Chart Sales

AvWeb has an article today about how the FAA will soon only be selling charts to vendors who sell at least $5000 of charts annually, which is apparantly only 293 of the current 1790 vendors. There’s a link from there to a spreadsheet that shows annual net sales from last June to this June which I find fascinating…

  • top supplier, no surprise, is Sporty’s with 2,100,610.82 worth of net sales
  • second place is ‘My Plane Inc’ in Scottsdale whom I have never heard of, but did only a fifth of Sporty’s sales
  • top local supplier is El Cajon Flying Service, Inc at KSEE with 59,903.79 in sales; that’s number 13 in rank
  • I get my charts from Marv Golden and it’s good to see them at #17, with 47,701.36 in sales
  • the FBO at KMYF, Gibbs, is at #86, with 12,757.30 in sales

So the good news is that it looks like my local suppliers will continue to sell charts after October. I used to have a Sporty’s chart subscription but I like to support the local aviation businesses. I do miss the extra entries in the Skyhawk Sweepstake though.

Ready to Copy! Deep Breath And….

I was at the airport tonight watching the traffic go around, listening to the radio, and it struck me (not for the first time) that most pilots like to read back their instrument clearance in one breath.

Cessna 1234 cleared to Brown Field after take off left turn 270 radar vectors Mission Bay VOR direct 3000 feet expect 400 feet 10 minutes after 119.6 and squawk is 5244

You literally hear the poor guy collapse at the end, gasping for breath. I know I am often guilty of this and actively try to pause after the route or altitudes part. I wonder why it is that we do this, and how it is that we never hear Clearance give us the clearance in this fashion – do they get special training?

Fuel in the tank but running on empty [Updated]

Yesterday I went up with my instructor to shake off my winter cobwebs (and instead ended up in IMC having a lesson on the Garmin 530 and autopilot, but that’s for another post) and had a very near fuel emergency.

Both tanks were filled to the collar before we took off in the 172SP, plenty of gas for our some holds at OCN, an approach at KOKB and return on the ILS into KMYF. We weren’t the only ones with the same plan and ended up having to do two more holding patterns that planned while the other plane shot the approach. It was during one of the turns that we noticed that the fuel gauge showed the left tank getting low, and the right tank still near full. We resolved to switch from ‘both’ to the right tank after the approach but in all the activity in the missed approach we forgot.

Not long before KMYF the “L Low Fuel” light came on and the gauge was sure enough very near to the bottom. We switched to just the right tank and carried on. As we got closer and closer the fuel imbalance remained, the left tank gauge was getting lower and lower. Although we didn’t say it to each other I think we were both already planning our dead stick landing to a nearby golf course. On final we switched the tanks back to ‘both’, landed and taxied back to parking.

After we were done we inspected the tanks – the right tank was as full as it had been at the beginning. Neither of us could see any fuel in the left tank at all, I don’t know how many minutes of ‘usable’ fuel there was left but I think we were pretty lucky that we made it down without an emergency.

I haven’t heard yet what the problem was (the plane is already back out of the shop) but I don’t understand how, if fuel from the right tank wasn’t flowing at all, the engine kept running when we switched the fuel to the right tank only. Surely it should have quit?

At the time I didn’t think much of it, but the more I think about it (and tell the story) the more I think we dodged a nasty bullet.

[Update:] From the plane owner: I had Sorbi take the plane off the line and check the fuel flow from both tanks. I had a concern that perhaps the fuel valve was not working right. Pablo took the fuel lime off the engine and had fuel flow from left, both and right positions and found that fuel flowed from all three positions in comparable quantities. When he went to check, both tanks had equalized and had the same amount of fuel in them. The only thing we felt that could contribute is that if you were making a significant number of right turns where the fuel would travel to the right tank.

We did do a lot of right hand turns, probably held over OCN for 5 right-turn holds so maybe that was it?

Fear of Taxiing

Over the last few months I’ve developed what I will call a fear of taxiing and it is interfering with my flying – you typically can’t fly if you can’t taxi to the runway! Here’s the problem (as I seem to see it). This (old) satellite image from Google shows the parking ramp at the FBO we use and the taxiway to 28L (and keep heading east to get to 28R); the pinkish line shows where the taxiway starts, everything south of that line is a non-movement area.

The parking area is busy, my club alone has 20+ planes in that area, and there is just the one way in and out. Planes typically have to yield but there’s very few places to “pull over” and, since its a non-movement area there’s no organisation to the chaos.

Recently I’ve been finding reasons to cancel flights – the parking ramp will be too busy, the plane I have booked is all the way at the end of the line, what if I meet someone coming down on my way out etc. All things that never used to bother me. So I cancel and then I haven’t flown for a month, now I’m worried that the crosswind might be too much since its been a month… so I cancel again and next time I wonder if I’m able to land in any condition so I cancel….

To combat this I’ve booked a couple of flights with my CFI, we’ll get my landing confidence back up, we’ll also re-check me out in the Archer (in preparation for the Arrow arriving in May), and we’ll talk about ways to mitigate my taxi fears. I don’t intend to let my licence go to waste but I need to get over this irrational fear.

How Can One Stay Proficient in All Things?

I’ve got my eye on flying a 172SP in our club that has a groovy Garmin 530 and 2-axis autopilot. A little more pricey than the 172s I usually fly, $126 an hour, but would be a great weekend getaway plane. I wrote my CFI to ask if I needed to know anything and he said he’d like to show me how to start it for my first time: it’s apparently very easy to flood the engine in a fuel-injected plane? He sent me the procedure and it made my head hurt, which got me thinking about how does one stay proficient in all these little things that I am endorsed for:

  1. flying high wings (my usual)
  2. flying low wings (not very often)
  3. using an HSI (the Archer has an HSI but I can never remember how to use it)
  4. complex aircraft (not very often)
  5. high performance (not in a couple of years)
  6. fuel-injected engines (so far not ever)

Maybe the trick is to choose just one plane and forget the rest? But I want to fly the club’s DA-40, too. And one day maybe I can afford the G1000 ?? And all this while still trying to keep PIC, night PIC and IFR current. Ugh, I need a second and third job.

Strongest Winds

The winds are blowing throughout Southern California right now: I almost got blown out off the freeway coming over the mountains this morning! I tweeted something about the winds and got this reply:

Which reminded me of a trip to Laughlin (KIFP) a few years ago for my birthday, took a friend from San Diego for an overnight. Had a great trip over and a fun time in the casino but in the morning the winds were howling. We got to the 172 I opened the passenger door and the charts I had put on my seat instantly flew out of the plane. I ran after them (not knowing if it was one I needed or not) but it kept on going and going. At some point a guy from the FBO overtook me in a golf cart and got hold of the chart: it was not one I would need.

There is no ATIS or AWOS at Laughlin so I have no idea what the winds were (it’s possible the tower told me but I don’t remember) but it was tough to stand up so that meant pretty damned windy to me. My friend asked me if I had ever flown in winds this bad before – I said not. But seeing the look on his face I said that we’d taxi real careful and, since the wind was right down the runway, we would have no trouble taking off at all.

I taxied out doing my best to get the flight controls in the right places to overcome the wind, got our takeoff clearance, full power and we were off! I’ve never felt the plane lift off so quickly and so powerfully! It didn’t take long to get enough height to get over the wind and we had an uneventful flight back.

Anyone want to share their strong wind stories?

Btw, I highly recommend Laughlin as a fly-in destination. You can see some pictures and a trip report from an earlier flight in my trip report section.

My new PUMPS check

Almost seven years after getting my Private certificate I still have trouble with the GUMPS check. ‘G’ always seems to be “Gear” rather than “Gas” so when I get to the ‘U’ I’m, like, um, oh yeah that’s “Undercarriage”. So, I hit on a fine idea – from now on I shall perform a PUMPS check: “Petrol, Undercarriage, Mixture, Props, Seatbelts”. I think I’ll get that right each time. I think.

Poor Radio Talk

In yesterday’s post I alluded to the fact that I was not on my a-game radio-wise during my simulated instrument flight. I thought I’d list my mistakes as a reminder for me for next time. If you have comments, feel free to add them.

  1. My handoff to SoCal was fine but for my second controller handoff I said “N4922D on frequency”, thinking how smart I was not to say “with you”. The response was “say altitude and heading” – doh! Of course, I should check in with “N4922D, 3400 feet, direct OCN”.
  2. A couple of times I was given a heading and told to maintain 3400 feet. Each time I repeated the heading and confirmed “thirty-four hundered feet”, and each time I was asked to verify “3400 feet”. I have no idea why each time I repeated it incorrectly. I think I’ve been listening to a lot of live ATC where I’ve heard that and it has sunk in. I will banish it.
  3. After being transferred to the CTAF on the OKB approach I announced “N4922D, inbound on the VOR approach, Oceanside traffic”. A snarky voice came back “it would be helpful to us VFR pilots to know where you are and where you are going”. Attitude-aside, he had a good point. One can circle to land either side of the field and they didn’t know I was planning a missed approach. I’m surprised this hasn’t come up before but I definitely have it in my mind now.

Other than that, I think it went well. I like the radio work a lot, and I pride myself on usually being succinct and concise so it annoys me when I am not.

Our Flying Club Lost a Plane

Last night whilst browsing the club’s online scheduling website I noticed that one of the Beechcraft 76’s was in maintenance with the tag “aircraft totally destroyed”. I did some digging around and, sure enough, on October 4 2008 N6013X was substantially damaged whilst landing on a private airstrip in Eloy, AZ.

I am glad to see that the pilot was unharmed, sad to see that we lost half of our twin Beechcraft fleet and I wonder what this will do to the club’s insurance next year. The penalty for any accident in the club is that you have to write an account and lessons learned for the next newsletter, so it will be interesting to get his view of what happened.

Mobile Flight Planning

I’ll admit that I have iPhone lust but I don’t want one that badly to spend hours queuing outside some AT&T store to beg them for one. But this morning while idly looking through my RSS feeds I remembered a site that had been doing some cool things with flight planning software. So I took a look and was impressed by what they have come up with.

Foreflight Mobile 2.0 for the iPhone looks like an essential addition to the Flightbag. Using it you can totally do away with the A/FD as all the information is right on the phone. Latest weather in the form of METARS, TAFs along with radar charts are available. Since it knows where you are you can pull up the information for your airport in an instant. Elementary flight planning, and flight plan filing are also there amongst a huge list of features.

I have no connection to Jason or his company, just an impressed soon-to-be-customer of his, just as soon as I can get my hands on a shiny new iPhone. And when I do, I’ll do a full review.

In the meantime, I’m off to Angel Flight orientation on Saturday, will write about that when I get back.