Twinitis?

Twinitis: An insidious disease that has no scientifically known origin. Researchers have discovered that it begins very early in life, and the etiologic agent is the twin aircraft itself. The process is known to access the body through the eyes, and spread rapidly, almost like a virus, into the brain and heart of the affected individual. In most cases, a progressively severe form of obsession develops, where logical thought is replaced by dreamlike states of imagery, in which the subject becomes deluded into actually believing himself to be a superior pilot, and far above the regular single-engine, run-of-the mill people.

Symptoms of the disease are varied, but patients often exhibit a vacant stare, a tendency to look up into the sky whenever a twin flies overhead, and notable weight loss secondary to a subconscious desire to keep single-engine performance optimal. Conjugal relations have been know to become strained, especially in the field of fiscal balance, as college education, mortages, car payments, etc., are brought into play during “quality” domestic discussions.

The disease is contagious, principally through the oral route, as the affected individual is known to infect other potential victims in the field with constant chatter, interaction, pseudorationalization, and flight of ideas associatied with owning twin-engined aircraft.

There is no treatment for the disease. Limited forms of therapy include providing the patient with documentation regarding the arguable benefits of single engine safety statistics, group therapy with previous multi-engine pilots, access to different forms of entertainment, such as golf, crotcheting, etc., and providing the patient with copies of his or her most recent bank and investment statements. Clinical results have been, for the most part, disappointing.

The only known cure is surgical: It entails a radical resection of the individuals net worth, extirpation of other capital present in his system, and a direct canalization to his nearest aircraft dealer or seller to obtain his long-held dream. Only then can he become a normal person again: Productive, confident, hard-working, loving, and self-assured, especially with the self-satisfaction only a twin can provide as he and others admire it on the ramp.
Prescription: Rx: One twin-engine aircraft, (Baron, no pharmacy substitutions). Sig: use morning, noon, or night, as the need arises.

Abel Island Fly-In, Float-in, Potluck and BBQ

This weekend our club was planning to host a poker run (or flight actually) but looking at the weather I had a feeling that there will be no flying at all on Sunday morning. A front was moving in through Iowa and brought nice line of thunderstorms with it. Typically for Midwest this line of thunderstorms and precipitation is about 50 miles wide and several hundred miles long. With tops up there in flight levels it’s impossible to fly around or over it. So when it moves in it’s better to stay on the ground.

With potentially no flying on Sunday I started to look for a flying destination for Saturday. Looking at various websites that list aviation events I’ve found that Abel’s Island is hosting their 12th Annual Abel Island Fly-In, Float-in, Potluck and BBQ. Abel Island is a small community located on one of the island on Mississippi river. It small and relatively quiet if you don’t count airplane nice for they have a nicely maintained grass strip in the middle of the island. Every year at the end of vacation season they host a BBQ-Potluck party. It has very simple rules – hosts provide space and grills, you bring your own meat and side dishes.

When I woke up Saturday morning and checked the weather things didn’t look too good. The front was moving in faster than they predicted (but still at only 15mph) and it was threatening to rich Cedar Rapids around 3pm. After  a little bit of checking and quick brain storm with Iza we’ve decided to skip the flight and drive.

When we got there we were surprised by rows of airplanes and a lot of people. I did not expect it will be so big. Unfortunately it turned out that many of the pilots instead of canceling their flights due to weather decided to come early. The fly in was supposed to start at noon and go until 3pm, but in fact most of them flew in around 10am and when we came just after noon they were already packing up to get home before the storms. Despite that we still had good time and having rest of the afternoon free (and having our car) we have visited some neighbouring parks and had dinner at best Supper Club we’ve ever been to – Black Angus in Prairie du Chien.

First IFR flight

Recently one of our friends invited us to a party. We gladly accepted the invitation but there was one catch – the party was happening in a small town called Lawrence, KS that is about five and a half hours away from our town. And while I was mentally preparing for exhausting 12h drive Iza proposed to fly there. That would turn 12h of driving into 4h of flight time. I didn’t need to be asked twice :-).

The flight was supposed to be my first IFR flight since I got my ticket. Under instrument flight rules that is because the weather was (mostly) clear skies and otherwise regular visual conditions. So I’ve prepared very carefully to that. On top of reglar XC planning I’ve checked weather about gazilion times and consulted flight path with my instructor. After much deliberation I’ve decided to file this route:

So this morning I filed the plan, readied the airplane and… found myself second guessing the decision to go. Updated weather forecast was showing relatively fast moving line of thunderstorms about 150 miles north west from our destination that was moving at about 25 mph south, south east. The front was expected to hit out intended flight path almost exactly at time of our return trip departure. But after carefully checking weather and keeping in mind that the line was only about 30 miles wide and we could always wait it down (that would be only about 1h delay) we’ve decided to go. Flight on our way down was completely uneventful. Except for relatively rough air that kept me second guessing altitude choice. But putting that aside it was almost regular XC flight. So after 2h10m we landed at Lawrence Municipal, took crew car and went to the party.

Here is where some juicy details start. Being at the party I was checking our return weather every few minutes and it started to look like the line of precipitation slows down and is going to stay in the area overnight. Considering all options, we’ve decided to cut our visit about 0.5h short and take off before the weather comes in. And it turned out to be good decision. Remembering not to rush things I did the preflight, got our departure clearance and took off.

Our flight plan was identical as shown above. Just after takeoff Kansas City controller wanted to save me some flying time and offered clearance direkt Kirksville, but considering what my onboard Mark I Eyeball Radar equipment was showing I’ve decided to stick to our intended route to stay about 10-15 miles from what looked like quite heavy precipitation. After passing Johnson County VOR I’ve realized that I will be unable to proceed on our course without going through the rain so I’ve asket ATC for deviation clearance and I’ve received ‘cleared to deviate as required, proceed back on course when able’. So I flew nice, round track around the rain cutting through very small portion of it (which presented itself at light rain) getting back on course just around Napoleon VOR. After that it was ‘almost’ piece of cake. Almost because for next hour we flew parallel to line of moderate precipitation which seemed like it wants to suck us in.

Here you can see it more nicely on FlightAware’s track:

After passing OTM VOR I’ve asked direct Cedar Rapids and we finished our flight uneventfully with nice landing exactly at the sun set (sorry for poor quality).

IFR current

Today I went up again and finished getting IFR current.

First we took Arrow for w flight to Iowa City VOR to train some holds. I’ve got to say, that they looks ugly. I’ve never flown holds in Arrow before. That combined with my general lack of recent practice left a lot to be desired looking at my ground track:

Practice track

The best looking part is probably the entry hold, then it went only worse.

After I got a little bit humiliated we started training approaches. VOR-A to Iowa city is one of the easiest approaches to fly out there. So it went pretty smooth. After that we went to Cedar Rapids and shot two ILS 27 approaches. As you can see from the track the aren’t perfect, but they are as pretty as my every one was before and both times I was lined up with the runway and had red and white lights. I’d said not bad.

But the biggest think I came with is the modified approach procedure. As you remember I’m trying to find out the easiest to remember and the most fool proof procedure there is. I’ve asked Terry how he flies approaches in Arrow. His procedure looks like this:

1. On vectors to FAF gear down, one notch of flaps, 22″ manifold pressure, full RPM, mixture, fuel pump, slow down to ~90kts
2. At FAF 18-19″ of manifold pressure

I don’t really like that procedure for two reasons – one being the gear down hanging out there way too long (unneeded stress on gear structures) and second – using power change to start down the glide slope increases the risk of gear up landing.

Personally I believe in ‘gear down – go down’ doctrine taught at BPPP schools (although I’ve never attended one… yet). So when I was practicing approaches today I’ve tested modified procedure, which looks like this:

1. On vectors to FAF – one notch of flaps, manifold pressure 20″, mixture, fuel pump, slow down to ~90kts.
2. At FAF gear down.
3. When missed – gear up, power up, flaps up

That procedure gives me two advantages over Terry’s one:
1. With aircraft trimmed out to 90kts putting gear down gives me ~500fpm descend keeping aircraft on the glide slope. And putting gear down is much easier and faster than setting 19″ manifold (at least in that Arrow it is)
2. “Gear down – go down” part of the procedure virtually eliminates risk of gear up landing – there is no way to land gear up because you won’t go down unless you extend the gear.

I tested this procedure twice at Cedar Rapids and one more time going back to Green Castle – works perfectly every time. So I’m going to stick to it now.

That flight concluded my IFR refresher and now I’m again IFR current. Do I feel proficient? Hell no. But this time I’ll try to train more and not only stay current but also become proficient.

Know your numbers!

Some say you should never fly IMC single pilot.

Others say they fly single handed down to minimums.

I personally subscribe to the group saying ‘know your limitations and fly within your limits’. One of my limitations is the amount of workload I can handle while flying IFR. So knowing that I always look for ways to limit it while flying.

One lesson I’ve learned just before my IFR checkride was to always, always have the airplane perfectly trimmed. I’ll be thankful to Nick for drilling that into me week before checkride forever. That saves you a bunch of wok right there – when the airplane goes where it need to go by itself you have time to fiddle with radios, maps and communicate.

This year in Oshkosh I’ve attended ‘single pilot IFR’ seminar and I’ve learned few more things there. One of them was ‘know your numbers’. Cruise, climb, descent power and attitude settings giving expected performance from your own airplanes make your work much, much easier. That comes even more important during instrument approaches. If you look closely at approach plates you can see that many of them have small table:

This table gives you pre calculated times between FAF and MAP at some predefined speeds. Arrow can fly 120kts on a good day, but sometimes it may be pushing it so I’ve decided to fly approaches at 90kts. One more reason for picking that speed is that when flying default approach 3 degree slope descent rate required to stay on the slope will be 480fpm. Very close to magic 500fpm that I was training to fly so many times.

So after all that information I’ve decided to go out there and find my numbers. Surprisingly I found out that Arrow doesn’t really want to slow down to 90kts and stay there. It took me a lot of pulling back before it settled down. After few minutes I found out that 2200rpm and 20″ gives me about 90kts.

Now on to descent. So time ago while reading various people’s description how they fly approaches I have noticed that many of them use gear to achieve desired descent rate at . It has one more advantage – when lowering gear at FAF is part of your procedure it’s very, very hard to miss that part and join the ‘belly up landing’ club. Intrigued by that I’ve tried that trick and lowered gear down when trimmed at 90kts. Sure enough the airplane started descent at almost 500fpm still keeping the same trimmed 90kts.

So summarizing, from now on my instrument flying procedure will look like this – after crossing IAF I’ll set up 20″mp and 2200rpm and gradually slow down to 90kts while flying intermediate part of the approach. Then when I’ll cross FAF I’ll lower the gear which will put me nicely on a glide slope without absorbing my brain too much. Also at this point the airplane will still be clean which allows to go missed with little to no changes in settings.

Now that I know those numbers it’s time to check them in practice. Stay tuned 🙂

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