Sunday, September 21, 2014

A smattering of flying posts

It has been a busy summer of flying. I've done some more formation work, flown several new types of planes, gotten precious little more tail-wheel, landed in 3 new states, and flown to Airventure in Oshkosh Wisconsin.

Formation

I’ve had four more formation flights. Two were simply photo flights. One was a training flight in preparation for the Cessnas to Oshkosh (C2O) arrival.

Cascade Flyers 172 and 182
The first was an evening flight, I was lead in a 172. We removed the limiting arm, allowing the pilot’s window to swing full open, and I flew from the copilot’s seat. Jeff Cook was the photographer, and he got some great images.
Sportstar and RV-6 Just north of Seattle

The second was later in the summer. It was an early morning flight with three mismatched planes. James and Liz were the photographers in the 205, getting pictures of a Sportstar and a much faster RV-6. We got some praise worthy shots over Seattle.

The the third was training for Cessnas to Oshkosh.  Eric and I were supposed to be in Olympia fairly early in the morning, but when we got to the airport for departure, there were low clouds over the airport. We filed a flight plan for flying in the clouds and flew on instruments from Paine down to Olympia, including a real instrument landing at Olympia. For all the training it takes to earn an Instrument certificate, it seems rare to actually use it to land.
Jason got this beauty on a
practice flight in preparation for C2O. 
Most of the time I fly instrument approaches for practice, this was the first real one I have done it years. It is nice to drop out of the clouds and have the runway in front of me.


New types and tail-wheel

My efforts to build tail-wheel time have lead me to a friend of a friend with a Bellanca Scout who took me out for a quick flight in his plane (new type 1) this is a fun plane with good ground manners.  My efforts also lead me to a second friend of a friend who rents out his Cessna 170A (new type 2). I was able to get in a single flight with him. The flight went well, but later the airplane blew out a cylinder and has been down for repairs ever since. I hope to get back to it soon.

One of my coworkers on the east coast bought himself a Piper Archer (designation PA28-181), the 180 horsepower version of the venerable Cherokee. He agreed to let me use it while I am out there for work, but I insisted his insurance company agreed. The insurance company wanted me to get checked out in a PA-28. I went to Regal and got checked out in their Piper Arrow (designation PA28-200R), the retractable version of the same Cherokee (new type 3).

The Diesel Sportsman
The head of sales for Glassair Aviation offered me a couple of demo rides. I flew the 210 horsepower version of the Sportsman and decided it is a great little plane (new type 4)! Later he also had me fly the 155 horsepower diesel version of the same plane (new type 5). This is a very compelling plane. The diesel engine is an expensive change, but make for some really interesting abilities, see the write up on Kitbuilder. I think the diesel was a better balanced plane than the gasoline. It will be fun to watch what become of this.

Proof of a good time in the RV-6
In exchange for flying for the photo mission with the RV-6, Bernardo took me out for an aerobatics ride (new type 6). This was great fun. The RV is the lightest controlled airplane I have flown. It requires very little force on the controls for it to be headed in a new direction. FUN! I have got to do this more often.

Airventure and New States

Eric and I flew to Oshkosh. Got some really great instrument flying in. We got delayed by weather on both the trip out (stuck at Paine) and the way home (stuck in Wenatchee) by thunder storms over the home airport both times. Even getting out the next morning was pretty rough instrument flying. We hit the clouds as soon as we were off the runway, and clawed our way to 11,000 feet before getting out of the clouds. We had been climbing a long time, we were starting to pick up ice on the wings, and I was about to turn back when Eric said "I see blue above us!" Man, was I glad to hear that.

Checking off a state and refueling in Esterville Iowa 
We had strong favorable tail-winds on the way out. I normally plan for about 120 knots, and we were making 160 knots most of the first day between Paine Field and Rapid City. The next day I added my first new state of the year by landing at Esterville Iowa. Airventure was great. It is fun to hang out with crowds of people who all want to talk about airplanes. Good times!

I got a call one afternoon from a former flight instructor offering me a ride in a turbine float plane.  I left work early and walked to the seaplane base where I made myself comfortable in the right seat.  It was a beautiful flight up, with two smooth water landings.  On the route home I guided the massive float plane back to its Seattle base (new type 7).

More New Airplanes and More New States

Allentown to Bridgeport.
JFK, LaGuadia, Teterboro, and Manhattan
I finally made it out to the East Coast for work, and got there a little early for the weekend, leaving me some time to fly the Archer for the first time. My coworker decided he wanted to come along for the experience, so we loaded into his PA-28 181 (new type 8) at the Bridgeport airport, and took off to the west towards New York City and New Jersey. We contacted New York Approach controllers for flight following, passed well north of “the city,” and maneuvered for landing at Greenwood Lake NJ, my second new state of the year. I had selected Greenwood Lake because it seemed like it was out of the way and would be a quiet little airport. As we neared it we discovered it was a busy airport with four planes practicing landings in the pattern with no control tower. It was quite an adventure. We departed there and headed further west and south toward Allentown PA for my third state. Here we purchased fuel and looked for a new hat, but they did not have one.

29 down 21 to go.
We departed Allentown and headed straight for Bridgeport, a course that would take us into the busy Class B airspace surrounding JFK, LaGuadia, Newark, and Teterboro airports. As we neared the boundary, I requested clearance to fly through. I was expecting and was planning for a denial. But they cleared us through!

Final New Type

Today James offered to take me up in his club’s 182. He is working on his flight instructor certificate, so I sat in the pilot (or left) seat and he sat in the instructor (or right) seat. I have long joked that I have flown a Cessna 140, 150, 152, 170, 172, 172XP, 175, 177, 177RG, 205, 206, and a 414. But never a 182. The 182 is a well balanced and powerful plane with a little more space and a lot more power than the 172. It is lighter on the controls and climbs a little better than the six seat 205, yet will only seat four. It felt very familiar. A quick review of reference airspeeds and we were off (new type 9).

Friday, August 29, 2014

Garmin may convince me they don’t want my money

I have this wicked cool GPS.  It is an incredibly good GPS.  It is Garmin’s top-of-the-line hand-held aviation GPS.  I take it with me on every flight. 

On this GPS, I can plan and store flights using fairly intuitive touch gestures.  Much like a tablet’s, but it’s kind of a bummer because I cannot use these plans to file a flight-plan. 

It does require care and feeding.  Every couple weeks I have to plug it into my computer and download about two to three gigabytes of data to update the charts on to it – which is kind of a bummer because a tablet, being already connected to the internet, eliminates the need to plug it in. 

One of those cycles came in the middle of America’s biggest aviation fly-in, AirVenture, or Oshkosh.

No big deal, last time I was at AirVenture, Garmin was selling the updates at the show, I’ll just update while I am there. 

At the show, I learn that neither Garmin nor its vendors have ABILITY NOR PLAN to be able to update their top-of-the-line GPS.  They cannot help me.  And have no suggestion for helping me.  I found an open WiFi hotspot on the edge of the camping area, and left my computer connected to it for four hours to download the update. 

The GPS’s program is pretty static.  Granted it has been updated significantly to eliminate bugs or smooth scrolling issues.  But in the years I've used it, no new features.  It’s pretty good.  But the track log does not include altitude or airspeed, just location.  It allows me to take screen shots, but they always seem to have some odd artifact across the middle. 

Given that there are several tablet based alternatives with MORE FEATURES, and are EASIER to use, and BETTER supported, I would think that Garmin would be willing to simplify or compromise a bit on price.  So let’s take a look a chart update prices. 

The leader, ForeFlight has a two-tiered plan
Standard:  74.99 / year
Pro:  149.99 / year

I fly Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), so I would need to splurge on the Pro version. 

Garmin’s pricing?  Golly, not really sure.  (copied from Garmin's website)


Database Type
Region
Single Update Price (USD)
Subscription Price (USD)
Airport Directory
Americas by AC-U-KWIK
$49.95
$195.00
Atlantic by AC-U-KWIK
$49.95
$195.00
Pacific by AC-U-KWIK
$49.95
$195.00
United States by AOPA
$49.95
$195.00
Worldwide by AC-U-KWIK
$74.95
$299.00
ChartView Key
Worldwide
$199.00
(N/A)
FliteCharts
Canada
$74.95
$199.95
United States
$74.95
$199.95
North America
$124.95
$299.95
Europe
$124.95
$349.95
IFR/VFR Charts
Austria VFR by Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH
$32.00
(N/A)
Belgium VFR by Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH
$32.00
(N/A)
Czech Republic VFR by Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH
$32.00
(N/A)
Denmark VFR by Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH
$32.00
(N/A)
Italy VFR
$32.00
(N/A)
NE France VFR by Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH
$32.00
(N/A)
Netherlands VFR by Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH
$32.00
(N/A)
Switzerland VFR by Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH
$32.00
(N/A)
United States
$39.99
$99.99
W and NW Poland VFR by Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH
$43.00
(N/A)
Germany VFR by Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH
$90.00
(N/A)
Europe VFR without Germany
$120.00
(N/A)
Europe VFR
$205.00
(N/A)
Europe IFR/VFR
(N/A)
$410.00
Navigation Data
US VFR by AeroNav Products
$29.99
$74.99
Americas by Jeppesen
$49.95
$295.00
Atlantic by Jeppesen
$49.95
$295.00
Pacific by Jeppesen
$49.95
$295.00
Worldwide by Jeppesen
$75.00
$450.00
Obstacle
Europe
$49.95
$74.99
Europe (Heli)
$49.95
$74.99
United States
$49.95
$74.99
United States (Heli)
$49.95
$74.99
SafeTaxi
Canada

$49.95
$195.00
United States
$49.95
$195.00
North America
$59.95
$225.00
Europe
$75.00
$299.00
Full Coverage
$99.00
$399.00
Terrain
Worldwide (9 Arc Second)
$74.99
(N/A)


Or I can buy a bundle:

Name
Price (USD)
Databases Included
US Mini Database Bundle
$99.99
Including US VFR Navigation Data, Terrain, and Obstacles databases.
Save $125/year
US Lite Database Bundle
$299.99
Including US VFR Navigation, Obstacles, Terrain, SafeTaxi, Airport Directory, FliteCharts and IFR/VFR Charts databases.
Save $615/year
Europe Lite Database Bundle
$449.99
Including NavData, Obstacles, Airport Directory, SafeTaxi, and Terrain databases.
Save $489/year
Americas Database Bundle
$499.99
Including NavData, Obstacles, Terrain, SafeTaxi, Airport Directory, FliteCharts, and IFR/VFR Charts databases.
Save $765/year
Europe Database Bundle
$649.99
Including NavData, Obstacles, Terrain, Airport Directory, FliteCharts, and SafeTaxi databases.
Save $639/year


So I THINK the equivalent Pro package for flying IFR is either $299.99 or $499.99, not sure what the difference is.  Either way costs me between 200% to 333% more than ForeFlight.

If Apple had not so deeply offended my sensibilities, I would probably be using ForeFlight.  Maybe dealing with Apple would suck less that dealing with Garmin.  It’s getting hard to tell.