Tom Horne Archive

A TBM crosses: Keflavik to Narsarssuaq to Sept Iles

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Greenland landfall

Making landfall on the western coast of Greenland.

The Keflavik airport used to be a U.S. Navy base back in the day, but no more. Even so, this misconception today keeps many GA pilots away from BIKF. Sure, it remains Iceland’s major international airport, but GA is welcome. The FBO there–South Air–is great. Thanks to Kef’s two 10,000-foot runways–and the four ILS approaches that serve them (thanks, Navy!)–Keflavik makes sense when the winds are up and the clouds are down. That’s one reason why we chose to land N600YR there.

For the next leg, the winds were forecast to be relatively light for the cruising altitude of FL280, so there was some thought as to whether the TBM could make it to Goose Bay (CYYR) non-stop. Problem was, the forecast at Goose (also known as the Happy Valley Airport) was for a chance of low-IFR conditions. If N600YR had to hold, then fuel could get tight. And night would be falling, along with temperatures and dew points. So the decision was made to make an intermediate stop at Narsarssuaq, Greenland (BGBW).

Narsarssuaq airport

View of Narsarssuaq airport from the tower. Runway in distance slopes down to the fjord, from right to left.

Yes, the storied Narsarssuaq, forever enshrined in aviation history by Ernest K. Gann’s Fate Is The Hunter. But unlike the white-knuckle rides that Gann (and thousands of other pilots serving in World War II, by the way) endured into what was then called Bluie West One, skies were clear for our arrival.

I have landed at Narsarssuaq many times, always using runway 7. Today I’d be flying a straight-in to runway 25. Winds were calm, an oddity here. Normally this procedure would be no big deal. But the issue was runway 25’s radical downhill slope, at two degrees. Doesn’t sound like much, but the runway drops 100 feet in elevation from threshold to stopway. I punched off the autopilot, rounded a ridge that identified the glacier that terminates near the approach end of the runway, and descended to final. I tried to grease it on, but flaring for a soft touchdown wasn’t a good technique. The more I floated, the more the runway dropped away, and I landed almost at midfield. Now that downhill slope is helping me roll toward the iceberg-strewn fjord at an alarming rate. Stand on brakes! Pull max reverse thrust! Finally I stopped the ship and taxied in for fuel. Lesson learned: major downhill runways can be bad news. Especially if you’re flying at 90-95 knots. And the AFM says to fly at 85. Best to plant the airplane early and firmly, then use everything you’ve got to stop. ATE from Kef to BGBW: 2+25.

Ice under the fuel cap.

Chunk of ice retrieved from strainer beneath a fuel cap.

During the fuel stop a lineman called us out to the plane. There in the strainer basket beneath the fuel caps was a small chunk of ice. It was a first for everybody on the scene. Guess that’s what happens when the temperatures at FL280 run -50 degrees Celsius. And yes, we used Prist, so who knows what caused the ice.

The winds, weather, and a fresh fuel load (292 gals) argued for the next leg to be a long one–about 800 nm to Sept-Iles, Quebec (CYZV). The chancy weather at Goose was avoided, and we’d be that much farther down the road. Interested in the routing? Get out your North Atlantic and Canadian charts, because here it is: BGBW – 59N50W – Loach intersection – Foxxe intersection – direct CYZV. After leaving uncontrolled airspace passing through 10,000 feet, the clearance had us going straight to FL280, which we did in just 18 minutes. It would have been less, but using the engine’s inertial separator for the climb through clouds deprived the PT6 of doing its best.

Narsarssuaq tower controller

Narsarssuaq tower controller. You can reach him on 119.1.

At altitude the ritual power setting was made: 95 percent torque–for a fuel burn of 53 gph. About halfway into this 3+50 leg both Margrit and I were feeling fatigued. It would end up being a 6.5-hour flying day, after all. Candy bars helped, though, and soon we were on the ILS for runway 9 with good (few 800, few 10,000, 2,800 overcast) weather. Then it was a tiedown at Trans-Sol Aviation, a visit with Customs, and a ride to the Hotel Gouverneur for a well-earned sleep-in. This would help me reset my biological clock to eastern daylight time, I hoped. (I used to use melatonin to enable a sleep-enforced time-zone change, but the wild dreams got to me.) Tomorrow: Back in the U.S.A.!

Water, water everywhere. The G1000 MFD shows the situation enroute to Narsarssuaq

To Iceland in a TBM 850

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Our delivery flight began with a 330pm local departure from Daher Socata´s home airport in Tarbes, France, and ended some 7.5 hours later with an arrival at the Keflavik, Iceland airport. Along the way there was a fuel stop at the Glasgow, Scotland airport. There, survival suits and a raft were picked up as well. Those two legs were each about 800 nm, but the TBM 850 is a great cruising machine so those two legs lasted only 3.2 and 2.9 hours, respectively. Headwind components at our cruising altitude of FL280 never went much above 26 knots. But once going feet wet after crossing the Stornoway VOR on the west coast of Scotland crosswind component reached highs of 83 knots.No turbulence and no ice, so life was good.

Between Stornoway and Aldan, an intersection off the south coast of Iceland, winds at 280 averaged 80 knots out of the southwest. But no problem. On we flew into the night, goundspeeds ranging from 265 to 289 knots. Meanwhile, true airspeed was 300 knots while burning 55 gph. So the sense of hardship that prevails so strongly when crossing in a piston single simply wasn´t there. What would have been a 7 hour ordeal in a Mooney or Cessna instead becomes a three hour jaunt in a TBM 850.

Now I´m at the lobby computer at the Northern Light Inn —–and it´s 815 Z on Saturday. The sun isn´t up yet and it´s raining like mad, something that began during the ILS approach to BIKF´s runway 02 last night. Plans are to leave around 930 but some coffee first to help me wake up. Meanwhile, there´s a surreal scene outside as steam from the adjacent Blue Lagoon hot spring and spa rises into its spotlights. The shuttle van will arrive soon and then it´s back into the murk for a trip to either famed Narsarssuaq, Greenland or a straight shot to Goose Bay, Labrador. Depends on winds, which are forecast to lessen in strength today.As always, more later.

Delivering TBM’s 600th

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Employees form up to make a human "600," with the real McCoy in the background

Horne here. And by “here” I mean at Daher-Socata’s factory in Tarbes, France. I’m getting ready to deliver the 600th TBM to the United States–a trip that is set to begin tomorrow. This means flying yet another Atlantic crossing,  but this time I won’t be alone. One of Daher-Socata’s favorite veteran ferry pilots–Margrit Waltz–will be my minder on what promises to be a memorable trip. Maybe you’ve seen Waltz’s image  featured in Pratt & Whitney’s latest round of ads. Pratt touts her as one the company’s true believers, using the “PT6 proud” tag line as I recall.

The 600th TBM, ready for delivery

In any case, the airplane–N600YR–is destined for an owner in Oregon. Our route will take us to Wick, Scotland and Reykjavik, Iceland on the first day. The second day will include stops at Narsarssuaq, Greenland and either Goose Bay, Labrador or St. John’s, Newfoundland. Then we’ll soldier on to Bangor, Maine to clear customs and wind up at AOPA’s home base at Frederick Maryland’s Municipal airport. Assuming no weather or other diversions of course.

Today was a fun day at the Daher-Socata plant. Daher-Socata’s director of product marketing Philippe de Segovia organized a photo shoot. A bunch of the company’s 1,000 or so employees were staged on the ramp so as to spell out the numerals “600.” It was like herding cats, moving people here and there so as to make a good-looking three digits from photographer Thomas Jullien’s cherry-picker vantage point.

TBM 850 final assembly line

Customer relations officer Caroline Van Berkel gave me a tour of the plant. Much has changed since my last visit in 2007, when Daher-Socata president Nicolas Chabbert and I last flew a TBM850 to the States. Daher-Socata now has new capital equipment and is a major subcontractor for a number of aerospace companies. It makes nose cones and nose gear doors for Airbus’ A380s. It makes main landing gear doors for Airbus’ upcoming A350XWB, and belly fairings for A330s and A340s. Falcon 7X’s have their fuselages built here. Eurocopter EC532, AS355 Twinstar, and EC350 Astar fuselage assemblies are also made at the Tarbes plant. Daher-Socata has a new carbon-fiber tape-placement robot for making composite components, plus two large autoclaves and three smaller ones. And there’s been talk of some day making the TBM850’s fuselage of carbon fiber.

In a speech to employees, Daher–Socata president and CEO mentioned to need to emphasize safety. This, in the wake of an engine-failure accident last week. The crash took place after maintenance work and resulted in a forced landing on an Interstate highway near Daher-Socata’s North American home at the North Perry Aiport in Ft. Lauderdale. Pilot Alain Jaubert and mechanic Donato Pinto were injured, no people on the ground were hurt, and an investigation continues. “Safety comes first,” Mayer said. “Everything else comes after that. Mayer also said that parent company Daher will be opening a new product support and parts inventory facility in Marseilles, France.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for details of the first two legs.

An EF-1 for LAL

Friday, April 1st, 2011

The supercell thunderstorm complex that hit the Sun ‘N Fun grounds at Lakeland, Florida’s Linder Airport spawned an EF-1 tornado on the field. The National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed the tornado touchdown, as well as downburst gusts as high as 75 mph. That’s well above flying speed for most of the airplanes tied down at Sun “N Fun, as can be seen in the storm coverage on AOPA’s website.

Meteorologist Theodore Fujita developed his Fujita scale in the 1970s, then refined it again in the 1990s to the current “EF” scale. The “EF” stands for ‘enhanced Fujita,” and it’s a damage scale. An EF-1 tornado has surface winds between 86 and 110 mph. The NWS adopted the EF scale, and assigned the following types of damage to EF-1 tornados: Moderate damage. Small barns and outbuildings damaged. Rooves ripped, mobile homes overturned, loss of exterior doors, windows and other glass broken.” All of that happened at Lakeland yesterday, plus a lot of downed trees and power lines.

The EF scale damage descriptors might also be expanded to include, “Tied-down airplanes may be flipped and destroyed, tents crushed, Porta-potties overturned, and signs uprooted.”

Though an EF-1 may sound like it’s low on the totem pole of tornado damage (and it is–the scale goes up to 28), its damage is awe-inspiring. It’s not something I want to ever live through again!

For storm track information, see the Tampa Bay NWS report.

Calling all Citation II pilots!

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

I’m in the process of researching an article on the Citation II/IISP/SII series–for publication in AOPA Pilot’s Turbine Pilot section. Anyone out there care to share their experiences owning/maintaining/flying any of these bizjets? With some 1,000-plus out there, the II series was one of Cessna’s most successful lines. And now, it’s possible to own one of these aging classics for less than a million dollars! True, the engines may be high-time, and the panel dated, but the thought of a 350-plus-knot, 8-10 seat jet as an alternative to, say, a new Baron must be tempting….. over to you….

Cri-Cri, avec photo

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

A while ago I did a post about our upcoming Cri-Cri article. And several of you called me out for not posting a picture of this mini-twin. So here you go! Clear prop!

Cri-Cri, pret a taxi

Europe hates GA, apparently

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

I’ve written extensively in the past about European GA, and why Europeans come to the United States to earn their pilot certificates. Why? Because it’s infinitely less expensive and streamlined–compared to the onerous, bloated, and punishingly expensive European path to certificate-hood. You thought Euro-user fees were bad? How about spending $15,000 to get a private pilot certificate across the pond?

Now, a new European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) proposal would end all that. No more reciprocation between the US and Europe, goes the plan. You might be able to get European validation of your U.S. pilot certificate right now. But in two years, if you want to fly in Europe you’ll have to earn one of their certificates. It would mean the end of a long, happy (until now) tradition of US–and European!–pilots flying GA aircraft for vacation and business purposes in Europe.

But wait, there’s more! EASA wants to rid the European Community of N-registered airplanes too. Soon, the common practice of Euro-pilots registering their airplanes with a US N-number will end if the proposals go through. Europeans realize considerable savings by flying airplanes with an “N-reg.” Lord knows they need to save as much as they can if GA flying is to continue, what with $20-per-touchdown landing fees and $8 per gallon fuel costs.

The impetus for all this xenophobic regulatory activity? Why, to garner more fees and pump up an already-Byzantine regulatory culture. Thanks to all those centuries of Kings, Queens, Lords, Barons, Viceroys, Dukes, “vons,” and landed gentry, Europeans seem not able to shake the inclination to submit to the state.

Pilot und Flugzeug, a German aviation magazine, has posted three scenarios on the potential outcome of the EASA proposals. Here’s a link to editor Jan Brill’s musings on the impact:

As always, IAOPA and AOPA-US are on top of this issue. Let’s hope that this trans-Atlantic GA force rises to the task. Europe–well, EASA anyway–seems to hate GA. Let’s not turn the other cheek.

The Cri-Cri: “Nickel-chrome”

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Last weekend I was up visiting the Pendleton, Ontario, Canada airport. A friend there, David Smith, owns a Cri-Cri–claimed to be the smallest twin-engine airplane in the world, and we made photos and videos of this remarkable airplane. Look for a story about the Cri-Cri in an upcoming issue of AOPA Pilot–complete with web components featuring in-cockpit views of Cri-Cri aerobatics.

Pendleton used to be a World War II training base, but the Canadian government sold the airport to the 100-member Gatineau Gliding Club and now it’s a very nice airport community. Cabins, mobile homes, a clubhouse with in-ground swimming pool–it’s all there, nestled among the birches and pines of this rural site.

Photographer Chris Rose and I stayed in Smith’s house at Pendleton. In the 1940s it used to be the base commander’s residence. But last weekend it was home to Smith’s family and a visitor from Montreal–Francois Bougie. Bougie flew his Swift to Pendleton to watch us work gathering images for the story.

It’s easy to be taken in by the Cri-Cri. It’s cute on the ground, but can be aggressive in the air. As the videos will show. Bougie’s enthusiasm came with a Quebecois twist. Like most who live in Quebec, his patter could switch instantly from English to French-Canadian. Ditto Smith. I envy them this rapid-fire bilinguality.

Rose was all over the place taking his photos and videos. At one point he got on the roof of a hangar to get a straight-down shot of the Cri-Cri. Bougie was with him. When he saw the shot played back in Rose’s viewfinder, he exclaimed, “C’est du Nickel-Chrome, la!”

Say what? Smith and I were baffled by this phrase (it means, well, nickel-chrome, but is pronounced–no, shouted–with a heavy French accent). Turns out “nickel-chrome” is a popular phrase among the youth of Quebec. It means “super-duper,” “top notch,” “most excellent,” etc.

You guessed it, the phrase caught on. Soon, it was nickel-chrome this or that. Now it’s an in-joke among the dozen or so who watched the photo shoot. When you see the article and imagery, maybe you, too, will be moved to blurt out “nickel-chrome!” and flick away an imaginary cigarette with the mock disdain of  a French-Canadian imitating a Frenchman from the continent.

The greenhouse effect

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

I’ve been flying this week with an AOPA staff pilot, getting instrument-current, as well as logging my biennial and annual flight reviews. (The latter is a requirement for AOPA staff pilots). We’ve been flying AOPA’s Diamond DA-40. This is a great-handling airplane that’s capable of 145-knot cruise speeds and serves well as an instrument platform. It’s also a wonderful training device for boning up on your Garmin G1000 knobology, and perfecting your autoflight techniques. No wonder so many flight training schools use the DA40.

But–and it’s a big but–we’ve been having record-setting temperatures in the Mid-Atlantic states this week. The sun’s been beating down to the tune of 95 degrees some days. Today we’re supposed to hit 98 degrees. The heat indices are topping 100 degrees. Global warming, anyone?

How does this relate to the DA40? European manufacturers are big on big canopies. And that’s a very wise design choice in terms of visibility. But ground operations can make for a sauna-like cabin. Sure, cracking open the canopy helps, but the mid-90s are the mid-90s. And it’s definitely not a dry heat. In flight, the DA40’s huge wemacs help with cabin air flow, but the fact remains. Euro-airplanes like the DA40, the Robin series, the Socata singles and others place a premium on windshield area. European weather is a creature of all that maritime air that surrounds the continent, hence the cloudy, rainy climate across the pond.  European designers were definitely not thinking of operations in, say, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, or anywhere in the southern tier of states. Places where massive, stagnant summer highs park themselves over a huge, baking land mass.

Is all that visibility worth the sauna trade-off? Probably–if you have TIS or some other means of traffic detection. Because when flying the G1000 through instrument procedures you’re heads-down–big time!

Here comes the sun…Oh, no!

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Yesterday a pesky warm front trudged through the Mid-Atlantic states, heralded by low stratus. Morning temps were in the 60s in central Maryland, and it was plenty humid, of course. Things heated up by late afternoon, but not by much. A sole, random break in the clouds sent a shaft of sunlight earthward, and for a moment all seemed cheerier.

But no! As I’ve seen many times–from above and below–that sunlight warmed up the lower atmosphere and destabilized the air. The shaft of sunlight disappeared, only to be replaced by dark skies and heavy rain. A check of the satellite and radar imagery showed that that bit of sun kicked off a modest buildup. Yet more proof that sunny skies may not always mean good weather!