Our beautiful and versatile PA32-260 (Cherokee-6) is a great family traveling machine. Cruising around 130 KTAS, you can load the whole family and comfortably fly anywhere up and down the coast with range to spare. It is almost impossible to overload this bird, with an empty weight of just over 1,900 lbs, and a max gross weight of 3,400 lbs. N3739W got fresh paint and a major overhauled engine in 2017 and sports /G Garmin avionics, including a G5 electronic attitude indicator.
My wife, Margreet, and I had the privilege to fly one of our Piper Archers over a drenched Sacramento valley. We flew from Lincoln to Willows, had lunch at Nancie’s diner, and flew back over the Oroville dam. The Oroville dam area has a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR), and we didn’t want to disturb any repair acitivity, but the TFR has a top of 4,500 ft, so we were able to take pics from 5,500 ft with the old Canon with the still current and almost perfect EF 70-200 4.0L IS. You can see the spectacle as we experienced it from our unique vantage point.
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Acquired by PGAA in June 2016, our Mooney M20F is the fastest and most complex airplane in our fleet. The 200 hp, fuel injected engine turns a constant speed prop, and the gear is lifted by a bullet-proof Johnson bar. Among her many upgrades, M20F has the aerodynamic windscreen of her successor, the M20J. The panel sports a GNS430 IFR GPS. This airplane has been very well cared for, and it shows.
The Lincoln Airfest attracted a lot of local aviation enthusiasts and interested members of the local community. Lots of pics and videos here. PGAA as there, displaying Foxtrot, one of our Archer IIs, but Whiskey, our Cherokee 6, slightly outside the display area, got some interest as well. Special thanks to Clark and the rest of the organizing committee of the Airfest for all the work to pull this event together.
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This Saturday, June 11, is Lincoln Airfest, a great aviation event at the Lincoln Regional Airport. PGAA pilots will be there to chat about what it is like to be a PGAA member, answer any questions, and show off at least one of our 3 great airplanes.
From the Lincoln Airfest website: “Hot air balloons! Warbirds! Specialty airplanes! Military aircraft! Helicopters, remote-controlled model aircraft demonstrations, skydiving exhibitions, powered parachutes, plus classic cars and sports cars! Take an aerial adventure in a helicopter at reasonable prices!
Get up close and personal with the pilots and their airplanes on the large Lincoln Regional Airport tarmac. Thrill to formation flyovers by specialty airplanes. ”
Lots of great things to see and do. It is going to be a great day. We look forward to seeing you there.
…and if you can’t make it this Saturday: don’t be a stranger – reach out, and we would love to talk about flying, our airplanes, our organization, show you the planes, even if there is no specific event.
Early 2015, I found myself flying an Angelflight from KOAK to KSMO on an IFR flight plan in N2875Z, flying into deteriorating IMC conditions as I approached socal. KSMO was reporting VFR with 4200 ft ceilings and 4 miles visibility, but to get there, I had to fly through some solid IMC – mainly some stable clouds and drizzle conditions. It wouldn’t have to be a big deal, if it weren’t for a flight plan that called for a 10,000 ft MEA, where the temperature on our nearly 40 year old OAT indicator was at best .5 degrees above freezing, and numerous jet transports descending into the area were reporting moderate rhyme ice accumulations – something that would not be pleasant in our Archer, with limited power to stay aloft and nowhere to descend to. Though I never got any icing, I decided I needed a way to be able to predict and avoid this situation while planning an IFR flight.
Terrain, Clouds and Darkness
One of my CFIs taught me some simple wisdom about risk management for an instrument rated pilot in a single engine airplane: of the three main risk factors of terrain, clouds and darkness, accept only one at a time.
Intuitively, I think we all know this is probably a good idea: avoid night IMC, don’t fly through clouds over obscured high mountains and don’t fly over unpredictable mountains in the dark.
Obviously, there are some nuances, but the day of my Angelflight, I was clearly violating one of these rules and though never in real danger, I was clearly feeling the risk I was taking and wanted to find ways to minimize the probability of doing that again.
Aiming for the Top(s)
I decided that the situation would have been a lot less hairy had I been ‘on top’, looking down at an undercast and some mountain peeks sticking out. There would have been no risk of icing, the flying would have been a lot easier, and though an engine failure would still have caused an issue, but the probability in cruise of that happening (assuming plenty of fuel) are minuscule, and if it happened, I’d still be much rather on top than in a cloud…
So I started looking for usable ‘tops’ information. We have all been taught that tops information can only be obtained through the area forecast (somewhat) and through pilot reports, but that forecasting doesn’t typically provide that type of data. So this is when I discovered the ‘Flight Path Tool‘, available at ADDS.
The Flight Path Tool provide a wealth of information, including relative humidity for a cross section of your flight path, which is a very good predictor of the probability to encounter clouds. The Flight Path Tool runs on Java (so not on iPhones and iPads) and you have to download a Java run time environment, available free at Oracle.
The Flight Path Tool has supported me in several No Go decisions to Southern California on days that were technically VFR, but that I decided were too risky even for IFR. In those cases, the flight path cross-sections looked something like in figure 1. Other than what we may be used to, green in this diagram means ‘No Go’: the darker the green, the higher the relative humidity. The horizontal line is the 10,000ft line, and the reason this led to a No-Go decision is that in my airplane, there would be no way to climb above the cloud layer to get across the mountains. It’s a No-Go, even though all stations along the route are likely reporting VFR or MVFR conditions.
Figure 1. Flight path cross section KLHM to KSBA leading to No-Go decision
I made at three No-Go decisions that were based on the Flight Path Tool providing this type of a picture.
Than came an Angelflight opportunity last week from KSAC to KRNM (near San Diego). The weather forecast was not great – scattered layers between 3,000 and 3,500 and broken to overcasts layers around 4,500 to 5,000. Widely scattered rain showers and Isolated thunderstorms were in the forecast as well, mainly around my departure airports starting after my departure and ending before my return. The flight path tool showed something like what you see in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Flight Path from KSAC to KRNM supporting a Go decision
(BTW – I manually manipulated these to make it kind-of looks the way it looked then).
So based on Figure 2 and the rest of the forecast, I decided:
I could climb above the cloud layer – predicting that I would break out to blue skies at about 8000 ft
In case of emergency, I could easily descend and break out with plenty of time to pick a landing spot.
The approach into Ramona should be easy.
On top, I could spot build-ups and circumnavigate the widely scattered showers and isolated storms.
It worked out pretty much like that. Because of prevailing winds, we flew the first 90 minutes or so below the clouds, cutting through some scattered cumulus, but mostly in the clear with a slight tail wind. Then we climbed through a layer to 11,000, breaking out at 7,800 (but now with a 20kts head wind. We cruised above the clouds and could see all kinds of holes where they would have reported ‘broken’ clouds or better on the ground. The approach into Ramona was easy, and we circled and landed with no incidents.
Figure 3. The clouds look a lot friendlier from the top
The way home was the reverse, but there was a bit more build-up.
Garmin Pilot gave me confidence that the path back would keep me clear of the worst rain:
Figure 4 – Garmin Pilot with GDL39 connected
For the final stretch, ATC provided vectors keeping me away from the heaviest precipitation still in the area, and in the end, I broke out at about 3000 ft in light rain at 10 miles visibility.
Test driving the folding bike – how it rides, how it folds, and how it fits in the back of an airplane. All are remarkable. This is a Dahon Boardwalk. It’s a single speed bike with coaster brake and a front hand-brake. It has a 42×14 gearing and 20″ wheels, which works well, even with 24 gusting 28 knots headwind and up the mild hill of our court. It folds and unfolds in only a few seconds. 1 fits easily in the back of the mini, multiple in the back of the Archer. And, contrary to what it looked like by the numbers, it fits through the Archer baggage door. Altogether, this is exactly what I was looking for.
Dahon folding bike in the Archer
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A quick update from your favorite Lincoln, CA based flying organization.
First, we have welcomed two new owners to our organization – we are growing and getting stronger.
Second: one of our shareholders needs to sell his share for personal reasons. This is a great opportunity for a local pilot to join our organization. Please look here http://www.pgaafly.com/shares4sale.html for more information how to connect to the seller, or reply to this email.
If you had ever considered joining the organization that gives you the benefits of airplane ownership, without the expense and hassle, this is the right time to make the move. We look forward to welcoming you into our pilot/owner group.
Here are some updates from PGAA. In this installment, you will find some updates on our annual owner meeting, updates on our fleet, updates on available shares, and more:
Share for sale
We currently have 15 pilot/owners of our fleet of 3 Piper aircraft. The organization has three shares available for sale, which would bring our total to 18. The current owners believe that 18 is the right number of owners, still providing plenty of aircraft availability, while keeping the organization financially strong and our rates affordable.
Five great reasons to own a PGAA share:
Easy access to great, well maintained airplanes, including two Archers and one Cherokee 6
Get your own keys – so you can fly when you want to
Reduce your cost of flying – so you can afford to fly where you want to go
Proven model – we’ve been around since 2002 and have an experienced management team
Solid investment – we have a strong balance sheet and maintain our aircraft to sustain their value
In the June newsletter, we reported that one of our Archers had been in a taxi incident and required significant repair on the left wing. As of last month, we are happy to have Zulu back on the line, looking and flying great. The wing damage has been professionally repaired and tested and, as an added benefit, the wing got new paint and new, clear lenses on the wing tips. We invested a little bit extra to get the top of the right wing painted as well, making Zulu look very slick on the ramp. And it is great to be back to 3 airplanes to fly.
In addition to the Zulu improvements related to the wing repair, we implemented a lot of improvements to our fleet this summer:
Removed Garmin x96 docks in Zulu and Whiskey and replaced them by a 1″ Ram mount ball. We polled our owners and found that no-one is using the docks, and empty, they were looking a bit messy. The panels look much cleaner now, and the ram mount ball allows each owner to mount their own favorite tablet to use during flight. It looks and works really well.
Replaced landing lights with LED bulbs. These are much brighter and use less energy, but most importantly, they don’t go out. Traditional Piper landing lights are prone to outage due to the vibrations, and that problem has been resolved now.
Installed beautiful new carpets in Zulu. Due to wear and tear, the carpets had come loose. The new ones have been professionally installed and look and feel much better.
Created wing tip covers to protect the tip light lenses for Zulu. Exposed to the elements, the Plexiglas lenses get ‘cloudy’ over time, and we wanted to avoid this with the shiny new lenses on Zulu. One of our owners came up with an ingenious design that is easy to use and does the job. We plan to replace the Foxtrot lenses and to the same at her next annual.
We also voted at the owners meeting to get the top of Foxtrot’s wings (our other Archer) painted, which is a way to extend the life of the paint and make the airplane look good for the next few years.
On September 20th, we held our annual shareholders/owners meeting. The meeting was well attended and we had a lot of great topics to discuss. Some of the things we talked about:
We discovered a creative way to significantly reduce our insurance premium, and decided to move forward with it.
We discussed the need for ADS-B out equipment in our fleet, and decided to plan to upgrade our entire fleet to be compliant with ADS-B by January 1, 2020. We also decided to put aside some of the insurance savings to pay for the ADS-B upgrades.
We discussed how to deal with discretionary improvements, e.g., upgrades in avionics and improvements in appearance.
We decided on some shared portable equipment to buy and make available for all shareholders.
We put in place a committee to look into shareholders’ wishes when it comes to fleet composition in the immediate or medium future.
Good to know
No minimum hours for overnight trips
PGAA owners can schedule and take an airplane overnight without committing to a minimum number of flying hours. Though there are some rules we have agreed on for extended trips, it is very easy to take a plane for a few days. For instance: if you want to go to Monterey for the weekend, leave on Friday evening and return on Sunday night, most FBO’s would require you to fly at least 4-6 hours, though the trip really wouldn’t be more than 3.5. As a PGAA owner, you have no such limitations. Another great reason to own, rather than rent.
Feel free to forward this email to other aviation enthusiasts. They can sign up to receive this newsletter in the future through this link: http://eepurl.com/gjH29