But at the risk of sounding like an "old dog", yesterday at the R9 User Group Meeting in Hilton Head, I learned a couple of cool new tricks!

The weather was excellent and Hilton Head is only 270 miles away... So the plan was for an early morning journey, which would get me there in time for the 08:30 planned start.  The trip there was a rather uneventful flight.  A direct climb to 17k FT using the IAS climb feature of DFC100, followed by a totally peaceful IFR flight.  In fact, the skies were so empty at that hour, that I was making "excuses" to talk to ATC just to ensure that my radio was working properly!

When I got closer to Hilton Head Airport, I checked out the charts and found something unusual.  Instead of the typical cadre of precision approaches,  they had something called the "Broad Creek Visual Approach" procedure.

I had never heard of a "Visual Approach Procedure".  But it looked rather simple and I was eager to try it.  I asked ATC for a descent and a clearance for this funky approach.  They cleared me "as requested" and told me to "Report when I had the lighthouse in sight".  Moments later, I saw the infamous lighthouse and proceeded to follow the approach course at 1500 FT along the water.   It was quite a sight following a river at such a low altitude.  You can see for yourself in the video clip below:

I found it quite ironic that in order to get to a user group for a very high tech product, I flew a very old fashioned (and low tech) flight along a river using a lighthouse as a landmark!

After the meeting, I was so excited about the tips, tricks and "gems" that were discussed and was eager to try them myself in flight.

The one "gem" that intrigued me the most, was the idea of a "Pseudo Approach".  The basic idea is that when flying to any runway (regardless airport ground equipment), you can use R9 altitudes constraints / course offsets in conjunction with the DFC100 Vertical Navigation features to create a simulated GPS approach with a glideslope.  Obviously, this is not a legal FAA sanctioned procedure.  Nor is it as accurate as a real published instrument procedure.  However, when the real thing is not available, it is certainly much better and safer than having nothing. Here is a short Youtube clip that shows my first attempt doing this:

Now after learning a few R9 tricks, I can't wait till next months' CPPP training course in Atlanta so I can hopefully learn some cool Cirrus tricks!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Autopilots, Cameras and another new state!

Saturday’s DFC100 autopilot test flight was a big success!  Surprisingly, it was quite easy to use.  I read the manual on Thursday ;  Took one quick test flight with Bill from Sarasota Avionics on Friday ; Then another test flight with Jeff, who is a fellow Cirrus pilot, on Saturday.  Everything appeared to be working.  If you care to see the gory details of the test flight, check out my Youtube channel.  The video is a bit rough... But you can see what I did to convince myself that the AP worked!
But autopilots are not really the topic of this post.  Rather this post is about Sunday’s long X-country to Colorado (state #35).  
I got an early start and took off from Tampa Executive @ ~ 7:00 AM.  It was still dark when I did the preflight and takeoff.  But sunrise was just a few minutes after departure.  I used the cool new IAS mode feature on the DFC100 to climb at a steady 130 KIAS up to 16000 FT.  From there, I flew direct to Vicksburg/Talluah Airport (TVR), which is a sleepy little airport right on the Louisiana/Mississippi border.
During this leg, I got a chance to experiment with a new camera mount that I got at Sun N Fun.  After trying several locations, I found a couple of spots that seemed to work well, which you can see in the slide show below:

Unfortunately, the weather was not very cooperative.  There was a an overcast layer @ ~ 700 FT that forced me to fly the GPS18 approach down to near minimums.  You can see the approach (from the new camera angle) below: 

In addition, the radar coverage in this area is not great, which forced me to close my IFR flight plan on the ground.  Despite the weather inconvenience, I am glad I stopped there.  The fuel prices were good and the sole FBO staff was very helpful!  (Need to add this to my list of preferred fuel stops).
Since I had a long journey ahead, I stayed just long enough to stretch my legs and file another flight plan.   I got my clearance on the phone and then raced to depart before my void time.  
On the next leg, I wanted a break from using the oxygen cannula.  So I flew @ 12000FT and enjoyed a very smooth ride all the way to Great Bend, KS. While the en-route portion of the flight was uneventful, the landing was not.  The winds were howling and the crosswind was a solid 20 KTs.  This made for a very challenging approach with a huge crab angle.

After a short break and an ugly weather briefing, it was time to depart for Denver.  The METAR @ KDEN showed a 17 KT wind gusting to 24, 1/4 SM visibility, Snow, and an overcast layer @ 200 FT.  While the weather was "legal", it was the most challenging weather that I ever faced!  I departed with full fuel (and fully prepared to divert if needed).

Shortly after takeoff, the screens (and the windows) confirmed everything I suspected:

FL pilots don't usually see these colors on the map!
Picked up a little ice on the wing and used TKS in max setting
Even the windshield picked up a little ice.
After spending almost an hour in IMC with TKS running, ATC cleared me for the ILS 35R.  

As often happens in busy airspace, the controllers asked me what was my "maximum approach airspeed".  I did my best to cooperate and told him that I could maintain ~ 150 KTs till the final approach fix.  By this point, I was listening intently to the PIREPs and totally focused on nailing every heading/altitude/radio call.  In fact, I was so busy that I didn't even have time to turn the camera on. 

After passing the final approach fix @ ~155 KTs, I struggled to slow down and was looking nervously out the window for a runway.  Finally, at about 200-250 FT AGL, I saw it! At that point, I was feeling VERY relieved and managed to turn the camera on for the landing on the enormous 12000 FT runway, which you can see below:

After a long, challenging day of flying, I felt like I really earned the landing in the 35th state!

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