Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Learning a New Tail Number

I finally have another tail number written in my logbook! I've been a complete slacker about posting lately-- though not from lack of flying. I've been flying a lot. In fact, I had back to back lessons scheduled for this past Saturday-- and since our plane was booked for much of the day, I decided to take a different plane up while ours was out flying! (For those who aren't regular readers, I've basically only flown our airplane throughout all of my training, though I once had a few minutes instruction in an ultra light while on a sight-seeing trip.)

I figured I'd make it easier on myself and stick with a Cessna 172 S-model... that way the speeds, engine, and basics would be the same. But since the other 172 with glass was not available either, that meant flying steam gauges. I was pretty excited about this- I've read a lot about transitioning from steam to glass, but not as much about glass to steam. So I was anxious to see how I'd make the switch. The plan was that M and I would go up and practice my commercial maneuvers for a couple of hours, then we'd meet up with Husband and T at MRB. I'd hop over into our plane to do 1.5 hours of instrument training while M flew the other plane back to JYO. But all good plans...

It took me a little longer to preflight than usual since I wasn't familiar with the plane-- so I was a little glad that M was late getting back from his previous lesson. After reviewing a bit, we hopped into 144ME and started the engine startup and runup checklists. My eyes didn't know where to land at first! I had to look at each instrument and think about what it said. Luckily, I'd studied pictures of them recently when Husband I studied for our instrument written exam. M kind of laughed at me a bit... but was very patient as I assured myself that this was in fact an airplane-- and would have very similar capabilities to Good Dog.

Of course I screwed up the radio call before takeoff, and used Good Dog's call sign instead of 144ME. The funny thing was that the student and instructor who had booked Good Dog before us happened to be returning to the airport right at that moment. After I made a new radio call with the correct call sign, they responded that they were happy to hear the correction as Good Dog was just then turning base.

Once in the sky, things were a bit hectic at first as I adjusted to reading the dials instead of getting things in one big picture. I'm not sure what the hardest to adjust to was. Probably the turn coordinator as this looks very different. That was also the only thing that was more sensitive on the steam gauges. M had me turn this way and that, holding specific headings, bank angles, etc. Then he had me do a stall or two- just to show me that it still flew the same as Good Dog. After that, we found a little bit of sky not covered by really tall, almost towering, cumulus clouds and practiced my chandelles and lazy eights. Clearly, my practice earlier in the week had paid off as I was actually hitting (mostly) PTS for each after a few tries. Though I missed having Nexrad to check and make sure those clouds weren't going convective on us, it was actually kind of nice to not know about the 30 IAD arrivals that were probably going right over us. I felt like I was in a little cocoon.

After an hour or so, it was time to head over to MRB to meet Husband. I was surprised we hadn't heard him on the radio yet, but figured that he and T had cooked up some craziness and were off doing approaches somewhere else. So I turned the plane roughly in the direction of MRB, and then started to reach over to find it on the MFD as the clouds were such that we didn't have a lot of visibility. Hmmm. No MFD. How am I going to find it? A slight wave of uncertainty as I realized that my charts were in the back of the plane. I decided to fess up and talk it through with M, hoping that he wouldn't make me go through the process of using pilotage to exactly pinpoint our location on the chart and calculate a route. He took pity and instead showed me how to use the plane's GPS. We clicked through, found MRB, and loaded it in. I didn't even need my kneeboard printout from AOPA that I had brought along-- the frequencies were in the GPS, just like in Good Dog.

After a reasonably uneventful landing, I gave Husband and T a quick call to verify they weren't on the ground back in JYO for some reason. When neither answered, we assumed they were in the air and went inside the terminal to wait. After about 20 minutes, my phone rang. It was Husband-- and he disclosed that they had never made it in the air-- that they were still in JYO. There had been a problem with Good Dog. So M and I headed back to JYO to see what was happening. Turns out, someone (not sure who), had entered a waypoint that caused the G1000 to get corrupted. Through a series of chance events, Husband and T were able to figure out there was a bad waypoint, delete it, and get the systems back up. But now there was no time to fly. So, Husband decided to do a few circuits while he waited. So Good Dog followed me home.

All in all, I'm pleased that there were no huge barriers to overcome. It was still an airplane- and fun to fly!


flyaway said...

for my instrument training i've been sticking with steam gauges. i figure that it's easier to go from steam to glass than the other way around and there are probably more rentals available with steam. i'm interested in the comment you made about "entered a waypoint that caused the G1000 to get corrupted". did that actually bring the G1000 down? if so, what would have happened if that were done in flight?

Matt said...

Welcome to the land of steam! And isn't it fun when you start to make a call with the tail number of the aircraft you usually fly and correct yourself halfway through?

I can't tell you how many times I've gone, "Long Island clearance Cessna 63-ahhh Niner 2 2 Sierra Whiskey!" or "Long Island clearance Cessna 63-DAMN!-8536Gulf!"

Head in the Clouds said...

Flyaway: I wasn't sure how easy it would be to go between the two-- and was surprised to find it relatively easy to go to steam from glass. I'd be pretty comfortable soloing in 144ME after just one time up-- as long as it was VFR. I'd need one more lesson, I think, to be comfortable flying only by the instruments (well, besides the obvious problem of not being instrument rated!).
As to the issue with the G1000. It didn't bring down the whole system-- it just caused a problem in entering a flight plan-- the plane still flew just fine. Because we were looking to do GPS approaches, we needed to be able to enter a flight plan and dial up the approaches. I think we would have also still been able to do VOR/ILS approaches manually. The wayward waypoint was very strange, too-- it showed up as five diamonds on the screen-- I'm not even sure how you would enter a diamond into the system-- I thought there were only numbers and letters. We had a similar symptom a couple of times early on-- difficulty entering information-- and actually had to have the MFD replaced twice-- and that turned out to be that someone had sprayed cleaning fluid on the screens. It seeped down in and caused the hardware to stop working correctly. But the plane was still fine to fly-- but you couldn't always access all the GPS bells and whistles.

Head in the Clouds said...

Matt: Yeah- I was embarrassed because I actually made it through the entire call before realizing my instructor was laughing at me. Oh well. At least I have company!