Archive for January, 2011

Good to go

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Today was the first time I sat behind a Garmin G500, and it was a bit of sensory overload! So much capability, so many functions! But bottom line, today’s shakedown flight went well, for the most part. “When you do a big job like this, you can expect some glitches,” said Advantage Avionics’ Mark Krueger. “It’s kind of like open heart surgery.”

The day started with a call to XM WX satellite weather’s activation service, which is apparently based in India. I was told to set aside a half-hour for the activation process, and it came close to that duration. I had to give the datalink receiver’s ID number,¬†the audio unit’s ID number, and the Garmin GDL 69A datalink receiver’s serial number. Then, I opted for both the weather and audio services, and–last but certainly not least–provide my credit card number so the activation could begin. The weather package is $12.95 per month; the audio, $8.99 per month.

Now I can listen to Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen sing “Hot Rod Lincoln” as I cruise over the Sange de Cristos tomorrow. And at the same time, keep an eye on a storm system–another one!–that is predicted to enter the Ohio River Valley area on Sunday and Monday.

To sync up the heading info, Krueger and I made a 360-degree turn around Chino’s compass rose, stopping at 30-degree intervals for the AHRS to do its processing. That setup completed, it was time to taxi to the active–made quite easy by using the airport diagram on the G500’s SafeTaxi display on the MFD.

After taking off from Chino, it was a left turn to cross a bumpy ridge, then on to the calm air over the ocean (low level turbulence makes for bad autopilot test conditions), and a level-off at 3,000 feet. The S-TEC System Fifty-Five X held altitude well–in spite of the bumps–and its heading and vertical speed functions also made the grade. The altitude preselect function was out to lunch, so autoflight climbs were done using the VS mode only. The other issue was the autopilot disconnect alert: so loud it tried to blow us out of our seats!

The traffic advisory system picked up plenty of traffic over south LA. I think I’ll leave it on all the time, and let it play on the #2 GNS 430. There was an intermittent “traffic fail” alert” on a couple of occasions, and then the problem seemed to go away. Finally, the XM WX and XM audio never activated as promised, so no Commander Cody on this flight.

The Fifty-Five X flew a near-perfect ILS to Chino’s runway 26R–Garmin’s ChartView provided the approach chart on the MFD–and then it was back to the shop, where all the squawks were resolved within an hour and a half. Now photographer Chad Slattery is taking some shots of the reborn panel, and near sunset we’ll launch again for some inflight panel shots.

Tomorrow’s plan is to try to reach Wichita, depending. A nonstop leg to ABQ could take as much as five hours, which would cut my fuel reserves uncomfortably close unless the winds cooperate. Also, it will be a flight at 11,000 or 11,500 feet most of the way, and I like to use oxygen when flying that high. Like to, but don’t have any oxygen on this trip (Mountain High is coming through with one of their oxygen systems in a few weeks). Can I make it to ICT after stopping and gassing up at ABQ? Sure–it’s only another 3+50 or so. But that’s a long day’s worth of flying.

Then again, I will have Commander Cody. Do check out “Hot Rod Lincoln.”

Avionics countdown

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Here I am at Advantage Avionics, where the Crossover Classic’s panel is getting its final touches. Barring the unforeseen–and the weather–the plan is for me to leave the airport here at Chino, California on Friday January 28. The route? Still noodling with that. Direct Albuquerque, then direct Wichita sounds doable. More on the final plans later, when the winds and weather are better defined.

As for the panel, it’s a knockout. I can’t wait to see it at work…..which will be tomorrow, if today’s predicted Santa Ana winds kick up. Right now, the installation staff is plugging in the 182’s V-speeds, aligning the AHRS (attitude and heading reference system), and plugging some pitot-static leaks. Seems the last pitot-static inspection left a lot to be desired. The leaks in the pitot-static system reached a level worth 1,400-fpm!

Tomorrow will also be activation day for the XM WX datalink weather, and during the test flights I’ll have a chance to check out the G500’s electronic charts. These include Garmin’s SafeTaxi airport diagrams, plus their ChartView arrival, approach, and departure charts. Garmin’s GTS 800 traffic advisory system will also no doubt be given a workout in the airspace around Chino.

There are always potential glitches in the best of plans, and in this case it’s the airplane’s heavy right wing. A re-rigging sounds definitely in order, and I certainly hope it doesn’t take long to perform. In any event, there’s plenty to see at Chino. There’s a Paris Jet in the Advantage hangar, getting its new G600, an F33 Bonanza getting the GTS800, an F90 King Air getting a dual G600 installation, and a new Robinson R44 being fitted with Garmin’s G500H–the helicopter version of the straight G500. Hmmm, this is news! I’m told this is the first-ever, testbed installation of a G500H. Does this mean it will be featured at the upcoming Helicopter Association International show in Orlando, from March 5-8? We’ll soon find out.

Then there’s the Planes of Fame museum on the field. If I have a chance, I’ll swing by for a look.

Check back tomorrow for a rundown of the flight checks. That’s all for today!

The Mark Krueger story

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Mark Krueger heads up Advantage Avionics, and as I’ve said before his shop came highly recommended. By both Garmin and previous customers. So what’s the key to Krueger’s success? Enthusiasm and motivation top the list.

Back in 1992, Krueger began working in a business you wouldn’t ordinarily associate with a career track in avionics. He installed car stereos and alarm systems. He knew nothing about airplanes back then, but the bug bit when the owner of a Piper Cherokee came by the shop. He wanted to know if Krueger would install a stereo in his airplane. That job got him hanging around airports, and he developed an interest in learning to fly. By 1999 he’d earned his private pilot certificate, then came his multi-engine rating.

He walked away from the car business and developed his avionics acumen by working at several avionics shops in southern California, and in April 2003 he opened up Advantage Avionics. Now he installs 15 to 20 full-blown panel overhauls per year–many of them involving G500s. He has six full-time employees, three of which specialize in installations.

He also has a 1965 Cherokee Six–which looks a great deal like the “Win-A-Six” Cherokee Six that AOPA gave away in our 2006 sweepstakes. Needlesss to say, his has a top-notch panel and a brand-new interior that features video screens in the headrests. Kruger’s Six is parked in Advantage’s large service hanger, and if you stand outside you can see some of the Chino Airport’s unique attractions. These include warbird restoration specialists Aero Trader and Allied Fighters, plus the Planes of Fame museum.

When asked to elaborate on his¬†success, Krueger came right to the point. “I have a marketing background, so I know how to promote the business on our website and other ways, plus I’m very energetic and enthusiastic. A lot of avionics shops don’t make the extra effort to get business, and in this downturn a lot of them just burned out. But I just keep on plugging away,” he said. In a refurbishment project like the Crossover Classic, it’s nice to have Krueger and his team aboard. Two more weeks and the panel will be finished for all to see!