February 2017

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Subscribers Only - We’re awed at the precision with which the GFC700 flies—on all ends of the airframe spectrum. It’s no easy task to make an autopilot fly just as well in a Skyhawk as it does in a beefy 350 King Air. The G1000 NXi retrofit includes complete removal of the old autopilot system and many trash bins of old wiring. Got an old King Air with the primitive AC inverter system? That all comes out, simplifying the electrical bus and overall reliability.

Icon Flight Centers: Fly Before You Buy

Unless you own a seaplane, the buzzkill after earning the seaplane rating comes when you try to rent one, or at least it was for me. With the ink still wet on the certificate and my chest puffed with confidence, I was ready to ditch the shirt and go splashing in the central Florida lakes, but couldn’t go solo because Brown’s Seaplane Base in Winterhaven, Florida, doesn’t rent its training fleet. I totally get it; Brown’s fleet of J3 floatplanes are too valuable to day-to-day cash flow to risk getting crunched and grounded, plus the insurance is off-the-charts expensive. If Michigan is a destination, Northwoods Aviation in Cadillac might let you rent its SuperCub on floats (skis, in the winter) after 10 hours of type experience and a signoff. Bring your own seaplane insurance—it isn’t included.

Letters from Readers: February 2017

Early on, it was simple and few if any questions were asked. But, some offices would not issue permits, while others would. It becomes a big deal not being able to ferry if the aircraft is stuck out in the boondocks away from practical maintenance. The most recent and biggest headache came a few years ago when the Miami, Florida, FSDO changed the jurisdiction for the Bahamas to an international office. For a while, it stopped issuing permits to move the aircraft out of the Bahamas.

Garmin G1000 NXi: Faster, Brighter

We’re awed at the precision with which the GFC700 flies—on all ends of the airframe spectrum. It’s no easy task to make an autopilot fly just as well in a Skyhawk as it does in a beefy 350 King Air. The G1000 NXi retrofit includes complete removal of the old autopilot system and many trash bins of old wiring. Got an old King Air with the primitive AC inverter system? That all comes out, simplifying the electrical bus and overall reliability. Depending on the aircraft, the user input for the autopilot is either on the PFD or on a dedicated GFC700 control panel.

Retrofit De-Icing: ThermaWing Impresses

Subscribers Only - For pilots who regularly use their airplanes to travel, having ice protection beyond a heated pitot tube often goes from the “nice to have” column to the “I really need it” column when considering upgrades to the family machine—especially if there’s recently been a pucker-inducing encounter. We did a survey of what’s available for retrofit and found, to our surprise and pleasure, that some form of retrofit de-icing system is available for just about any high-performance piston single or twin.

Trio Autopilot STC: Testing New FAA Policy

Subscribers Only - The way we see it, if the Trio Avionics Pro Pilot autopilot is proven in experimentals like the Van’s RV series, it’s ready for duty in Cessna Skyhawks and Skylanes. If the ongoing certification process falls into place, California-based Trio Avionics plans to bring an STC-approved version of the Pro Pilot to AirVenture 2017. With a post-installation price that’s targeted below $10,000, we think the market would embrace it as an alternative to an S-Tec system.

Blackhawk Caravan: New Vigor For Old 208s

Subscribers Only - Military pilots are trained for and thus accustomed to flying airplanes with thrust enough to slap the eyeballs back into their sockets. Blackhawk’s new XP140 conversion for the staid Cessna Caravan doesn’t quite deliver that kind of punch, but there’s a hint of it from the lofty left seat. Blackhawk has had great success in plying the niche of Pratt & Whitney PT6A-powered airplanes that the factory just didn’t get quite right for lack of available power or just marketing considerations.

Landing Gear Checks: Know Thy System

We’re not suggesting you learn how to completely disassemble and reassemble the landing gear on the aircraft you fly, but instead, knowing what the system looks like when it’s stowed in the wheel wells and fully extended will give you a better mental picture and help you spot something that’s out of place during your preflight. Since landing gear designs are all over the board—from stone simple to incredibly complex—it pays to spend some money on shop labor and have your mechanic put the aircraft on jacks so you can observe a gear retraction and extension.

Financing an Aircraft: Using a Broker Helps

As this is being written the stock market is in record territory, aircraft insurance rates are at record lows, the Fed has just started to raise interest rates out of the basement, the economy is at full employment and the incoming administration is promising to cut taxes while spending massive amounts on economic stimulus. Is this a great time to finance an airplane or what?

Flashlight Update: S&W, Streamlight Impress

Subscribers Only - None of the lights needed battery replacement, but since our use was spread out among several lights, we didn’t expect to. We continued to like the S&W’s intuitive and simple buttons, plus the ability to conserve power by shutting down LEDs (three dual-mode LEDs and 10 single-mode LEDs). For a AAA-powered light, we think the $39.95 price (with holster) is a solid buy. Worth mentioning is the model used in our January 2011 review recently suffered a broken switch.

Cessna 210 Centurion

Subscribers Only - A six-seat retractable single can be a logical and compelling. step-up aircraft. Some are as fast as many twins, can carry sizable payloads, can accommodate plenty of modern avionics and generally are straightforward to fly. A single engine avoids a twin’s upkeep costs, while most systems (with landing gear being a notable exception) aren’t overly complex to work on. So which model do you buy? Despite all the appeal, the market isn’t littered with obvious choices.