Tom Horne Archive

Target: Upper Midwest

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Last week we began seeing Mesoscale Convective Complexes (MCCs) affecting the upper midwest–mainly Wisconsin. Well, guess what. The same basic weather dyanmics are still in place! There’s a warm- or stationary frontal boundary lying across Wisconsin and Minnesota, with its parent low now over eastern North Dakota. Winds aloft at 6,000 feet are 60 knots out of the south-southwest from Oklahoma to Minnesota. And that means warm, moist air is riding up and over the frontal boundary, setting Minnesota and Wisconsin up for trouble. Again. This will be almost a week of the same-old, same-old for the upper midwest. Today the Storm Prediction Center identifies Wisconsin as having a slight chance of severe thunderstorms. Will another MCC be in the offing? Maybe. After all, there’s a huge area of rainfall in the area already. That said, a check of ceilings and visibilities during the last MCC event showed mostly MVFR weather. On the other hand, yesterday featured a monster bow echo, which signals strong winds and turbulence ahead of onrushing cold outflows from storm centers. Below is this morning’s setup, but this afternoon is when the curtain may raise on the main event. Meanwhile, the eastern US roasts under high pressure. Time for density altitude calculation practice!



Precipitation shield over MN


Winds aloft 6,000 ft msl


MCC on the move

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Yesterday’s post about the mesoscale convective complex (MCC) over Wisconsin needs an update. MCCs can persist for days, sure. But a cold front approaching from the west has changed things. Right now, all the real action has shifted south, to Kansas and Oklahoma, where a low has intensified and threatens to make yet another MCC over Oklahoma. Meanwhile, a cold front about to affect Wisconsin is butting up against a fairly strong high pressure system. That high is giving the whole eastern US great flying weather, but by late tomorrow that cold front should blow through Wisconsin and bring more rain and possible convection over the region. Could another MCC re-form over Wisconsin? Maybe. There’s still a good, 30-40 knot southerly flow over the region at 5,000 feet. If you’re as geeky about weather as I am, you’ll be watching this whole system on the march over the weekend. Meanwhile, here are infrared images of the MCC as it appeared yesterday, along with imagery of this morning’s developing situation over Oklahoma.

Thursday June 14, 1900Z

Wanna see an MCC?

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

In keeping with Storm Week, here’s an infrared satellite shot of a Mesoscale Convective Complex (MCC) from the Penn State e-wall website. Can you see it? It’s covering most of Wisconsin! MCCs are massive thunderstorm complexes that derive their strength from strong southerly flows of moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. True to form, this MCC set up north of a warm front and its radar signature is the classic round shape, with a nice cirrus outflow at the edges. I’ve written about MCCs several times in AOPA Pilot, and an upcoming Wx Watch in the July issue will address the subject again. MCCs have a nasty habit of persisting for days, so let’s see how this one plays out.

PC-12s in African Special Ops

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Check out today’s front page story in The Washington Post:  It’s about a network of airports across Africa that are home to Pilatus PC-12s operated by the U.S. military. “Small passenger and cargo utility planes,” the Post calls them. These Pc-12s are probably the “Spectre” models that come with a retractable infrared sensor pod and interior monitoring console. The Spectre option tacks another $650,000 to the PC-12NG’s average equipped price of some $4 million. Military sales are an important slice of Pilatus’ business, and this is further proof. So is last month’s sale of 55 PC-21 trainers to the Royal Saudi Air Force.

The 600th TBM clears customs; Its pilot gets socks

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

The 250-odd nm trip from Sept Iles, Quebec to Bangor, Maine was an easy, 50-minute jaunt in N600YR. With such a short leg, there was little concern over headwinds so it was a time for experimenting with the TBM 850’s long-range cruise performance.

So, power was dialed back to 63-percent torque. At the cruise altitude of FL280, fuel flow dropped to 40 gph, but true airspeed held at a respectable 250 knots. On the G1000’s multifunction display, the large map display showed our range rings–one was a dotted ring that showed where we’d have a 45-minute fuel reserve; a solid ring showed where the ship would hit bingo. Turns out that from Quebec this TBM could fly all the way to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and still have legal IFR fuel reserves. Not bad. Pull the power lever back to 34-percent torque and endurance goes to seven hours!

It wasn’t long before this 600th TBM was parked on the customs ramp at Bangor, Maine’s International Airport. Out came the customs officer, complete with sidearm, stern looks, and a few questions. Did I have more than $100,000 on me? I wish. Is that a Rolex? No, it’s a Breitling. Did you buy it in Europe? Nope, in the U.S. Any food aboard? Just a few chocolate bars. And on and on. The airplane’s paperwork was reviewed, and then we were officially released.

Big sigh. N600YR was now officially imported, and could be legally flown to its buyer in Salt Lake City. This was big news, because Daher-Socata needed to get paid for the airplane within a day and a half. That way, the check could be deposited before the bank closed on the specified delivery date.

Clearing customs also meant Margrit and I could go into the Bangor FBO and make ready for the remaining legs. But there was other business to attend to. Thanks to e-mail, Facebook, and telephone, my friend–and long-time freelancer for AOPA, Dan Namowitz–was waiting in the FBO lobby. And he had my socks. Finally.

The saga of the socks has a history that goes back 15 years. On February 1, 1996 I was ferrying a Piper Seminole from the U.S. to Thailand. On the first leg of the trip (destination: St. John’s, Newfoundland (CYYT)) the Seminole’s Janitrol heater gave up the ghost. Just west of Boston. It was a cold, dark night and the cockpit quickly became cold-soaked, along with my feet and hands. I tried mightily to get the heater going but no dice. Too much air going through it? Too little? Everything I tried failed.

But I figured I could withstand it for as long as it took to get to Bangor and its 10,000-foot-long runway, where repairs could be made. The closer I got to Bangor, the more critical the situation became. I couldn’t feel my feet, and my hands were so cold that I had trouble dialing up frequencies. I had to use the heel of my hand to make power adjustments.

I taxied to the FBO, shut down, and headed for the lobby. Ahhhh, warmth at last. I began to thaw out, but would sure need some nice heavy wool socks for the remainder of the trip across the Atlantic. That’s when I called Dan. No answer, so I left a voice mail. “Hey, it’s me. I’m at the FBO and need some socks or my feet will freeze off.” Something like that.

Then another phone call. To Margrit, for whom I was flying in those days. She agreed to repairs, of course, but I had to get the plane to a shop in Bedford, Massachusetts. So after warming up I got back in the Seminole and backtracked to Bedford where the Janitrol’s fouled plug was cleaned and the daggone thing was returned to service. I climbed back in, took off into the night, and flew on in glorious, heated comfort–all the way to St. John’s.

But I never got the socks. Over the years, Dan and I would joke about the long-lost socks, and a few staffers came to know the story. So the word was passed to Dan: N600YR will land at BGR at 10 a.m., with Horne aboard. I turned around in the FBO and there was Namowitz. With an L.L. Bean paper bag containing……..yes! Socks!

The circle has been completed, both sock-wise and airplane-wise. From Bangor the TBM 850 made its way west.

Job done! Another great crossing in another great airplane. I can’t wait to do it again.

The author and his long-lost socks. Two pair, even!

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….