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23 Jan 2015


Cartoon by Rick Brandorff



Previous Flights


3 to 7 Feb 2014


I've been flying a lot in the AT-6, T-6, and the Baron.  I just haven't had time to give you an update recently.

I flew the T-6C (PH-1) and the AT-6 (AT-3) in Yuma for a photo shoot.  I flew the T-6C to Yuma in a two ship formation with AT-2.  We flew to Albuquerque and then Yuma.  AT-2 (AT-6) met us there. 

The next day, we flew in a four ship formation with B-25 Photo Fanny.  Paul Bowen, the photographer, and Roger, the videographer, were hanging out of the back of the B-25.  The four aircraft all hung together, each of the T/AT-6s waiting for their turn for pictures and videos.  We flew some single ship, two ship, and three ship.  All of the flights were in the afternoon and evening to accommodate the lighting.

I flew the first day in PH-1, the second day in PH-1 and AT-3, and the last day in AT-3.  On the first day, we focused on single ship closeups from the back of the B-25.  On the second day, we did touch and goes and runway pullups, then formation behind and in front of the B-25.  The last day, we did front single ship and rear breakaways.

I've done a lot of photochase and photo flights from both the giving and receiving end.  In photochase, you want to always be ready to get into position and yet stay out of the photo frame.  You don't want to photo bomb the pictures.  To be ready, you need to stay in your position, monitor everyone else's position, and be ready to get to the proper position.  Being in the right position at the right time is critical to prevent wasting the photographer's time.  Plus with most aircraft and for most lighting conditions, you are fuel and time limited.  The rejoins back into formation are the most exciting events, especially from the breakaways.

We returned to Beech Field on Friday in a three ship formation.  I was sent ahead as the weather bird and flew an approach to check out the conditions.  There was light rime icing in the clouds, so I flew a quick descent from vectors that put me at the proper altitude for the approach.  There was some ice in the clouds, but the approach and landing was uneventful.  Everyone landed safely.

This was a very exciting and profitable mission--photos of aircraft in flight. 



5 April 2013


I've been flying a lot in the AT-6, T-6, and the Baron.  I just haven't had time to give you an update recently.

I had an opportunity to fly a T-6A as part of flight testing.  The T-6 makes its own oxygen through an OBOGS.  An OBOGS uses compressed atmosphere from the engine to separate oxygen from nitrogen and other elements in the atmosphere.  The oxygen comes out about 95% pure and goes to the pilots for breathing.  I like OBOGS systems because they provide the oxygen at some slight positive pressure.  This makes breathing easier with an oxygen mask.  In most fighter and trainer type military aircraft, you use an oxygen mask all the time connected to your helmet. 

The testing we were accomplishing was a certification of a new OBOGS for the T-6 aircraft.  I was lucky to be able to get a flight.  The problem was part of the flight was to stress the pilots and the OBOGS.  The way we planned to do this was to hold 5 to 6 Gs continuously for at least 30 seconds.  That may not sound like much time, but when you are at 5 to 6 times your body weight for 30 seconds, that's like an eternity.  I wasn't sure it could be done, or how difficult it would be.

We wore fast pants (a G suit) for the test.  When you are used to pulling Gs, 4 Gs isn't anything.  We had been accomplishing stall testing at 4 Gs and some of those points could last as long as 1 minute.  When we go above 4 Gs for test, I like to have my crews wear fast pants for safety.  In military training, you usually wear your speed jeans (fast pants, G suit) for every flight.

Well, we set up in the Military Operating Area (MOA) for our points--all those including the high G points.  Part of the testing was to the maximum altitude of the aircraft at 31,000 feet and aerobatics.  We planned to do the high G point as the next to last because we had a low level point to get back to base.  I started the aircraft in a dive to 285 KIAS and pulled on the Gs in a spiraling descent, and then I held about 5.7 Gs while the guy in the back timed the run.  We made between 5 and 6 Gs for 37 seconds and we still had plenty of altitude and airspeed left over.  What a great aircraft.  I don't recommend trying to hold 5 to 6 Gs for an extended period, but the aircraft can do it easily--and the OBOGS can keep up to the pilot's need for oxygen no matter what you might try to do with the aircraft.



3 and 4 Jan 2013


I accomplished 7 engine air start tests in the AT-6 in 2 sorties.  This was for military certification and is likely the most dangerous type of testing we accomplish with a single engine aircraft.  The point is to shut down and restart the engine at specific points in the air start envelope.  Since the T-6 was fully certified with the 1100 shaft horsepower engine, we needed to certify the AT-6 at the limits of the air start envelope with the 1600 shaft horse power engine.

The manufacturer wanted us to allow the engine to idle for two minutes before shut down.  This was to ensure the engine didn't experience any unwanted effects due to immediate heating or cooling.  This also meant that for the first point at 15,000 feet and 125 KIAS, I had to start the descent at 20,000 feet.  This means we had to be on an IFR flight plan although the weather was VFR.  In Wichita, Wichita Approach controls the airspace to 15,000 feet, Kansas City Low controls the airspace to FL230, and Kansas City High controls the airspace above FL230.  I also planned to begin the descent at 10 NM from Beech Field (BEC) so the shutdown was over the field to allow time to turn for another restart attempt (if the first didn't work) and to place the aircraft in a safe position for an flame out pattern if the engine wouldn't restart.  For safety and proficiency, on the first flight and the first event after takeoff I made a practice flame out pattern from 3,500 feet at high key (2,000 feet AGL).  I made an entry at high key at about 3,000 feet and 135 KIAS.  This was just too low for the winds, so I made a go around and tried it again from 4,000 feet (2,500 feet AGL).  The aircraft had plenty of energy.  The T&G was great.  I'll mention again, I was alone in the aircraft with telemonitoring (TM) watching the aircraft and recording the events.  The backseat was filled with an oxygen bottle and backup batteries for the data acquisition system (DAS).  The oxygen bottle was necessary to provide oxygen when the engine was shut down (our OBOGS generates oxygen, but requires engine bleed air).  The battery was required because we didn't want to lose data when the engine quit providing generator power.  For a real air start, the pilot has backup oxygen in the ejection seat, but that is a single shot.

On the ground before start, I began prebreathing 100% oxygen.  The reason for this was to combat the bends during the rapid decompressions at altitude.  For starting to heat the battery up and for practice, I made a PMU (Power Management Unit) OFF start.  This is a tricky start that is normally an emergency procedure.  We do them routinely for new T-6 aircraft.  I had made 3 in the AT-6 before.  These were the first PMU OFF starts in the AT-6.  The trick with the start is to make certain you don't give the aircraft too much Jet Fuel too fast.  If you do, you can torch the engine.  I wanted to practice a PMU OFF start because we planned to make at least two during the restart testing, and the battery gets a greater work out.  After the start on the first sortie, TM reported some dropouts at the end before the backup battery was placed back to charging. 

After the SFOs, I picked up my IFR clearance and headed to the north to set up at FL200 for the 125 KIAS and 15,000 foot restart.  The biggest difficulty was getting ATC on line with the events.  They were very helpful, but didn't seem to fully comprehend what we were doing.  This was in spite of the fact I put AT-6 Air Starts on the flight plan per their and tower's instructions.  I was cleared an unrestricted descent from FL200 to 10,000 feet.   The engine shut down perfectly at 16,000 feet.  I thought everything would get quiet.  It didn't.  The engine stopped, but the cabin depressurized (making a lot of noise), there was significant air rush even at 125 KIAS, and I could hear my breathing over the intercom.  I was told that when the prop feathered the aircraft would feel like it was on ice because of the drag reduction.  I couldn't appreciate it because the loss of torque made the aircraft yaw and all the expected red warnings and cautions kind of took my attention.

I ran through the checklist and waited to restart the engine at 15,000 and 125 KIAS.  Pretty good test point management.  The engine lit off immediately and the prop started to turn with increasing speed.  It seemed to take a long time, but it was only about the expected 40 seconds.  I was very deliberate and slow about the restart, and we were back in action before 13,700.  Now, remember this information.  Except for altitudes, the engine restarts were almost exactly like that every time.  The engine is started and producing power in about 1,000 feet--that is awesome.  I don't think many other engines or aircraft can give that kind of performance. 

The next point was FL300 for a FL200 and 200 KIAS restart.  It was a perfect relight, but the TM stream died, and I had to RTB. 

The next day, I made the same steps for preparation, but it only took one SFO for a good practice.  I went to FL250 immediately for a FL200 and 125 KIAS restart.  After that I made a PMU OFF restart at FL200 and 200 KIAS and FL 200 and 125 KIAS.  The only thing to say about the PMU OFF air starts is that they are easy.  You just give the engine a little gas and it lights off great.  The power is a little quicker as the prop comes out of feather, but it is easy to control.

Next, since I knew the engine started great at high altitude, I moved down to 17,000 for a 10,000 foot and 125 KIAS restart.  This was done with a simulated failed start.  To do a failed start, you keep the ignition from the fuel and run the engine for 5 seconds with gas flowing from the exhaust stacks.  Then you motor the engine for 20 seconds to clear the fuel.  Then you start it up.  It did.  The start was great.

Finally, the last point was the most dangerous and difficult.  The start was planned for 5,000 feet AGL (6,500 feet MSL).  I started at 11,500 and 125 KIAS at exactly 9.3 NM from BEC.  The trick was to arrive at above 4,000 feet MSL at BEC so if the engine didn't start I could make a flameout landing.  ATC gave me a straight-in to runway 19 at BEC.  Everything worked great and the aircraft arrived at high key at 4,700 feet MSL with the engine running.

With a total of 8 air starts, you can immediately see the AT-6 is an outstanding aircraft.  It is easy to predict and easy to restart.  I don't recommend inflight restart as a normal procedure, but in a pinch, when the pilot needs to restart the aircraft engine in flight, it will do it every time and it is easy to control.



21 Dec 2012


I accomplished an engine air start test in the AT-6.  This was for military certification and is likely the most dangerous type of testing we accomplish with a single engine aircraft.  The point is to shut down and restart the engine at specific points in the air start envelope.  Since the T-6 was fully certified with the 1100 shaft horsepower engine, we needed to certify the AT-6 at the limits of the air start envelope with the 1600 shaft horse power engine.

The manufacturer wanted us to allow the engine to idle for two minutes before shut down.  This was to ensure the engine didn't experience any unwanted effects due to immediate heating or cooling.  This also meant that for the first point at 15,000 feet and 200 KIAS, I had to start the descent at 25,000 feet.  This means we had to be on an IFR flight plan although the weather was VFR.  I also planned to begin the descent at 10 NM from Beech Field (BEC) so the shutdown was over the field to allow time to turn for another restart attempt (if the first didn't work) and to place the aircraft in a safe position for an flame out pattern if the engine wouldn't restart.  For safety and proficiency, the first event after takeoff was a practice flame out pattern from 3,500 feet at high key.  I made an entry at high key at about 3,200 feet and 135 KIAS.  I made it by waiting until the last minute to put down the gear and the flaps.  The T&G was great.  I also should mention, I was alone in the aircraft with telemonitoring (TM) watching the aircraft and recording the events.  The backseat was filled with an oxygen bottle and backup batteries for the data acquisition system (DAS).  The oxygen bottle was necessary to provide oxygen when the engine was shut down (our OBOGS generates oxygen, but requires engine bleed air).  The battery was required because we didn't want to lose data when the engine quit providing generator power.  For a real air start, the pilot has backup oxygen in the ejection seat, but that is a single shot.

So with the great help of air traffic control and our tower, I started 10 NM to the north and at 25,000 feet.  I started down and reached 2 minutes and 20 seconds at 16,000 feet and right over the field--the shut down point.  The engine shut down perfectly at 16,000 feet.  I thought everything would get quiet.  It didn't the engine stopped, but the cabin depressurized (making a lot of noise), there was significant air rush at 200 KIAS, and I could hear my breathing over the intercom.  I was told that when the prop feathered the aircraft would feel like it was on ice because of the drag reduction.  I couldn't appreciate it because the loss of torque made the aircraft yaw and all the expected red warnings and cautions kind of took my attention.

I ran through the checklist and restarted the engine at 15,300 and 192 KIAS.  Pretty good test point management.  The engine lit off immediately and the prop started to turn with increasing speed.  It seemed to take a long time, but it was only about the expected 40 seconds.  I was very deliberate and slow about the restart, and we were back in action before 13,000.  ATC had cleared me to 10,000 feet--I didn't have the heart to tell them I might need a lot lower if I couldn't get a restart.  As soon as the engine was back at power, TM told me to RTB.  We had some details we needed to work out before we tried another restart. 

All in all, I was very pleased with the AT-6 and engine restarts.  We'll be accomplishing more for certification in the new year.  By the way, the landing was great.  I made a high energy descent from 13,000 feet into the pattern for an extended straight-in to runway 19.  Thanks to all our engineering experts and tower, we had a successful flight and certification test.



15 Dec and 17 Dec 2012


I flew the Baron to Corpus Christi, Texas and landed in Ingleside (KTFP).  The flight down was a great weather flight.  There were supposed to be thunderstorms on the way down, but although I saw cumulous clouds, I had the stormscope and the radar blazing and I didn't catch anything on either.

We took off from Jabara (AAO) in Wichita, KS with clear skies, but an overcast formed around the border of Texas and continued to the Corpus Christi area.  The weather there was supposed to be also good, but when we got there it wasn't so great and it was getting worse.

On the way, Fort Worth forgot about changing us to Houston Center.  I had to do a little radio searching to get up with them.  I also checked the weather and gave a PIREP (pilot report) at about one hour out of KTFP. 

When we arrived I already had the GPS to runway 13 in the Garmin ready to go, and with Corpus Christi approach, I requested direct to the Initial Approach Fix (IAF).  Their low altitude radar was out and they originally gave me 4,000 feet, 1,900 above the 2,100 foot altitude for the sector safe and the IAF.  I asked to descend to 2,100 when within the sector safe area (within 25 NM) and was granted that altitude.  The lesson for the inexperienced is that a safe descent within the sector is much more convenient and much more safe than making a descent from 4,000 fee in 5 NM on an approach segment--especially a No Procedure Turn (NPT) routing.

I hit the IAF at 2,100 feet and made the turn to the FAF with 20% flaps and dropped the gear right before the FAF (my usual technique).  The approach was an LPV and the WAAS Garmin provided excellent guidance to the DA.  We made a great landing at KTFP.

We went to Corpus Christi for my daughter's Nutcracker Ballet.  She is a professional and primary soloist with the company there.  Our stay was outstanding.  I recommend the FBO at KTFP--they were very helpful and the gas and service was much less expensive than Corpus Christi International.  The approaches at KTFP also get you down to 250 feet AGL.  Although we broke out at about 500 feet, the extra margin is great.

For the return, the skies were clear.  I had worried about trying to get a release from approach at KTFP--it would have been a phone call for a release time.  I didn't have to do that--I just took off VFR and picked up my IFR clearance in the air.  I planned the departure and first leg along the coast for a coastal tour.  We missed that on the way in.

The flight back was uneventful.  It seems like when the weather is clear, there isn't a lot of excitement.  ATC kept me high 5,000 feet over McConnell and Beech Field (BEC) so when they gave me a visual approach to AAO over BEC, I made a descent to initial for 36 at AAO and flew an overhead.  I had a lot of speed on final, so I pulled the power back and flaps full early.  Since the winds were a direct cross, that didn't help much.  The landing was a nose gear touch and a balloon, but I didn't knick the nose wheel, which is a problem when landing with a high crosswind in a Baron.  I let it roll out to near the end to save the brakes.  All in all a great flight with some good IFR and IMC flying.   



28 Oct to 8 Dec 2012


Here is an update on my flying.  I've been flying the AT-6 in a military certification program and the Baron for trips.  The Baron trips have been basic flying, but the AT-6 has been all flight test.  We just finished the flutter envelope expansion for all the stores and have moved into engine certification.

In flutter envelope expansion, you take the aircraft to the limits in Mach and airspeed and ensure there are no adverse dynamic problems with the aircraft.  Additionally, we have evaluated the high speed handling characteristics along with other detailed certifications.  The AT-6 chews up everything you can throw at it and spits it out.  It is easy to fly at the limits of the envelope, but that doesn't mean it is easy to get to those limits.  That's what makes the aircraft inherently safe and predictable for the pilots.  It takes a lot of planning to get a really draggy configuration out to the limits of speed.  In the field, a pilot will not see those limits.  If he or she does, the aircraft will not just handle it, it will be responsive and safe.  Some of the limit points require taking the aircraft above the altitude limits and making a very steep dive to achieve the desired Mach and speeds.  When I flew operations, I would never think of trying to get an aircraft there.  To get the data for flight test, you have to hold the conditions for an extended length of time.  Additionally, the pilot will receive warnings when he or she reaches those limits.  For flight test, we shut off the warnings so the pilot would not have to contend with "bitching Betty" while trying to hold the limits.  Also at the end of each high speed run, we pulled the aircraft into a high G recovery to gain altitude and to set up for the next point.  Literally, during the tests, I went from a face full of ground to a face full of the heavens.  During flutter certification, we made stick raps and had flutter exciters on the wingtips.  The flutter exciters ran in symmetric and antisymmetric modes to excite the vibrations on the aircraft.  On the ground, the vibrators in the wingtips would make the entire aircraft shake. I was hoping to get a little vibration during flight to ease my weary back.  In the air, however, most of the vibration gets absorbed by the airloads--oh well.

For engine certification, you check out everything on the ground and then take the aircraft to various altitudes and basically abuse the engine in ways few pilots would even try.  The engine just keeps ticking.  It is perfectly carefree and reliable.  During the last three days of testing, the weatherman was completely wrong about the weather, and I had to fly approaches to minimums to get the aircraft back to base.  The problem is that our test boom is supposed to be kept dry (not flown through clouds).  You can't fly an approach in the weather without being in the clouds.  The AT-6 has the same awesome navigation systems as the T-6, with the addition of WAAS GPS.  So, on the AT-6, we can fly even more approaches and get to lower minimums than most military aircraft. All in all, flight testing the AT-6 is a great experience.  It is really an outstanding aircraft.

I'll try to keep you updated on the flying--and the flying is great.



19 June to 27 Oct 2012


I've been flying like crazy--both the AT-6 and the Baron.  I haven't sat down to write about my flying experiences in the AT-6 for a couple of reasons.  The first is that I've been leading an intensive flight test program for the certification of the aircraft.  That means I've been flying the aircraft every day many times twice and three times a day.  The second is that I'm afraid some of the flying might be uninteresting to many readers.  It's all flight test.

I'll try to catch you up a little.  In a military/FAA type certification program, you basically exercise the aircraft to the limits of the envelope and beyond.  This can be pretty dicey flying because aircraft many times don't do well outside or at the edges of their flight envelopes.  I can report that the AT-6 is incredible even out where we don't expect aviators to tread.

I recently flew the aircraft at 200 pounds above the normal envelope to achieve some longitudinal trim points.  With the 1600 shaft horsepower engine, flight with a fully laden AT-6 is a breeze.  In the configuration, it is really a hunting Coyote.  We don't fly around with active bombs or rockets; they are all inert, but they are externally and weight representative. 

We also have been working around the usual winter cloudy weather.  Because the aircraft has flight test equipment installed, you can't take it wet (clouds etc.).  I wouldn't have any problems with it in weather, but the instrumentation boom on the aircraft would become useless for flight test until the mechanics can purge the water out of it.  By the way, the AT-6 may be the only (or one of few) military type aircraft that have GPS WAAS and is capable of GPS WAAS approaches.  That's a great capability.

Recently, for test flights, I had the aircraft above the max altitude and above the max airspeed.  The aircraft handled like a dream.  It is the most carefree aircraft I have flown.  It makes me smile just thinking of it's capability and the easy which if can be flown.  Anyone who is familiar with aircraft would love the way we have designed the flight systems.  

Additionally, on many of our flights, we are limited on the amount of gas we can carry because the flight test boxes (weight and center of gravity) require a certain point for the flight tests.  With the systems on board, I've felt comfortable taking the aircraft to very low fuel weights because I know it can and will get me home in a pinch.  Also, we haven't lost a sortie because of any system failures.  In most aircraft that is a miracle, in the AT-6 it is routine.

Come to think of it, I haven't lost a single sortie in my Baron due to maintenance since 2006 and it has been flying at least 100 to 200 hours a year.

I'll try to keep you updated on the flying--and the flying is great.



18 May to 10 June 2012


I finally have time to sit down and give you an update on flying the AT-6 and the Beech Baron.  I've taken the AT-6 into the turf (grass) for semi-prepared operations.  I've looked at some new procedures we developed for the aircraft.  I've worked training and currency for some other pilots.  I've also messed with the mission systems especially for new potential weapons and deliveries.

In the Baron, I did a flight for charity to take some golfers up to MHK (Manhattan, KS).  The charity flight was auctioned off for Young Life in Wichita, KS.  Young Life is a group that works with students.  The auction was a flight up to a famous golf course at Manhattan, KS.  It's astounding that Mr. Beech designed the Barons to hold four sets of clubs in the nose.  The ground portion of the flight was hot, but in the air, the weather was nearly perfect.  I flew Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) up and back.  We did have to go through some clouds, but not much.  The winds were the real problem with gusts in the 35 knot range.  The Baron handled the weather great.  On the return, I flew up initial for a pitchout.  I should have done that up at Manhattan.  The golfers liked to feel a little G on the aircraft.  At the end of the flight, most people can handle it. 



23 April to 3 May 2012


Since I last gave you an update, I received a PIC (Pilot in Command) check for Engineering Test Captain (ETC) in the AT-6 and T-6.  I flew a flight in the Baron to Jasper County (JAS).  I also conducted a flight test in the AT-6 to prove the endurance of the aircraft.

The checkride went great and showed the qualities of the aircraft.  I flew Production Representative Test Vehicle (PRTV) AT-2.  The checkride mostly involved safety and knowledge of the basic aircraft and systems.  We flew a clean aircraft and completed some advanced maneuvers.  They are maneuvers approved for the aircraft, but that the USAF doesn't fly.  Primarily, it was advanced spins and advanced aerobatics.  The advanced spins are the kinds of spins a student or inexperienced pilot might accidentally get into.  This was good training too.  I did a Derry turn.  What's that?  That's what I asked.  It's an underside positioning aileron roll.  I did a vertical roll.  That's where you point the aircraft straight up and roll 360 degrees.  I did a vertical eight that turned into a stall turn.  That's a low speed turn at about straight up.  Once you get an aircraft going straight up, you are along for a ride.  The trick is to maintain aircraft control as much as possible and get the aircraft going where you want it to go without departing it. 

After aerobatics, spins, and stalls, I flew over to El Dorado (EQA) for an Emergency Landing Pattern (ELP).  That's a pattern where you set the throttle (PCL (Power Control Lever) in the AT-6 or T-6) at zero thrust and simulate an engine flame out pattern.  The AT-6 is easy to fly and control in any ELP.  As long as you can glide to a length of concrete, you can safely land the plane.

I flew up to Newton (EWK) for a WAAS and ILS.  We finished up at BEC (Beech Field) for a GPS and patterns.  I passed.

The trip to Jasper County (JAS) was mostly IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) both ways.  I had to flight a GPS approach at JAS and at AAO on return.  The flight was great and there were no problems.  The weather wasn't really that bad, but the ceilings were too low for Visual Flight Rules (VFR).

I flew a test of the endurance of the AT-6 aircraft.  The goal was 3 hours with 30 minutes of reserve.  The aircraft was configured with two .50 Cal machineguns, two Laser guided 500 lb bombs, and one External Fuel Tank (EFT).  The total weight of the aircraft at takeoff was 10,000 lbs, the maximum gross weight. 

I checked the aircraft FMS (Flight Management System) and weapons management system the day before.  On the day of the flight, we were delayed because of traffic in the pattern at BEC, but took off with only a little below the max gross weight.  This was the first time I flew such a heavy weight aircraft.  It flew well.  I planned the mission around BEC from point to point at FL200.  We went to Chanute, Emporia, Salina, Hutchenson, Ponca City, then to El Dorado.  During the flight, we simulated a 500 lb bomb run.  We descended to low altitude for a strafe run and climbed back to altitude for Return to Base (RTB).  The point of the flight was to show the endurance of the aircraft.  I planned a bingo of 300 pounds for Instrument conditions and 200 pounds for clear skies.  At altitude, the weather was clear, but there was a 1000 foot thick ceiling at about 2000 feet.  I made an IFR let down into the pattern and stuck around until I had about 200 pounds of fuel.  The total flight time was 3 hours and 20 minutes and that is with high fuel burn rates at the end of the mission (you burn more fuel the lower the altitude).  It was a great flight and showed many of the aircraft capabilities.  



23 March to 20 April 2012


Okay, I've been bad.  I've flown 10 times since I last gave you an update.  I made 4 flights in the Baron to Muscatine (MUT) and back (AAO) and 6 fights in T-6s and AT-6s.  In course of the flying, I had a revelation about my job.  Its likely one of the few jobs you can do where you are evaluating science in an office setting with papers, plans, and ground experiments and then you go out and actually test exactly what you were studying in a living breathing laboratory in the skies.  That's really a fun job for any aerodynamic scientist.

I'm still building hours so the company can check me as a full blown engineering test pilot for the T-6 and AT-6 aircraft.  During that time, I've flow production flight tests (QAI) and experimental flight tests.  Mostly, I've jumped in the back to take data and get experience when I can.  There is a lot to learn about the way you conduct the details of a QAI and about the aircraft in general.  I've done all this kind of work before, but each aircraft is different and the testing requires great flying efficiency that can only be achieved through experience.

Some differences between the T-6 and the AT-6 are subtle and yet many are very obvious.  The mission systems on the AT-6 are comprehensive and very capable.  It isn't a high performance attack fighter like the F-16 or the F-15, but it is very high performance in its class.  It is likely the most capable 10,000 lb class fighter in the world and has more built in precision weapon capability than any aircraft.  It has all the modern capabilities in a small form factor.  Although it isn't the kind of aircraft that will be flying the heaviest and most destructive weapons loads, it will inherently deliver weapons that larger fighter can't imagine carrying.  For example, it is the first fixed wing aircraft to deliver laser guided rockets and the delivery of Hell Fire class weapons will become its specialty.  That's the point of the weapon system--long loiter times with the capability to deliver a precision punch when necessary.  It is also easy to fly and easy to use.

Easy to fly because it's based on the T-6 trainer.  Easy to operate because it has the brains of an A-10, and the ease of use of the best front line fighters.  Most aircraft in the class of the AT-6 have stripped down weapons systems.  The AT-6 has the most up to date systems imaginable.  When you couple that with the ease of use of the T-6, you get an aircraft a pilot can depend on all the time.

The dependability of the AT-6 amazes me.  I haven't lost a flight yet due to any failure of the basic aircraft systems.  The redundancy and the characteristics of the aircraft make it a dream to fly.  Like I've written before, you feel like you can fly it with carefree abandon.  A loop or a cloverleaf is a simple maneuver.  A ground attack profile, preplanned or on the fly, is simple to set up and simple to execute.  With the HOTAS (Hands on Stick and Throttle) controls, the pilot can control everything with ease.  The power in the aircraft makes it a comfortable attack trainer and attack aircraft.  Although it hasn't been a real problem for me, I know the overall system has the inherent capability aviators describe as forgiveness.  Even if you screw up an approach or landing, the aircraft has the capability to get a ham-fisted beginner out of a serious difficulty.

Some notes on the flights.  I flew with a G-suit (fast pants) for the first time since Test Pilot School.  My fast pants worked great--I was worried that time might have left them less than usable (you don't need them for basic or advanced airwork, we use them to test the production aircraft).  The AT-6 has a great mapping function that shows you charts and pictures like google maps (only better).  If you need to go somewhere new, you just select the point on the chart (with HOTAS) and everything points you there--plus, shows you where you are and all the important features along the way.  Great flying and a great flying machine.  I'll try to give you more timely updates.  



7 and 9 March 2012


I'll give you two at once this time.  I also flew the AT-6 twice this week.  This was a training week for the AT-6.  I flew an IMC/IFR (Instrument) flight in AT-2 N620AT on the 7th.  This was a very taxing flight because it was in instrument conditions (can't see the ground) for most of the flight.  We flew IFR to Salina (SLN) for two approaches to 17 at SLN. The first approach was an LPV GPS 17.  The winds were down the runway, but pretty high at 25 gusting to 35 knots.  Our limit is 35 knots due to the danger of parachute dragging if you have to eject.  The AT-6 like the T-6 aircraft has an ejection seat.

On this flight, I was using the iPad for charts and no paper pubs.  In the AT-6, the iPad works like a dream.  Even in hard instrument conditions, the interface is easy to use.  I was able to control the aircraft throughout the flight with no difficulty, and I learned some great tricks to make the flight easier.

After SLN I made a drop-in to AAO (Jabara) for the ILS to runway 18.  While I was flying, the backseat pilot accomplished some flight test on the AT-6 mission systems, so we got some testing complete along with the instrument flight.  The AT-6 incorporates a moving map as part of the mission equipment, that makes IFR and VFR flight easy. 

ATC was very helpful during our flight and gave BEC (Beech Field) a heads up that we were returning.  I was able to make a sidestep under the weather from AAO to BEC for a straight-in approach to BEC.  Everything worked like clockwork.  We landed at BEC after 1.5 hours and in the high winds.  The aircraft performed perfectly--in fact almost every flight in the AT-6 seems to be near perfect--especially considering it is a test aircraft.  Usually, you expect problems and at least some level of delays or maintenance cancels due to the experimental nature of these types of aircraft, but the AT-6 is ready for flight almost all the time.

I was supposed to fly the next day, but I couldn't find a backseat pilot to go up with me.  The aircraft was ready, but we were too busy to crew it.  I'm not solo qualified by company standards yet--oh well.

The day after, Finch was in the backseat, and I was in the front of AT-1 (N610AT) for a VFR/VMC flight to check out the mission system and training.  The mission system is highly integrated and very capable.  I practiced mission system work using the EO/IR turret and the the targeting system in the aircraft.  It is awesome.  AT-1 unlike AT-2 doesn't have the newest software load yet, but that doesn't mean the system isn't capable of doing everything it needs to. 

I set up simulated attacks on various targets from different altitudes.  We rang out the system using simulated laser guided munitions, dumb bombs, rockets, and guns.  One of the neatest capabilities is to identify and mark a target using the EO/IR turret and to make simulated attacks on the fly.  Finch gave me 3 minutes to clean out 7 targets at a location.  I used rockets and guns, and 3 minutes was took much time.

When we were finished in the area, we RTBed (Returned to Base) to an overhead.  The aircraft is a real dream to fly.  It has great capability for training and for precision attacks.  Like I've said before, I spent a lot of time upside down mostly setting up for attacks.  Easy and responsive, that about summarizes flying the AT-6.



2 March 2012


I flew a BFR (Basic Flight Review) in the Baron today.  Marvin was my instructor, and it was a great flight. 

We went up to Salina, Kansas (SLN) to take advantage of their ILS to runway 35.  On the way up, we did the typical airwork: stalls and falls, unusual attitudes, steep turns, and such.  These are all required for a BFR and we accomplished a basic instrument review at the same time.  Because of the instrument review, almost the entire flight was on foggles.  Foggles are glasses a pilot wears to simulate instrument flight--you can't see anything except the instruments so you have to fly the aircraft by reference only to what you have in the cockpit.

The first event out of AAO (Jabara Airport, Wichita) was a simulated engine failure, then we continued out to the area and then to SLN.  The trick is to always keep up with the aircraft.  Since my Baron has an autopilot, this makes instrument flight both easier and harder.  It is easier because you can give the aircraft to the autopilot to prepare for the approaches you must fly.  It is harder because you must keep situational awareness (SA) all the time--it is easier to keep good SA when you are hand flying.

I flew the first approach on the autopilot.  I had an interesting surprise when I went to Approach mode on the autopilot and the aircraft tried to climb to intercept the glideslope for the ILS to 35.  It isn't supposed to work that way.  Like I said, you have to keep SA all the time.  Once I had things under control, the autopilot acted like it was supposed to on the approach.  I was using electronic pubs exclusively for the first time in the aircraft.  The company gave me an iPad and a subscription to JeppFD for approaches and charts, and I have NOAA charts on the iPad too.  With a backup of the moving map tablet in the aircraft and those charts, I meet the FAA requirements for publications in the aircraft.  You can also carry all the flight manuals and other information that is necessary for safe fight--no paper.

The iPad was a little cumbersome and hid slightly under the yoke during flight.  This wasn't much of a problem, but a center yoke mount would make things easier.  The problem is the pilot's yoke has the clock in the center, and the clock is necessary for some approaches.  I really liked using electronic pubs.  The charts were convenient and easy to use.  I had the charts on JeppFD for IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) and the approaches and VFR (Visual Flight Rules) charts on Fltplan.com's iPad app.  This allowed a quick transition between IFR and VFR flight.  Usually, this is very cumbersome in the cockpit with multiple folding charts and books.  The only thing missing is a moving map on the iPad.  I hope the company provides a GPS antenna for use with the iPad in the future.

We also flew a LPV (near precision) GPS approach single engine with a hold to 35 and went to EQA (Eldorado) to try a missed approach sequence from the GPS.  Finally, we ended with a VOR A to AAO with a circle to land on 36 at AAO.  The plane flew great, and I completed my BFR and instrument refresher.  All in all, it was a great flight and fun--plus I learned some new information from the instructor (Marvin).  He's a real asset for updates on all the new procedures.



21 and 22 February 2012


We've been waiting down at Eglin for the last couple of weeks for the range time and the weather to match.  The weather has been bad with rain and low ceilings.  We need at least 1,500 foot ceilings for some developmental weapons shots and we'd like 3,000 feet.  The plan is to get off a couple of Hellfire missiles.  This is the first time a Hellfire has been shot from an AT-6, and likely the first time a Hellfire has been shot from a high performance fix-winged aircraft.  Last week, we fired one of the first laser guided rockets from a fixed-wing aircraft, but I wasn't flying--I was the SOF (Supervisor of Flying) for that mission.

On this flight I was the official chase photographer.  The AT-6s were lined up at Hot Gun #1 along with a covey of A-10s, F-16s, and F-15s.  The aircraft looked perfectly matched together.  An AT-6 looks like one of the gang--the cleanup hitter after the big boys clear the airspace of the really bad air to air threats. 

The weather was poor when we took off.  We just made it for a rejoin under the clouds.  I wasn't flying--would have liked to.  I'm still building hours.  The rejoin was great and we headed up through the clouds and toward the range.  Luckily, the clouds lifted as we flew inland.  At the range we had 1,500 feet.

We made a practice pass and I took some great formation and hero shots.  Part of my job was to try to get good shots of the aircraft with the Hellfire on it.  A Hellfire looks perfectly matched to an AT-6;  it's the right size for the aircraft--like a mini-Maverick.  The AT-6 can carry a lot of them too.  Along with the EO/IR turret, the AT-6 with Hellfires or laser guided rockets is a formidable independent weapon platform.

Our first pass was aborted because of range issues, but those were quickly worked out and we started our hot pass.  The missile was easily able to pick up the laser designator.  I started the video camera early (there was no way I was going to miss this shot).  The lead ship pilot counted down to the launch distance and fired, "Fox away."

The Hellfire hissed as it lit and let out a long flame that turned immediately into sonic force diamonds.  With a whoosh, it came off the rails and headed for the target.  We were able to catch the target strike with the EO/IR ball on our aircraft.  When making developmental weapons shots like this, you get videos from the cockpit, from the chase aircraft, from the ground, and from the aircraft onboard cameras.  The point of these types of tests is to determine safe separation of the store from the aircraft.  This separation was perfect as was the performance of the missile.  All in all a great test.

The next problem was getting back to load the next Hellfire.  We had External Fuel Tanks (EFTs) on board for extra gas so we wouldn't have to refuel our aircraft.  Our lead ship wasn't cleared for EFTs with Hellfire testing--part of the test limitations for the range.  We made a safety check of the lead aircraft and headed back to Eglin.  We accomplished an approach on the wing, and got drag separation on final under the weather.  Drag separation is where the lead clears off two when clear of the weather and two takes separation for independent landings. 

We landed and loaded the next missile then waited and waited and waited for fuel.  The fuel truck didn't make it in time and we lost the range and a chance to test fire a second Hellfire--oh well.  Stuff like this happens all the time in aviation.  The airplanes were ready, but the clearance and conditions didn't cooperate.

The next day we RTBed.  This was a two hop from Eglin (VPS) to Fort Smith (FSM) and from FSM to Beech Field (BEC).  I flew the AT-6, N610AT from the front seat on both sorties.  I programmed the Flight Management System (FMS) and took care of all the flying on the way back.  The back seat pilot instructed me in some of the finer points of the AT-6 weapons system.  It has an awesome simulation capability that allows the pilots to practice weapons procedures without any weapons on board.  We could basically exercise the entire weapons system during the flight.

The weather when we arrived at VPS to takeoff was 1/4 of a mile and no ceiling.  That's too low for us by company rules, so we watched the weather as it slowly improved.  When it hit 1/2 mile and 200 feet (enough for a safe takeoff and immediate ILS approach), we went out and started up.  When we listen to the ATIS (radio weather information at a towered field), the weather was back to 1/4 mile and 100 feet.  We had full EFTs and plenty of gas, so we waited at the end of the runway for the weather.  Sure enough, when we reached the end, the weather was up above 1/2 and 200 feet, so we launched. 

I took off and was immediately in the soup--until 700 feet, and then I broke out into the clear.  The weather was basically clear with a few clouds all the way home.  At FSM, I flew an ILS approach for practice--I've been practicing with the HUD.  We had Barbeque at a joint called Hawg something--it was gooood.  We put on just full wing fuel and headed back to BEC.  I flew an RNAV GPS approach to 36 and made a touch and go.  The back seat pilot took the aircraft up for a Simulated Flameout Pattern (SFO), then I made a full stop from the closed pattern.  All in all this was a great flight and a great deployment.  We tested rockets and missiles and made some cross country time with EFTs.



9 and 10 February 2012


I'm caught up with this report.  I waited a few days before I put it out so you could absorb the last one. 

I flew in the front seat of AT-6C N610AT from Beech Field (BEC) to Eglin AFB (VPS).  We were originally supposed to go out as a two-ship (formation), but the other aircraft was delayed, so we took off in the morning.

The weather wasn't that bad.  We had low clouds, but no predicted icing and the weather above was supposed to be clear.  I planned for FL210 (21,000 ft).  Everything went great from startup to getting our clearance.  The takeoff was uneventful.  I flew everything and tried to handle everything from the navigation to the use of the tactical systems in the aircraft.  I'm learning how to make everything work, so the pilot in the other cockpit was helpful in figuring things out.  I don't think I would have had any problems flying it myself. 

We had a couple of External Fuel Tanks (EFTs) under the wings.  They made the aircraft a little harder to fly at altitude, but that isn't uncommon for fighter type aircraft.  The extra fuel they provided was great.  We landed with almost a half full aircraft.

There isn't much to say about this flight, except that everything worked well and ATC took care of us.  When we arrived at Eglin, I made an overhead.  That's where you fly at 200 Knots in the overhead pattern and make a g-break over the numbers (or where tower tells you).  A g-break is where you roll up to about 60 degrees of bank and make a 2 g level turn with the power at idle.  This slows you quickly to less than 150 knots on downwind, where you can put down your gear and flaps.  You turn base configured and at final approach speed.  As you turn final, you slow to landing speed and land.  This is a very efficient and great way to make a landing pattern if the weather is good.

The landing was great and we bedded the aircraft down.

The flights I made the next day were to check out the EO/IR ball turrets on the bottom of the aircraft.  We were down at Eglin to fire laser guided rockets, the turrets needed to work properly.  I took up both aircraft and flew from the front seat while another pilot in the back seat checked out the EO/IR turrets.  The best parts was I got to fly.  I gained more familiarity with the checklist and the aircraft procedures and got to honk both aircraft around the pattern.

We stayed with tower and at 2500 ft and just made holes in the sky.  That was okay for me.  It was a good challenge to hold exact airspeed and exact altitude while keeping the turn rates down and in the area the tower gave us to fly.  We rang out both aircraft and both EO/IR turrets.  The aircraft didn't have any problems.  That's one of the great things about the T-6 and the AT-6, they are superior when it comes to being mission ready.  They have very few problems.  My personal experience is no lost sorties at all yet.  HBDC and HBC just make fantastic aircraft that you can really depend on.

Hey, isn't that funny, all the aircraft I've been flying for a while are made by HBC.

I made overheads for the landing patterns.  The tower changed the landing runway on us for the first flight.  It was a runway with a barrier on it.  That meant we had to land beyond the barrier and takeoff beyond the barrier.  No problem for the AT-6.  THe landings were very nice--I'm getting better.      



29 and 30 January plus 4 February 2012


Okay, I'm a little backed up on reporting my flights, but here goes.  I took the regular copilot and my SiL out to Scottsdale (SDL) to pick up my BiL from a medical convention and take them all out to Palm Desert (TRM) for a week of golf and fun.  We flew the Baron.

The flight out to SDL was clear and a million and mostly uneventful.  It was on Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) through the mountains on the airways and at 12,000 ft.  The plane flew great and all the equipment worked well.  The biggest problem was getting the weather information from SDL.  Literally, the mountains blocked my view and radios until we were right on top of it.  While Air Traffic Control (ATC) was vectoring us, the airport became visible through a canyon--that's when the ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information Service) came through the number one radio.  A little late for IFR, but we were in the clear and we saw the airport.  By the way, the regular copilot decided to be chauffeured for this flight.  The visual approach to SDL was a little hijaka because the field elevation was 1500 ft and we were at 7,000 ft for the mountains.  I didn't have to pull any gs or make any turns.  I just pulled the power back, raised the nose, slowed the aircraft to 152, put down the gear and approach flaps, and let the nose down.  A clean Baron won't ever slow down going down hill.  A configured Baron can accelerate pretty quickly, but it will come down quite nicely.  The approach was fast, but the runway was long.  Okay landing--there weren't any complaints.

Now the fun started.  The FBO (Fixed Based Operator), an airplane gas station, was Landmark.  I found a spot on the ramp that looked like the right place (Landmark fuel truck, FBO-like building, planes all around), but I wasn't sure--so I called them on the radio.  I asked, "Is this the right place for me to shut down?  I'm in front of a building with a blue awning and a couple of Landmark fuel trucks."  The Landmark guy on the radio said, "Yeah."  So, I shut down--it wasn't the right place.  The FBO was about 300 yards down the ramp.  I will not give that employee credit for having a clue.  On a positive note, they did take good care of the aircraft, they were friendly, but just directionally challenged. I also met an HBC (Hawker Beechcraft Company) pilot who was delivering an aircraft at SDL--small world.

We had everything set up and hit some golf balls while the ladies shopped.  The golf course bar served the strongest drinks I think I've had in a long time, but that's another story.

In the morning, we packed up the plane.  Astounding that Walter Beech built the Barons to hold four sets of clubs in the nose compartment.  The rest of the luggage fit easily in the cabin baggage compartment.  We took off from SDL for TRM.  TRM is named for Jacky Cochran, a famous aviatrix.  The field is in the Palm Springs/Palm Desert valley in Southern California.  We flew airways at 12,000 ft all the way, and the weather was as clear as I could stand.  TRM is an uncontrolled field and when we got there, the pattern was just starting to heat up.  The winds were ambivalent, so I picked the convenient north runway.  While I was maneuvering, a Cessna started calls for the opposite runway.  To make matters worse, a Phenom (small Brazilian jet) was calling inbound.  He followed my lead for the north runway.  The mountains on either side of Palm Springs are really high, so ATC let us go at about 6,000 ft and the field elevation is -115 ft.  Okay, time to lose some altitude.  Same Baron problem, but this time I had to make a 360 on final.  My BiL in the copilot's seat thought it was great--my SiL wasn't so pleased.  Nice landing though--kiss of the earth.  We found the FBO this time.

We had a great time in Palm Desert.  I even put up some restaurant reviews on www.zenoffood.blogspot.com from there.  For the RTB (return to base) at AAO (Jabara, Wichita, Kansas), the takeoff weather was fantastic.  I tried to get 12,000 for the whole way, but they wouldn't let me above 11,000 ft at first (unless I took 13,000).  The proper altitudes for IFR flight to the east are odd, but the MEA (Minimum Enroute Altitudes) for some airways around Albuquerque are 12,000.  I didn't want to go above 12,500 because I didn't want to suck the oxygen hose.  The passengers don't require it--keeps them quiet anyway :-D.  Later, they gave me 12,000 and we were good until AAO.  Notice, we flew from Palm Springs, CA to Wichita, KS in a Baron with plenty of reserve!

At AAO, the weather was doggy with 1200 ft ceilings and 14 knots of crosswind.  There was no forecast icing or icing SIGMETS (Significant Meteorological Information), but I knew there would be ice in them clouds.  I went to ZUXEG (Initial Approach Fix, a point in the sky) for the RNAV (GPS) RWY 36 at AAO.  We hit the clouds at about 5,000 ft and right away picked up some rime ice.  On with the prop anti-ice.  There wasn't much to talk about.  Like I usually do with ice on an aircraft, I hit the boots (parts on the wings and tail that blow up like balloons and knock the ice off) once before I configured, but there wasn't enough ice to write home about.  It was only about 1/2 inch thick on the leading edges.  As we proceeded through the clouds and got to warmer air, the ice started to meal anyway.  We broke out at about 1000 ft.  The LPV approach is great because you get glidepath and steering to the runway.  The flight director did a good job with the winds because we were lined right up with the runway.  I made a great crosswind landing and that was that.  Luckily, the winds were big cross, but they weren't the 42 knots I had to contend with on my last Baron flight.  They were still cold--much colder than Palm Desert, CA.  Oh well.



25 January 2012


Formation in an AT-6 with PH-1.  The AT-6 is the weaponized follow-on to the T-6.  It has 7 hardpoints, an Electro/Optical Turret, the brains of an A-10, and a 1600 shaft horsepower turboprop engine.  PH-1 is a T-6C. 

Our job today was to ring out the aircraft in formation training and a checkout.  PH-1 was doing the checkout, and we were along for the formation and the training.  I flew front seat, and it was a blast.  The AT-6 has power to spare and is super responsive. 

We led a 10 second interval takeoff and PH-1 rejoined on us.  From there we led the formation out to El Dorado for formation work.  We started with a pitchout and rejoin.  That's where the lead signals a break usually 5 seconds, and the other aircraft follows after that time.  You signal a rejoin with a wing rock in the direction of the rejoin and start a turn.  The other aircraft flys up the rejoin line with some overtake (airspeed) and comes into a wingtip position.  After the rejoin, we moved into wing work.  In wing work, the other aircraft stays tucked up on your wing in wingtip position, and you fly aerobatics together.  Additionally, you change the side of the other aircraft with a signal and they try to make the "cross under" without falling out of position.  Unfortunately, the clouds were a little low so we couldn't get any over the top maneuvers.  We gave them a good workout as far as we could go.  I think it was a challenge.  The trick with leading wingwork is that you want to be very smooth.  Not so slow that you stairstep the aircraft, but smooth and controlled all the time.  Then we worked our some echelon turns.  Echelon turns are accomplished level and are a real challenge by themselves.  We kicked the other aircraft back to close trail and led that with some gs and near over the top attitudes (90 degrees in bank).  The point in close trail is to keep the aircraft aligned just behind the tail of the other aircraft with a similar fuselage angle.  You basically try to keep the aircraft aligned--that looks best and is the challenging part.  Plus you don't want to fall out (let them lose you).  From there we moved them out to extended trail and tried to lose them on purpose.  Extended trail is where the lead aircraft maneuvers extensively and the follower tries to keep up with about 500 to1000 foot spacing.  It's kind of like dog fighting, but that's not what it's called ;-).  Hey, this is the kind of stuff you do in formation.  We were just making the typical UPT (Undergraduate Pilot Training) type formation sortie.  When we were done with leading, we gave PH-1 the lead and let them take us through the paces.

The high points were these.  On the first rejoin, I had about 50 knots overtake.  The other pilot with me said, "You're going to have to overshoot (go under the other aircraft because you aren't in a position to rejoin)."  I just said, "Watch this."  The AT-6 has such great power control for slowing down, I just pulled some good gs and yanked the power back to idle.  She eased up into position.  It was great.  In extended trail, they couldn't shake us even a little.  We had power on them, but the AT-6 is just a fine flying beast.  I had PH-1 in the pipper almost the whole time (we did put up the Air to Air pipper).

When we'd had enough formation wingwork, we took up the lead again and headed to El Dorado for a formation instrument approach.  A formation approach is necessary when you lead another aircraft through weather to land.  We made the approach to a missed approach and then led the formation in two practice fly-bys.  A fly-by is accomplished to display an aircraft in formation during an air show.  All went well so we headed back to Beech Field (BEC) for a pitch out and rejoin landing.  Since this was an all Air Force crew, we used mostly formation signals and AF formation procedures--all was well in the world.   I like learning the Navy stuff, but it is comfortable to use the techniques and skills you learned at mother's knee.

Great flight.  Great aircraft.



23 and 24 January 2012


What is better than flying?  Flying on a flight test weapon mission in formation.  Back in the AT-6, this time on a flight to Smokey Hill range (near Salina (SLN), Kansas) with the other AT-6 to practice weapons testing. 

The AT-6 comes with an Electro Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) sensor turret.  It's installed between the wings on the belly.  It incorporates a targeting and an illumination laser.  The EO/IR ball is used to find and illuminate targets for laser guided weapons.  These flights we were flying to test the EO/IR ball and develop flight test profiles to test laser guided weapons on the AT-6.

I flew four missions.  Three of the flights, I was in the backseat--I'm still building time before I can be qualified as a Pilot in Command for the company.  But I did get to fly more than half of the flight time, and I had an almost entire flight to learn the aircraft mission systems.  The mission systems are easy for anyone who has had some experience in fighter weapons operations, but like any system, they require practice and training.  It isn't enough to read the book.

On each of the missions, we accomplished a formation delayed takeoff to a pattern rejoin.  On a delayed takeoff, you wait 10 seconds before starting your own takeoff.  Right after takeoff, you rejoin with the lead aircraft.  A rejoin means you intercept the aircraft and move to a position about 5 to 10 feet away in fingertip.  You maintain this position until the leader puts you in a route position.  I'm working with exNavy pilots so I have to figure out their service formation techniques too.  They have a different name for route.  The AT-6 like the T-6 is a great challenge to fly in formation.  It is a fantastic formation trainer.

The reason you fly a military aircraft in formation is for mutual protection and support, but in our case, we were practicing photo chase for weapons work and buddy lasing to help with the laser guided weapons.  Buddy lasing is where you use one aircraft to lase the target for the other. 

Two AT-6 aircraft together in flight is about the most beautiful scene you can imagine--especially with something loaded on it.  We were flying with external fuel tanks.  The aircraft can carry up to four external fuel tanks.  We had two and easily four hours plus of gas.  The plane flies well with external fuel tanks.  You can spend a lot of time upside down just with range work and you hardly notice the tanks at all.

There is al lot more I could relate about flying to the range and the AT-6 in formation.  I'll save it until another flight.



9 and 11 January 2012


Back in the Baron for a business trip.   This was the best kind of business trip.  I went down to Oklahoma City (OKC) for FAA physiological and survival training.  The trip down was too easy.  I flew IFR so there was a STAR (Standard Instrument Arrival) to contend with, and I flew to Will Rogers World (OKC) airport.  The controllers did a great job and I didn't have any problems.  The traffic wasn't that busy at the time.

What was great was the training.  The official count is in, this was my 9th altitude chamber ride.  My first was with the Navy in Washington State.  My second and ninth was with the same physiology trainer, JR.  JR was teaching physiology training at Laughlin AFB where I went through Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT).  He's working for the FAA now.  Isn't that something?

The purpose of physiology training and a chamber ride is to make you familiar with hypoxia (lack of oxygen) at altitude and your symptoms.  The reason is that if you encounter hypoxia in flight, you will be able to do something about it before you lose consciousness.  I found out for the first time why I don't succumb to the worst effects of hypoxia like most people do--my blood oxygen was still at 70% at 5 minutes at 25,000 feet.  I would have liked to go another minute to see what would happen.  Maybe my slow heartbeat has something to do with it.   During a chamber ride, you get to experience a rapid decompression (I've had two real ones) from 8,000 to 18,000 feet,  you get to go hypoxic at 25,000 feet, and you get a demo of night vision loss due to hypoxia at 18,000 feet.  The altitude chamber rides are all about the same--the training is necessary for high altitude fliers.

The next day was survival training and I got to do two events I never had before.  I've been to many survival training schools and classes, but the FAA has a fuselage set up like a jet liner that you can practice evacuations from.  The trick is that they fill the fuselage with theatrical smoke.  The smoke is so thick you can't see you hand in front of your face.  We had seven people in our class and we lost two during the exercise.  This was great practice and one that very few people get to experience.

The second new experience was escaping an inversion seat in the pool.  You strap into a seat in a framework with seat and shoulder belts, they flip you upside down, and you have to unfasten the seatbelts and escape the framework.  I don't think I did it in UPT, but if I did this was a great refresher.  These were just the peaks of the details, the overall training was excellent.  I recommend it for anyone who can do it.  If you have never been to physiological or survival training, do it with the FAA.  The cost is very low and the instruction is fantastic.

My return to Wichita (AAO) was a little more exciting than the trip down.  On the way, the weather was cloudy.  I picked up light rime icing and turned on the prop and hit the windshield anti-icing.  I did blow up the wings once, but the icing was so little it didn't do anything.  There was only about a half inch on the ends of the wings.  The winds at 9,000 feet were light, but on the surface, when I took off they were gusting to 35 knots and at AAO, they were gusting to 42 knots.  Luckily they weren't much off the runway centerline only 20 to 30 degrees.  I flew the GPS LNAV approach to 36 at Jabara.  The plane flew great.  The landing was a little sporty, but the aircraft handled well.  THe big problem was when I stopped and started to unpack.  My plane was bouncing around and the two Lear Jets in front of me were bouncing around.  That will really get your attentions.  Plus, when you see four linemen and a towing tractor fighting a Cessna into position, you know it's windy.



23 December 2011


I was back in the AT-6C for a familiarization flight with the new software and hardware in aircraft AT-2.  We've made some great modifications to AT-2 to make it the productionized version of the AT-6C.  It has all the improvements to make the system work especially well for the pilots.  No software design is ever complete, you have to add new weapons and new capabilities as well as improve those problems you find in the field.  The new software is fantastic and gives the aircraft the potential capability for immediate fielding.

I was able to take the aircraft for a flight to reposition it at Jabara (AAO).  We went out to El Dorado Lake.  The aircraft was configured with the EO/IR ball turret underneath.  This was a new configuration for me to fly.  The airplane behaved well.  I could barely tell that ball was there.  The day was cold and there was plenty of extra power, but all in all, the ball turret seemed to make the aircraft more stable at the airspeeds I was flying.

I found some targets on the ground and practiced simulated rocket and bomb attacks.  The new software made everything simple to setup and fly.  I was using old and new techniques and the aircraft seemed to take to either.  The designation and attack of targets was simple and to some degree intuitive.  I say to some degree because you have to be familiar with fighter HOTAS (hands on stick and throttle) systems to begin with, but if you are, the manipulation of the controls is very familiar.  I tried most of the main bomb and rocket attack types and we headed over to El Dorado airport for a practice SFO (simulated flameout) pattern.  The aircraft was easy to read for drag and flew predictably.  I made the pattern from a different position and angle than the book prescribes.  The pattern worked out great to a touch and go.  Then we headed up to Jabara. 

At Jabara, we flew a GPS LPV approach to see how it worked on the new software.  The system was easy to use and gave a great approach to the field.  We made a full stop and bedded down the aircraft.  Another great flight in a great aircraft.



21December 2011


Back in the air with the T-6.  I flew two training flights today.  I used my new call sign--Beech 123.  I got the instrument stump the dummy flight.  I used to do this with my students too.  It's the typical overload flight--it's great training.  I was ready to learn and learning was accomplished.

We took off out of Beech Field (BEC) on the 13th Street departure to get to Wichita Mid-continent (ICT) for an ILS 19L.  This was new for me and required contact with Wichita approach.  They treated us great today.  We got the ILS and made a touch and go at ICT then coordinated for flight following and vectors toward Kingman (9K8).  The trick was programming the Flight Management System (FMS) while flying and talking on the radios.  The FMS system is pretty good, but has a few tricks that require learning.

We flew the VOR 17 at Kingman which is an arc to a straight-in course.  The inbound course is about 20 degrees from the runway so it requires almost a circle to get in.  We made a touch and go and headed out to Hutchinson (HUT) for a Localizer (LOC) Backcourse to 31.  I set up the approach poorly and ended up with an impossible to fly situation.  It worked out with a missed approach to fly the ILS to 13.  Learning occurred.

After the ILS, we climbed up above 13,500 and completed a couple of spins.  After I recovered, the Instructor Pilot (IP) simulated failing the engine, and I made a Simulated Flameout Pattern SFO into Newton (EWK).  That worked out pretty cool.  We cut back to the west and made a 13th Street arrival back to BEC for a couple of patterns.  All in all, this was a busy flight.  The aircraft flew great, as usually.

The second flight was an opportunity add on.  We went out for area work: stalls and falls, instrument maneuvers practice, aerobatics, and unusual maneuvers.  For aerobatics, I did an Immelman, a Cuban 8, a Lazy 8, a Chandelle, a split-S, and a Cloverleaf.  Okay, I need more practice with aerobatics.  I haven't practiced them in a long time.

After the airwork, we headed down to Ponca City (PNC) for approaches.  The first approach was a VOR-A, which means it's a circling approach.  It's also probably the longest approach I've ever flown--and I do mean long.  I was going to make a touch and go, but there were a thousand birds on the end of the runway--I went around and set up for the RNAV (GPS) to runway 17.  I flew this with a holding-in-lieu for the course reversal.  This is also a long approach.  When we were approaching the Visual Descent Point (VDP), I thought the IP would tell me I could see the field, he didn't.  He was watching for the birds.  I went to the Missed Approach Point (MAP) and started the missed approach.  We were getting low on gas, so we decided to head back to BEC.

The Return to Base (RTB) was uneventful.  I got to see a new way to approach the east entry point.  The excitement came during patterns.  We had planned to practice an emergency gear extension, and we did.  It works great on the plane.  Then we shut down the engine using the Firewall Shutoff Handle.  Also works great.  I learned some great tricks about the FMS too.

I had an exciting day in an exciting aircraft.  Sorry for all the technical terms--that's aviation.    



24 and 26 November 2011


I took the regular copilot to San Antonio (SAT) to see our daughter, a professional ballerina with Ballet San Antonio, dance in the Nutcracker.  We also had Turkey Day with her boyfriend's parents.

The flight down was fantastic, but too clear.  The weather was perfect and the aircraft purred along.  We flew down at 12,000 feet.  SAT controllers are always helpful and pleasant.  We landed from a visual on the long runway and taxied to Millionaire (that's an FBO, Fixed Base Operator--an aircraft gas station).

Our daughter picked us up and we spent a great time in San Antonio at the Sheraton Gunter.  We visited the River Walk and the Alamo, had Turkey Day, and watched the Nutcracker.  All very nice. 

The return was more interesting.  It began with drenching rain.  The rain was so heavy, I was soaking before I finished my walk around.  On taxi out, the HSI (Horizontal Situation Indicator) failed.  The HSI is a corrected gyro compass.  It is like a magnetic compass that you can trust (a mag compass is affected by gravity and can't be used for turns).  Luckily, my aircraft has a backup gyro compass and a backup CDI (Course Direction Indicator).  I could use these to check the HSI course and fly the aircraft in weather.  Still, flying without an HSI is tough and the autopilot takes its signals from the HSI, so I had to hand fly all the way back (3 hours).

On the way back, we were in weather, had a trace of ice, saw rain and snow, had to turn on the radar and stormscope (didn't see anything of note in them), and faced winds at destination, Jabara Wichita (AAO), of 36 gusting to 42 mph.  The aircraft handled the winds great.  Below 2,000 feet it was pretty bumpy.  After landing, while I unloaded the aircraft, it was bouncing around so much in the wind, I though it might takeoff.  Well, enough of that excitement.



23 November 2011


First flight in the AT-6C. 

I have my own company call sign.  It's Beech Test 123.  I chose the number because 23 is one of the most important numbers in my life and the 1 is for Beech Experimental Flight Test.  Today I didn't get to use my call sign, but I was announced as Beech Test 123 for my role in the flight of the AT-6C.  The flight was an FCF (Functional Check Flight) to check out the new propeller installation on the aircraft.  You complete an FCF on an aircraft when some major component for flight has been changed or fixed.  Engines and propellers are the usual suspects.

The AT-6C is the T-6's older brother.  It has a bigger engine, hard points, the brains of an A-10, and usually an EO/IR turret.  This aircraft is a test bird (a production ready test vehicle) and didn't have the turret installed for this flight.

I was in the back seat for this flight.  I basically helped complete the FCF, then we continued on with a fam (familiarization) and qual eval (qualification evaluation) flight.  The FCF was something else.  I used to do this for a lot of aircraft in the USAF, but we usually didn't handle an FCF with this much rigor.  The check out was for the prop, but they also had a check of the pressurization and environmental system on the flight.  That meant a ram dump of the cockpit before 19,000 feet and a repressurization after all the bells and whistles went off.  First you feel like a squished frog, then you feel like a puffed up frog.  We also had to complete a loop and then inverted flight for 15 seconds.  They're not really a big deal, but hey most people think they are--the 15 seconds for inverted flight is kind of a long time.

As soon as we finished the FCF, I took the aircraft and made some maneuvers.  I mostly wanted to see how different it flew form the T-6.  It has a feel that is very different than the T-6.  Where the T-6 is like a dancer, the AT-6 is like a tiger.  It flys perfectly for its role as a ground attack fighter: responsive and quick but smooth and lithe.  It is just a touch heavier on the controls than the T-6 and that makes it perfect for accurate pointing and maneuvering down low.  I tried some attacks on random pieces of the scenery for a while, then we headed toward Eldorado.  I did an SFO (simulated flameout pattern) at Eldorado and a couple of patterns there, then we RTBed (return to base) to BEC (Beech Field).  I did an overhead there and a couple of patterns.  We made a full stop and that was all.  A great flight.  On Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for being able to fly the AT-6 what a great and fun aircraft.  That makes 67 different aircraft I've had the opportunity to fly PIC (pilot in command).



28 October 2011


Third flight in the T-6C, and I had a copilot checkout. 

What a great opportunity: the aircraft had to go up on a FCF (Functional Check Flight) and the back seat was open.  Plus they wanted to give me a copilot check ride so I could build hours and fly in other aircraft.  That basically puts me on the official pilot list.  I've never had a flight check so quickly, but I've never flown a flight like this since test pilot school.

From the first, this has been an outstanding training and checkout.  In most training programs they treat you like the minimal airman, in this training, I've felt like my skills and level have been fully appreciated.  The training has been fantastic, but at the level that fit my capability.

So, on this flight, the first flight I've ever sat in the back of a T-6, during an simulated flameout pattern (SFO) (the second I've ever flown in the aircraft), I landed the aircraft (from the backseat) and took it into the Eldorado pattern to get every flap configuration landing the aircraft was capable of.  The reason this is such a big deal is that to get to the back seat in the Air Force usually takes weeks of training and prep.

Then I flew over to Newton (EWK) and flew a GPS approach to a missed and back up for an ILS procedure turn to a missed and then back for holding.

We returned to Beech Field for an overhead and three more patterns.  So, how was that firehose?  I passed my check and now I'm a company copilot.  Onward and upward.



26 October 2011


Second flight in the T-6.  I'm flying a T-6C to be exact.  It has the regular engine, but some advanced cockpit features.  In general, this flight was about how to use the FMS (Flight Management System).  The book is tough to figure out, but with some great instruction and hands-on training, I think I have it figured out.  I was able to use it while flying.

It's a pretty complex system and I'm glad of my experience in other aircraft with other FMS systems.  Of course, in most training programs, they put you through a week of class and a bunch of simulators before they let you touch an aircraft.  I'm happy my training is the way it is.  At test pilot school, they teach you to read the manual, get in the aircraft and fly it the next day.  I'm used to it, and like I said before, the T-6 is a great and easy aircraft to fly.

The flight was out to EMP (Emporia) to Newton (EWK) and then Beech Field (BEC).  All for approaches and to use the FMS.

We did have a small MX issue with the gear warning system, but everything went well.  I didn't get any landings--whaa.



25 October 2011


Well I started my training in the T-6 today to prepare to fly the AT-6 as a test pilot.  I hope to have more to report and more often. 

The flight was a basic qual out to the area and approaches to Newton (EWK) and Beech Field (BEC).  I put the aircraft through its paces: a good climb, some easy acro, stalls, pattern stalls, a spin, some air to air work, some air to ground work (simulated), then off to Newton.

Hey, this is a really cool aircraft to fly.  It's easy to get going.  It starts nice.  It has power and is very nimble.  The kids going off for the US and other militaries to learn to fly have it great.

I took a lot of Test Pilot data I won't share, but it was mostly all good.  Remember, all aircraft have snakes, and the job of the test pilot is to find the snakes.

I like flying the T-6.  The AT-6 will be even more exciting.



15 and 21 October 2011


Down to the beach and back.  Most of the action was at the beach and not in the air.  The stop as usual was DTS (Destin). 

On the way back there was some excitement.  I've mentioned that my radios seem to have some problems, but it might not just be my radios.  Out of Destin, I couldn't get a hold of Eglin Departure to get a release, and the clearance delivery lady wouldn't release me for IFR.  So I took off VFR and got a beach tour at 1000 feet while I picked up my IFR in the air.  The beach tour was great all the way from the Destin pass to Pensacola--I recommend it.

The trip back was uneventful--like I said the beach was more exciting.  That's the way aviation is supposed to be.



8 October 2011


Short and simple and in the weather.  I took Granny back to Dallas through TIK (McKinny).  I've been there before.  The flight was almost completely in the clouds on the way down and the way back.  I had a completely inexperienced copilot who did a great job and got to see what aviation is all about.  The approches were great and so were the landings.  That's about all--a simple down and back.



25, 26, and 28 August 2011


Road trip--okay, whatever a road trip is in an aircraft.  The regular copilot wanted to go to Estes Park, CO to play golf.  The plan was to stay at the Stanley Hotel (redrum), play golf for two days, and RTB to Wichita (AAO).

We took off for McCook, NE (MCK) on Thursday afternoon.  The weather was pretty perfect.  McCook was cooking (hot), but no traffic.  We came in on a straight in.  There was no excitement.  The landing was great, but for some reason, I've been swooping the aircraft in a little.  It makes for a great touchdown on the right parameters, but I like to be a little more subtle about pitch changes during the landing phase.  Oh well.

We stayed the night with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, then took off with them, bags in the back, and four golf bags in the nose.  Did you know, Mr. Beech designed the Barons to hold four golf bags in the nose?  I didn't take on any fuel at MCK because I was trying to burn down fuel.  I should have mentioned on the first leg, I kept the power up full to burn off gas.  I also couldn't dally because my brother-in-law invited us to an open house at his business.  What a nice guy.

So I had the aircraft at full power all the way out to Greeley, CO (GXY).  I wanted to fly an approach or two there to burn more fuel, but when we arrived, the skies were full.  Loveland's long runway was closed, that's why I went to GXY.  I usualy go to Loveland because its about as low in elevation as GXY, but it's closer to Estes Park.  Everybody and his brother were training at GXY.  They were mostly on the long runway, so I decided to land on the short runway (it's still 5800 feet long).  We got in, but I was a little high on the gas.  The reason this is a problem is that when planning to fly out of a place like GXY at 4600 feet of elevation, you need low weight and cool temperatures.  I figured we could get off with about 85 gallons of gas and all our people and baggage at 24 C.  We landed with 90 gallons.  That might not seem like much difference, but its about 35 pounds of fuel more.  People and fuel are heavy.

We hopped out of the plane, got in the rental car (they brought it right to the plane), and headed to the Stanley at Estes Park.  The stay was great.  It was cold enough we needed out jackets for golf.  We played the same course twice for 18 holes each time.  I had a bunch of pars and a couple of birdies.  That would have been great except for the double-bogies etc.  The Stanley was fun (redrum).  The food was great.  Eat at Mama Rosa's and have the Italian Dinner with wine.

Our return was on the 28th.  We got up early because I wanted us taxiing out before the temperature at GXY became too high for us to take off.  We made it just in time.  The temp was 24 C at takeoff.  The plane flew great.  As long as you  follow high hot procedures, the Baron will take care of you.  The trip back to MCK was uneventful.  At MCK, we grabbed lunch, dropped off our PAX (passengers) and their bags and took off for Wichita Jabara (AAO).  On the tarmac at MCK, the aluminum in the shape of an aircraft is sealed to the concrete from the ground collision I saw there a year ago.  Look back in the records to find it.  I took some pictures, and I might thrown them on this site later. 

We took off from MCK VFR for an IFR pickup.  I flew back over the city and wagged my wings over my brother-in-law's house.  We were at 2000 feet, so he might not have seen the wags.  The return was uneventful too.  The regular copilot likes that.  It was a fun road trip--let's do it again.



15 and 18 August 2011


I went on a trip for work from Wichita Jabara (AAO) to Dayton, Ohio (DAY).  Since the office couldn't get a ticket for one of the travelers, I took them with me.  This traveler is a test pilot and a friend.  He hadn't much experience with Barons and he wanted a chance to see how one worked.

We took off from AAO late.  Our intention was to takeoff in time to beat sunset at DAY.  Our time off met that criteria.  I filed north to get us around thunderstorms (TRW) on the direct route.  We went up to Saint Joe to find a way around them.  In the end, it wasn't a big deal.  We saw them to the south of us, but they only rained on us once. 

After takeoff, when I had the aircraft stable and trimmed for climb, I gave it to my bud.  He hand flew all the way to DAY (4 hours).  We tried out the short period, the Dutch roll, and saw the spiral stability (or lack thereof) during the flight.  I felt pretty smart, it was all the way I remembered it.

The great thing about having another pilot on board is you can log simulated instrument time for approaches.  I like to always get approaches when I can.  He wanted to see an LPV (Localizer Performance with Vertical guidance) approach so I requested the RNAV (GPS) to runway 36 at DAY.  I requested direct to the IAF (Initial Approach Fix) and Columbus Approach (not Dayton Approach anymore it's a new change) gave me direct and cleared the approach.  They also showed how little they cared for Dayton traffic because they sent me direct to Dayton tower after that.  When we crossed the IFA, the approach didn't look right--I had forgotten to activate the approach.  I figured that one out quickly and activated the approach after the IAF.  I had to forward the approach to the next fix.  It wasn't a big deal.  Since reading the article in Twin and Turbine about the problems with vector approaches and Garmin GPS, I'm shy of them and will try to get a direct to the IAF or to load and activate the entire approach instead of vectors to final.

The approach was sweet.  I don't think I deviated enough from either lateral or vertical guidance that you could see it on the dials.  I was showing off and the weather was perfect (very little turbulence).  We landed nicely with an aerobrake and turned off at the first turn to Stevens aviation.  That's where I had my aircraft when I lived in Dayton.  They gave me a discount on fuel (made it less than $5) and $20 a night for hangaring my Baron (usually it's $50+).  I was in instructor mode the whole time--I really like showing off the aircraft especially to people who can or will appreciate it.

The return was uneventful.  My friend hand flew the aircraft all the way home.  I wanted to let him f\get the takeoff, but we had a regional jet breathing down our necks at the runup point.  I took off and turned ASAP (the tower's instructions)--I loved it.

I let my bud fly the ILS to 18 at AAO.  He flew the holding in lieu for the entire approach and the system worked great.  We had the second GPS set up to give DME data.  I took the aircraft at DH (decision height) and made a squeaker landing with a turnoff at the ramp.  He did a great job flying (expected from a test pilot) even though the Baron has these tendencies (mostly a neutral to unstable spiral).  All in all, it was a fun and great flight.



6 and 7 August 2011


I took the regular copilot up to Muscatine (MUT) again for a grandson's one year birthday.  I'm not sure the grandson will remember it, but the adults will.  Great party.  We went up for the grandkids, but it was a fun visit.  My son-in-law makes the best smoked meats and my daughter plans the best parties.

The flight up was a fight against the thunderstorms (TRW)--not really.  I planend the flight to Butler (BUM) to go to the south of the weather and ended up taking a direct that took us over Kansas City (MCI).  The direct made us have to deviate around some cells, but with the radar blasting and the stormscope searching, the storms didn't have a chance.  We didn get rained on a couple of times, but we didn't touch any cells.

At MUT, the ASOS (automated weather) was calling the field clear and a million.  I knew what that meant and asked Chicago for direct to the initial approach fix (IAF) for the RNAV (GPS) 06.  I knew the main runway 06/24 was NOTAMed out because of a heat buckle at 1200 feet down the 5500 foot runway, so I planned for a circle to runway 12.  The winds were out of 060 at 10 knots.

Sure enough, when we arrived at 3000 feet, there were clouds all around although you could see the ground.  The clouds were below too.  Chicago sent me to 118.2, but I asked for 124.25.  I always have problems with 118.2 at MUT.  I'm not sure why they use it there.

As soon as I was talking to the approach controller, I asked him to clear me on the approach.  He did, and as I was approaching the IAF, I told him I wasn't doing the course reversal.  He cleared me for that too--that was nice of him.

The regular copilot wanted me to cancel IFR.  I told her, we couldn't until we could maintain VFR and clear of clouds (obviously).  I have her trained because she knows at an uncontrolled field, like MUT, you have to cancel IFR or else. 

We broke out a little above circling mins and I started a circle to runway 12. The circle at MUT is a little tricky because there is a large difference between 06 and 12 and because there is a lot of restrictions due to towers around the final approach.  We didn't have any problems, but the regular copilot asked again on the circle about canceling.  I told her we would do it on the ground.

Runway 12 is 4000 feet long, but that isn't too short fro a Baron (about 1500 foot landing distance).  I brought it in at the blue line (100 knots) and full flaps.  We landed in the first 200 feet and I aerobraked to a taxi.  The landing was nice.  I cancelled and taxied to the ramp.  There I was confronted by a Maule (crop duster) with the engine running but not communicating.  Dumb.  We parked and shut down.  At least the gliders didn't try to get me this time. 

The return flight was clear and a million.  I originally filed to the north around the TRW, but the weather cleared out before I took off, so I flew direct.  The only bit of excitement was when we arrived at AAO (Jabara, Wichita).  I had a Meridian (Single engine turbo prop) ahead of me, a Phenom (small twin jet) behind me and little old me going into AAO.  ATC did a great job keeping us stacked right.  The Meridian went in to land first, the Phenom passed me and jumped ahead, and I came in tail end charlie.  I was blasting in at 190 knots, but the Phenom was likely at 250--I would be.

Landing was great.



18 June


Up to Muscatine (MUT) to return the precious cargo home then Return to Base (RTB) at AAO (Wichita Jabara, KS).  The way up the right CHT (cylinder head temperature) was fixed--finally.  The weather was doggy with thunderstorms (TRW) and low ceilings.  I had to delay 2 hours departing AAO for the TRW to move to the side.  I had the stormscope and the radar blasting the entire way up.  Never saw a TRW, but we heard reports of severe turbulence around the state.  We were at 11,000 feet, and everything was smooth.  Just before descent, we hit a patch of moderate clear air turbulence (CAT) that smacked me against the ceiling of the aircraft about 4 times.  My granddaughter put up her hands and laughed.  She thought it was fun.  It woke the grandson--time to descend anyway.  My daughter said: the regular copilot wouldn't have liked that at all--it's true.

Of course, I could have told you, I couldn't pick up MUT's ASOS.  It wouldn't have done any good.  ATC said it was clear and a million.  When we got to 3000 feet, we were enveloped in the clouds.  I told ATC, how about the GPS/LPV to 6.  I gave the the IAF, but when I looked at my moving map, we were passed it.  I had already loaded the approach--a habit of mine.  I just told the controller, I wanted the straight in to the FAF.  He confirmed I was on the approach, cleared me, and there you go.  Instant approach, and those blankety-blank gliders.  They were still flying.  I'm flying another approach and they are getting towed in the pattern.  They were on the opposite runway, but still--get out of my way.  Don't fly gliders in IMC.

The RTB went smooth.  No problems and a nice landing at AAO.  Now, I'm caught up.



11 June


I'm a flying fool--it's awesome.  Today I went to pick up my daughter, granddaughter, and grandson from Muscatine, IW (MUT).  They were coming down to Camp Oma and Opa.  I'm the Opa.  The flight up was great, but clouds covered Iowa.  I still had the right CHT issue, but everything else was working right on the aircraft.

Going into Muscatine with ATC is painful.  They use 118.2, but their transmitter is terrible.   I always ask for 124.25--I can hear that one.  Plus, Muscatine has the least powerful ASOS in the country.  You can't pick it up 35 miles out.  I always get down to approach decision point and have to ask ATC for the weather--that's painful.  Yes, the weather was bad overcast at about 1500 to 2000.  I had to fly the ILS to 24.  ATC undercut me on the approach, I just got the Localizer at 2 dots when the Glideslope started me down.  I was a little pissed until I broke out and heard glider traffic flying at the field--that's when I really got pissed off.  Okay, I controlled it, but the time to be flying gliders is not during marginal IMC.  Man it was IMC, and they were flying gliders in the pattern--they have a death wish and they're going to take someone out with them.

Going out, I had to chase off the gliders again.  Jeeze.

When I returned to AAO, I could only keep the little ones company for a while, then I had to make a flight down to Ponca City, OK (PNC).  This was a flight for charity.  I usually allow a charity or two in town to auction off a dinner flight to Enrique's at Ponca City, OK.  This is a hole in the wall Mex-Tex restaurant that is right on the field.  They moved the location, but you used to be able to see the aircraft parked on the ramp.  Now it's in the tower and you park to the south.

On this flight I was carrying 5 total and loaded to 100 pounds only.  The flight is short and I got to show the passengers a great time.  Enrique's always takes good care of me, but man, they always screw up something.  They had my reservations wrong--how could that be when I made them 1 week in advance and read them twice to them.  They worked it out and we only had a 10 minute wait.  The meals was great and unusual--the food is good, and not your usual Tex-Mex fare.  A little thunderstorm blew through (just a rain shower).  I should have mentioned, their was a line of TRW (Thunderstorms down there).  We entirely missed them going down--didn't even see one on the radar.  I expected to catch something on the radar on the way back, but no--though I was concerned about it, we didn't see anything.  The weather was clear the whole way.

Now, here is where it gets fun.  Since these nice people were there for the excitement of a flight, I asked if they would like to feel some gs.  They all were game, so I gave them a 45 degree overhead into Jabara.  I figured if anyone got sick, they would have only about 1 minute to lose it.  No problem, they loved it and we landed very nicely.  I should have mentioned, all day the winds were a direct cross at about 15 knots--still a great landing, cha-ching.



28 May and 4 June 2011


The usual summer property run down to Destin, FL (DTS).  This time I was carrying 6 people plus luggage.  With full fuel that will way overgross a Baron.  I had to stop halfway at Pinebluff, AR (PBF).   Why Pinebluff?  Nice folks, cheap gas, and a good airfield.  What I didn't realize was they were having a fly-in that day.

So, I loaded up about 100 gallons of gas and 6 people (5 PAX and me) and we headed out.  The day was beautiful until Arkansas, and then we became part of the fly-in.  The problem was they had about 4 slow joes in the pattern.  We sequenced in from a straight-in ILS and the pattern was full.  Okay, they let me in.  We put on some gas, had lunch, and continued on down to the beach.

The Destin pattern was full--what's with that over.  The weather at Destin was fine, but I had to work my way into the pattern.

The return was less exciting.  No weather, no fly-ins, no problems.  By the way, my radio was fixed, but the right CHT was bouncing around the red the whole time.  Since there were no other indications of overheating, that usually means the sender is messed up.  Another thing to have fixed.



13 and 25 April 2011


I'm going to catch up a little here.  Sorry, I've been really busy with work, writing, and etc.  I do 40 and 40 a week, so keeping up on this blog is kinda down on my list, but I will do better. 

This was a flight to McKiney, TX (TKI) and back to Wichita Jabara, KS (AAO).  It was in support of a cruise, so that's the time between.  The FBO at McKiney was recommended to me by my good friend Finch (his tactical).  He flys down there all the time.  The FBO gave me a great deal on hangaring Tammy Lamb while I was on the cruise.  The cruise with the regular copilot was great.  It was for our 30 year anniversary--thought I'd go along too.  We went to Panama.  That's a whole other story, but back to flying.

The flight down was interesting.  My radios were acting up.  It was actually the intercom system on the pilot's side.  I had to use the center console direct connect instead of the pilot's system.  That was painful.  I could hear the copilot, but I couldn't speak without shifting the intercom to intercom.  That meant I couldn't talk on the radios without shifting the switch.

ATC took great care of me until I arrived.  The weather was poor, but not dog poop.  I had to fly an ILS approach into TKI.  The funny thing was I had a slow guy ahead and a fast guy behind.  ATC couldn't make up their mind.  I was screaming in at 180 and they put me at 150, then 120, that's okay, but then I had to keep 120 until FAF.  We were driving for a while until we had to hurry up.

The return flight was in the soup most of the time.  Weather was at minimums for the GPS/LPV 36 into Jabara.  That was no problem for Tammy Lamb.  She flew a sweet approach and everything (except the pilot intercom/radios) were working.  The landings were sweet too :-D



18 and 20 March 2011


The regular copilot wanted to go to a wedding in St. Louis.  I was happy to accommodate.  My daughter was to be the maid of honor, so I'd get to see her and some old friends, plus any reason to fly is good.

The weather was excruciatingly good.  I only punched through a couple of clouds and the air temp was too high for icing.  There might have been TRW (thunderstorms) on the way there and back, but no, not even TRW.  So it was pretty unexciting, except that the radios never were fixed since February, the cylinder head temperature on the right engine was bouncing around near the red line (it was bogus), and the HSI course knob was loose.  Okay, I may be picky here, but these little issues were painful.  They were livable, but the aircraft was not FMC (fully mission capable), it was PMC (partially mission capable).  I sent a nice email and the issues are supposed to be taken care of--second email.

The other problem was the FBO (fixed base operations (the service station)) at CPS.  That's the field I went to instead of any of the large international airports around St. Louis.  CPS is Downtown St. Louis and is a great field to go to.  Unfortunately, to save money, I went to the lower cost FBO.  I saved $50 in gas price, but caused myself at least $50 in pain.  The desk person had the memory of an ant.  So, the rental car I ordered was not there and had not been ordered.  Luckily, the rental company took care of us.  Their service was great, but they sent a 4-door truck.  I didn't mind it, but a 4-door truck--come on.  Maybe it was all they had.  The not so memory prone desk person promptly forgot every thing I told her, so I repeated it to the owner.  I'm not certain he was any better.  I did get Tammy Lamb (N17979) bedded down in a hanger, but I'm not sure if it was both days.  I was only charged for one day, so they did make it up to me.  When I arrived back at the field, the airplane was ready to go.  So, it wasn't a lose, I'll just check the other place out next trip.

The other large problem, was the CPS is in East St. Louis (the bad side of town).  We didn't have any problems, but it does look kind of bleak.  The other problem is that East St. Louis is in Illinois and it took me 30 minutes at AAO (Jabara) to figure that out.  The pain was that I had to buy another approach book, and I had to find CPS.  This is where experience and training are really a good thing.  I don't leave the ground until I know my pubs are in order and where to find the approaches.  Now, I am using electronic plates too, so it wouldn't have been ugly, but you can't blast into the great blue until you have all your stuff together on the ground--one of the first rules of aviation survival.  I found the plates in the Illinois book. bought it and needed it for the instrument procedures.  Don't ever forget this little lesson, my friend or you will find yourself in IMC (clouds) without a plan, and you will be violated (my BiLs always get a kick out of the terms we use in aviation) by some controller for being stupid.

So, life was good, but I did have to buy an extra approach book.  Someday I'll go electronic with backups and everything will be great.

The landings were just great.  The flying was great and uneventful (except for the little issues above).  The regular copilot was happy I flew her.  All was well in the great blue.  Until next flight...   



12 and 13 February 2011


I took the regular copilot to a party in Dallas, TX.  We flew into Addison (ADS).  The event was the regular copilots' mother's 80 birthday.  The weather was too fabulous.  Especially after the terrible cold and snow of the previous weather patterns.  It was cold in Wichita at AAO (Jabara), but much warmer in Dallas.

The flight might have been more comfortable except the intercom panel for the pilot and the radios were really causing me a problem.  The pilot's intercom wasn't working during the last flight, and we had to use the hand mic to transmit.  Well the pilots mic button was allowing transmissions, but not through the pilot's intercom connections.  Plus the radios were behaving worse than usual.  This is always a pain when going to a high density traffic area like Dallas.  I had the cords and connections worked out so everything was operational; I just had to go to intercom to talk to the regular copilot.  Plus the autosquelch didn't work.  It was painful.

When we arrived in Dallas, of course, they made us fly the STAR (Standard Instrument Arrival).  I filed it, but you always expect it in that kind of area.  They changed from the one I filed to the JONEZ arrival.  I expected that too.  We didn't have to fly all of either because the weather wasn't that bad and they just vectored us to Addison.  That's where it became tricky.  We had five aircraft vying with us for final approach.  We were on IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) so we had some priority, but there we were flying in at 185 knots and, of course, they gave us the slow down 20 knots routine.  Then one final, we got the maintain current speed routine.  Slow down speed up, the controllers do and did a great job with us.  I'm not complaining because were didn't have any delays and no one was sent around.  We landed on the money with a thump, but I was going for a low speed over the numbers. 

During RTB (Return to Base) from ADS to AAO, the weather was disgustingly beautiful too.  We had more problems with the radios.  At one point Fort Worth Center became so tired of messing with us, they gave us direct to destination, and we did.  Noy the best way to get that kind of handling but hey.  We didn't have any problems from the edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth area on.  Coming into Wichita, I thought we would have to mess with the pattern, but the lone Cessna, conceded it to us, and we made a visual from downwind.  I admit, it was a little more hyaka than normal, but he regular copilot didn't complain, so it must have been good.   Until next time...   



30 January 2011


I had to take my "line" check.  It's really an instrument check with an annual biannual thrown in, but that's the way it is.  The contract I have with the company that charters my aircraft, is that their chief pilot gives me an instrument annual biannual every year.  This allows the insurance to insure me and for me to fly their Baron as well as mine.  It's worth it, plus.  The guy who gives me the instruction is a great ex-military aviator who has been flying civilian charter for about thirty years and is a check pilot.  His philosophy on aviation is like mine and his attention to details is outstanding. 

Every year, we discuss some important topic about modern flying and sometimes we come to a conclusion.  We swap stories and knowledge, then we go out and fly the profile.  The profile means stalls and falls, unusual attitudes, steep turns, instrument procedures, single engine landings and procedures, and all the other things it is good to review in an aircraft. 

The flight was great and the weather was fine although I didn't see much of the day--I was wearing floogles (glasses that only let you see the instruments so you can't cheat.  I don't need to cheat.  I once trained a guy who cheated all the time--he couldn't fly instruments to save his life.  For me, instrument flying is my life.  I do it well and I do it often.  It is always great to practice instrument procedures and discuss them in the IFR environment.  It is critical to practice emergency procedures like engine out in a multiengine aircraft.

Of course the first event out of the pattern was an engine failure.  After cleanup, we flew out to Newton and did our steep turns.  After clearing the area, we made a 360 to the right and a 360 to the left--easy as pie.  There was plenty of power to keep the aircraft almost right on 150 knots.  Then we did stalls.  The aircraft didn't want to stall.  The air was too cold and the plane too light.  We did it and recovered.  Then on to unusual attitudes.  This is where you close your eyes and the check pilot puts the aircraft into an unusual attitude and you have to recover.  Then on to Newton for an ILS/LOC circle.  We flew a hold and a GPS from an outlying fix.  Then back to AAO for the VOR A circle.  The VOR A is always tough because it is a circle only approach for either runway into Jabara (AAO).  This means the winds are always a problem.  We did a single engine out of the approach to a landing.

Like I said, short, but sweet to cover all the important procedures.  Until next time...   



12 and 15 January 2011


Still busy and not flying as much, but hey, the attention is nice and the work is good--it's all about flying.  But you know that, didn't you. 

I had to go to Florida.  While my buds were out competing for the Light Attack System contract, I flew to Florida on business.  The business was my property there.  Come on down and rent a week at the beach.  Why should I have all the fun.  Of course, when I fly down to the beach, that means work for me.  I do get to fly, but I somehow get the keys to the car too, and I always have to do the work of taking care of the property.  The regular copilot helps a lot, but it's still work.  That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

The flying is always fun.  On this flight from AAO (Jabara in Wichita) to DTS (Destin, Florida) we had about a 50 knot tailwind.  That meant we were flying at about 220 ground speed the entire time.  The flight only took about 3.6 hours.  On arrival, Eglin ATC played their antics.  We had to do a beach tour and stay up high to runway 32.  Then we dived toward the straight in.  At the same time, there was a guy not making calls and a Gulfstream entering the pattern at 10,000 feet.

We landed in a kiss and were right in to our rental car.  The airplane was packed with golf clubs and junk, but it didn't take more than 15 minutes to unload.

On the way out, the weather was supposed to be clear, but we found clouds right out our level.  Skimming clouds is fun, but the regular copilot doesn't like it.  We eventually made our way out of them (they had a little ice in them even at 8000 feet).  The rest of the return to base (RTB) was uneventful.  Everything seemed to work well--except the radios are still a little weak. 

We took off with comfy temps and landed to below zero F with wind, and Kansas isn't that cold by comparison.  



13 and 14 November 2010


I'm still busy.  No one is paying me to fly right now, but I'm getting paid because I know a lot about flying and flight test.  I do it so others can fly.  So is life.

The latest escapade was to take the regular copilot up to see the grandkids.  The flight was a little dicey, but not out of the ordinary for winter in the heartlands.  In the summer, you worry about thunderstorms.  In the winter, you worry about icing.  That can't be helped.  You also have to fly through a lot of clouds and clouds always are filled with potential icing. 

I flew up in the weather, and I flew back in the weather and I flew a couple of instrument approaches to get down out of the weather.  The approaches were great.  The gliders flying around the pattern weren't as great.  They pushed one off the runway so I wouldn't have to go around.  They are very nice up at Muscatine (MUT).

The regular copilot had a good time.  I had a good time, and I got to fly some approaches in the weather.  A good time was had by all.  The grandkids were great too, just wait until I get them flying.



26, 28, and 29 October 2010


I've been busy.  I'm working for Hawker Beechcraft in the AT-6 program.  I'm doing strategic Test and Evaluation planning for them and a whole host of other stuff related to Test and Evaluation (T&E).  We are in proposal response mode right now, so everything is crazy.

I did fly just a little while ago and I have been remiss in not reporting to you.  My Father-in-Law, the great Colonel Billy G. Nix died on 26 October.  He was 79 and just shy of 80 years by a few days.  His birthday was 12 Nov which is tomorrow.  He knew more about the B-52 than any man alive and is the navigator hero of one of my military aviation adventures.  I have some notes from him on a couple of other military topics that I hope to turn into essays in the future.  He was a WSO (Weapon Systems Operator) and an Old Crow which means he managed the ECM and ECCM on the B-52.  It was said he could take a B-52 apart while in the air with an issue AF knife and put it all back together again before the plane landed.  I understand he came close to really doing that a couple of times.  His proudest moment was the planning of the Rolling Thunder raids on North Vietnam--the ones where no plane was lost.  He was credited with showing the AF how it was done, but they didn't always listen to his advice.  When they didn't airmen paid with their lives.  He was a wonderful and Godly man who had six children, and I was proud to be his surrogate son who also went into the military.  Another small factoid about this very special veteran was that he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, made Master Sergeant, went to Officer Training School, and made Colonel.  He was a General officer selectee when he retired from the AF.  A better and greater man is hard to find.  I can report that when he met his maker, he was ready and had his family all around him.  He died with a grin on his face.  May all our passings be as easy as this great aviator.  He even flew in my Baron once.  I think it's in this blog.

I was called to carry family around.  We took off out of AAO (Jabara, Wichita, KS) with four and flew to Addison, TX (ADS).  There we picked up one and flew to Beaumont, TX (BPT).  The weather was too nice.  Dallas was busy, but they treated us well.  I had the regular copilot on board.  The turn went perfectly.  The engines started hot.  I didn't need any fuel and Millionaire at Addison didn't make us pay any extra fees.  I had to take off with a reduced load because we had 5 on board.  The flight to BPT was a night flight.  It went perfect.  I had the regular copilot's brother in the right seat.  He hadn't been there before so that was eye-opening for him.  I flew a GPS approach into BPT because it was night.  KUSA the FBO there had moved down the flight line.  They always take great care of us.  They even waited up for us.  You can't ask for much more than that.

On the 28th, we flew out of BPT with 5 again up to OUN (Norman, OK).  That was a little of a goat-rope.  The first car they sent out was too small for the PAX (passengers).  So we set it back for another with another company.  They sent the same car.  So we sent that one back.  While we waited, we had dinner at the restaurant in the terminal.  Good food and cheap.  The rental company was very nice about the car.  They brought us a large SUV this time.  We piled in and headed into the interior of OK.  I ended up the driver--I'm not sure how that works, I signed up to be the pilot!  The place we where going doesn't even have a ZIP code.  In the morning, the funeral was in an old and half forgotten cemetery out in the middle of the great plains.  You could see the hills in the background.  It was called Mountainview.  They placed Colonel Billy G. Nix into the ground with an AF honor guard and a 21 gun salute.  I wore my AF uniform blues.  My son wore his AF Cadet blues.  Another of Colonel Nix's grandsons wore his West Point cadet grays.  That was an excellent sendoff for a great warrior.

We returned to AAO that evening.  Another night flight.  I flew an approach at AAO--there were a few clouds, and a little practice is a good thing.  On veteran's day don't forget, Colonel Billy G. Nix, a great aviator and AF officer.  



9 and 14 October 2010


Finally, back in the air again.  I had a great flight down to Florida for business.  The weather was disgustingly nice.  There were only a few puffies around Destin, Florida (DTS).  The main points from the trip were there really weren't any.  The Garmin did have a couple of breaklocks early in the flight, but it settled down.  The Trimble didn't have any problems at all, that is, after it gained a good lock on the satellites.  The backup GPS was perfect.  The flight down was beautiful.  ATC gave us a beach tour, and we got to fly over almost all the major fields in the Eglin airspace.  When we arrived, we did have to contend with a full pattern, but even that wasn't a big deal.  The landing was a three pointer which was very comfortable but not the proper technique for a Baron--oh well.

The flight back was just a little more exciting.  First, on takeoff, Eglin departure turned us directly south (even thought we took off on 32).  So, we took a beach tour and headed toward Cuba.  I wasn't sure why they did that, but they let us climb at the same time.  Then they turned us due north.  I tried to go to CEW (Crestview), but the restricted areas were active and the student controller was overruled--good thing.  We just headed on our merry way until Memphis.  They were having radar issues, so they gave me a required reporting point.  Now, the way I figure it, if ATC gives you a required reporting point, I'm going to give it no matter what.  So I was a little surprised when they passed me to an approach control before we arrived at the mandatory reporting point.  So I gave the report to approach.  I'm sure approach thought I was crazy, but if I have to go to all the trouble of a mandatory reporting point, I'm gong to give it, and that's that.  The rest of the way back was little of nothing.  I did fly an ILS (Instrument Landing System) Approach at AAO (Jabara, Wichta, Kansas) for practice.  The winds were whipping, but the pattern was clear.  Everything worked out perfect and the landing was nice too.



16 and 18 August 2010


I had to pick up the regular copilot from Muscatine, Iowa (MUT) and take her home.

The cockpit door was fixed--kind of.  It worked and the pull handle was attached, but it doesn't feel like it is strongly attached.  I sent a note to MX.  I had some GPS issues.  The Garmin and the Trimble broke lock on ascent.  The backup GPS didn't.  They came back, but it was strange.  At MUT, I flew a procedure turn to an ILS on 24.  The weather wasn't that bad, but the pattern was clear.  The Garmin broke lock on final.  I didn't need it by then, and I had the approach backed up with the VOR and the tablet moving map.  The approach worked out great.  Hey, why not fly an approach if I have to end up doing a 360 on final anyway.  The landing was great.  The regular copilot and my future copilot grand daughter saw the final and landing.

On RTB (Return to Base) there wasn't any real excitement.  The FBO took good care of me and hangered my aircraft for a great rate.  They didn't give me any fuel discount, but I didn't ask.  I should next time.  All the GPSs behaved themselves.  The engines ticked over well.  There was a thin overcast at Wichita, so I flew an ILS approach to runway 18.  The approach and the landing were great and the regular copilot was happy.  It was a good flight.   



12 August 2010


The regular copilot wanted to go visit the new grandbaby, so I flew her up there to Muscatine, Iowa (MUT).

The flight up was great, but I got to fly another 360 on final.  ATC did it this time.  Because of the weather, I planned to fly an ILS (Instrument Landing System) Approach at MUT.  The early weather was 1/4 SM visibility and 200 foot ceilings.  By the time we took off, it was much better, but still with ceilings low enough for an approach.  The winds were calm when we arrived and ATC delayed our descent.  We popped out of the clouds headed directly for the opposite direction runway.  Nobody was in the pattern.  Can you spell straight-in approach?  That's what I did.  Pulled up the nose, slowed down, threw out the gear and flaps, then full flaps and headed for the strip of concrete ahead.  Unfortunately, the aircraft couldn't descend fast enough to make a safe two step approach.  I decided to make a 360 on final and that's what we did.  The landing was great.  The grandkids were there to greet us.  I had to take Evie out to see the aircraft.  The last time I tried to fly to get her and her mother, the plane was in the airplane hospital (Evie's words).  She wanted to see that it was all getter.  She also wanted to sit in the front seat and drive it.  Yeah, I have a copilot in training there.

On the RTB (Return to Base), I had a little fun.  First, when I shut the cockpit door, the pull handle came off in my hand.  It wasn't the locking handle, but the armrest pull handle.  I got the door closed and locked, so I didn't worry about it.  I just passed it back to MX when I got back.  Second, when I pulled my Coke out of the cooler bag just before descent, there was a maggot on top.  I'm not sure where it came from, but if I had still been flying special missions, I would have eaten it.  Since I wasn't, I just killed it and drank the Coke.  I didn't wipe off the rim.  Oh-rah.  Iron Rangers and AWADs.  There were some clouds in the sky, I flew an ILS to 18 for practice.  The approach was great and the landing wasn't.  I touched down in a perfect three pointer--that's not what you want when you land a Baron.  Oh well, there were no witnesses, and it was comfortable and safe.  



22 and 24 July 2010


I took the regular copilot up to McCook (MCK) Nebraska to play golf.  My Brother and Sister-in-Law showed us a great time, and we played Heritage Hills a couple of times.

The flight itself was uneventful until we arrived at McCook.  The pattern was busy and we had to pull in behind two other aircraft.  It all worked out great.  However, when we arrived on the ground, the ramp was blocked.  A turbo Agcat took a load and cut across the ramp.  Unfortunately directly in front of it, on the ramp, was a Super Cub.  The Agcat ran over the Super Cub.  When we arrived, all that was left was the skeleton of the Super Cub under a burned out Agcat.  The pilot of the Agcat got out okay with some burns and cuts.  The pilots of the Super Cub were just walking out to their airplane.  They went on to Oshkosh with a great story, but without a plane.

The FBO (Red Willow) at MCK is a great group and take good care of you and your aircraft.

On the way back out, we found out why they had a daylight collision on the ground.  We were sitting on the ramp with engines running when an Agcat like the one that burned came whipping around the corner and cut across the ramp.  No radio call, no warning, no following any marked taxi lines.  A radio call would have been nice.  Then the local commuter Beech 19 taxied from the ramp to 30 without a single radio call.  This required it to taxi across one active runway 22-4 without a single radio call.  The Agcat took off from 4 without a radio call with crossing traffic from the Beech 19 on runway 30.  It, or another Agcat like it made a return to the active runway 4 that was pretty hiyaka, but it at least made a radio call.  I was fearful the whole time the commuter would take off on 30 while I was taking off on 4 an we'd meet at the intersection.  When we took off, luckily the commuter was still on the ground for 30.  I made certain we were off before the intersection.  All in all, the disregard of basic aviation safety at McCook by two professional pilots was egregious by anyone's standard.  This is why an Agcat could run into a Super Cub in daylight on the ramp.  Let's act like we really understand how to fly--it sure can save our lives and our aircraft.   

At home station (AAO), a pilot took runway 18 for an opposite direction IFR departure right after I cancelled IFR.  This was a few minutes after I called 5 miles and approaching downwind for runway 36.  I had to make a 360 on downwind to give the aircraft on the runway time to get off.  Everything worked out, but the pilot should have either gone with the rest of the traffic flow or waited for us to land.  If no one had been talking on the radios or one aircraft hadn't been listening up, there would have been a meeting on the runway.  No one actively did anything wrong, but a little more SA would have prevented the entire situation.  Perhaps I should have screwed the pilot by not canceling IFR.  That would have ensured he didn't get a release and I would have been able to land ahead of his takeoff instead of making a 360 in the pattern.  Pilots cancel IFR when in VFR conditions to make it easier on the pilots who are taking off IFR.  Pilots taking off can do the same for us to make sure the landing aircraft doesn't have to burn more gas or make a delay in the pattern.  The landings were all squeakers, but you can always do better.



7 July 2010


Another political mission.  I flew Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan to a fundraiser in Topeka.  Mike is running for the 4th district seat in the US House.  I like Mike.  He came to talk to our cigar group and we got to grill him for about three hours on his ideas.  He is ex-Army and a bright person.

The flight was from Jabara in Wichita (AAO) to Forbes Field in Topeka, Kansas (FOE).  The weather was supposed to be clear and a million.  By the time we arrived at Forbes they were calling for few clouds at 300 feet and 10 miles visibility.  Kansas City took me down to 3100 feet and there was a solid deck below at about 2800 feet that was at least 300 to 500 feet thick.  I asked for a GPS approach to 13.  The controller put me in as number two for another aircraft flying an opposite direction approach on the ILS!.  Not good.  I had to climb to 4000 feet and set up for the approach.  I already had everything set up and it was easy.  The controller did go from vectors to a straight-in from one of the Initial Approach Fixes (IAF).  The approach was an LPV (I can't remember what that stands for) which means you get a glide slope for the WAAS GPS approach.  It is almost as good as an ILS.  The approach went like clockwork and I landed and was in the chocks right at 11:15, the required time!  The landing was a squeaker.

I had a great lunch and met some important people from Topeka.

We took off an hour late from Forbes, but the IFR flight plan was in the system.  I had filled direct for both flights and everything worked out great.  On the return, a line of small TRW and rainstorms separated Forbes and Wichita.  On either side the weather was great, but in the middle, moderate to intense rain showers.  I threw on the radar and the stormscope and just meandered around the large cells.  ATC was very helpful.  The air was so smooth that the plane wasn't bounced around at all.  We had some rain on the plane, but the air in the clouds was even smooth.  I was surprised.  The Baron did its work.  What a great plane.

The landing at home station was a squeaker too.  It's great when everything comes together well.  A little challenge.  Some real flying.  An approach into weather.  Right on time in the chocks.  You can't ask for much more than that.   



25 and 26, and 27 and 30 June 2010


I spent more time flying circles on final on the last 3 flights than the last time ATC gave me three holds on a GPS approach.  Unbelievable. 

The first two flights were to Dallas Addison (ADS) for a family event.  The event was great and the flights were mainly unremarkable.  I did get to fly an approach into ADS and the controller was a jerk.  He asked me to slow to 120--that's okay, but that's approach speed.  The last thing you expect on an expected visual approach is to hear to slow to the lowest possible.  There was a helicopter ahead of us.  Likely it was at 50 knots or less.  Overtake city.  I was hauling a lot of PAX in and out to, the fuel weight was the largest consideration.  Alles gut! 

The next three flights were excitement city.  The weather was good with high temperature and significant winds.  The problem was I was flying into Fort Collins Colorado.  At 5016 elevation, that's high altitude for a normal injection Baron.  I had to put on a load of 145 gallons at origin (AAO) Wichita Jabara to have a low enough fuel weight to get out of Fort Collins (FNL) with four on board.  The temperature and the pressure altitude are critical and all determine the fuel and overall weight of the aircraft.  The trick is that your weight has to be low enough that if you lose an engine, you can continue to fly to a safe altitude and return to the airport.  This is a big deal--if you don't want to die.  Now, the aircraft will fly great on two engines, but on one, depending on the fuel weight, you might be lucky to get 200 feet per minute out of it clean (no gear or flaps, rudder in and bad engine wing up 5 degrees).

When we arrived at FNL, the pattern was filled with yahoos practicing landings.  That's okay, but I had to hang about 5 miles north of the field and make a couple of turns until I could make a final approach.  We got a tour of north Fort Collins, whoopee.  Our trip for property was great and we did some fly fishing and shopping and eating and drinking and eating and drinking and eating and drinking. 

The day we were to leave, the winds were not favorable enough to make it all the way back to Wichita with only 76 gallons of gas.  I flew to Goodland Kansas.  That was something.  ATC asked me to slow 10 knots for a Bonanza ahead of us going into Goodland.  Goodland isn't under ATC radar.  We landed and parked right next to the Bonanza.  We had lunch at the famous Goodland airport cafe.  Great food.  The RTB was painless and simple, but when we arrived at AAO, two planes were in the pattern.  I had to make a 360 out on final to keep from overtaking a Cessna in the pattern.  Oh, well better safe than sorry.  



21 June 2010


A political mission.  I flew Tracey Mann from Great Bend (GBD) to Hougoton (HQG) Kansas.  These are always fun flights.  Since you have to get off right on time and arrive on time, plus you have to be concerned with the PAX and accommodations, it's just like being back in the commercial flight business.

Highlights or low lights, if you like.  There was no weather to speak of.  Flying out of Hougoton, TRW (thunderstorms) chased me for a while, but they weren't even close.  I didn't even get any night flight time.  The engines ran flawlessly.  I made 3 hot starts with one just five minutes after shutdown.  The temps were over 35 C on the ground everywhere with gusts up to 30 knots.  Okay, I guess that qualifies as some weather, but I usually don't think of it that way.

I had a great chance to talk to Tracey Mann who is running in the 1st Kansas Federal District.  The funny thing was, I called ahead to Hougoton to find out about parking etc.  They clearly told me the main ramp was on the west of the field and the secondary ramp was in the north.  When I arrived at Hougoton, I shut down at the west ramp.  There were two Agcats in two hangers and no car for the candidate.  I had to do a hot start and taxi back to the north ramp about a mile away.  That was the main ramp.

Other than the little mix up, everything went well.  The flight back was easy. 



12 June 2010


This was not the best day for an aviation excursion.  Thunderstorms pocked the entire route and it looked like I would have to go east to get into Muscatine Iowa to pick up my daughter and granddaughter.  My aircraft with its equipment (Radar, Stormscope, 2xGPS) would be able to handle the problems that I might encounter.

I took off into an overcast sky and entered the clouds at about 1500 feet.  Everything looked great, but after takeoff, I noticed the right fuel flow was 4-6 gallons less than the left--on both the Shadin and the mechanical gauge.  The aircraft just came out of 100 hour, so it should have been perfect.  I didn't notice the problem before because there isn't a full power run-up until requirement, and you aren't at full power until you take off.  I should have done a full power run-up on the runway just to make certain--especially after a 100 hour inspection.

Well there I was with one engine running 4-6 gallons leaner than the other.  I thought only a moment about continuing--that just wouldn't make sense with the weather conditions.  I asked ATC for an RTB to Jabara (AAO) and vectors for the ILS (Instrument Landing System) Approach there.  I had my approach book ready for the ILS (like I always do). 

The approach and landing was great.  The right engine really was underpowered compared to the left.  It was at 65% while the left was at 100%.  YOu could really tell that when the power came back.  I didn't feather (shut down the engine and make the prop streamlined) but I did use the right engine much less than the left.

Since it was a Saturday, the MX guy came out but I sent him home when it looked like the checking and adjustments would be piecemeal and extensive.  As he noted, they really needed to get some serious measurement devices on it.  I didn't ask for them to spare me the other Baron because it isn't nearly as well equipped as mine, and I wasn't going to face that kind of weather in a lesser aircraft.

Lessons learned (relearned).  First flight of the day and first out of MX: make a full engine run-up.  It is really a good idea to be ready for emergency return, especially on a weather day.  The weather ahead of you is as important in making these kinds of judgments as the weather where you are.      



22, 29, and 30 May 2010


Generally everything worked right on the aircraft--yeah!  The only problem was the continuing radio issue and the Trimble GPS break lock.  The Garmin hung in there and the Trimble was good about 99% of the time.  I did have a strange issue with the moving map tablet, but I think I found the source of it.

First flight was from AAO (Jabara Wichita, KS) to DTS (Destin, Florida).  Four on the flight with full bags, including golf clubs, so the fuel load was reduced.  The weather at AAO was severe clear with 35 knot winds.  I noticed a yellow (of course) Piper Cub on the other end of the ramp.  Its wings were waving a little in the wind.  While accomplishing the walk around out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a blaze of yellow and stood up just in time to see the owner of the cub run around my aircraft and stop the little yellow taildragger about 3 feet from my left wing.  That could have been a real show stopper.  My aluminum aircraft would have won against the fabric and wood Cub, but I would have had a hole in the left boot and a big dent in the wing.  Who knows what kind of work would make that right.  We survived the incident.  The Cub was double chocked.  I bawled out the owner.  He was really nice about the whole thing and offered to take me up in it some day--sounds like fun.  Hard way to make friends.  Don't leave a light weight aircraft out in the wind.  That was about the scariest ground incident I have had in a long time. 

So we took off in high winds.  Nothing to a Baron.  I've been in 45 knot winds with it on the ground before.  As long as the runway gives you less than 22 knot cross, the Baron can handle it.

The flight to Florida was anticlimactic--until landing.  Eglin approach left us at 5000 feet until over head the airport.  DTS was really busy.  We made a high rate descent over the water to enter a left downwind for runway 14.  It was really exciting.  Two jets were chasing our tail, but we snuck in in front of them.  The landing was great.  Florida was hot.

I spent a week working on the property, writing, reading, watching some movies, and being the cabana boy for all the ladies--that's what pilots do best when they aren't flying.  I took off out of Destin with five on board and 20 gallons less fuel.  We made a trip to BPT (Port Arthur) down the coast.  I was a little surprised they let us make a coast tour, but it was Saturday, and they did.  The trip was easy.  We looked for the oil spill, but it wasn't evident from 8000 or right on the coast.  The cool part was we had puffies all over at 8000 feet.  They went from about 6000 to 12000 feet.  The chief copilot didn't want to go through the clouds, so I spent the whole trip deviating around them--cloud canyons everywhere.  It is always awesome to run through cloud canyons.  The landing was great and BPT always takes great care of us.

RTB was with five again.  No problems and the weather was great.  Cloud canyons everywhere.  There is nothing spectacular to report, but as always, aviating is fun, exciting, and the best way to travel. 

Addenda:  I forgot to write on the RTB (Return to Base) at AAO (Jabara) we came in on the east side of the field and I flew a wide left downwind to a left base.  I was cleared a visual approach with no limitations, so it was legal.  Plus there was no one in the pattern at McConnell, Beech, or Jabara.  As we swung through downwind at 1000 AGL, what went over us at about 2500 feet was a glider--ouch.  The glider was obviously not squawking or listening on the radio.  Well we got to see it. 



23 and 27 Mar 2010


Okay, I'm late with this entry.  I know it--sorry, but I just flew the day before and I thought you would like a little space between flights. This was a very routine set of IFR (instrument flight rules) flights.  The final return flight was a little dicey.  There was ice in them clouds (not forecast).  I had to fly an approach to AAO.  The GPS systems worked great.  I don't think I had a break lock.  The radios are still a little screwy.  ATC (Air Traffic Control) lost me at OK-city (Oklahoma City) and I had to ping them on the other side.  They never called.

All in all they were great flights with a little excitement, but nothing really spectacular to report.



18, 19, 21, and 22 Mar 2010


These were a series of flights from AAO (Jabara, Wichita) to MUT (Muscatine, Iowa) to YIP (Willow Run, Detroit, MI).  I took the regular copilot to visit the future copilots (grand daughters).  I had the oldest future copilot aboard for the flights from MUT to YIP and return.  Her father acted as the copilot.  The future copilot number one is a great flyer.  When there are bumps (only at the T/O and Landing phases of course), she put her hands up in the air and cheered.  The regular copilot sat on her hands--still in training.

In reality (or lack of reality) the weather didn't exist.  I've never seen such great conditions during winter in the US of A.  There were no icing, turbulence, or convective SIGMETs for the entire week.  We didn't touch clouds they were high and wispy and unimportant.  The winds were a little screwy, but nothing very challenging.  I was hoping to fly at least one approach.  No such luck.  ATC was helpful and the radios all worked as they should.  They have improved significantly since MX worked on them--especially number 2 COMM.  I could talk to everyone and didn't lose a single sector.  I could even speak to Quad City's approach control without any problems.

The biggest problem was still the GPSs.  I had two legs that were problem free.  I checked the Radar and VOR signals against the GPS for problems and didn't find any, but still I had multiple break locks on both GPSs during two legs.  I'm going to see how they perform on the next flight I will take today, 23 March and see how they work.  I never lost my tablet moving map or its satellite feeds--that was good.  The aircraft based systems should never have problems.

Landings were nearly perfect.  I actually landed the one at YIP where I wasn't sure I was on the ground.  I flew an overhead at AAO for the final landing.  In the descent I saw 220 indicated.  It was great.  The regular copilot seemed to be pleased with it.    



26 and 28 Feb 2010


Quick flights to take the regular copilot to a family wedding.  These were very routine, but slightly painful.  The weather on the first was crap at ADS (Addison in Dallas Texas, the first destination).  The ceilings were about 800 feet with about 5 miles, which isn't that bad.  The first problem was possible ice in the clouds along with deteriorating weather.  The second problem is always the procedures getting into the Dallas area.  You have to file and fly SIDs (standard Instrument Departures) and STARs (Standard Instrument Arrivals) when you go to these high density flying areas.  They really aren't too bad to fly, but in bad weather, you can be assured, you will have to fly almost the whole thing and that ATC (Air Traffic Control) will be hot to change them on you.  Sure enough, we filed for one arrival and received another that was ATC assignment (no filing) only.  So it goes.  ATC was actually pretty good.  The weather at ADS had gone down to 500 feet and 1 1/2 mile, so the weather was getting worse.  ATC vectored us all over the sky to fit us into the traffic flow, but the vectors were great and the ILS (Instrument Landing System) worked out very well.  You have to fly between buildings to get into ADS, but they are only a problem if you can see them--on the ILS, you can't.  That was the only real excitement on the four sorties.

On the ground, there was an example of some very helpful ATC work.  I filed the SID out of ADS and a relatively simple routing.  The computer reported a horrible routing.  The controller issued an "as filed" and I asked for a full readback.  You should always do this if there might be a question on the route--going some other way is violation city.  The controller was a little snippy, but read my filed route--all I could say was thank you.  The day was terrible weather wise and that routing just made life in a single cockpit much easier.  They lost my happy face when on the next sortie out of there, they did give me the "horrible" routing.  This was on an okay weather day.  Sometimes I'm not sure what they are thinking.

Another problem on all the legs was I had break locks on both GPSs.  The Garmin 430 broke lock during climbout and the Trimble a lot of the time.  This is in addition to the weak radios--they also caused me some problems.  I bawled out the MX and Ops guys about this issue (for the tenth time).  I really hope they get this fixed soon (and not at my cost).  This is a real issue--it isn't nearly as bad as loosing a GPS during approach, but still that could happen too.  It shouldn't.  I never lost a GPS lock on the Trimble, the Garmin should be twice as good and the Trimble should still never break lock.  The radios should be perfect all the time--or at least communicate with ATC when they should without interference.

The landings were awesome and I flew an overhead and a regular pattern back at AAO.      



23 Jan 2010


Annual Biannual Flight Review (BFR) and Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC) time.  This is where I get a line check from the chief pilot at Midwest Corporate and a sign off for insurance and my log book.  The FAA requires one every two years.  I get one every year because of the insurance on the aircraft.  I negotiated a deal because the commercial insurance is higher than what I used to have. 

I like flying with the chief pilot at Midwest.  He is an experienced Army aviator with lots of time in Barons, Kingairs, Learjets, and other stuff.  I always learn something and practice is always good with an experienced instructor looking over your shoulder.

We went to Hutchenson, Newton, and back to Jabara.  The weather wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either.  I had to file IFR.  We found some holes and did our airwork above the clouds.  The RTB (Return to Base) was IFR.  The weather was about 1000 foot ceilings, but the deck was only about 500 feet thick.  The winds were very strong at altitude.  I was flying down final with more than 10 degrees of correction.  Even so, the approaches went great and the flight was fun--although very busy.  Everything in the aircraft worked well although, I think I saw the Trimble regain lock at some point. 

ATC did an outstanding job.  They looked out for us and gave us everything we wanted.  I was proud of them.

I'm good for another year!   



11 Jan 2010, 13 Jan 2010, and 17 Jan 2010


I'm catching up.  I've just been busy.  I took my daughter back to the ballerina grind on the eleventh.  Her junk filled the aircraft again.  She's lucky I have a Baron, the Ferrari SUV of civil aviation.  She took the old TV from my other daughter home--it was at least a 32 inch tube TV (big).  The flights were uneventful.  The return was at night, and I did fly a night overhead at AAO.

Two days later I had to fly to Florida (Destin, DTS) on business.  I took my regular copilot and my brother and sister-in-laws down to help.  I was not happy with the flight director and the GPSs both had break locks on the satellites.  Everything worked well except for those little details.  At Destin, Eglin approach kept us at 4,000 feet until about three miles from the field.  That's when they cleared us for the visual.  We had to loose 4,000 feet in three miles, and in a Baron, that ain't gonna happen.  Instead, I lined up for an overhead to 14.  No one else was in the pattern and that seemed like the best option to get down.  It worked great.

On the way out, the weather was about 1200 foot ceilings and clear above 5,000.  The main ADI tumbled and would not recover.  The weather wasn't that bad at DTS and although it was poop at AAO, the forecast brought it to clear by the time we were supposed to arrive.  I covered the bad ADI and took off using the electric backup.  We had the electric ADI and needle, ball, and airspeed.  That seemed good enough to me.  The only problem was that I would have to hand fly the plane for over 4 hours.

We broke out at about 5,000 feet and continued in the clear all the way to Wichita.  The main ADI did recover after about 30 minutes of flight.  I didn't have to hand fly it the whole way. 

I wrote up the ADI, one of the main struts, and the GPSs.  The ADI went out on warrantee service.  Supposedly there was some contamination that blew the rotors.  I think the rotors were just not repaired correctly the first time.  The rebuild company was great about the fix and took me out to lunch too.  I think they do good work there.  They need to, an ADI is a flight critical instrument--that's why I have a backup.  



27 Dec 09


Okay, okay, already--I had too much holiday cheer and I'm finally getting to my aviation blog.  I flew down to SAT (San Antonio) to pick up my ballerina daughter for Christmas and New Years.  It was after Christmas, but it is the Holiday Inn story.  On holidays, entertainers give an extra show.  She was in the Nutcracker with Ballet San Antonio.

What can I say.  Down during the day and back at night.  It was relatively uneventful.  The night landing was an absolute squeaker.  I got lucky.

I was lucky I didn't take anyone down to SAT with me.  The stuff I hauled back with my daughter literally filled the back and the front from floor to ceiling.  I couldn't have taken another human being in the plane. 



21 Dec 09


Ponca City, there and back again.  After I returned from Tyler, Texas, I left the plane set up for a flight down to Ponca City to fly the winners of the Kansas Aviation Museum dinner flight.  We had two couples and me on board.  The winner wanted to act as the copilot.  That's what I encouraged for the flight.  The point, after all, was to experience aviation at its finest.  The winner and copilot was a private pilot who had almost finished his license.  We didn't get to fly any instruments, but all the time was at night.  The flight was fast and the only problem was the unusable taxiways at PNC (Ponca City).  At night, that is a real problem and though the layout of the airport was simple, there wasn't a field diagram either.  Talk about a pain.  Without a field diagram, the moving map couldn't bring up any real GPS help.  It all worked out well, but I make a couple of clunky landings.  Remember, at night, you flare high or you flare low.  I flared a little high and bonked in.  They weren't bad, but they weren't squeakers--ah, night.

The food was good at Enriques--I recommend it from a pilot standpoint.  You pull right up to the tower and the restaurant is there.  You can watch the airport operations and eat good TexMex food.  The prices are low and there service is great.  The only thing missing its the Margaritas, they don't have anything stronger than beer.  Oh well, I couldn't drink anyway. 



19 and 21 Dec 09 (12 Dec)


I tried to fly on 12 Dec.  It was a flight to Ponca City (PNC) for dinner at Enrique's Mexican Restaurant.  The passengers won the Kansas Aviation Museum auction of the flight.  Everything was going great until we arrived at the end of the runway.  The ADI (attitude indicator) was tumbling and the weather was poop.  There's no way I'm taking any aircraft up at night, in the weather with a bad primary ADI.  I guess we could use the secondary or needle and ball :-(.  No way! 

By the weekend, the ADI was repaired ($3700 later).  Just in time to fly down to Tyler, Texas for my nephew's wedding.  There isn't much to say about this flight.  There was very little weather anywhere.  There were no fight hazards.  The FBO treated me great.  They did forget about the fuel discount we arranged and they did have a very crowded ramp with no wing walkers (danger, danger, Will Robinson).  Other than that, the flight was great.

I did have some little issues with the new (fixed) ADI.  The Flight Director (FD) showed low and put the aircraft left of course.  The number one radio improved, but the number two GPS lost lock three times in cruise.  Not sure what is going on.  Some things are better, some are weird.  That's gremlins in aircraft.     



9 Dec 09


I went up last night to make sure of my night currency.  I'm not sure why the FAA thinks this is necessary for experienced aviators.  Landings at night are no different than landings during the day--as long as you have lights on the runway and in the cockpit.  No one thinks you should try to land without lights in or outside the cockpit--unless you are in special operations :-).

The flight was awesome, but too short.  I made some go arounds, a single engine pattern, a touch and go, five total landings.  Mostly I left the gear down and let it hang for safety and just because I didn't want to put more cycles on it.  The plane was a rocket and everything worked great. 

What was funny to me was another Baron I saw in the pattern.  The pilot flew a wide pattern at about 500 feet.  The reason this was interesting is that this is typical of pilots, military and civilian, who haven't learned about using gs in the final turn to control airspeed and for safety.  With passengers on board, you don't want to fly hiaka patterns, but you should fly the pattern so you are using some g-loading for airspeed control.  A proper pattern for an aircraft for a Baron should start at 1000 feet above ground level (AGL).  The aircraft should be configured at the perch (downwind before base turn).  The turn to final should be a continuous banked turn with the nose down and the power in the green arch.  Speed can be controlled with pitch to keep the aircraft at or below 120 knots.  In this situation, an approach to a stall can be corrected by rolling out, adding power, and making a goaround.  A low, flat, low bank pattern is dangerous because an approach to a stall cannot be corrected just by rolling out and adding power.  A stall at low airspeed, altitude, and no g-loading will result in a non-accelerated stall that is very hard to recover from, especially when low to the ground.  This effect is especially bad at night.

All the landings were great and the flight was fun, but too short--still too many cycles on the aircraft.  One funny point was the lights of the runway went out during the last pattern.  I had to flick them back on--ha ha.  The world is very dark on the final turn when the lights go out--kind of like special operations ;-)--but then we had night vision goggles.      



25 to 28 Nov and 30 Nov to 3 Dec 09


Okay, I have been so busy flying I haven't had time to update this blog--sorry.  I flew during Thanksgiving to San Antonio (SAT) and Beaumont (BPT), Texas then return.  The weather was poor, but not terrible.  ATC was helpful, but not efficient or wise.  Of course with poor weather, SAT gave me an ILS (instrument landing system) into SAT both times.  The problem with this is they almost always ask me to maintain best speed to the FAF (final approach fix) and we all know Barons don't slow down very well.  This means you burn in at full speed and have to slow to 152 knots to get the gear and flaps down, then slow to 120 knots for the approach.  If the weather was really bad, I would hope they wouldn't do that.  Actually, I found their control to be helpful. 

The flight to BPT and back to SAT was a little less happy.  First, they would not let me fly over Huston.  I think that's dumb.  It added 30 minutes to the flight, but we did get a coast tour (only because, I filed that way).  When we arrived at BPT, the weather was not really bad enough for an approach, but I should have flown one, BPT is hard to see when approaching from the south.  It is really, really , really hard to see from the south.  The landing was uneventful and nice, but still... KUSA always takes great care of us at BPT.  I forgot to negotiate a lower fuel price--next time.

RTB was like I said a repeat of the first flight to SAT with similar weather.  Millionair there were all helpful and gave me 50 cents off on a gallon--plus you can get a free coke and popcorn!

The flight I really want to get to is the one I made for my supreme court case in DC.  I flew direct to Manassas (HEF).  The weather was great until we hit Indiana.  ATC was very helpful but kept calling out precipitation that my radar would not find.  We did get some snow and had some light ice for a little, but it wasn't a big deal.  ATC kept calling for moderate to heavy precip--not sure what they were seeing.  The weather at Manassas was 1700 foot scattered and 3500 overcast.  To me that's approach weather especially in the DC ATIS with TFRs everywhere.  Surprise, surprise, surprise, they gave me a visual approach.  It was a controller in training.  We broke out at 2000 feet with the clouds skimming the cockpit and didn't see the field until we were 5 miles out.  When we were at about 7 miles the controller tried to cancel IFR on us and the voice of the supervising controller came on line.  I thought it was dumb for them to give us a visual in the weather and ATIS.  Everything else went well.  The things I can control, that is.

Return to AAO (Jabara in Wichita) was another story.  We took off into clear weather and had stuff under us the whole way to Louisville (JVY).  JVY was a fuel stop (people and aircraft) because of winds.  When we arrived at JVY things became interesting.  The clouds had some ice in them (not forecast)--it wasn't a big deal.  The controllers were helpful, but a little clueless.  Basically he offered me vectors or the NoPT (no procedure turn) to the ILS at JVY.  The weather was 1700 overcast with a direct cross.  I took the vectors--bad choice.  The controller took me in a 90 degree intercept to an ILS.  I was blasting in at 180 knots, but saw it coming.  We cut across the course, but I had us right back and we made a stable approach.  I was pissed and told the controller when I cancelled on the ground.  He apologized, but as I thought about it, I became more irritated and wondered what would have happened to a less experienced pilot.  The TERPS criteria require a 45 degree intercept to an ILS up to 10 miles out and a 20 degree intercept within 10 miles.  That means I was not in TERPS criteria and technically could have hit something.  I called the supervising ACT and asked them to investigate.  After reviewing the tapes they concluded the controller gave me a last second turn to a 30 degree intercept of 210.  I didn't hear it, my copilot didn't hear it, the heading set marker was still at 270, shazam.  Who wants to guess what the tapes really showed.  I know if I had made a mistake like that, ATC would have violated me.  I was happy not to have to violate the controller, but I wanted to scare the crap out of him.  Remember, after the accident, what does the controller do?  He feels bad while he drinks a cup of coffee to settle his nerves--the pilot and crew are dead.  I have had this kind of situation of poor vectors on ILS approaches, I decided I'm not going to play along anymore.  This kind of sloppy controlling can kill people.  On the controller's side, he was trying to help correct for the hellashous crosswind, but a Baron flys more like a jet than a small prop aircraft.  A controller should be able to figure that out by the airspeed.  To me, this was the most interesting event of the flights.  I didn't wrack up the violation of ATC this time.  They need to make sure they carefully follow their own rules.

The flight to AAO was uneventful until the visual approach and landing.  ATC cleared me a visual approach for 36 at AAO.  A couple of Army Blackhawks were playing in the AAO and Beech Field patterns.  One of them was flying an approach to Beech.  ATC said he was going 110 knots, and I was blasting in at 190.  We saw him right away.  It was funny.  We were going fast enough we would have cut right in front of him with no problems.  We were at 2000 feet MSL and I planned to cut across AAO at center field and enter downwind.  At the same time one of the Blackhawks was in the pattern at AAO.  The Blackhawk on approach (opposite direction) to Beech broke off (chicken), we crossed midfield and made a short approach--it was fun.  When we landed, we got to see the Blackhawks up close.  I wanted to speak to them--I'm not sure AAO or Beech Field have joint use military agreements--such are the rules of aviation.  Until next time...    



23 October 2009


My friend, the great hunter, shot two elk in Colorado a couple of weeks ago.  I flew him across to Pueblo, CO to pick up the meat.  Actually, the meat was being processed in Alamosa, but at 7,500 feet elevation, the Baron would have a tough time flying out with enough gas to go anywhere.  There were the two of us and 130 lbs. of elk meat to plan for.  At 5,400 feet elevation, Pueblo was a better choice. 

The day was beautiful with some junk at Wichita, but clear skies in Colorado.  The trick was the winds and runway outages at Pueblo.  The main runway was under construction and all that was left was a 3,100 foot runway and 17/35.  17/35 was plenty long, but the runways were at 90 degrees and the crosswind was near limits (22 knots).  On the way in, they gave us 17, so no problem.  I picked Flower Aviation because of the Flower Girls and I wanted to impress my friend--there are no more Flower Girls (It is very sad).  They have cookies, but who doesn't anymore.  There were no more steak deals or wine deals or anything.  The line guy was nice, but we didn't even get a ride.  Sad, sad, sad day in the world.

We got a ride to the rental car joint and picked up the car then headed out for Alamosa.  The drive was about an hour and a half.  When we found the place--a small house.  The butcher was this older Mennonite gentleman and his wife or daughter (couldn't tell).  While I retrieved the coolers (we carried 6 of various sizes), my friend filled the butcher with some info about our flight and me.  When I came back through the door, the butcher, out of the blue, asked me, "Do you know Chuck Yeager?"  I said, yes.  I knew him at Edwards AFB.  The Mennonite Butcher proceeded to tell us about his experiences as a guide for Chuck there in the mountains around Alamosa.  He was a hunting guide for the Forbs ranch.  We swapped stories for a while, ate some deer meat off the stove, and picked up the frozen elk meat.

We made our way back to Pueblo and packed up the airplane.  When we went to take off, I asked for the long runway.  The accel-stop distance for the Baron was at 3,300 feet and 3,100 wouldn't cut it.  Never turn your twin into a single engine aircraft.  We took off and returned to Jabara in Wichita.  By the way, both landings were concrete kisses.  I am very happy to report.



10 and 14 October 2009


More great weather flights--this time I was flying for business, I assure you.  The first flight was from Jabara Field, Wichita, Kansas (AAO) to Destin Airport, Destin, Florida (DTS).  The weather was supposed to be poor with thunderstorms cutting across the USA from Mississippi on up.  We took off with a low ceiling and popped out of the clouds at about 3000 feet--then it was beautiful.  I was hoping for a little challenge, but that wasn't to be until landing.  We were fighting sunshine the whole way.  I had the radar and stormscope seeking, but they weren't finding anything.  Even Destin was clear and the weather was supposed to be below approach minimums--at least for part of the day.  I expected an approach, and took a visual straight into runway 14.  That's when the fun started.  I'm making all the calls plus some and I know there were people listening--I spoke to UNICOM and heard traffic all over the place.  A helicopter headed on a collision course with me.  It looked like it was on base, but it wasn't exactly on a standard base and it wasn't talking on the radios.  It wasn't squawking either because Air Traffic Control (ATC) Eglin approach hadn't told me about him.  I was configured at at 120 knots, the helicopter was probably making 50 knots, if that.  I was eating him alive.  I thought he might turn onto the taxiway for a taxiway landing since her wasn't talking or squawking, but he didn't, he turned right in front of me on final--GO AROUND time.

I went around on the right so I could keep the helicopter in sight.  We cleaned up the aircraft and cut up into a left downwind.  The landing was excellent as well as exciting.  I noted just where the helicopter had landed, so I could make a phone call.  I thought about violating him with ATC right then and there, but decided to talk first.  When I called, the pilot was very apologetic.  He was on the wrong frequency.  I read him the riot act, but I didn't violate him.  Flying without talking or squawking around a field like DTS is like playing Russian roulette with about five bullets.

The return flight (RTB) from DTS to AAO was both better than predicted and exciting.  I had to tanker a lot of gas because the nearest alternate was Amarillo, Texas more than an hour away.  The weather at AAO sucked (technical term).  It was supposed to be 500 foot ceilings and 3 miles visibility, but had been sitting at 300 foot all day.  I was looking at the possibility of an approach at Wichita Midcontinent (ICT) because the winds were favoring 36 at over 10 knots and the GPS to 36 only goes to 400 and 1.  Fortunately before I started the approach to 36 at AAO, the weather came up to 500 and 3.  I flew the LPV and that was an excellent approach, both because of the type of approach and because of the excellent pilot.  The landing was a squeaker.  Hurrah!  What a great flight and day.    



4 and 8 October 2009


The first flights to Iowa and Muscatine (MUT) and return to Jabara (AAO) were pretty routine.  I was carrying important PAX (passengers)--my daughter and granddaughter.  It was the first flight of my 18 month old granddaughter--I plan to make her a copilot some day.  She loved the flight.  My father always told me my first flight in an aircraft was a Beech Bonanza he flew, and I was about 18 months then.  Everything went well and there were almost no clouds in the sky.

The return flights were something entirely different. What a wonderful weather flying day.  This was a manly man flying day.  The kind the inexperienced and weak and the foolish should fear.  The flight started with the clouds engulfing the aircraft at about 500 feet on both ends and ended with approaches to near minimums at each field.  It was awesome.  I flew the new LPV approach to 36 at Jabara.  This is an awesome GPS approach that has a glideslope to a DH (decision height).  Now picture this--in the soup, single cockpit (no copilot), a KC-135 ahead of me in the pattern at McConnell and flying an approach there.  What does ATC (Air Traffic Control) do.  Give me a vector at 180.  I guess I was then too far into the McConnell traffic pattern, I get a direct to CATCH (the IAF (Initial Approach Fix)), but then I get a vector to 270 for a few miles.  I'm burning my gas and not the taxpayers--when do I get some priority.  Finally, the controller sent me direct to CATCH, but I was pretty close.  Luckily, when they put me on the first vector, I pulled the power back--I was only going 160 knots and not 200.  The flights were great and the weather was fantastic.  



11, 13, and 14 September 2009


Another family support flight.  I took the regular copilot out to see little granddaughter number one and daughter number two and hubby.  We were time pressed, so I didn't stick over night, but RTB (Returned to Base) as soon as I off loaded and made connections.

The flight from AAO (Jabara Wichita, KS) to MUT (Muscatine, IW) was weather filled.  We spent the entire leg out right at the top of the clouds.  The copilot didn't like me going through them, so we did a little cloud avoidance deviations.  I thought it was great--the copilot was happy.  I didn't have to fly an approach at MUT, but ATC held us up for a long time and I had to make a hiyaka final to runway 6.  It really wasn't that extreme.  I really should have done an overhead.

The RTB was a little more exciting.  I was in the clouds most of the way back a 8000.  I should have found a better altitude.  Although there was nothing in them they did have a little vertical component and that made things uncomfortable when popping through them.  If the copilot was on board, I would have climbed to 10,000 to get over everything and lived with the reduced tailwind. Yes, there was a tailwind moving east to west at that altitude--that is really unusual.  I flew an ILS (Instrument Landing System) approach to AAO on RTB.  The weather was at about 1000 feet with a little reduced visibility.  I set them up on both, but forgot to switch the Nav1 from GPS to VLOC--ouch.  I went a little across the ILS course and caught it.  There wasn't any problem, and the nice, and busy ATC guy, gave me a vector back to course.  That was a nice courtesy.  It didn't mess up the approach, but shows you have to be careful all the time.  The landing was a nice touch with the horn on roll out with aerobraking.

The next flight back to MUT was a little interesting.  ATC at first could find my flight plan.  That was weird because I saw it drop in FlightAware.com and in Fltplan.com.  The controller said it was there, but didn't print?  What's with that.  After I picked up my IFR release from ATC for runway 36 (climb to 8000 and on course) a Piper popped up on the ILS 18 opposite direction.  I was following a Gulfstream who just landed 36.  I asked the Piper what kind he was and exactly where, did some mental math, and asked if he was happy if I took off in his face.  He said go and he would watch out--kool.  I tookoff and turned right after I had the gear in the well.  I spotted him at about 3 miles on the ILS while I was heading to Emporia (EMP)--all very kool.  The weather wasn't that bad and the flight unremarkable.  Oh, did I tell you, I was using Comm 2.  Comm 1 just sucks right now.  I think it is a grounding issue.  We changed the radio, the antennas, and it still is weak and has interference.  I think it is a ground somewhere.  ATC lost us on the way to MUT before, so just to be safe, I'm using Comm 2 all the time for communications.  Now, the landing at MUT was interesting.  They were running young eagle flights (free flights for kids to get them interested in aviation) and glider tows and landings out of MUT.  We came in visual on an IFR clearance.  Not a problem, but on landing there was three gliders and people just off either side of the runway.  My wingspan is easily within the width of the runway there, but I get a little concerned when there is a person standing that close to my landing area.  I'm coming it a 100 knots with a 4000 pound aircraft and two props going 2500 rpm.  This is a setup for disaster.  I landed a little long because of it and did a little wig wag to keep as far as possible from the people at the end.  Still a good landing.  I parked in my usual spot and everyone was there to meet me.  My little granddaughter had to come see me first and I had to hold her the whole time I bedded the aircraft down (she likes me best).

The RTB to AAO went like clockwork.  The weather was great and no complications.  Took off VFR from MUT and picked up my IFR from approach.  At AAO, we had to drop through an overcast at 5500.  There wasn't any traffic, so I canceled IFR.  I crossed the middle of the runway at 1000 feet AGL (Above Ground Level) and dropped into a left hand downwind for 36 from that position.  I didn't start slowing until I made the midfield call.  I configured on downwind and turned a tight base.  Right at that moment a Gulfstream started a conversation on the UNICOM freq.  That was great.  He got finished just in time so I could make my base and final calls.  I landed with a touch on the mains.  I did have to brake to make the usual turn off--the winds were almost a direct cross, but favoring 36.  



25, 26, and 27 August 2009


I had to fly back to MI to pick up my regular copilot and to see the little baby again--had to.

The flight out to YIP (Willow Run, MI near Detroit) was pretty routine.  This time the Avidyn talked to the Nav system, but the radios were still screwy.  I decided to use Comm 2 for communications.

Visit was nice, but instead of RTB, the regular copilot directed a trip to MUT (Muscatine, IW) to visit the other granddaughter.  A string of moderate to worse CBs (Cumulous, next to TRW, thunderstorms) ran from MUT to YIP.  I filed south into Ohio and across to slip into MUT just ahead of some real TRWs.  We tookoff into weather and continued in the weather.  The radar and stormscope were reporting all clear.  Flight was great, but IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) the entire way.  The winds slightly favored 06, but they were mainly a pure cross.  I set up for a GPS approach to 06.  On the way to the IAF (Initial Approach Fix), the radar showed a TRW with a nugget right over the IAF.  I told the controller to give me a vector to the ILS 24.  I could fly a circle from the LOC or land from the ILS with just a touch of a tail wind.  It was a great weather approach and we landed on 24 without a problem.  It was a slight nosewheel touch, but still aokay.  The guys at MUT nosed us into the hangar I reserved, and we didn't even have to step out into the rain--that was great.  What an outstanding crew at MUT!!!!

RTB (return to base, AAO Col James Jabara, Wichita, KS) was another weather day, but it was only clouds without TRW.  We ran the radar and the stormscope--saw nothing.  The winds favored 36 at AAO, so I flew a LOC to 18 and circled to 36.  It wasn't too bad of weather the clouds were at 1200 with good visibility.  I did overshoot 36 a little, it wasn't much, but I could have snuck the downwind out a little.  Landing was fine, but a couple of bounces.  My copilot didn't complain, so I thought that was a good sign.  Fun trips!  By the way, we needed to get into AAO before Friday when the airshow started.  We could have come in, but we would have to give a show and the copilot vetoed that idea--oh well.



21 and 22 August 2009


I'm a double opa, so I had to fly my regular copilot to Ann Arbor, MI to take care of momma and baby.  The baby was a home birth in a tiny student's apartment--where my daughter and son-in-law live.  Talk about a shift from modern culture--everything worked out great.  I flew from AAO (Jabara, Wichita, KS) to YIP (Willowrun, near Detroit, MI).  The day was a little stinky from a weather standpoint, but we skirted all the bad stuff while flying IFR (Instrument Flight Rules).  I almost always fly IFR--just a good habit.

The Avidyn would not talk to the Nav systems and I couldn't make it.  It was very bothersome.  All I had was an expensive radar head instead of a moving map and nav consolidation system.  The radios were better, but worse.  We switched the antennas because of interference on comm 1, but I think the (now) number two antenna is weak or has a bad ground.  The number 1 comm still seems weak but less interference.  The right cylinder temp gauge is screwy.  On the second leg it showed off scale high.  I ignored it.  All the other gauges showed everything fine.  I wrote all this stuff up, but I don't think it will get fixed before my next flight.

Chicago forgot to hand us off to Detroit approach control.  That got a little hectic.  They weren't that busy, plus just before descent is not the time to forget about an IFR aircraft.  Chicago control is painful anyway for lots of reasons.  The controllers gave us the CRUXX4 arrival (as expected), but took us off it right away.  I think they do that just to weed the men from the boys.  If you tell them you are unable, then they send you to the penalty box or make you go VFR (Visual Flight Rules).  If you accept the arrival, that means you really do know what you are doing, and they just point you at the field and vector you.  That's just what they did--they sent us direct and to the visual on runway 23L.  YIP is a very confusing airport.  When you fly in there, you better know what you are doing.  You have five runways to choose from, only you usually don't get a choice.  Since it is a towered field, they tell you the runway and give you the clearance--don't screw up.  If you make a mistake, you can get violated.  I use the GPS and the heading bugs and sometimes set up the instrument landing system (ILS) to make sure I'm going to the right place and the correct runway.  I've never landed on the wrong runway yet, and I'm not planning to start.

I used Active Air this time because the other FBO is full of idiots.  Active air gave me 40 cents off per gallon on gas and worked a deal for their hangar. I like it when an FBO takes care of you--most do.

The RTB was interesting.  YIP always gives the most complex outbound clearance.  It probably has something to do with Detroit.  I still had all the little maintenance problems mentioned above.  I filed at 8000 feet and the clouds for the entire flight were at 7,900 feet.  I was right at the top of the deck and that was neat.  The only scary point was when the KC controller called traffic dead ahead at 7,800.  This was VFR traffic right in the clouds.  This guy was doing the dumbest thing you possibly could do--flying in clouds and not on an IFR clearance.  The controllers kept us apart, but still that was very dumb.

AAO was very busy when I arrived, but cleared out by the time I was ready to land.  I crossed midfield and dropped into a left downwind for runway 36.  The landing was spot on nice, but I did a little wiffle I would have complained to a student about.  Still safe and smooth, but a little sloppy.  I'm not sure a Baron with VGs can every be landed really perfectly, but I do keep trying.      



14 August 2009


Down to Stillwater (SWO) for ROTC introduction.  My son is going to ROTC at Det. 670 OSU while he attends University of Tulsa.  He wants to be an Air Force pilot.  I think it's great.  I hoped to have someone to give my airplane to who would be able to fly it.

The flight from AAO (Wichita, Jabara) to SWO is only about 35 minutes.  It is an easy flight and great.  I really enjoyed it.  There was some weather, but only a few clouds to punch.  The controllers were helpful and SWO has a tower.  Their runways were all torn up and some were closed, but at least there was 4000 feet of concrete and asphalt to land on.  I was happy with the flight and the landings, but no witnesses, so they were great.  Actually, the winds were blowing, and I think I put it down about as sweet as you could at SWO.

Return to Base (RTB) AAO they kept me high for traffic at the base.  When I was cleared I dove for the end of 18 and set up for a 2400 foot overhead.  I made an easy right overhead to a tickle touchdown with about 14 knots of wind gusting to 20 on the nose.  It was a pretty aerobrake with the gear on the ground and the stall buzzer going off for almost the entire roll to nose touchdown--I thought that was pretty good.  All in all a fun flight for a fun reason--can it get much better?  



9 August 2009


Picked up my regular copilot at MUT (Muscatine, Iowa).  Great flight right on the south edge of a line of TRW (Thunderstorms).  We weren't anywhere near them.  The flight out was fantastic.  I flew through some clouds, but that was about it.  The winds at MUT were a direct cross at 14 knots, but the landing wasn't very challenging.  It was a greaser--to bad I didn't have any witnesses.  I did use COM 2 instead of COM 1 as the primary due to the reoccurring problem in the 122 and lower mHz range.  The number two engine was running a little hot, but it was hard to tell if it was the flight conditions or the gauge.  I just opened the oil cooler flap and that took care of the problem.

The takeoff was also with about a 15 knot crosswind.  The plane handles very well under these conditions.  RTB (return to base) seemed long, but it was only about a 2.6.  Everything worked well.  I did keep the right oil cooler flap opened just to keep the engine temp down, but it wasn't completely necessary.  The landing was in gusty conditions only a little off the runway.  I chased a 182 in so I made a 270 at about 5 miles on final to give the guy time to land and clear.  I really didn't have to.  He cleared before I was at 5 miles on final again.  The landing was fine with a slight nosewheel bonk--that's a Baron technical term.  It means I let the nosewheel touch just a hair before I wanted it to.  I still aerobraked.  



6 August 2009


The proverbial $200 hamburger, only it didn't cost that much :-D  I flew a plane full from AAO (Jabara Field, Wichita, KS) to HUT (Hutchinson, KS) for lunch.  The trip was a fam for a couple of great kids.  They were twins and 13, and they were my copilots.  They did a great job, but I didn't have time to let them fly.  The flight was only about 20 minutes each way--it wasn't even a legal cross country (not more than 50 nm).  The weather wasn't terrible, but it was in the lee of a line of thunderstorms.  The weather varied from 400 foot and 4 miles to better than 5000 and 5, but it was varying quite a bit.  I hoped to get in two approaches, but I only had to fly one at Jabara. 

The flight was a non-typical compressed hop.  The controllers were very helpful, but they were busy.  It turned out to be a great couple of flights.  The air was pretty calm in spite of the recent convective activity.  It was really like rain showers instead of convective.  The company was great, the help from ATC was great, the conditions were not terrible, and the landings were smooth, but not perfect.



2 and 3 August 2009


I took Oma, my regular copilot up to see Evie, granddaughter.  They are going on a road trip to see our other daughter.  The flying was fun.  The weather was great and everything was in the aircraft and mainly code one.  I did have some interference on the lower bands (118-120) on Comm 1.  That's the new Garmin 430, so I think there is a problem with the antenna or the connections.  I think there is a ground in the antenna cable.  We will see.  The swing window seal was also loose.  Try putting that in with your gloves on.

Arrival at MUT was exciting.  I flew an ILS for practice to runway 24.  There was a glider in the pattern coming in and a glider being towed up in the pattern.  On approach, the glider was ahead of me, plus they can't go around.  So I did.  This made my copilot a little excited, but we just pulled up into the downwind, where there was an other glider on a tow plane.  We just came in behind him since they were leaving the pattern to take the glider up for a release.  When we landed, the first glider had been pushed off the runway to make room for us.  They were still pretty close.  The winds were a little squirrelly too.  It made for an exciting approach, missed, and landing.

The return was almost a nonevent, but I do love flying.  It was fun and funtastic.  The only problem is my Trimbel GPS is out of date and will stay that way until I can get a spare card for it.  The cards cost $400+ bucks and they are just 4 Megs--oh well.  



3 and 5 July 2009


Independence day flight to celebrate the fourth of July with family.  We flew to BPT (Beaumont, Texas) with five on board.  The plane flew great and the weather was beautiful, but a little cloudy.  I had to fly a GPS approach at BPT.  It wasn't to mins at all, but still good practice. 

The Trimble is still out of the aircraft.  The systems all worked well together, but I like the Trimble for some information that is hard to get off the Garmin 430.  The Avidyne came in handy especially for the return.  We had to penetrate a line of rain showers all the way across Texas.  There wasn't much there, but the radar saw all of it.  It worked great.

Landing at BPT was okay. I flew an overhead at AAO--wooh wee.  The first touchdown was perfect, but there was more than one--I just skipped it in.  Okay, not the best technique.  I didn't have that much speed, but ah well--so is aviation.  It was still a good landing and the overhead made it all worthwhile.  I took pictures of the new instrumentation, but I want the Trimble in the stack at the same time. 



25 and 27 June 2009


Golf flight.  I went up to McCook NE to visit my sister and brother-in-law.  I need to go more often--great food, two rounds of golf, homemade ice cream, and lots of great conversation.

The weather and the plane were both cooperative--except for a few things.  First, this is the summer season and in the mid USA you always have TRW (thunderstorms).  Actually, we didn't see any thunderstorms, but there were little rain showers out there.  The Avidyne/RDR 160 picked them all out--it was a great test of the system.  The aircraft didn't get a wash job.  A little disconcerting was the Trimble (GPS #2) is out for an upgrade and the Avidyne didn't sync to the Garmin 430 on the entire first flight.  I tried everything but a complete power down of the Avidyne, I'll have to try that next time because the leg back, it worked great.  Painfully bad when expensive aviation things don't work exactly as they should.  At least the Radar was pinging just the way it should--that would be unacceptable.

Takeoff out of AAO was wonderful.  I hadn't flown for about 30 days and getting your hands on the stick and blasting out into the wild blue is just an ecstatic feeling.  The controller made us go east for a long time before they let us come back to the west and our course to McCook (MCK).  There isn't much to say about the landing--it was nice and with just a little wind.

The return was just fun.  Out of MCK instead of picking up a clearance on the ground (like usual) I just took off to find my brother-in-law's house and fly over the golf course.  There was another aircraft out there, can you believe it?  We coordinated and checked out the house and golf course.  I wanted to make a couple of more circuits, but my copilot wasn't happy with the bouncys or the little 30 degree gees--I was easy.  RTB we diverted a little for showers--they showed great on the radar and I greased the landing in calm winds at AAO, oh that's hard :-).



16 and 30 May 2009


These were flights down to the beach--hey, I was working.  I condensed them because there wasn't a lot of excitement and because I'm lazy. 

This was an important flight.  Other than the test and checkout flight of the aircraft on 14 May, this was the first flight with the new avionics.  An Avidyne EX500 and Garmin 430 were added to the aircraft avionics stack and integrated.  The old analog RNAV and Comm 1 were removed.  The Garmin 430 is a fully WAAS capable unit with Comm and VLOC.  The capability of the aircraft avionics was significantly improved.  This gives N17979 the capability of almost every approach in the charts and the new systems are fully integrated.  The Trimble Approach 200 was left in the avionics stack, so it acts as a backup GPS.  The Trimble now goes to Nav 2 CDI and the Garmin is fully integrated into the Nav 1 HSI and autopilot.

The need for this upgrade was undeniable.  N17979's radar head was delaminating and that made the radar hard to read, and the Trimble was becoming obsolete.  The Avidyne EX500 turns the radar into a color automatically controlled radar system with moving map overlay.  On the 16 May flight this was indispensable since we were flying around isolated TRW almost all the way and in the weather most of the flight.  Further, the Trimble just didn't have all the approaches and airports in it.  The database of this information just wouldn't fit on the 1 Meg card anymore.  The Garmin 430 adds all the approaches, fields, etc. plus WAAS and GPS backup capability.  The Shadin Fuel Flow also talks to the Garmin.  This means that N17979 went from a partially integrated FMS to an almost fully integrated FMS.  The aircraft is almost exactly the avionics equivalent of the Lear 35s I used to fly in the late 1980s--but better.

The Avidyne likewise talks to both the Garmin 430 and the Trimble.  They share information, but are fully autonomous.  The Avidyne can also display charts.  I am evaluating that possibility right now.  This means that with Jepps charts on the Avidyne and NOAA Charts on the Anywhere Map tablet, I could stop buying all the emergency charts everywhere and just get those that are for takeoff and landing.  This would give double electronic backups.  The Avidyne and the Garmin also have terrain alerting features.  Combined with the Anywhere Map tablet, the situational awareness (SA), charting, navigational control, terrain alerting, etc. provide an outstanding basis for safety.

The integration of the Shadin and the Garmin are great.  All the information necessary to flight except: temp, barometric setting, and indicated airspeed are available to the Garmin.  The Garmin takes fuel flow and fuel level information from the Shadin and uses it for flight and trip planning.  These features are not well implemented in the Garmin unit, but they provide a means of checking the aircraft fuel status.  The Shadin also is properly integrated with the Gramin and gives info for fuel planning right from the indicators.  The Trimble still has better flight planning functions and is easier to address.  That is the difference between a professional aviation commercial unit and an advanced GA unit.  The Garmin and Trimble are relatively similar in their input although the Trimble is obviously much harder to learn.  I like to program both and compare route data.  The age of external NAVAIDS looks like it is close to coming to an end.  There is almost no need for them as long as the GPS constellation is alive and well.

The flight to Florida was great with just a little weather and nothing of great excitement.  The return was cloudless and beautiful.  Everything worked well together.  There are still a couple of small details in the integration of the nav systems that need to be addressed and some updates, but all in all, the new light show is fantastic.      



20 Mar 2009


I picked up the ballerinas from Colorado Springs--whoo whoo!  I did a lot of work on the way out and the way back.  A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum...  My tablet with SA moving map just died.  Nothing seemed wrong--it just didn't appear to be getting enough power.  I unplugged the other PC, I was using for work, and bingo, bango, bongo, the system came right back up.  I guess it wasn't getting enough juice.

Flight was great without any real incidents.  The takeoff out of COS was right at the limit because of the high pressure altitude.  Also, on takeoff out of AAO, the controller said best rate through 4000--I gave him about 1500 fpm--yeah!



18 Mar 2009


I flew a couple of ballerinas out to Colorado Springs for auditions--whoo whoo.  The day was beautiful and the weather fine.  There wasn't anything of note.  I did float the landing at COS, but who doesn't at 6187 feet.  I flew an overhead at AAO on the return.  That was great.  The ballerinas had a new lime green Beetle waiting for them as their rental car--it was pretty special. 



6 and 7 Mar 2009


Back to BPT to pick up my wife.  The flying was wonderful.  The weather was like spring without any TRW or other hazards.  The way back was just as pleasant.  Both ends the winds were above 25 knots and gusting above 30.  No big deal, but a little challenging.  Landings were squeakers.  Airplane flew beautifully.   



27 and 28 Feb 2009


Took my wife to BPT to visit her family and her father who is in the hospital.  Trip was easy and quick.  I had MX fill the tires a little and throw in some oil.  Had to punch through the clouds on both ends, but it was an uneventful trip.  I flew an overhead on the way back.  Plane flew well, better than book.  That was nice.



14 and 21 Feb 2009


Sea Spray season prep trip.  Down to Destin for business.  We took a couple of friends to help. 

The flight down and back was great.  I was limited on fuel load again.  On the way down we encountered a front line and passed through with a few bumps, but the flight was excellent.  When we were on the ground huge TRWs came through during the week, and I was worried about the aircraft, but there was no hail and alles war gut.

On the way back, we also had to pass a front, but we had a lot of wind in the face, and I decided to head toward Texarkana to keep out of the main portion of the weather.  That took some gas.  With the headwind, fuel load, and redirect, I didn't like the numbers I was getting for reserve, so I dropped into Tulsa for a gas and go.  I flew an overhead at AAO.  Everyone enjoyed it.  I only gave them all about 1.2 g, but everyone thought it was a lot.  The landing was great.  Others were bumpers, but they were good.



15,16, 25, and 26 Jan 2009


Winter Cruise.  Trip down to Destin and then to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for a cruise.  We took a couple of friends with us.  The gentleman was a great copilot.  The flight down was routine with beautiful weather.  The landings were okay. 

The return trip was a great IFR fest.  I flew a stacked approach into Destin.  We were vectored behind a Citation jet and ahead of another jet.  The weather was not that bad, with 1000 feet ceiling and 3 miles vis.  On the return to Jabara in Wichita, I went to Pinebluff, Arkansas for gas and lunch.  I had to fly a GPS approach there too.  The weather was about the same with 90 degree crosswinds at about 10 knots.

Wichita was socked in at about 1000 and 3.  I flew a GPS approach and picked up a windshield full of ice.  The wings didn't have much, but just the windshield.  There wasn't a problem because you don't need to see ahead to land an aircraft, you just need to find the runway.  We found the runway, right where it was supposed to be on the GPS 36, and I landed.  The landing was great.  I found the prop and the windshield anti-ice wasn't working right.  They are supposed to fix it.



11 Jan 2009


Tulsa trip.  Sparks at Tulsa is a great FBO.  They let me borrow their car, and I was to the U of Tulsa and back in 45 minutes.  RTB I flew an overhead.  That was great fun.  By the way, I flew N6493S.  Painful.  N17979 was down because it was missing a bolt that allowed a slight leak from the left engine.  Now, why a part 135 aircraft would stay down for a missing bolt--I don't know.  Put in a new bolt.  They let me use 93S.  It worked.  The aircraft stall warning and the gear warning weren't working.  Oh well.  I did get an overhead out of it--woo, woo.



3, 4, and 7 Jan 2009


These were very straight forward flights.  I was hoping to get more weather time, but no such luck.  I did get to fly one approach at BPT--a GPS to 16.  The FRAG was AAO to TUL to ADS to BPT to TUL and RTB to AAO.  The only MX problem was the left engine was leaking a little oil, plus someone buggered the hold rod on the nose compartment.

The major purpose of the flights was to take my son to Tulsa so he could play in the GMAC Bowl.  He plays trumpet in the marching band and was shown on national TV--yep, that was my boy.

The secondary purpose was to visit and bother relatives.  Both missions were successful.  Actually, I enjoy all my in-laws and outlaws--they are all great people and fun to be around.  We had a great time.  It is even better since I was able to fly.

I did want to mention the great ABS (American Bonanza Society) board fiasco.  I volunteered to join the board.  I passed through two interviews to the final cut.  I knew I was out when in the final interview, the board member asked what I had organized in my community and I mentioned Cigar Night.  There is even a www.cigarnight.org for the organization.  When the board member said he was completely against any use of tobacco--I knew I was sunk.  Then, when he lectured me on lean of peak, and I told him I would never operate an engine in a state it was not designed or tested, I knew that was the end.  I thought it was funny.  Oh well, maybe sometime in the future.  By the way, don't ever run your engine in a state it was not designed or tested.  (When I say tested, I mean officially as in FAA certification.)    

Oh, I should mention one little event.  Landing at AAO, a Cessna was ahead of me in the pattern.  I turned base as they passed me about 1.5 miles from the end of 18.  Everything looked great until the Cessna landed and rolled out and slowed and rolled out and slowed and rolled out and slowed and rolled out... Until I had to go around.  They spent more time on the runway than they did on final.  Word for the wise...get off the runway right after you land!  I got to practice a go-around.



11 Dec 2008


Training flight: IFR Competency Check (IFC) and Biannual Flight Review (BFR).  Another fun flight with Mr. Marvin Hesket.  I hope he is the guy still giving me my checkride when we are both too old to fly.  Good training and a lot of competency.  Like a always say, I get great training and new information from Marvin every time we fly.  He had some really great info on the RNAV procedures and the limitations due to GPS box in the aircraft.

If you want to know all about these kinds of training flights take a look at 16 November last year for the details. 

This year, we stayed close to AAO.  We lost an engine (simulated) after takeoff.  This was the first time I have brought it back into the feather range without actually feathering the engine--it is a procedure in the book and works pretty well.  Very interesting on the forces.  I still think they are higher than with an actual feathered engine.  I got the engine back.  We went up and intercepted a radial.  Got to, it's in the book.  We did the stalls and falls.  Always a good thing to practice--don't do it for real.  We flew an ILS to 18 that ended up being about 3 ILSs to 18.  Some guy kept hogging the pattern and we wanted to stay out of the way.  We went up and flew the RNAV GPS E which is a type of circling approach with a hold.  We messed with the GPS box on that one.  There is a lot of capability in those boxes, and only half of it gets used.  Finally, we flew a single engine ILS approach to a landing.  That was about all.  It is always good to practice these things.  The best safety device in an aircraft is a well trained pilot.    



1 and 3 Dec 2008


I flew out to Dayton, Ohio to give my dissertation defense (Aerospace Engineering).  Soon, I hope to be Dr. Alf (instead of plain old regular Alf).  The flight out was remarkable for the weather.  It always astounds me how above about 5000 feet in the winter time, it is almost always clear and sunny.  At Dayton that seems to be true most of the time.  I flew an approach into DAY.  That was great.  The weather wasn't too bad about 600 feet ceilings and clear.  Not a whole lot of excitement.  I passed my dissertation defense with the members of my committee who were there.  I was missing one who is overseas.

The RTB at AAO wasn't so exciting either, even though the weather called for moderate ice, moderate turbulence, and winds in excess of 30 knots.  I had to fly over a front line as well.  The flight went great except that I once saw 120 knots ground speed when the aircraft was making 190 True.  The landing in a 30 knot wind was okay.  The wind was mostly down the runway and so not a problem.  



24 and 26 Oct 2008


Down to Florida and the weather sucks.  Out of Wichita (AAO), the weather isn't too bad, but ice in the clouds and some clouds.  About halfway to DTS, we ran into the clouds and had IMC ground and air all the way to DTS.  DTS was calling the weather 1000 feet ceilings 4 miles visibility with rain.  It was worse, but Eglin approach tried to give me a visual approach.  The weather didn't support it and a Cessna jet had to go around--ha ha.  They should send a bill to Eglin.  We went in and had to fly the approach until about 3 miles.  Landing was a squeaker.

On the way back, I shorted myself about 50 gallons of fuel.  I took the wrong number from my flight log.  I had to take a reduced fuel load for the weight on the plane and so it is very hard to tell how much gas is on board.  The wing gauges didn't look right and the weight didn't seem right so I was watching it very closely.  About Russellville, AK about 2.0 hours out of AAO, I decided to land for gas.  I could have gone about 1.5 hours longer, but I wanted to get a fill up.  I put on 100 gallons at RUE and took off.  It was a good thing I put gas on board.  The winds clocked in at 53 knots on the nose.  That was about 20 knots more than forecast.  We landed with plenty and that landing was a squeaker too.



21, 22, and 23 Oct 2008


Here I am the brave aerodynamicist going to a space flight symposium--Okay I was asked and one of my companies sent me on my way.  I flew to Las Cruces, New Mexico for the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight.  It was a great symposium.

The weather out of Wichita was poor--wet, rainy, and low ceilings.  I think the ceiling was about 300 feet when I took off.  Everything went well except, when I came out to the plane it was raining, the rudder trim was all the way to the right, and there was an unaccounted .5 hours on the plane.  Hum.  I set everything to rights while I got wet.  At the end of the runway, the left engine lagged the right a bit and the left mechanical fuel flow was jumpy.  The plane made takeoff power and climbed out in the weather okay.  At cruise the left engine EGT was high and the mixture wanted about 1 to 2 gallons per hour more fuel to run smoothly.  Everything seemed to work well.  

When I took off out of Las Cruces, the left engine wouldn't lean well on the runway, but it made takeoff power and climbed out great making about the same thrust as the other engine.  Everything was going well until after dark.  About 20 miles from Clovis, New Mexico, the left engine began surging.  I gave it full mixture and high boost and it smoothed out, but then went right back to surging.  The plane yawed about 20 degrees with each surge.  I called ATC and asked for the nearest runway--Clovis was it.  I started down and shut down the left engine.  It feathered and I set up a long straight-in with the help of vectors from the controller.  I still couldn't get down in time and made a 360 on final.  When all was good, I threw out the gear and landed with 15 percent flaps.  I kept the plane moving and was able to taxi to the ramp. 

The airport manager talked to me, the Blue Sky Aviation guy talked to me.  Everyone was helping me.  Blue Sky, Carlos Aries found me a hotel and loaned me a crew car.  He made arrangements for his mechanic to come out in the morning.  These were all very helpful and nice people.

In the morning, the mechanic came out and we ran the left engine.  The engine wouldn't run without the boost pump and he thought it was the fuel control.  Carlos saw a lot of fuel coming out of the bottom of the engine.  When they opened it up, the mechanic Tommy found a fuel line that had almost completely backed off.  The fuel was being forced into the engine compartment.  He tightened it back up and they put the cowl back on.  We ran the engine up twice.  First at low and then at full power--everything was fixed.  All that for a loose fuel line.

I RTBed to AAO and flew an ILS approach to a great landing.  Well I got a normal landing, a single engine night landing, and a instrument approach to a normal landing--good meeting the requirements tough having to.  



5 and 7 Sept 2008


Weather, weather everywhere, but it's winter and nice out of the ice.  The clouds were low lying, but above them, the air was clear and beautiful.  I had no problems getting airborne.  The plane was ready and except for a slow start on the right--everything went well.  All the equipment worked great and we landed on time and at MUT for the baptism of my little granddaughter.  While in MUT, I finished my book The Goddess of Darkness and I had great Matt food.  Matt is the best smoker--that is smoking meat, I know.  Ever had a smoked potato--wow.

RTB to AAO was fantastic.  I thought I would get a full IMC approach, but the weather cleared below 3600 feet.  The landing was a bonk--a little nose gear first, ouch.  Still safe.



30 Aug 2008


These are the kinds of flights that we dream of.  Down to Beaumont (BPT) for Labor Day.  The only problem was Gustav, the hurricane.  When we took off from AAO, there was a chord showing on the right main--uh oh.  Had to change the tire.  That delayed us and we were already on a delay for PAX.  The PAX was a dentist and had a late patient the night before.  So off into the wild blue late.  The skies were filled with isolated TRW, but the radar and stormscope found them all.  The flight down was uneventful.  At BPT, I flew an ILS to a nice landing, not perfect, but a crowd pleaser.

Now, Gustav: the reason for the trip was to visit The Colonel, and we found out, he was being evacuated from the nursing home because of the hurricane.  We went to the lake house and spent the night.  In the morning we visited with The Colonel and had takeoff before everything shut down and everyone in the city was evacuated.

The flight back was great, and the landing fun--a tight pattern to a nice touchdown.   



22 July 2008


I took the young grasshopper up to Iowa to visit the new grandbaby and drive with his sister back to Wichita.  We were a little late, but the aircraft was ready and waiting.  Lots of work on the ramp at AAO, so we were taxiing around cones to get to runway 18.  Everything went like clockwork, my boy is a great copilot.  We had a little TRW on the way, but the radar and stormscope found them and we deviated.  When we arrived at MUT, I had to fly a VOR to runway 6.  I did it straight-in and landed.  The landing was a slight bump, but safe and good. 

I had lunch and smoked sausage then headed for the wild blue.  The plane was light and I was ready.  It was hot and I did the runup with the door opened.  I knew I should have held down the charts better.  At 2200 RPM, I lost an approach book, two charts, and the flight plan right out the door.  It was good they were only backups--oh well.  Takeoff was awesome.  I let her speed up to 120 knots and held her in a 60 degree bank around the turn to cross the field direct to OTM.  She climbed the whole way around, okay it wasn't right at 60 degrees, but it was close.  I loved it. 

Right over MCI (Kansas City), I had to deviate for a small TRW, but the rest of the trip was in the clear.  I did do some cloud snagging on the way (I was IFR).  Coming into AAO was a breeze.  I made a visual and the landing was faultless (no witnesses).  A young friend was there.  She just earned her license and was taking up a friend.  What a great way to spend a day!  



10 July 2008


Young Life trip to accomplish an interview.  The weather was okay but with rain showers and possible TRW.  Radar worked great and didn't see any TRW, but did get a plane was every now and then.  We flew to Branson.  The airport was Point Lookout (PLK).  It was only 3700 feet long and I usually don't fly into fields that short.  My minimum is normally 4000 feet because the accel-stop distance for a Baron is almost always less than 4000 feet.  I worked the data carefully and found the accel-stop at 3420 for the conditions.  The landing was great, lunch was great, the interview went well, and the takeoff went great.  I had two first time copilots in the right seat and they did well.  I had to fly an approach at AAO and that worked well too.  Great flight, great day.  



3 and 6 July 2008


Lake house trip.  My doctor brother-in-law has a great lake house in Texas.  I flew to Dallas (ADS) to pick up a couple of my sisters-in-law and a brother-in-law and we went out to (BPT) Port Arthur Texas for a mini reunion.  The excitement was just the normal IFR flying into and out of the Dallas area.  No real problems.  And the heat.  It was hot.  I told you the right engine was CND (could not duplicate) for the hot start issue, so I planned for it--let the engines cool more than usual.  The hot start out of ADS was great.  I also had my brother-in-law as the copilot.  He received the fire hose for high intensity flying and did a great job.  The first landing at ADS was great, but the rest were just acceptable.  An interesting problem is the loading of the aircraft.  The plane with heavy fuselage load and lower fuel gives makes it necessary to keep the nose down on takeoff and makes for interesting landing effects.  Just some data points to keep in mind.  The controllers were great and no real problems until I had to RTB from ADS to AAO.  The right engine didn't want to start.  Since there was no problem, I did a second hot start, but I let the boost pump run 1 minute instead of 30 seconds and I didn't prime the engine.  She started right up.  I think the problem is a little fuel creep while in cut off.  This puts too much gas in the engine and so makes the hot start tough.  



18, 19, and 21 June 2008


Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle (UAV) trip for Defense Research Associates (DRA).  I dropped Oma off in Muscatine to visit with the grandbaby.  I got to kiss the baby, plus I got a great chicken dinner from my son-in-law's smoker.  Can't ask for much more than that.

The flight started out in confusion.  The aircraft base didn't get the word, though I called on Sunday, and sent an email on Monday.  They had N17979 in maintenance for an oil change and to fix the GPS.  We were delayed an hour and Oma was supposed to babysit.  Well that plan wasn't going to happen.  When then brought N17979 out, the right engine wouldn't start.  I tried 4 hot starts and gave it back.  Their guy couldn't get it to start.  Problem was they just started it after the oil change for the leak check.  I see a CND (could not duplicate) coming on--hope not.

Midwest gave us N6493S to fly--God bless them!  It's not as good and not as pretty, but it flys pretty good.  The autopilot is still jumpy when altitude hold is turned on and the heater is still busted.  We flew low where it is about 50 F.  Thank goodness it is summer.  

The flights were great and the landings right on.  No issues and no problems to report.



9 and 13 June 2008


Off to AUVSI in San Diego.  This is the premier convention for uninhabited systems in the world and since I design UAVs (Uninhabited Ariel Vehicles), consult about UAVs, and now fly UAVs with Flint Hills Solutions (FHS), it was only proper that I should park at AUVSI for its three days of symposium stuff.

I tested the southern route through Tucson (TUS).  I volunteered to take FHS employees with me to AUVSI, and at over 5000 foot altitude, Albuquerque (ABQ) is a tough place to take off from when the temperature is high.  TUS is just below 3000 foot altitude.  The distance is right too.  TUS is about 4 hours from Wichita and 2 hours from San Diego.  On the way back, I planed to go through Roswell (ROW).  ROW is at TUS altitude but the opposite in distance (4 hours from San Diego, 2 hours from Wichita).  

The flight out was excellent with no problems.  TUS was a great stop and gas was reasonable.  I landed behind a 737 and in front of Tiger 1 (a Gulfstream V).  I think it was Tiger Wood's plane.  I don't know who else would use that call sign.  Tiger was out at San Diego with me for the US Open.  We didn't have a chance to have dinner together--I was too busy.  I landed at MYF (Montgomery Field) in San Diego and parked at National Air College.  They had the cheapest gas and tie down.  Crown provided the rental car and drove right out to the plane.  I was very happy with the support from everyone on MYF.  It was a great place to land and get to San Diego.  The great support became a necessity when the time came to leave.  By the way, a lady at the FBO remarked the right main looked low.  It didn't look low to me--oh well.

I knew I had a problem when I drove up to N17979 and the right main was flat as a pancake.  The FBO manager (a guy in his 90s) took me to Francisco.  Francisco is a young A&P, looks less than 30, who is a phenomenal aircraft mechanic.  I tried the whole time to recruit him for Wichita.  This is the kind of mechanic we need everywhere--bright, enthusiastic, quality driven, and very smart.  He looked at the tire and said, you probably didn't get a puncture.  Two things cause aircraft tires to go flat like this: either the installer pinched the tube at the center or at the valve stem.  He pumped up the tire and towed the plane in a hair raising sequence between hangers with 3 foot spacing to my wingtips, a fuel truck, and another aircraft.  When he opened up the tire, the tube was pinched at the center--bad installation.  I called my maintainers in Wichita and told them the problem and that I would be sending a bill.  They were good about it.  I was lucky I didn't have a flat on landing--that would have been a treat.  Now began an exciting time of trying to find a tube for a BE-58.  The 3 tubes on MYF were old and deteriorated.  They found one at El Cajon and dispatched a truck for it.  An hour later, the tire was on the plane and I was taking off only 3 hours late. 

I filed direct and through the computer.  I wondered what ATC would give me for a clearance.  The computer took the flight plan and they did give me a routing through California, but once outside LA airspace, I was straight for Wichita.  I flew at 15,000 feet and sucked on the hose the whole way.  The plane was near book and I ran it at full power for the entire time.  It didn't want to lean very well at 2300 RPM.  The only small diversion I had was ATC took me around a 16,100 foot peak in New Mexico.  Otherwise, I just pointed the nose for AAO.

The flight was calm and easy (only 5.5 hours), but the arrival was anything but.  Wichita arrival kept me at 5000 feet until AAO.  They had a bunch of incoming traffic and I was routed right over ICT.  The controller was likely new.  He should have vectored me north and let me descend.  Barons just can't descent that quickly.  He kept me at 5000 feet and said he would let me descend east of AAO.  When I was about 3 miles from AAO, I asked if there was any other traffic.  He said, nothing squawking (on the radar), and I didn't hear (on the radio) or see anything in the AAO area.

I crossed the field at 5000 feet making radio calls and telling everyone what I was doing.  Since I was cleared a visual approach from ATC, I could do anything I wanted, but the pattern at AAO is right turns for 18 and I was planning on landing 18.  Since I was so high and no one was in the pattern, I decided to do an overhead pattern.  I made a high descent to 2500 (about 1000 feet above the ground) with left turns (how else could I get down) and entered the overhead pattern on the numbers.  Here is where everything gets interesting.  On the perch (base turn) I saw a Stinson (aircraft) on final to AAO.  This guy was making no radio calls and wasn't squawking.  Just flying anywhere on a Firday night without telling anyone.  Wow, I was thinking.  What a fool.  He was in my way for landing, but did get out of the way before I touched down, so I didn't have to go around.  I thought I should warn him of the danger of not making radio calls at a busy airfield like AAO and not squawking at least the VFR code (1200).  I made a beautiful overhead and landing, by the way.

After I landed.  The guy in the Stinson landed and came over to my aircraft.  He berated me for cutting him off in the pattern.  He said he could hear my radio calls, and told me I shouldn't make a left traffic pattern at AAO.  He didn't understand about IFR visuals, about overheads, about how I obviously was deconflicted, and said "he didn't make radio calls because he didn't have to."  I told him he was clueless--which he was.  If you ever wonder why some people don't grow up to be old pilots.  Here is why.  If you have a radio, use it.  If you have a transponder, squawk it.  If you are VFR realize IFR traffic can be cleared to do anything by ATC.  Only a fool would fly anywhere and not make radio calls and squawk VFR code.  Maybe the problem was he didn't speak American, he had a British accent--that kind of flying is why Britain, Canada, Australia, etc. have almost no General Aviation--oh well.  The coupe de grace was when he taxied back to the runway, he drug his tail-wheel chock which he forgot to clear.  I thought about waving and laughing, but I didn't want to make this amateur more uncomfortable about being stupid.  I did want him to start making radio calls.      



31 May 2008


Back from beautiful Florida.  For a bad weather day, we saw almost zero weather.  With six on board (every seat filled), I had a critical fuel situation where I couldn't fill the tanks to the top.  This was made worse by the high temperature 30+ degrees C (90+ F).  Too much weight, temp, and pressure altitude means if you lose an engine, you can't takeoff and climb or on approach go-around.  With six PAX and their baggage, I could only put 50 gallons on for a full fuel load of 110.  I told the FBO at Destin to put 25 gallons on each side.  When I arrived at N17979, one fuel cap was opened--uh oh.  They had topped one side (50 gallons) and not put anything in the other side.  You can't takeoff like that.  You can't transfer fuel in a Baron (not that you would want to), and you aren't supposed to crossfeed except in an emergency (one engine out is the main reason).  When I pointed out the problem Destin MX went right to work and fixed it.  It took 2 hours, but they moved fuel from one side to the other using the fuel cocks on the heavy tank.  The wing gauges on N17979 are really accurate so we got the fuel to the exact amount necessary.  I was really happy with the service I Destin gave me, even though they were busy.

The 110 gallon fuel load meant I only had about 4 hours worth of fuel and to get to Wichita from Destin, I need about 5 hours plus 45 minutes minimum reserve.  I chose to use Pine Bluff (PBF) Ar-Kansas as a fuel stop.  This made for a 2 hour flight to PBF and a 2 hour flight to AAO.  Good for passengers.  Pine Bluff was a great place to land.  Cheap gas and they even cleaned the windshield with a smile.  I recommend them as a stop in the Little Rock area.  Getting in and out was easy too.  They have a restaurant there, but they are only open during the week for lunch.

The weather part was supposed to be between PBF and AAO, but we didn't see hardly anything even on the radar.  The stormscope saw some junk, but it was more than 50 miles away. 

By the way, I aft loaded the aircraft on purpose and she was a little touchy, but I put on two squeaker landings and the true airspeed and fuel usage was pretty good. 



26 May 2008


On the way to Florida--this is becoming a regularly scheduled flight.  Down for property and relaxation.  We carried my nephew and his wife.  The flight was mostly clear.  A ragged line of thunderstorms and rain showers blocked our way, but with a little deviation, we made it through and on to the Florida coast. 

Destin was hopping.  I don't think I have been there when the airport was that busy.  We cut into the pattern and made a safe visual approach and landing.  The ground handling was something else.  We sat with a twin in front of us, engines running, a single beside us, engines running, and about 20 people all over the ramp.  They brought out the rental car, but I was ready to feather the engines if anyone came close.

Florida is beautiful and the work is easy.  



16 May 2008


The weatherguessers got it wrong again.  I'm glad I don't do stock in weather prediction--it wouldn't pay.  The thunderstorms that were supposed to be long passed out of the Florida panhandle were still there and in their prime Friday morning when we wanted to RTB.  McDonalds food and waiting is the only way to handle thunderstorms in an aircraft.  We waited until the radar showed a big green sucker hole over everything, fired up the aircraft, fired up the radar and stormscope, and cut outta there.  The flight out to Mobile where the weather improved significantly was uneventful and washed the airplane down good.  It is always a great thing to wash down your airplane when it has sat around in salt air.  A little rain is great for that.

The return trip was a little bumpy, but fine.  I got a chance to fly some cloud canyons and I flew an overhead into Jabara.  The landing was a squeaker.  Joe is checked out as a great copilot.  Maybe we can make some more flights, but we have to remember to always save our watches.  



12 May 2008


Back in N17979 and on the way to Florida.  Joe and I made our way to the emerald green waters and sugar white sand of Destin to go to the Daedalians Convention.  This is where all the old pilots go.  I'm glad I'm not old, only seasoned.  Still, I'm the youngest guy in the room.  Joe is a WWII era flight test and engineering pilot who had his fingers in the development of many of our favorite aircraft and flew them.  Joe is a great pilot and a good conversationalist.  We have a lot to share on flying.  The flight to Florida was easy and VMC except for one small thing--the panel GPS was out.  I had to fly based on VOR/DME and my moving map GPS.  This was work and slightly painful, but we made it to Destin Airport safely and correctly.  Flying the old way is difficult when you get used to all the modern conveniences.  Joe didn't see any difference, they didn't have GPS when he stopped flying.  How can you complain about something like that to a guy who always had to do without.  I can always remember that I helped develop GPS stuff so I deserve to use it.  The flight was great, the landing was okay.  N179179 floats because of the vortex generators--that's the way it goes.  The touchdown was okay and although a little bouncy due to the winds and sky centered and safe.   



27, 28, and 30 April 2008


The rest of the story.  No one knows, yet, what caused the FAA to go on a tear, but they did and few realize all commercial aviation was at the other end of the whip.  My aircraft was not exempt.  It was in an annual and was hit by the "paper storm of proof."  All of N17979's ducks were in a row, but the pain of going back to 1993 and showing that every item on board was clear and legal was a nightmare.  The company I keep my aircraft with did their aircraft first, so good old N17979 was not available for my trip.  I took N6493S.  Its an okay Baron, but not as pretty, not as well equipped, and as we shall discover not as well accoutered.

I flew to Muscatine to see my new granddaughter, my daughter, my son-in-law (great guy), my wife (who had to fly up commercial because of the plane snafu), my oldest daughter (there to help), my other son-in-law (another great guy).  The weather was VFR, but sucky up top with lots of clouds and potential icing.  N6493S does not have boots, so ice is a real sticky problem.  On the way to Muscatine, the weather was accommodating and the flight went well.  The heater seemed to not put out a lot of heat, but it kept me comfortable.  Into Muscatine, the winds were a direct cross at 11 knots.  N6493S has one of the funky airspeed indicators with knots and mph on it.  It is terrible to read.  I flew to a nice touchdown on three points.

The baby is beautiful.  Daughter and everybody was having a great time.  I had to leave--oh well.

Out of Muscatine the weather was similar to the previous day.  On climbout, the heater wouldn't work.  I'm flying in -15C and -15C air cooled by about 185 knots on the nose is coming into the aircraft.  I wrapped my coat around my legs.  I pulled my feet out of my boots and sat on them.  My moving map that usually is nearly in thermal runaway was happy--I was freezing.  I thought about diverting more than once.  It was not a pleasant flight.  In addition the weather was poop.  I didn't really get into any icing of note, but I flew through a cloud and got freezing rain on the aircraft.  I was only a moment in that cloud and picked up just a little ice, but that's how cold and yucky it was.  Luckily everything in the aircraft worked right...except the heater.  The winds in Dayton were a cross at 7 knots.  I made a nice touchdown.

They couldn't fix the heater.  I bought a gross of hunting hand and toe heaters from Meijers in Dayton.  I was ready to face the cold.

Returning to Wichita, the weather was fine and the temperature was great--even at altitude.  I popped open a couple of heaters and didn't really need them.  The worst was the weather was beautiful and I got back prior to sundown--I was hoping to get a night landing.  Great flight and the aircraft did what it was supposed to do.  I did realize what I should have known--why N6493S is so easy to land well--no vortex generators.  N17979 is a real challenge to put down perfectly.  It has more control authority and better handling, but it takes 10 knots more speed dissipation to get it on the ground.        



30 and 31 March 2008


IMC everywhere!  I took off with the weather at 10 SM (statue miles) BR (mist) and a ceiling at 300 feet.  Then we broke out at 5000 feet and cruised in the sunshine almost all the way to Iowa.  At Muscatine, I made a GPS approach to runway 06.  It was a non event except the winds were mostly cross.  The landing was fine, but a bit uneven--one tire then the other, then the nose wheel.  The winds were enough to get some action between the mains, so the plane bounced a little before it settled down.

On the return flight--IFR everywhere!  Plus thunderstorms.  Takeoff at MUT (Muscatine) was in 2 1/2 SM with -R (light rain) and a ceiling of 400 feet.  I decided to takeoff on 24 even though the winds favored 06 because a line of thunderstorms just passed the field from west to east and a takeoff on 24 would ensure a straight line away from the thunder.  I had plenty of room since the runway was 5500 feet long and the tail wind worked out less than 5 knots.  Just before we took off a King Air tried to get in using the GPS to 06 and couldn't.  They came back for the ILS to 24 and landed with a tail wind.  Our takeoff was great and no problem.  We were in the soup and broke out at about 7000 feet.  The trip back was no real problem although we dodged rainstorms the whole way.  The thunder wasn't really anywhere around us.

Landing at AAO was a trip.  I flew a Localizer to 18 for a circle to 36 because the winds were about 20 knots direct cross with a 7 knot component down 36.  I didn't give myself enough room on the circle and rolled out about 1/4 mile to the right of centerline--oops.  Good thing I had plenty of final left over.  I had flaps full intentionally and the Baron easily captured center before we crossed the threshold.  I had enough time to put in good crosswind controls and make a good touchdown.  The plane wanted to burble around on the gear this time too, but with a 20 knot cross and a quarter mile correction,  I was happy to put it down right on centerline.  Good IFR, good flying, safe landings--can't ask for more than that.     



22 March 2008


The trip back from DTS (Destin, Florida) to AAO (Wichita, Kansas) was much less eventful than the trip down.  There were no weather hazards at all: no icing, no projected turbulence, no clouds to speak of, no precipitation.  The flight was easy and since it was Saturday of Easter weekend, the military wasn't using their MOAs (Military Operating Areas).  This way, ATC gave us straight to Wichita without any deviations.   

One remarkable event did happen during and right after takeoff.  First DTS was busy.  We had jets and Cessnas all fighting for the same airspace.  We were flying IFR.  Once we took off, Eglin departure sent us straight out into the gulf.  We climbed up to 2000 feet and they sent us to 7000.  When they finally turned us to the north, we were headed directly over our house in Destin.  It was awesome.  We received a free beach tour on the way down and a free beach tour on the way out.          

When we arrived at AAO, the airspace was so clear, I decided to fly an overhead.  Now with PAX on board, one being my wife, I didn't do a full out overhead.  We hit the numbers and I put in 30 degrees of bank and let the Baron slowdown.  On the very short downwind, gear, flaps and the rest of the checklist.  The base was not too far out and allowed a comfortable almost constant turn to final.  The landing was almost perfect.  I kissed the concrete and let the nose down a little early.  There was almost no touchdown feel.  Another successful flight!       



17 March 2008


Spring is the beginning of the convective season and this was a real beginning.  Wichita was blanketed in moderate rain with imbedded thunderstorms.  I was out at the aircraft at 0800 for a 0900 takeoff and rain was pelting the field.  The maintenance troops hadn't checked the anti-icing tank so they pulled the aircraft into the hanger and there I loaded the aircraft and accomplished the walk-around.  Next time I'll just ask for the privilege.  My PAX arrived soon afterwards as the rain was slacking off, and I loaded them up.  The storm front had moved very quickly around and east of us.  The sky at AAO was cloudy but clearing for the moment.  Unfortunately, our destination was Destin, Florida so we had to fly east through all the junk.  Luckily I have a radar and a stormscope on board. 

The weather report had a little for everybody: icing, turbulence, convection, gusty winds, low visibility, low clouds--everything.  We took off with the radar and stormscope blazing and immediately started a pattern of deviations to get around and through the worst of the line of storms.  In general, all we saw on the radar was moderate and light rain.  The stormscope didn't find any real thunder and we never saw any flashing nougats on the radar.  The problem is that even a little convection in the clouds can be disturbing to passengers who aren't used to it.  Our PAX didn't have any problems and we found our way safely through everything.  ATC was very helpful.  We never saw any icing and the turbulence was light with only a tiny bit of moderate.  The rest of the flight was a piece of cake until landing.     

One of my friends and his wife were flying with us, and he manned the copilot duties.  He did a great job.  When we arrived at Destin (DTS), the weather was VFR with a deck at 4000 feet and very gusty winds.  Eglin ATC first rejoined us with a C-130.  It wasn't intentional or unsafe.  We just were in about 1000 to 2000 foot tactical with 1000 altitude separation for a few minutes.  Good picture fodder.  Then the controller took us south and below the clouds.  We popped out over the water, and the controller sent us on a beach tour without me making a request.  Again picture fodder.  Everything below the clouds was clear and beautiful.  We received a visual approach clearance into DTS and cancelled IFR.  I crossed midfield for a left downwind to runway 14 and descended to about 1000 feet.  That's when things became exciting.  The wind was 130 at 15 gusting to 29 and the Baron was bouncing around like a Cessna.  That was the most bounce I have every seen from a Baron on final and maybe the most bounce since I last flew a 172.  You would have to be there to believe it.  We made a nice landing and everything was cool.  Passengers thought the landing was perfect.  I plopped her on the ground when I could on the center and was happy for that.  Big gusties are not the best time to be trying to put one down.  I was happy the wind was nearly straight down the runway.  I've taken off a Baron in 40 to 50 knots winds and landed many times at the crosswind limit.  A big gust factor is seriously a potential problem much worse than those situations because you can't do much to smooth it out except extra airspeed.       



14 and 16 March 2008


Back in the air again for a short hop from AAO (Wichita Jabara) out to HYS (Fort Hays, Kansas).  This was a fantastic flight out.  The skies were clear with cool temps.  My brother-in-law was my copilot and we were off to play golf in Hays as part of the pre-wedding festivities for my nephew, the pirate.  The plane needed nitrogen in the nose strut, but other than that, everything looked great.  The log showed all lot of use for January and March and that is great too.  I had a positive on the ledger for February--yeah! 

The takeoff was awesome even with full tanks.  The plane wanted to leap off the ground and into the wild blue.  The trip was only 45 minutes almost too short to show my brother-in-law around the cockpit.  By the time we were at cruise, it was almost time to descend.  Hays has lots of runway choices and some good approaches.  I came in high and set everything hanging in the breeze and zipped down to the asphalt.  We touched down nicely, but not a perfect kiss.  The crosswinds were about 10 knots.  Still nice down the center and right on speed. 

Then we played golf, met a lot of nice folks, and attended a wedding.  Can't get much better than that.  Kicking back with my brothers-in-law and their families is always great.

For the trip back, I traded my brother-in-law for my wife.  She's better looking and a more fun copilot.  The weather out of Hays was low VFR with icing, turbulence, and winter junk between HYS and AAO.  My alcohol tank was empty on the way out, so I had the FBO at HYS fill it.  They were great.  The line guy found their alcohol (unlike the last trip into Minnesota) and filled the tank.  I just had to show him where the tank was--no trips out to Wally World for isopropanol.  The plane started and ran like clockwork.  We were making 191 knots true in cruise at 7000 feet--a knot better than book.  The trip out the plane made better than book.  For a Baron with vortex generators, that ain't bad.

We climbed through the weather and passed a tops report back to a pilot at HYS.  The bottoms were at 5000 feet and we topped them into a layer at 6200, no ice.  We were out of the clouds, in layers all the way to Wichita.  Landing was nice and uneventful.  Just a great flight without a lot of problems.       



16 January 2008


I flew a compassion mission up to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  The passengers were a sweet little girl and her parents.  The mission was through LifeLine and was it a doozy.  A cold front was coming in through Kansas, Iowa, and Minnesota.  The ceilings and visibility were coming down and there was some chance of inflight icing. 

I met the passengers at Jabara (AAO) and everything went well for load up, taxi, and takeoff.  Then the fun began.  The weather at AAO was great for takeoff,  but we entered the clouds at about 4000 feet and didn't get out at 9,000.  There was some trace rime in the clouds and I didn't want to hang around and see if it would accumulate.  ATC was fantastic and gave us direct to RST (Rochester) and 11,000 feet.  We broke out right at 11,000 and stayed out of the clouds for a while.  In Iowa we went into the soup again.  At -8 C, the aircraft wasn't accumulating, but I was using anti-icing fluid on the prop.  I have a big alcohol tank, so there is about 4 hours worth of alcohol.  I wasn't worried about the flight in, I was concerned about having enough alcohol to get back to Jabara on the return trip. 

The weather at RST was 5 and haze with a 1000 foot ceiling.  They were calling for trace to severe ice.  When we started down, I popped the wings for insurance, we exited the clouds at 10,000 feet and were in the clear until about 4000 feet.  The approach went great with really good vectors from ATC--they didn't even spit me through the ILS course.  The landing was a little bump--oh well.  No one said Barons are easy to land perfectly. 

The passengers and I traded pictures in front of the plane and I saw them off.  The big surprise came when I tried to get the alcohol tank refilled.  Maintenance said no one ever asked for alcohol before.  Now I found that hard to believe.  They offered me TKS fluid.  I had to call Midwest about that one.  Midwest said TKS is too thick for the Baron alcohol system and don't use it.  They did say I could use any type of alcohol:  methanol, ethanol, or isopropanol.  Now I am a chemist, so I asked the FBO (Fixed Based Operator, like an aircraft service station) where the closest Wally World (Wal-Mart) was and could they take me to it.  They were too busy to take me, but they gave me a crew car (yahoo). 

At the Rochester Wally World, I bought 8 quarts of 91% Isopropanol (all they had), a Subway Classic Italian BMT, and a big coke.  I was amazed there wasn't a law against buying so much Isopropanol.  Now N17979 and I were ready to face the world.

At the FBO, maintenance filled the Baron's alcohol tank, topped off the fuel and oil, and I took off into 3 miles and haze with an 800 foot ceiling.

On the way back to AAO, I flew at 8,000 feet and max power.  The winds were over 30 knots in the face and I didn't want to delay in this kind of weather.  For a while 8,000 feet was clear, but again in Iowa, I ran into the clouds.  I had a little ice from the climbout, but it wasn't accumulating.  I was using alcohol on the props.  Since this flight was about an hour longer due to winds, I was concerned I might not have enough alcohol to make it to an alternate if the weather at Wichita really crumped.  I kept checking the weather with flight watch and it was staying about the same as the forecast.

As I got to the Wichita area, the winds were 340 at 25 gust to 27 with 1 mile light snow and a ceiling at 900 feet.  The weather was improving slightly.  During the descent visibility increased to 1 and 1/4 then 1 and 3/4 at AAO.  I decided to fly a Localizer to runway 18 at Jabara followed by a circle to 36 for the winds.  Two aircraft preceded me into Jabara.  They flew the GPS to 36 and landed.  I had to slow to delay for them, but I received an approach clearance for the Localizer to 18.  The approach was uneventful and I made a sweet circle to 36.  The runway was covered with snow, so I flew an easy touchdown and rollout.  She still stopped before midfield without any brakes.

All in all a great mission and flight.  By the way, I made it back in time to see BlAst at the Century II, and the two aircraft that arrived just before I did into Jabara didn't have any anti or deice capability.  Here I was worried about having enough alcohol and these jokers were flying around in the weather in icing without a care in the world. Remember there are old pilots and bold pilots, and then there are stupid idiots who shouldn't even be allow within visual distance of an aircraft.          



9 and 12 January 2008


We flew out to the Florida Panhandle to check on Sea Spray.  It happens to be our anniversary and we took some friends with us.  Our friends hadn't flown on a GA twin before.  Before start, I had to have maintenance check the air in the main tires and the pressure in the front strut.  The weather out of AAO was fine and everything went as planned until descent.  Destin had been 2 miles visibility with 200 to 400 broken and 800 to 1000 foot overcast skies all day.  They had just come up to 8 miles vis 400 broken with 1000 overcast.  Eglin was in a quandary--the weather was good enough to get flights out to the ranges and the high altitude ranges were open.  You have to realize that Eglin is an Air Force Air Traffic Control training base.  The weather was really not good enough for Visual Flight Rules (VFR), but they needed to get their test and training flights off.  Here we come tooling into the area to land at Destin.  Pensacola asked if we wanted to go along the beach or to CEW.  I choose CEW because the GPS approach to 14 at DTS has an IAF at CEW.  The controller for Eglin told us to expect vectors to the GPS 14 at DTS, then he took us through a box pattern from hell.  He announced his intentions and I told him I needed to get down.  A Baron is slicker than snot and you can't expect it to be able to descent from 4000 feet to the IAF altitude of 200 feet without a little room.  The controller gave a traffic call on an E-3 with a descent clearance when we saw the 707 sized plane.  We were flying into a cloud, so the controller cancelled the descent from 4000 to 3000 when I told him we couldn't maintain visual with the E-3.  We received a new controller then--I suspect the training supervision.  He turned us around to the GPS and sent us on our way.  He gave us a descent to 2000 feet and I kept trying to get a clearance out of him.  After we crossed the intermediate fix, he cleared us for the approach and my copilot and passengers called out 2 F-15s about 1000 feet below us in the Eglin pattern.  The planes were not a problem for us, but they were in formation and obviously VFR when they shouldn't be.  At that moment the controlled did not cancel our clearance and told me to climb back to 2000 feet.  Then he gave me a continued clearance.  There was no way the approach could have been flown safely from that point and the energy was bad, too high too fast.  Luckily I could see DTS through the weather and I was on the final approach course.  I continued IFR, configured, and landed at DTS.  I didn't cancel until I was safe on the ground--like I said, it wasn't VMC, but Eglin was playing like it was.  I would have violated the controllers if it was hard IMC.  They didn't scare me, but they need more training.  Hear that, you guys need more training, and if you do it in IMC, I'll violate you next time.

I don't violate controllers unless the situation is actually rather than inherently unsafe.

The time at the beach was great and we got a lot of work done.  The return was almost uneventful.  We did fly through some clouds and snow coming through Arkansas, but otherwise the weather was beautiful.  I was happy with my landings and our passengers saw a very comfortable and nice flight.   

Until next time.   



19 and 21 December 2007


Off to Dayton, Ohio for a Christmas party and business with Defense Research Associates.  That is a story in itself about aircraft design and development issues, but not about my flight.

Kansas weather is outstanding.  When I took off the sky was a beautiful blue without a single cloud or obstruction to visibility.  My plane had been through extensive maintenance.  You might ask, more maintenance?  The FAA requires the prop system to be rebuilt every 2000 hours or 6 years.  We hit six years in January, so the props had to be redone.  The prop system is very complex on this type of aircraft because the prop pitch is controlled by the pilot.  This is called a constant speed propeller.  When you takeoff, you want the greatest power output from the engines and the props, you set the prop pitch to give the greatest power and that means the highest RPM possible.  In flight, you can trade prop power for efficiency so you decrease the RPM by changing the pitch of the prop so it takes a bigger bite of air with each revolution.  For you budding aero guys, this also changes the angle of attack of the blade.  The engines are set to put out the best power they can, the prop pitch actually controls the speed of the engine and drives the rest of the system.  Prop pitch is controlled using oil pressure in the prop hub.  The pilot moves the prop lever and the oil pressure rotates the prop to the correct position.  Additionally, the pilot is setting an RPM, the system is supposed to govern to this RPM.  In reality, RAM air rise causes the RPM to increase the visa versa, but it all works out in the end.  You can also move the prop to feather.  Feather is the position in the air where the prop has the least drag when it is stopped.  This is used when the engine fails in flight.  That's why you have two--engines. 

Because of the maintenance on the aircraft, I spent a little extra time on the ground making sure everything was right before I took off.  I also checked out the anti-ice equipment.  In winter weather, you want everything to be working just right.  When I tried to get an IFR release from Wichita departure, they had a delay due to two tankers.  One was right over AAO and the other about 3 miles north.  Plus another aircraft was flying into Beech field--only 4 miles south of AAO.  I told the controller, I would takeoff VFR and pick up my release in the air.  I already had a clearance.  These are the kind of delays traffic in the air can cause even when there is no weather.  In fact, these delays are more common when the weather is good everyone wants to fly. 

I took off VFR, the day was cold and the aircraft leapt into the sky.  It was awesome.  Even with a full load of fuel, the plane was making 2000 feet per minute up and made altitude before I had a chance to talk to the controller.  I had a visual on all the traffic and just headed on toward Emporia.  The controller was happy about not having to mess with sequencing me in.

When I leveled off at 11,000 feet, the aircraft accelerated up to cruise speed better than normal and I noticed it took less aileron trim to keep the wings level.  On the last flight, Marvin Hesket and I noticed the right flap was not retracting as far as the left flap.  This caused the aircraft to roll to the left and required a lot of aileron trim to balance.  Additionally, the aircraft wasn't making book even with two newish engines.  The maintenance guys at Midwest made some adjustments to the flap and it really improved the handling qualities and the aircraft speed.  I was only one knot off book.  That may have also been why it seemed to be so well powered during takeoff.  Little things make a world of difference in aircraft performance.

On the flight to Dayton on the way to KC, I heard a great conversation on the radio.  I couple of guys in the Cessna were getting VFR flight following from KC Center.  They weren't following the controller's recommendation.  I started listening closely when I heard the ATC controller say, "If you don't follow my recommendations, you need to get off flight following.  You have two F-16s about 1 mile left of you.  They are flying strafing runs at 540 knots against ground targets."  I don't know what happened after that, but I didn't hear about any collisions, violations, or shoot downs, so I guess they got out of the MOA safely.  That's the problem with not knowing what you are doing or where you are in an aircraft.

The skies were blue and cloudless until I talked to Dayton approach control.  The weather there was overcast and required an approach into Dayton International (DAY).  This is true about Dayton, Ohio.  In the winter (summer, fall, and spring too) when the rest of the country is skies clear (SKC) Dayton is under the clouds.  I don't know how I survived there before I could fly above it.  The cloud tops almost always are about 5000 feet.  Get above 5000 feet over Dayton and you can see the sun!  I flew an ILS to runway 18 at Dayton international.  The wind favored 24, but that is the main runway and 18 is over 10,000 feet long so no problem.  The controller told me to slow to 170 knots, I did.  He had a Bonanza ahead of me on approach.  Then he screwed up the vector and slung me right through the localizer.  What a pain.  These guys need to treat Barons like turboprops and not like small singles.  He made a half-hearted "legal" correction, but I would have never recovered with his vector.  I asked if I could slow below, 170, threw out the flaps at 152, took a 30 degree cut and hoped for his sake I intercepted prior to the glideslope.  I would have violated him if I didn't.  I should have called his super after the flight, but I forgot.  In the weather, single pilot, is no time to have a controller screw up vectors to an approach.  They do it all the time.  I intercepted right at the glideslope and slammed down the gear.  The approach was beautiful, but I was in control of that.  I landed quite nicely and went to see my friends at Stevens Aviation.

The return flight was about the same as the trip out.  Dayton was 900 overcast 6 miles with haze and a light drizzle.  I should have mentioned when I started the aircraft at AAO, I had a slow turnover with a hard start on the right engine.  I was afraid the starter broke.  I was sweating that a little, but I shouldn't have.  The right engine started up just like it should.  I concluded the starter was cold soaked at Wichita--maybe I should check on the heated hangar its supposed to be stabled in.  The airplane literally accelerated like a bat out of you know where.  I took off on 36 and the airspeed was at 90 before I realized and lifted off.  She climbed out at a fantastic rate   rate and I broke out at about 4000 feet into blue skies.  The flying was beautiful all the way to Kansas.  The minute I crossed over the boarder, the clouds disappeared.  I passed a Merry Christmas to every controller.     

Back at AAO, the arrival went pretty much as usual.  I did hear our friend Chelsea on the radios about to take a training flight.  The winds were up about 17 knots and I took it in high.  The visual approach was nice, but I kissed the nose gear.  It was a very light touch, but I could tell.  Then the most odd thing happened.  I can't explain it.  Usually with a nose gear kiss, you keep pulling back and the aircraft settles back on the mains and that's all she wrote.  The aircraft was at low speed and the mains touched gently, but bounced a little.  It felt like the mains were bouncing on the struts and not on the concrete.  The winds must have been at the point where they were keeping the lift high on the wings and the plane was kind of bouncing in the lift.  The proof of this is that when I aerobraked, the nose didn't touch down until the normal point.  Oh well, we pilots will do a lot to explain away a non-perfect landing.  She was safe, but not my best.      



16 November 2007


Training flight: IFR Competency Check (IFC) and Biannual Flight Review (BFR).  These are the painful check rides and training every aviator has to accomplished every two years.  For my insurance with Midwest Aviation to keep my aircraft on part 135 Charter Operations, I have to get an IFC and a BFR every year.  This is a pain, but it is better than the military were every pilot gets 3 to 4 checks a year.  A basic, a mission check, a line check, and an instrument check.  You also could get a no-notice check anytime.  Civil flying is much more stress free, but I'd do the military flying again, anytime--they just have to ask.

Midwest is really good about the check ride--ops flight training.  They let me take a check with their chief pilot Marvin Hesket.  Marvin is an ex-Army pilot, thinks about aviation like I do (he's as anally retentive about aviation as I am), and he is a great chief pilot.  I always learn something from him when we fly together.  He gives me an ATP check, makes sure I'm safe, and signs me off.  You might think this is easy.  It really isn't.

First, before you train, you have to study.  It doesn't mater how up to date you are with your aircraft knowledge, you must study the aircraft handbook, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) part 91 and part 61 rules, Airmanship and basic instrument flight rules.  Some of this stuff changes yearly.  Some you think changes yearly because you missed it the year before.

Second, you end up in a cockpit with your pubs (which must be up to date) all over the place, going to fly approaches you have never flown before, expecting simulated emergencies at every breath, and you never have enough time to review the approaches--oh well.  On a normal flight things don't usually come at you so quickly, but the point of a checkride is to put stress on you and see how you handle it.  You also end up doing all kinds of things you hope to never see during a normal flight: missed approaches, single engine approaches, mucho holding, unusual attitudes, steep turns, and stalls.  All this is important to review and boy can it get exciting.  Maybe busy is a better word.

We took off simulated IFR, lost the right engine (simulated), got it back, flew up toward Newton (EWK), intercepted the airway from ICT (Wichita) out to 30 DME then went to do airwork.  These are the stalls, unusual attitudes, and steep turns all under the hood (like on the instruments simulating IFR).  After burning some gas and getting the airplane warmed up, we headed to Newton for the full procedure turn ILS to runway 17.  I flew it on the autopilot--whoo whoo.  Of course to a missed approach and a climbout to set up for a fix-to-fix to the GPS to 17.  This was a non-procedure turn.  I flew this to a missed approach with the full procedure and hold. 

We returned to Jabara to fly the ILS 17 single engine to a full stop landing.  Fun flying and a real work out.  I used to make my student pilots do the same--oh well.  What goes around, comes around.  



7 November 2007


Departed 4 November 2007 on a trip with Holy Cross Lutheran Church for a Shepherd Institute Symposium.  I am establishing connections with groups in Wichita and with the Lutheran Church for my writing and Christian experience.  The Shepherd Institute promotes the theology of liturgical music in the Church.  The trip was to Fort Wayne, Indiana and the Concordia Theological Seminary. 

My tablet flight computer died and shipped back for repairs (under warranty, thank goodness).  I used my old iPAC moving map and it worked well.  I had to reremember how to make it work.  The flight to FWA was uneventful and N17979 flew great.  The heater was stinky on the trip out, but didn't smell on RTB (return to base).  The weather was clear.

On the way back, the weather was overcast and very windy at FWA.  Takeoff was near the crosswind limit, but the aircraft handled it well.  We picked up some light ice in the climb, but popped out of the clouds right at 8000 feet, the cruise altitude.  We skimmed the cloud tops for almost 200 nautical miles.  The sky above was absolutely clear and the sun caused the clouds below to shine like snow.  Every now and then we sliced through the cloud tops.  It was really beautiful.  N17979 almost made book and the engines were ticking over nicely.  I kept the power to 2500 RPM for the entire flight.

Landing at AAO was interesting.  A Cessna was flying the VOR A for training at AAO when we flew in.  We were at 14 NM when they started the approach at about 10 NM out.  At the same time, another Cessna was in the pattern.  We skimmed in south of AAO and beat the Cessna on the approach and the Cessna in the pattern.  That just shows the speed of the Baron and the vigilance you need in the Wichita flight area.



17 October 2007


Departed 13 October 2007 for a visit to our beach property in Destin, Florida.  The visit was for business, to check out the property after the main season, and to get together with my wife's family.  Plus my brother-in-laws are great company, and they like to do fix-it work around the place.  One year they painted my beach walkover, and the next week a hurricane took out the whole beach walkover--oh well.

N17979 was in fighting shape out of an annual.  Everything was supposed to be fixed.  The flap indicator gauge was a known out and the gear warning horn needed tweaking.  Both of these checked out needing work.  On taxi out, the flaps worked great except they wouldn't come up when moved from full down to approach.  The heater was stinky during the first leg, but settled down on RTB (return to base). 

My brother-in-law sat copilot and we had two beautiful stewardi.  The trip to the beach was uneventful.  Clear and smooth skies without a hint of nastiness.  The airplane showed a couple of little problems.  The heater bothered me enough to pull out a CO strip, but there was no combustion issues--just fuel stink.  We could hear a slight rattle from the front and I was worried that the heater or a duct had not been connected properly.  The middle heater vent didn't have any heat and the rear and copilot vents were putting out more heat than I have felt from a Baron.  The airspeed was lower than normal even for a full load--not sure what was causing that.  I'm happy to say, the DME worked great, and the $1200 turn and slip peanut gauge worked--for that amount I sure hope it did.  Aircraft parts are a killer and will be the ultimate downfall of private aviation--unless Congress starts levying user fees like they have in Europe, Australia, and Canada.

The flight back was a little more exciting.  The weather across the middle of the US and right through Wichita was non-front associated TRW (thunderstorms).  They were expected to build in the afternoon, but cropped up early.  The track was across the center of the country north north east at 45 knots.  That is quick enough to move them out of the way in a few hours, but with the altimeter setting at AAO near 2935, the plains were creating TRW as fast as they could move.  The weather guesser advised a later TO than the planned 1500Z (1000 local), so we got off at 1200.

The aircraft started up great, but the AP trim light was flashing and nothing would turn it off.  We had a lot of rain and I figured the trim motor or wiring was wet.  The trim and AP worked fine, but the AP trim just wasn't happy.  We got one of the Eglin trainees passing the clearances--that was funny.  I can't ever remember getting an obvious trainee giving clearances.  The instructor controller had to keep interjecting help, and the guy got the order of the clearance wrong.  It must have been training day at Eglin, the initial controller took us out and around on loose vectors and finally put us direct CEW (Crestview).  He didn't have enough traffic for that much vector, and he sounded a little green.  DTS (Destin) was clear and a million when we took off, but the lower level clouds quickly obscured the ground and started to reach up to our altitude.  I planed originally at 8,000, but the winds were a tail all the way up, so I moved it to 10,000.  That put us in the right place for most of the MOAs (Military Operating Areas). 

Airborne, 17979 was doing great.  The trim dried out and fixed itself.  Never showed a single problem.  The airspeed came up a bit better than before.  I expect about 10 knots slower than book CAS (Calibrated Airspeed) with a full load.  Usually the aircraft makes 5 knots slower than book with a medium load.  I was flying around all the little puffies for the sake of the PAX of course.  There really wasn't a lot of junk in the clouds.  A little plane washing and that's about it.  We found a bit of stuff near Little Rock, but passed to the north.  I didn't know it was really growing behind us and to the south.  I didn't worry much about it because the clouds where largely broken below us and the TRW such as they were isolated.  The radar and stormscope were working great.  I don't think I ever saw a large electrical clump on the stormscope all day--little groupings, but nothing really bad.  The radar however was painting all kinds of bad stuff as we approached the Tulsa area.  I called Flight Watch and received the commentarian of the month.  All I wanted was an update on the weather--he wanted to make flight decisions for me.  He said, "doom and gloom, land at Fort Smith, don't proceed further."  Scared my PAX half to death.  We were in the clear with the buildups in sight, a crack radar and stormscope on board and under IFR control.  Since the weather at AAO was IMC, but clear of storms, I decided to proceed and see what the line was like.  ATC said it was pretty solid, but only 15 miles thick.  They had jets topping areas at 20K and props going below it at 4K.  I don't think it is a good idea to ever try to go below TRW.  When we got closer, we could see some significant holes in the line.  I choose a large hole between a couple of big cells that showed flashing nougats.  The ride wasn't bad and we came out in a couple of minutes into clear skies on the other side.  Getting into AAO required some more maneuvering around the cells.  With 500 to 800 foot vacillating ceilings and winds at 140 degrees 14G23, the ILS to runway 18 seemed like the best idea. 

I flew the approach and broke out about 300 to 400 feet above DH at 1614 feet.  The approach was right on and we came out right in line with the runway.  The landing was sweet, and the winds were strong enough that the aircraft slowed using aerobreaking alone.  I didn't have to touch the brakes.  I even had to add power to taxi. 


16 September 2007

Departed 15 September 2007.  Trip to support the wedding of my cousin's son, but who really needs an excuse for a weekend cross country?

Back on board N17979.  No more fumbling for the call sign.  No more messing with a strange autopilot and a flight-directorless avionics system.  The engine was running beautifully.  Maintenance said they were still watching a forward seal leak and there was oil in the cowling from the alternator.  The alternator was seeping oil and had to be replaced.  Everything else wrong is secondary and on the list to be fixed: #1 radio swapped with a loner (still doesn't work that well), #1 glideslope out, DME out, and turn and bank indicator leaning a little to the right, no left, no right.  Turn and bank is redundant since 17979 has an RCA electric ADI (Attitude Indicator) backup to the vacuum ADI.

The engine was purring better than the left and after the flight I think the left has the same fuel pressure problems that we found on the right.  

Weather out of Jabara was alright, but a SIGMET covered this area and the Kansas City area that was the destination.  We were filed IFR to Kansas City Downtown (MKC).  This would be a great chance to test the radar.  Additionally, we had an AIRMET for moderate turbulence to 8000 feet and moderate icing above 13,000.  The weather was great other than that.  Pretty stinky when you have rough weather in route and you don't get to fly an approach at the destination.   

We ran all the checklists and were cleared with a release out of AAO.  We followed a Pilatus and a Kingair.   The plane surged with power.  Since the temp was about 10 degrees C, it should.  At 81 knots, I pulled back and she lifted off at 86.  Right as we hit 100 knots and I was pulling up the gear the crew door flew open.  The aircraft really went through a small conniption.  I noticed a real loss of lift right when the door opened.  The airspeed noticeably slowed.  I punched a little opposite rudder, but the door affected the airspeed and lift more than anything else.  I pulled the plane up to a 500 foot right downwind.  My copilot was hanging on to the door for dear life.  I didn't have the heart to tell her that the door would only open about 4 to 6 inches and that it could not be closed in flight.  It was cold in the plane, and through her efforts, I was happy to have a little less 10 degree wind inside.

On downwind, I saw a tanker in the McConnell pattern right above us.  We were squawking, but I didn't have time to call ATC.  I had enough trouble flying around the pattern and configuring the aircraft.  A door opening is not really a huge emergency, but I didn't want to mess around more than I needed to in the pattern.  I configured and flew a full flap landing.  On the ground, I cleaned up the airplane ground items, closed the door myself, and headed back to the end of runway 18. 

The key here is the age old Beechcraft lesson.  At some point your usual copilot will want to start closing the door.  This is a great convenience, but also a great sucker trick.  The other problem is that many copilots--women and children don't have the strength to check the door once it's closed.  We who have flown and learned to mistrust the Beechcraft crew door know you have to put your full weight on it to test it.  Good lesson--I got a free one and an extra pattern.  We only lost the flight log out of the door. 

I've had the door open before.  At ADS (Addison in Texas), the shoulder harness was caught in the door frame after I gave a fam flight to a relative.  The day was blistering and ADS tower gave me an immediate IFR takeoff.  The shoulder harness caught in the door and I didn't realize the door wasn't fully latched.  On that takeoff, I lost all my charts.  I had to go around for traffic in the pattern, with an open door, but everything was cool.  After I put everything to rights, I took off again and had no problems.  I did have to pull out my emergency charts.  On final someone called--"great job" on the radios.  That was nice, even if I caused my own problem.  That is why I always hook up and tighten down the copilot seatbelt and shoulder harness when I fly in the front alone.  

ATC didn't give me a hard time.  I just told them I had a delay in the pattern and asked for another release.  Now you need to realize, that the conditions were IMC, not hard IMC, but just below VMC IMC.  The kind that puckers the controllers but usually leaves out the VFR pilots.  On climbout, the controller asked what the delay was about because he had a heavy tanker in the pattern.  I just told him I had a door open on takeoff and had to land to close it--he was happy with that.

The trip to MKC was a little wet, bouncy, and IMC.  The radar worked great.  ATC was helpful and MKC is a perfect airport for visiting Kansas City.  We stopped at Executive Beechcraft.  They had everything ready for me and took good care of the aircraft.  Their charge for a hangar is a little higher than market.  They wanted $80 and going rate is about $50 to $65.  I would have hangared 17979 if serious or cold weather was expected, but with showers and warmish temps, a tiedown was enough.

I used Pilot Zen techniques to get around KC the whole weekend.  They work great, but It helps to be the Zen of Test.  Pilot Zen for the uninitiated is to point the direction of the car approximately where you want to go and head off until you find what you are looking for--it works for me.         

We returned to base (RTB) 16 September to AAO.  The weather for departure was the same, but better--no AIRMETs but an area SIGMET.  This time with rain showers and a little IMC around MKC and clear, hot, and windy in Wichita.  The radar was helpful and we didn't touch a cloud on the way back.  I checked out the glideslope and saw it was bad.  You can still fly an approach with #1 on the flight director and use #2 for the slope.  It's a little challenge, but it worked great.  Landing with the winds was a little challenge.  I clunked it down on speed and centerline.  Okay for an IMC landing, not the best for VMC.

The right engine is fantastic.  The mechanical fuel flow gauge needs a PMEL look for the right engine, but the left fuel flow is right on.  The left engine still has that little fuel problem--it wants to burn about 2 gallons per hour more than book.  The right engine purred alone at book and EGT showed it could have done better.  I think the power on the right is much better than the left, even counting for the engine change. 


1 September 2007

Departed 30 August 2007.  We went to the 50th anniversary of dear friends of our family Uncle Bill and Aunt Mavis.  They are unfortunately not directly related to us, but my brother and I called them Aunt and Uncle from infancy.

The flight was from home base Col James Jabara Airport (AAO) in Wichita, Kansas to Pensacola Regional (PNS) at Pensacola, Florida.  I flew N6493S again because the maintainers were still working the bugs out of the new engine on N17979.  N6493S is a great 58 Baron, but the cockpit isn't set up as well as N17979.  N17979 has a King Silver package on it with a KFC 200 autopilot and a Trimble Approach 2000 GPS.  The setup is very similar to the Learjets I flew in the Air Force and instrument flight is a breeze.  N6493S has a different set up and no flight director.  You have to work at your cross check, plus like all aircraft it's a little bent, so trimming in all axis is a chore.  I know N17979 really well, but I still have to work a little harder with N6493S.  It's a great plane and I was happy to be able to use it on the flight.

The nose strut was low on N6493S and I had maintenance fill it up to book before the flight.  This delayed us about an hour and we took off at about 1100 instead of 1000.  The autopilot worked on this flight and held the aircraft rock steady on course and altitude.  Weather was good with some thunderstorms in route.  The color radar on N6493S is great and with ATC kept us clear of bad stuff all the way down.  We did have to negotiate a couple of rainstorms, but never saw any lightning and didn't get any turbulence above light. 

Pensacola was VMC.  The controllers took us all the way around to land with a visual on 26.  Wind was a total cross at about 9 to 12 knots.  Landing was good and right on the center--my cheering section liked it.

RTB was 1 September.  Weather was better, but we had some cumulus around Pensacola.  We took off about 1100.  They gave us takeoff clearance right in front of an MD-80 on 3 mile final--no delay.  N6493S got up and went.  It doesn't seem to accelerate as well as N17979, but the temp was about 30 C.

Controller practice at Pensacola approach.  We got some long vectors and a little IMC work.  This delayed the flight by 4 minutes and a couple of gallons that we never made back up the rest of the flight.  We kept away from a couple of towering cumulus right in the Florida panhandle area and continued direct to AAO.  ATC wasn't very busy, but it usually isn't in this part of the country on Saturdays and Sundays.

Wichita was clear and a million with light winds.  Coming into AAO, we had to dodge a couple of gliders flying within 5 NM of the field at 3 to 4000 feet.  We dove under them and made a left base to final on runway 18.  The landing wasn't as nice as the squeeker at Pensacola, but still on centerline and speed. 


10 August 2007

I took my son up to Saint Louis (STL) and continued to Ann Arbor, Michigan.  I landed at Willowrun (YIP) because Ann Arbor's runway is too short for a safe takeoff in a Baron.  I flew N6493S which isn't my usual aircraft because N17979 was still NMC following the engine change and maintenance career moves.  They lost the log book entries and the changed engine had serious problems: missing, wouldn't feather, wouldn't govern, and the right mag dropped 300 RPM (not a good sign). 

Biggest problem during the flight was remembering the call sign.  No real weather to speak of, but TRW around YIP caused us to fly north a bit.  N6493S also had a bad autopilot.  I hand flew the whole way up and back.

Like all IFR flights to busy areas, the whole thing was SIDs to STARs.  The controllers were great, and it is also great to have GPS on board.  You become dependent on good equipment on an aircraft.  My moving map and altitude alerter are a couple of things I would not want to do without. 





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  L.D. Alford is the author of 41 technical papers published in international journals on flight test, military policy, flight safety, space, and cyberwar.  Technical Writing
  L.D. Alford has been a professional aviator for 30 years.  Aviation Writing

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