7 and 9 March 2012
I’ll give you two at once this time. I also flew the AT-6 twice this week. This was a training week for the AT-6. I flew an IMC/IFR (Instrument) flight in AT-2 N620AT on the 7th. This was a very taxing flight because it was in instrument conditions (can’t see the ground) for most of the flight. We flew IFR to Salina (SLN) for two approaches to 17 at SLN. The first approach was an LPV GPS 17. The winds were down the runway, but pretty high at 25 gusting to 35 knots. Our limit is 35 knots due to the danger of parachute dragging if you have to eject. The AT-6 like the T-6 aircraft has an ejection seat.
On this flight, I was using the iPad for charts and no paper pubs. In the AT-6, the iPad works like a dream. Even in hard instrument conditions, the interface is easy to use. I was able to control the aircraft throughout the flight with no difficulty, and I learned some great tricks to make the flight easier.
After SLN I made a drop-in to AAO (Jabara) for the ILS to runway 18. While I was flying, the backseat pilot accomplished some flight test on the AT-6 mission systems, so we got some testing complete along with the instrument flight. The AT-6 incorporates a moving map as part of the mission equipment, that makes IFR and VFR flight easy.
ATC was very helpful during our flight and gave BEC (Beech Field) a heads up that we were returning. I was able to make a sidestep under the weather from AAO to BEC for a straight-in approach to BEC. Everything worked like clockwork. We landed at BEC after 1.5 hours and in the high winds. The aircraft performed perfectly–in fact almost every flight in the AT-6 seems to be near perfect–especially considering it is a test aircraft. Usually, you expect problems and at least some level of delays or maintenance cancels due to the experimental nature of these types of aircraft, but the AT-6 is ready for flight almost all the time.
I was supposed to fly the next day, but I couldn’t find a backseat pilot to go up with me. The aircraft was ready, but we were too busy to crew it. I’m not solo qualified by company standards yet–oh well.
The day after, Finch was in the backseat, and I was in the front of AT-1 (N610AT) for a VFR/VMC flight to check out the mission system and training. The mission system is highly integrated and very capable. I practiced mission system work using the EO/IR turret and the the targeting system in the aircraft. It is awesome. AT-1 unlike AT-2 doesn’t have the newest software load yet, but that doesn’t mean the system isn’t capable of doing everything it needs to.
I set up simulated attacks on various targets from different altitudes. We rang out the system using simulated laser guided munitions, dumb bombs, rockets, and guns. One of the neatest capabilities is to identify and mark a target using the EO/IR turret and to make simulated attacks on the fly. Finch gave me 3 minutes to clean out 7 targets at a location. I used rockets and guns, and 3 minutes was took much time.
When we were finished in the area, we RTBed (Returned to Base) to an overhead. The aircraft is a real dream to fly. It has great capability for training and for precision attacks. Like I’ve said before, I spent a lot of time upside down mostly setting up for attacks. Easy and responsive, that about summarizes flying the AT-6.
2 March 2012
I flew a BFR (Basic Flight Review) in the Baron today. Marvin was my instructor, and it was a great flight.
We went up to Salina, Kansas (SLN) to take advantage of their ILS to runway 35. On the way up, we did the typical airwork: stalls and falls, unusual attitudes, steep turns, and such. These are all required for a BFR and we accomplished a basic instrument review at the same time. Because of the instrument review, almost the entire flight was on foggles. Foggles are glasses a pilot wears to simulate instrument flight–you can’t see anything except the instruments so you have to fly the aircraft by reference only to what you have in the cockpit.
The first event out of AAO (Jabara Airport, Wichita) was a simulated engine failure, then we continued out to the area and then to SLN. The trick is to always keep up with the aircraft. Since my Baron has an autopilot, this makes instrument flight both easier and harder. It is easier because you can give the aircraft to the autopilot to prepare for the approaches you must fly. It is harder because you must keep situational awareness (SA) all the time–it is easier to keep good SA when you are hand flying.
I flew the first approach on the autopilot. I had an interesting surprise when I went to Approach mode on the autopilot and the aircraft tried to climb to intercept the glideslope for the ILS to 35. It isn’t supposed to work that way. Like I said, you have to keep SA all the time. Once I had things under control, the autopilot acted like it was supposed to on the approach. I was using electronic pubs exclusively for the first time in the aircraft. The company gave me an iPad and a subscription to JeppFD for approaches and charts, and I have NOAA charts on the iPad too. With a backup of the moving map tablet in the aircraft and those charts, I meet the FAA requirements for publications in the aircraft. You can also carry all the flight manuals and other information that is necessary for safe fight–no paper.
The iPad was a little cumbersome and hid slightly under the yoke during flight. This wasn’t much of a problem, but a center yoke mount would make things easier. The problem is the pilot’s yoke has the clock in the center, and the clock is necessary for some approaches. I really liked using electronic pubs. The charts were convenient and easy to use. I had the charts on JeppFD for IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) and the approaches and VFR (Visual Flight Rules) charts on Fltplan.com’s iPad app. This allowed a quick transition between IFR and VFR flight. Usually, this is very cumbersome in the cockpit with multiple folding charts and books. The only thing missing is a moving map on the iPad. I hope the company provides a GPS antenna for use with the iPad in the future.
We also flew a LPV (near precision) GPS approach single engine with a hold to 35 and went to EQA (Eldorado) to try a missed approach sequence from the GPS. Finally, we ended with a VOR A to AAO with a circle to land on 36 at AAO. The plane flew great, and I completed my BFR and instrument refresher. All in all, it was a great flight and fun–plus I learned some new information from the instructor (Marvin). He’s a real asset for updates on all the new procedures.