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.
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.
N6351Q (Mooney M20F) Specifications and Performance
|Horsepower: 200||Gross Weight: 2740 lbs|
|Top Speed: 161 kts||Empty Weight: 1640 lbs|
|Cruise Speed: 156 kts||Fuel Capacity: 64 gal|
|Stall Speed (dirty): 54 kts||Range: 734 nm|
|Ground Roll: 879 ft||Ground Roll 785 ft|
|Over 50 ft obstacle: 1385 ft||Over 50 ft obstacle: 1786 ft|
|Rate Of Climb: 1055 fpm|
|Ceiling: 17900 ft|
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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:
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.
How to Use the Flight Path Tool
- Install Java on your PC
- Launch the Flight Path Tool
- Work through a number of warnings to actually download, run and load the file (note: Java programs have unlimited access to your PC once they run, so you have to be careful what you load and run).
- Choose ‘Relative Humidity’ by checking that box at the bottom
5. Enter a flight plan
6. Move your altitude line to your cruising altitude. Remember: Green is No-Go…
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.
Share for Sale
Now is a great time to join PGAA
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.
Flying a Angeflight passenger from Van Nuys to Sacramento Mather in cloudy weather in Zulu. Some actual IFR as you can see. Music in the background is played by the Rocklin High School Jazz Band.
Had some fun editing two separate video streams into this 2:45min video. Used Cyberlink PowerDirector 12, which I bought for myself as a belated birthday present.