First Actual!

I got some of my first actual IMC coming out of KSBA the other day.  I got to the airport at 7:45 am and during the drive over the conditions had become 900 overcast.  I called clearance delivery and they were nice enough to file my IFR flight plan for me right there!  What a relief – I thought I was going to have to walk back to the FBO to get internet access to file from foreflight and wait a bit for it to get into the system, but they have some sort of magic foo down in Santa Barbara.  He just asked my route.  I guess they need to put something into the system in order to get something back out.

So I told him “Gaviota, Paso Robles, Direct”.  After only about 30 seconds he comes back with:

  1. Cleared to San Carlos airport
  2. Expect runway 15
  3. Right turn heading 200
  4. Radar Vectors Gaviota
  5. Victor 27
  6. Morrow Bay
  7. Victor 113
  8. Paso Robles
  9. Direct
  10. Climb maintain 3000, expect 8000 5 minutes after departure

.. the rest is frequency and squawk code.  Awesome!  Nothing to clearance in less than a minute.  I’m sure they can’t do that all the time, and it was not very busy at all that morning, but still – thanks Mr. Santa Barbara clearance delivery guy.  If I knew he you were I’d buy you a beer.

Here’s a picture after breaking through the ceiling:

And of course, after I got just above the clouds they give me “cleared Paso Robles, Direct”.

Updating The Nav Database In The Garmin Perspective

The last cycle of the nav db expired on March 8th.  I figured that I should get a jump on things and figure out how to update it long before I needed it, so on March 2nd I read the Perspective Manual.  If you go all the way back into the Appendix B they pretty clearly state that you should  be able to install a “standby” nav database in the top slot of the MFD and have it copy to the main db card (bottom card).  They also say you can enable automatic database synchronization so that if you update the MFD, the PFD will get updated from the MFD.  I know that’s a little confusing, but I made a picture below to help.

To upgrade these databases you have to write to the little SD card.  I purchased a “Sandisk MicroMate SD / SDHC Memory Card Reader (Static Pack, New, SDDR-113)” from Amazon for $9.99.  I wasn’t quite sure if this would work since the title of the product says “reader”, and to me that implies it doesn’t to writes, but I think the world of consumer electronics sees things differently than the world of computer science.  In any case, this thing is able to write SD cards just fine.

You also have to download a little Windows based installer app from the Jeppesen website.  Luckily I had some old Windows laptop laying around, so I was able to do that without having to install a VM image on my Macbook.  Then I called Jeppesen.  The guy was pretty nice, stayed on the phone to make sure my download worked, all that good stuff.  I then asked about updating the “standby” database.  He had never heard of such a thing.  He transferred me to Jeppesen support.  I explained to them that I was planning to use this update to update the standby database, and again this new guy explained that they had never heard of such a thing.  I read him the appropriate section from the Perspective manual, and again he said he had never heard of anything like that.

Well, ok.  Garmin says it works, Jeppesen doesn’t know what I’m talking about.  If I try it and it doesn’t work, too bad.  If I try it and it corrupts things then I’m screwed.  But I just had to know – so I tried it.

Turns out that it works just fine!

  1. Insert card in the MFD top slot
  2. Boot the system
  3. Tell the MFD you want to update the “standy database” when it asks what to do with this new card.
  4. Once things are up, go to AUX/System page
  5. Enable “Automatic Database Synchronization” between MFD and PFD

The synch from MFD to PFD only takes about 12 seconds for the Nav database, so don’t be afraid to do it just before a flight.  I actually did mine in flight.  Some of the other databases, for example the terrain database, can apparently take up to 50 minutes, and they recommend using an alternate power source, etc, etc.  Sounds like a pain.

Here’s a little helpful picture.  This was made with a composite of two cellphone pictures that I took, so sorry about the strange shading.  The steps in the picture are just showing the copies, so the numbering doesn’t line up with the numbering above, but I think you get the picture.

Airplane In The T-Shade

I did pick up my airplane the other week.  I flew out with Max Trescott to Madison Wisconsin and we flew it all the way home back to San Carlos.  We flew KMSN (Madison) to KTOP (Topeka) where we stopped and got fuel.  We were hoping to get lunch but the little restaurant was closed so we had to settle for M&Ms from the machine :(.  From KTOP we flew to KAMA (Amarilla TX) and stayed the night.

That first flight day was great!  I learned about my new airplane, we did some approaches, and I just generally got comfortable with everything.

The next morning we woke up and winds were gusting to 38kts in Amarillo.  That’s not great, but what put it strictly into “no-fly” territory was that it was coming from at least 40 degrees from any of the runways.  SR22 is only rated for 20kt crosswind.  38kts at 40 degrees is 24+kts.  We spent the day bumming around.  We got to see some funny little local restaurant that is apparently famous:

We also went to this place called “Cadillac Ranch” where some guy stuck a bunch of old Cadillacs into the ground:

The next day the winds had finally calmed down.  We finally got out of Amarillo and headed over to KHND (Hendersen Executive, Las Vegas, NV) for some fuel and food.  The scenery on the way over was much more interesting than the flat middle of the US.  After lunch we bombed up to KMMH (Mammoth Lake, CA).  We got to 16,500 ft using oxygen:

This was with using the actual Precise Flight mask that I had purchased.  The approach into Mammoth is pretty great.  You fly in right over Lake Crowley.  It’s beautiful.  We explored the little airport a bit.  They have a little scale model of the plans for future expansion in the area.  Apparently they’re putting in some sort of luxury condos and a spa right next to the airport.  I can’t wait to come back and check it out.

Here’s a cool shot of the airplane in front of the mountains:

So now the airplane is back home, safe in a T-shade at KSQL.

I’m super happy with this airplane!

Precise Flight Guys Are Cool!

The guys over at Precise Flight are officially cool.  I mailed them my wrong mask that I bought and they reworked it to fit with the Precise Flight flowmeters in my airplane.  They only charged me about $40 for it!  I think they took pity on me because, as I explained to them, I had no idea what I was doing when I bought that competitor mask.  They seem like a great company.

Part of the problem I originally had was that I couldn’t find the mask that I wanted online.  The Precise Flight website had the nice blue ones with the microphone shown on there, but it also said you couldn’t purchase them online.  After this debacle with the other mask I asked them via email how would one be able to purchase a mask from them?  Their email response was that it was a mistake, should have been available online, and that I should try it now. So I went there – and it was suddenly for sale.  How many people had gone to that website and decided to do something different because they thought they couldn’t get it?  Well, given how great they were, I hope this helps their sales numbers now that people can actually buy these things from them 🙂

Update On The Status Of Your Aircraft Purchase …

Last week two of my cylinders got sent to to the cylinder shop to have the exhaust valves replaced.  They both showed discoloration around the valve, and one of them compression tested at 30/80.  Then at the end of the week the cylinder shop notified the pre-buy shop that they found cracks in both of the cylinders.  The original shop is worked with Cirrus to get new cylinders which are luckily still under warranty.  Well, today I learned that UPS lost my cylinders.  But good news – they found them again.  They should get here on Wednesday.

TIL that managing aircraft maintenance schedules is like managing software projects.  You expect to be done in a week?  Ok, great! (I’ll expect it in two).

I happened to have purchased my commercial one way tickets and reserved CFI time for two weeks out instead of one, so I’m still ok as long as things don’t slip anymore this week.  Sounds just like every single software project ever.

In the meantime, I’m thinking about what a great future trip the Bahamas would make.  This was pointed out on reddit:

AOPA’s Flight Planning Guide Bahamas

Garmin vs. Avidyne

I did almost all of my training in a little Piper ArcherIII with Avidyne Integra and dual Garmin 430s.  I really liked that setup, and I feel very comfortable with the way things work and the general layout.  But when it came time to purchase my own plane I decided to fork over the extra money for one of the G1000 Garmin Perspective models.  I do have about 30 hrs with a G1000 package in some of the club Cessnas, but I’ve only done a few approaches with a G1000.  So why the switch?

The main reason is because the Avidyne systems don’t come stock in the SR22s anymore.  I fear that in a few years nobody will even know what those Avidyne devices even are anymore, and it’ll excessively devalue the airplane.  Since the G1000 is the dominant platform, I expect them to come out with updates more regularly, and I expect that over time the online information will become overwhelmingly G1000.

The secondary reasons are related to the extra features of the G1000.  Synthetic vision is nice.  The auto-ident nav feature is something which I’m convinced has saved lives.  True, you still want to listen to the nav radio to positively identify your nav source, but when you’re rapidly approaching the FAF it’s nice to glance over at the display and get confirmation that you are tracking what you think you are.  For those who aren’t aware of this feature: with the G1000 it will listen to the morse code on the nav frequency and display the code it gets.  If you think you’re tracking an ILS and what you see on the screen is a VOR, you messed something up and need to correct immediately.  There are plenty of NTSB reports from crashes where pilots were tracking the wrong nav source.

And finally, one of the other key reasons for the Garmin is the reliability of the system.  I’ve simply read too many reports of pilots losing their Avidyne systems in flight and having to switch over to backup needles.  There’s been electrical system problems, and cheap video cable related problems.  I don’t want to have to deal with these things.

Is there anything nicer about the Avidyne?  Yes – I like the layout better.  I like the buttons along the sides of the PFD which related to the different display tabs along the side.

And there are actually some things I like better about the G430 over the G1000.  If you have a dual G430 setup you can have two completely different flight plans loaded, both independent and active.  I’ve actually done this before when I was planning to ask ATC for an IFR deviation but I wanted to plan out the new route in the device first.  That worked out beautifully.

The other thing I like better about the G430 over the G1000 is the difference between “direct to” vs “activate leg” on a flight plan.  With the G430 DIRECT, ENTER, ENTER means fly “direct to”, while DIRECT, DIRECT, ENTER means “activate leg”.  I actually couldn’t figure out how to do “activate leg” on the G1000 until I watched Max Trescott’s G1000 dvds.  During the IFR portion he describes doing this via the MENU softkey.  Who knew?


Cirrus Oxygen Mask

One thing I’ll be needing is an oxygen mask.  I want to get to FL250 and somewhere between 12,000 and there means death without oxygen.  I went to the pilot store at Palo Alto, they had masks, I bought one, along with oximeter:

Now I’ve learned that there’s different types of connectors and apparently you need to purchase a mask which matches the flowmeter in your oxygen system.  Oh.  My CSIP sent me a picture of the connector from his mask and of course it’s not the same.  I bought the wrong one – too bad, so sad.  So what is the right type of flow meter?  I can’t seem to find this information anywhere.  Apparently PreciseFlight makes the Cirrus on-board oxygen systems.  Looking at their website I see many different types of flow meters.  Now I’m lost.  I’ve asked the shop if they know.

UPDATE: Chris Shaffer at Wisconsin Aviation has the answer:

“The aircraft has two Precise Flight Oxygen masks and 2 Model A-4 in-line flowmeters in it”

Hopefully this will be useful to somebody else at some point.  I don’t know if they all have A-4 connectors, but now I know what mine has.

UPDATE #2: The Precise Flight Guys Are Officially Cool