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!



  1. Great stuff, TJ! Glad you like your new "toy" :P

  2. Awesome! You sure keep that airplane in good shape. Also, you're right - that's one heckuva lighting system.

  3. Thx Victoria and Steve! (It helps having a Cirrus Service Center @ my home base)

  4. Congrats on the 35th state and great videos!

  5. Thx Todd! The videos are still a work in progress... Hopefully, you are seeing improvements as I learn about cameras and software.

  6. I love your adventures!!!!!!!

  7. Thanks Debbie! (As you can see, the states are getting harder and further)


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