Picking up the DA40

I had the opportunity to pick up a Diamond Star DA40 this week.  I had not flown a DA40 before so this is my first impression of the airplane.   I’m a member of the Tidewater Flying Club and DA40 1our club has just purchased a 2003 DA40, N653JS.  The airplane was based at KSZF in Rhode Island and our club had arranged for some post purchase maintenance to be completed at KPGV in North Carolina.   So the plan was for me to get to KSZF, receive training from an instructor to satisfy the insurance company (and to make me comfortable), and then fly N653JS to KPGV and get picked up for the ride back to our home base at KPHF.  Lots of moving parts to this endeavor.  I arrived in Providence, RI the night prior to the pick up and stayed at a hotel near the airport.  The following morning my instructor for Diamond training, Jacob Hoffman, picked me up at 8:00 for the drive to KSZF.  Jacob is an instructor for AirVentures, a flight school at KSZF.  We arrived at the airport and started with a review of the manuals and then a preflight/discussion of the aircraft systems.  Jacob was very knowledgeable and thorough.  I was impressed with the size of the DA40.  I’m 6’2″ and I thought that it wouldIMG_0782 be a tight fit but I had plenty of headroom and legroom.  One thing I continued to have problems with is that you enter the cockpit from the front of the wing.  I’m used to getting into low-wing airplanes from behind the wing and so I kept walking around behind the wing only return to the front.  I found the seats comfortable.  The pilot and copilot seats are fixed and you adjust the rudder pedals fore and aft by pulling a cable.  I was surprised at the legroom available for the backseat passengers.  This DA40 also has a “ski” compartment in addition to the cargo area behind the rear passenger seats.  This is a long “tube” that would allow you to put skis (or some such thing) in the aircraft.  It is placarded with a 10 lbs max gross weight so you are not going to put much in the “ski” tube.  After our preflight in hangar we got the DA40 outside and refueled.  The start up is pretty straight forward and soon we were up and running.  It was windy and there was a good crosswind on runway 23; a great way to learn a new airplane!  Back to the rudder pedals, the pedals are close together and on each side there is a fixed metal bar (or bracket) that is DSC00732used to push the pedals to the out (away from the pilot) position.   I was wearing a pair of light hiking boots (anticipating the cold weather) and my big feet came in contact with the fixed metal bar if I didn’t make sure to kept them close together.  I believe the problem was my big feet combined with my boots and in the future I plan to wear a light weight pair of shoes.  So, if you have big feet, be warned!  After the upper air work we went to KPDV for an ILS and a few patterns.  Then back to KSZF with a forced landing scenario.  We ended the flight training with cross wind landings.  I felt comfortable with the DA40 and Jacob was happy with me so with training completed I refueled and started on my way to North Carolina.  I filed IFR at 6000′ via JFK and then down the coast to Delaware Airpark (33N) for relatively cheap fuel.  ATC decided to completely change my clearance but with some knob turning I was on my way.  (A hearty thank you to ForeFlight!)  ATC said I had to go to 8000′ for some unknown reason and I continued at that altitude towards NYC for about 45 minutes in a >35 knot headwind.  At that altitude the rpm was 2400 and the manifold press 21.3 with a OAT of +1 degrees C.  Using a indicated airspeed of 130 knots I came up with a TAS of around 148 knots.  ATC lowered me to DSC007306000′ and I had a great view of JFK.  I took some photos of NYC but there was a little haze and so the pictures didn’t turn out so well.  ATC was not too busy and I finally turned towards the southwest and the headwind turned into a crosswind.  It had been quite bumpy but I seemed to cross a cold frontal line and the turbulence had abated.  I started to do a few more TAS calculations.  I first used a higher power setting of 23′ manifold pressure (mp) and 2400 rpm.  With a plus 3 degrees centigrade and an indicated airspeed of 130 I had a TAS 149.  I was lowered again to 4000′ and adjusted to a “normal” cruise (according to the manual I was using for the DA40) of 23′ mp and 2200 rpm.  DSC00741With outside temp of 8 degrees C I had a TAS of 141 knots.  The aircraft really seems to be comfortable at this power setting, smooth and quiet (at least with my Lightspeed headset on).  I landed at 33N and got fuel.  I calculated a burn rate of 10.5 gallons an hour.  I did several more TAS calculations on the second leg from 33N to KPGV and always had a TAS greater than 140 knots.  Again, this DA40 is very comfortable in cruise with a 23 mp and 2200 rpm.  A few of observations.  This airplane has incredible visibility but you’d better wear a hat if you’re heading into the sun.  The vents seemed to work well and afforded adequate ventilation however it wasn’t a warm day.  Jacob said the DA40 actually wasn’t bad in DSC00742the summer once you were airborne and he has flow them for a flight school in Florida.  The wings are long and low and it would be easy to taxi into something sticking up like a taxiway light or sign by a taxiway (note the photo below).  Also below is a photo of the adapter plug for a iPad charger.  This plug is limited to 2 amps and I plugged a iPad charger into it and it created havoc with static on the radios.  It also is labeled “for ground use only” and I didn’tDSC00739 notice this until after the radio static problem.  It was a long day and I was happy to finally get home at about 10:00 pm!  Overall I’m happy with the DA40 and think it will be a good addition to our club.


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Night Air Mail Light Beacons

As a little kid I heard about the light beacons used to guide the Air Mail flights across the United States in the 1920s.  But just a year or so ago I learned that the beacons also included a concrete arrow on the ground to point to the next beacon and that some of these concrete arrows still exist.  I have flown VFR across the US many times and was surprised that I had not heard of or seen any of them.  But just recently, on my cross-country from the west coast to the east, I randomly chose KGNT in New Mexico as KGNT mail beacon - 16a refueling stop.  KGNT (Grants-Milan Airport) sits at 6537′ just west of the 11,301′ Mt. Taylor.  I was thrilled to find a complete Airway Beacon Site that has been moved to this airport and restored by the Cibola County Historical Society.   The small FBO is a very friendly place and loaded with memorabilia.  The photo on the left is taken from the ramp looking at the FBO and you can see the beacon to the rear of the building.  The next photo is of the beacon and the generator shed along with the concrete arrow pointing to the next beacon station.  Also in the photo on the left there is a partially restored CAA Flight Service Station that was used during   DSC00670the era.  If you go to the Cibola web site you will find much more information on the beacons and their efforts to preserve this piece of aviation history.  This next two pictures are of a small memorial

DSC00677DSC00676of an accident that occurred in 1929.  And the last picture is a photo of the beacon I took as we departed KGNT .  You can see the arrow placed on the ground which would point to the next station.  Note that the CAA Flight Service Station depicts the runway headings of 35 and 10 which I believe is because the old airport had two runways.  There is only one runway

KGNT mail beacon - 20at KGNT now.  Also, what you are looking at is really two different facilities.  The CAA Flight Service station was actually located on this field while the beacon and generator shed were moved here by the Cibola County Historical Society.  The generator shed was site 62 which meant it was 620 nautical miles from Los Angles.  The CAA Flight Service station rooftop also notes that the heading beacon number 54 is 107 degrees.  Great job by the folks of Cibola County!

Mountain Flying

I’ve been doing some mountain flight training in an area southwest of Carson City, NV.  Mountain flying in helicopters requires good performance planning as well as an understanding of the effects of wind, weather, and the of course the lack of O²!  I currently use the ForeFlight™ app on my iPad retina mini for flight planning, en route navigation, and situational awareness.  I’m a big fan of ForeFlight™; check out this screen shot.  foreflight

When you are in flight the symbol ForeFlight™ provides for your aircraft is an airplane, helicopter, or some other symbol (the symbol is user selectable).  I usually use a helicopter but in this case my position is just a blue dot.  This is because I’m not moving.  Yep, just landed at about 11,500′.  Depending on the source the highest airport in the world is in Tibet at about 14,219′ with a runway over 14,000 feet long.   But 11,500′ is still pretty high.  I have landed at higher elevations but this 11.5K spot is about the highest we can use in this area.

DSC00661Here is a photo of one of my passengers at 11,500′.  It was about -7 degrees at the time.  I like to use a mountain flying technique of approaching the landing site on the windward side.  This puts the helicopter in smoother up flowing air.  The up flow (updraft) requires less power.  I then make passes at 40 knots to discover which direction provides a headwind.  I let the aircraft crab into the wind and continue into the landing site all the while keeping power applied.  This technique allows the pilot to approach with power in a controlled manner while providing an escape route into the wind and up flow.  Great training and great fun!


I happened upon this airplane in Yuma, AZ this week.  It is the the same make, model, and year as the first airplane I soloed many years ago.  This is a 1959 Cessna 150 that has been converted to a taildragger but in many ways it is identical to the one I soloed when I was 16, good old N5964E.  This is even the original paint scheme used for 1959 Cessna 150s, just like the one we had, and note that the tail numbers are closeIMG_0713 (this one is N5789E).  My Mom owned N5964E but unfortunately some folks managed to total it (no one was seriously hurt).  Ours was a tricycle gear as were all the C-150s unless converted like this one.  I didn’t meet the owner but this airplane looks to be in great shape.  N5964E was a great airplane and I wish we still had her around.

Brand new web site

So this is my brand new web site.  The old one was designed with the help of some person I never saw in some land far, far away.  It wasn’t bad but I couldn’t edit the site.  I’m not a tech guy – well I’m not a real good tech guy,  (I love gadgets) but I’ve gradually learned to use WordPress and so here it is.  Nothing too fancy however my intent is to get some information out about my company, On Course Aviation LLC, and WV77, our little airport in West Virginia.  My blogs may be sporatic but I hope to get some comments about WV77 from those that fly there and enjoy the airport.  If you have questions about flight training or other business opportunities please use the contracts page and either email or call.

MIRight now I’m in Dallas for the Vintage and Experimental Aircraft Examiners annual get together with the FAA.  I’m an experimental examiner for the Russian Mi-8 series of helicopters.  It’s a big ugly brute but I love to fly it.  Lot of good information put out today by the ladies from AFS 760.  They are the paperwork folks from the FAA and it all comes down to the paperwork.  I’ll be adding blog posts on all things aviation such as techniques, regulation updates, and gear I like and how I use it.  Check back in when you have the time.