Took a ride over to John Tune Airport in Nashville today to meet with my new flight instructor – spent a very pleasant hour talking with her and working out a rough training plan to get me back in the air!
This is the aircraft I’ll be flying – a 2018 Cirrus SR 20: it’s quite a step up from the basic trainers I’ve flown almost exclusively prior to now, but it’s the sort of airplane I have always aspired to fly. It has all the very latest avionics, including ADS-B in (for real time weather and traffic displays), plus, like all Cirrus aircraft, it has an airframe parachute – if anything catastrophic happens, the pilot can pull a handle in the cockpit and deploy a large parachute that will then bring the aircraft down to the ground.
The training plan is for me to get a flight review completed ASAP so I’m current as far as the FAA is concerned. Then, I’ll complete a Cirrus Transition Training course which will certify me to fly Cirrus aircraft like the SR 20. Once those two things are done, I can start flying for fun (renting the same aircraft!) and also begin working on my instrument rating.
Cirrus Aircraft has become the leading manufacturer of general aviation aircraft in its relatively short history for good reason: their planes are beautiful, modern, fast, comfortable, and safe. One way that they continue to ensure that Cirrus pilots are safe pilots is through a remarkably well-designed training program offered through a network of pilot training centers such as Harmony Air, the one I’m going to be training at in Nashville.
In addition to the flight instruction and face-to-face training offered at their certified training centers, Cirrus also offers a number of courses through their online training hub called Cirrus Approach. The SR 20 transition course I’m taking starts with about 11.5 hours of online training (with dozens of videos as well as a workbook exercise) before I’ll ever sit in the airplane!
In addition to Cirrus Approach, there’s also a remarkable iBook available that uses videos, animations, and interactive features to teach pilots how to operate the SR20 and SR22 aircraft:
(incidentally, the date in the Onebox above is the original publication date – the book is updated regularly, and it’s current for the new Perspective+ avionics that are in the specific aircraft I’ll be flying)
So, needless to say, I’ve got a lot of studying to do!!!
Flying commercial to Florida today for a business trip — our aircraft missed its release time because of a maintenance issue, so we had to sit in the penalty box holding area for about 30 minutes awaiting a new clearance from ATC.
I’m pretty sure this bird who decided to perch on our left winglet was there just to laugh at us:
I’ve got my first flight in almost 11 years scheduled for later this week! We’ve got the aircraft reserved for 3 hours of flight time, and the forecast is for clouds but no precipitation, so things are looking promising!!! (getting a little nervous)
The weather was a little sketchy today, but in addition to spending some time on the ground getting some instruction on the avionics, we managed to get in a few laps around the traffic pattern: logged 3 takeoffs and landings and 1.0 hours of flight time – my first in almost 11 years!
The Cirrus is SO much fun to fly! And my instructor is fantastic!
Weather looks perfect today! I’ve got the aircraft reserved between 9 am and 4 pm, and the forecast is VFR for the entire time — winter weather here in middle TN can change fairly drastically in a short time, but it looks like we should be able to get a full day in today!
Here’s the ground track of the first of my two flights today – we took off out of Nashville, then headed north where you might be able to see where we practiced steep turns, slow flight, and stalls, then did a whole bunch of landings of different types up in Kentucky before finally heading back to Nashville.
A couple of quick snaps from the left seat (my instructor took the controls for a moment so I could get these)!
Here’s the flight path for yesterday’s second flight (after lunch!) – unlike the track shown in the post above, which was recorded by Foreflight on my iPad using data from the Garmin navigation system in the aircraft, this track is from the ADS-B data broadcast by the aircraft to receivers on the ground. It’s quite accurate, but ADS-B reception isn’t perfect, especially at low altitudes, such as in the traffic pattern at airports or when taking off or landing. Thus, the web site I used to show the flight path (FlightAware.com) doesn’t show every part of this flight.
If anyone’s interested, here’s a link to the flight on FlightAware – you can actually play back the flight to see speed and heading changes, altitude changes, and so forth. It’s pretty amazing!
Two more flights yesterday – and I completed the Cirrus SR20 transition course! The last landing of the day was literally perfect (in aviation, it’s known as “a greaser” – where you can barely tell the aircraft has touched down on the runway), and when we shut down the engine, my instructor pronounced me a Cirrus pilot Because I also completed a flight review (required by the FAA every 2 years) earlier this week, I am now legal to fly AND officially qualified to fly the latest version of the SR20!
The morning flight included a bunch of takeoffs and landings at Springfield Robertson Airport (M91) followed by a quick trip to Dickson Municipal Airport (M02) – there was quite a crosswind there, so we decided to head home to Nashville for lunch after a quick landing and takeoff.
In the afternoon, we flew up to Portland Municipal Airport (1M5) for more takeoff and landing practice, at which point we finished the flight requirements for the SR20 transition course. My instructor decided we would start some instrument training on the way back home, since we still had the aircraft reserved for another 90 minutes or so.
If you look at the track above, you’ll see it become extremely straight as it passes between Orlinda and Cross Plains: that’s when we turned on the autopilot, which my instructor had programmed to fly a practice instrument approach into Springfield. The teardrop shaped path at the bottom left is called a procedure turn, and it turns the aircraft 180 degrees to the inbound course toward the runway. When we got about 2 miles from the airport, my instructor had me hand fly the rest of the way to the landing. After leaving Springfield, we did one more approach into John Tune Airport (our home base), then broke off as we neared the airport and circled to land on Runway 02 to finish out the flight.
The sad end of N503RR, that beautiful Cirrus SR20 pictured above and an airplane I quickly fell in love with, is documented in this thread. My flying is on hold for a while, I’m sorry to say, as there’s no telling at this point when the airport or the flight school will reopen.
Just got word from my flight instructor that the airport may reopen by Monday morning (March 16). Out of the 9 aircraft in the flight school’s fleet, only 3 survived the tornado: two Cessna 172s which were away from the airport for maintenance and a Cirrus SR22. This particular SR22 is an older model – built in 2004, it’s 3 generations behind in terms of avionics, but it’s still quite a capable aircraft: it’s significantly faster than the SR20 I was flying, and it’s fully equipped for instrument flying – and has some equipment (such as a TKS anti-icing system and a StormScope) that isn’t available on the SR20.
Since we’re now working on instrument training, the weather matters much less than it did for VFR (visual flight rules) flying – in fact, I’d prefer to have some good, solid cloud layers to practice in!
This was an instrument training flight, so other than on takeoff and landing, I had to wear glasses that limited my view to the instrument panel, so I don’t have any in-flight pictures to share, unfortunately.
After we touched down at John Tune, I was taxiing back to the hangar along a curved taxiway, I saw several people standing by their vehicles overlooking the runway. As we approached, they waved and cheered, which initially puzzled me. After we shut down the engine in front of our hangar and started unloading the plane, a pickup truck drove up and one of the men whom I’d seen waving rolled down the window – he had a huge grin on his face and called my landing a “10 out of 10 – perfect!” and said that it was great to see an airplane flying into John Tune again.
It was great to get back into the air today, but that gentleman’s comment was a reminder that there’s still a long way to go before things return to anything resembling normal at John Tune. It was also a great example of how in many ways people who love aviation make up one big family: just like a family, they come together at times of crisis or hardship.
Made three IFR training flights with my wonderful instructor over the past two days – we had a great time, and I learned a ton! The weather for today’s flight was pretty much perfect for instrument training: we were in actual IMC (instrument meteorologic conditions) for about half the time. (The rest of the time, I had to wear “Foggles” which are glasses that limit my view to the instrument panel. A safety pilot – my instructor, in this case – is required when simulating instrument conditions in that way.)
My instructor likes to plan flights with three legs, so we get 3 instrument approaches per flight. We spent most of the time in Kentucky this week because of sketchy weather forecasts (possible thunderstorms, which are massively dangerous to aircraft) to the south of us. I hand flew (no autopilot) the entire time, which was great for getting to know the aircraft and for honing my instrument skills. By the third flight, I was consistently right on our assigned headings and altitudes.
Btw, if you look closely at the 3rd image above, in the upper left part of the route (near Paducah, Kentucky), you’ll see a sort of loop in our flight path. Air traffic control was unable to immediately clear us for the approach because someone was already in that airspace, so we were instructed to hold at the initial approach fix. A hold is basically a looping course near a point in space (a “fix”) that is used by ATC when they need an aircraft to wait for further clearance. We only made one loop in the hold before we received clearance for the approach.
I mentioned getting to know the aircraft: the owner of the flight school has leased an SR20 that’s several years older than the one that was destroyed in the tornado. It has newer avionics than the SR22 I flew last (see the post above this one), but it also has a smaller engine and is quite noticeably slower. (That’s not a terrible thing during training, as the time it adds to each flight helps build the time I need for my instrument rating. However, I would not want to own an SR20 with this particular engine.)
Because of my schedule, bad weather, and aircraft maintenance, I hadn’t flown since April 9th (the date of the my last post in this thread!), but things finally worked out as planned today, and I logged 4.9 hours of instrument flight and 5.3 hours total today! We flew to Huntsville, AL in the morning, then came back via Muscle Shoals, AL to Nashville for lunch. Then it was off to Owensboro and Bowling Green, KY in the afternoon before returning to Nashville to end the day. Lots of great practice with the autopilot, the flight director, and some hand flying of all sorts of approaches – plus, I wasn’t nearly as rusty as I thought I’d be after > 2 months away from the airplane!
Some photos I snapped as we were preparing to depart KJWN this morning – Sarah is cleaning the windscreen (or as she calls it, “the bug screen”) in some of them, even though as an instrument student, I don’t get to look out of it very much
Long trip today! We flew from KJWN in West Nashville to McGhee Tyson (KTYS) in Knoxville, then over to Tullahoma (KTHA), and finally back to Nashville – almost 4 hours in the air! Flew 3 approaches, 2 of which included circling to land on a different runway from the approach, which was great practice. Also got in a go-around, as someone ahead of us was very slow to get clear of the runway when we were on final approach.
I managed to sneak a few photos while we were nearing Knoxville:
Have two days of flying scheduled beginning this afternoon: a long cross-country instrument flight, some night flying, and then more cross country instrument training tomorrow! Will post an after-action report after the … eh, action.
EDIT: We ended up not flying yesterday due to thunderstorms throughout the area. Trying again today!