Steady now…

This blog carries some of my flying adventures. Regular readers will remember my recent adoption of the Cirrus S20 as the cross-country flying machine of choice. It’s a steady ship, capable of 135 knots cruising. The control yoke is mounted to the side, which actually works very nicely as the pilot can rest an arm on the molded door panel and be quite comfortable. Here’s a shot of me at the helm.

The Garmin G1000 avionics suite is impressive, too. Plenty of situational awareness, an excellent autopilot, and clear graphical representations of what’s going on with the airplane. Of course, take note to the old magnetic compass in the upper part of the photo. You have to have one of those to go flying. Even your commercial airliners have them. If all else fails, pick a heading and go for it.

Published in: on August 10, 2011 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Cruising in the Cirrus

Recently, I had the privilege of getting checked out in a different aircraft, namely the Cirrus G20. This is not your grandfather’s Cessna, but rather a completely different machine. In the first place, it is a composite airplane, made of fiberglass-like materials as opposed to aluminum. Secondly, this one is equipped with a “glass” avionics panel, meaning the instrumentation is presented on display screens as opposed to individual “gauges.” Take a look at the panel during my recent flight.

There’s plenty of eye candy there. The panel on the left is the primary flight display and gives the pilot all the essentials such as airspeed, altitude, heading, and so forth. On the right, is the multi-function display, through which can be accessed engine operational info, a moving map, and much, much more. It takes some practice to make the most of these panels, but once you are familiar, they prove invaluable in terms of situational awareness, ease of navigation, and generally enhance the flying experience. So, let’s take a look out the window.

You can see this is a low-wing aircraft. Beyond the leading edge, looking generally north, are the rolling green hills of Pennsylvania, which are quite nice to fly over during much of the year, especially in autumn. Naturally, I’m looking forward to continued improvement in my flying skills and stretching out my cross-country trips to new and farther destinations. The Cirrus makes that a more comfortable and enjoyable proposition.

Winter Flying

Flying small aircraft in the winter presents some challenges. It’s not only the cold that affects performance. With snow on the ground, things appear differently. Familiar terrain can be unrecognizable, at least until you pick out the landmarks such as roads and railroad tracks that carve up the countryside. But take a look at Lancaster County, PA with snow on the fields.

Looks chilly down there. Winging along, I came upon Chester County’s airport, a familiar and welcome sight as you can see here.

Chester County has a long and wide runway which is good for practicing maneuvers. It’s also easy to find whether there’s snow or not. Despite the winter weather, I’m looking forward to a couple more cross country flights. I’ll post the photos and commentary here as always.

Published in: on January 15, 2011 at 12:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Robinson, R44

The Robinson R44, (Raven II) helicopter is a small, piston engine powered machine. Yesterday was my first time at the controls.

I’ll say this much, flying a helicopter is completely different than flying an airplane. Of course! Well, helicopters are not inherently stable, which means you have to maintain control at all times. The venerable Cessna 172 that I wing around in, will practically fly itself. Anyway, the fellow at my local airport offered to give me an introduction to helicopter flying and I literally jumped at the chance. Here he is conducting the preflight inspection of the ship.

For this flight, I took to the right seat; he was on the left. We hovered out over the taxiway to a grassy spot where we conducted some fundamental maneuvers. Very tricky indeed. The thing to remember is that the craft is literally floating so any small touch of input or wind and it moves. Keeping it in position requires a delicate, yet assertive touch. Take a look at the instrument panel.

That basic panel does the trick. An altimeter, a couple of gyros, some radios, a GPS unit. You’re good to go. Remember, every bit of weight requires lots more power. Therefore, helicopters keep things as simple and light as possible. I would have taken some photos from the air, but both hands are constantly busy on the controls. No matter. I’ll be up again soon and snap a few with the other fellow in command.