March 2017

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Subscribers Only - High-performance single-engine turboprops seem to sort into three market segments: working airplanes, personal transport and for-hire people transportation. Cessna’s Caravan locks down the cargo and working airplane side while the Pilatus PC-12 is a popular corporate and charter/cargo hauler. The TBM—the fastest of the herd by far—is a favorite among owners who fly themselves to distant destinations, usually without benefit of a professional pilot. We’ve noticed that the airplane has a bit of a cult following and a community of owners who know each other. Piper’s Meridian and now M600 compete in the owner-flown segment, but Daher believes the TBM exists in its own strata.

SpaceX Launches: A Critical Boost for Iridium

The launch of SpaceX’s updated Falcon 9 rocket in January was the first of seven missions that are critical for the future of Iridium’s aging satellite communications network and its 800,000-plus customers. Recall that a fuel explosion led to the expensive loss of a Falcon 9 vehicle and its Amos-6 satellite payload on the Cape Canaveral, Florida, launch pad in September 2016. But the recent Iridium mission had a much better outcome and the company is banking on at least seven more successful launches as it moves forward with its $3 billion Iridium-NEXT global satellite constellation, which will replace the current 66 satellites.

Letters from Readers: March 2017

A critical (but simple) ground check you did not mention is when examining the through-bolts holding the nosewheel scissors to the airplane, put a wrench on the bolt head and turn it. If the bolt is straight then the scissors will not move, but if it’s bent you will see the scissors move up and down as the bolt rotates. According to my IA, if you catch this early it’s pretty easy for a tech to remove and replace the bolt, but if it’s too far bent, as he saw on a Cessna 182 he’d recently worked on, he has to remove the nosegear assembly and get the bolt out using a press.

Daher’s TBM 930: Max Upset Protection

Subscribers Only - However skilled (or not) general aviation pilots are, they have proven consistently good at one thing: losing control of airplanes and digging smoking craters in the verdant earth. The reasons aren’t necessarily understood but the solution is becoming increasingly laser focused on providing autopilots that won’t let you crash, but will nudge and prod and do everything short of seizing control of the aircraft. Except now, they’re even doing that. The latest comes from Daher in the company’s new TBM 930 cabin-class speed merchant.

Antiques and Classics: Owning and Operating

Admit it. Despite your protestations to the contrary, you’ve lusted in your heart for an old airplane. It may be a classic such as a postwar Piper J-3 Cub—we’ll use EAA’s “classic” definition of aircraft built from September 1, 1945, through the end of 1955—an antique such as a Beech 18 or one of the many Wacos, or—yes, you know you want it—a warbird. Believe it or not, ownership of a classic, antique or warbird (CAW) isn’t as esoteric or unreachable as you may think.

Insurance For Seniors: Loyalty, Currency Matter

When we last looked at insurance for older pilots, the insurance market was in the midst of a soft market cycle, or at least we thought it was. Almost four years later, there are even more insurers than there were then. As the GA fleet in the U.S. continues to gradually shrink, there are more insurance dollars chasing fewer airplanes. As a result, rates and underwriting guidelines are even softer now than they were then.

Fuel Gauge Upkeep: Parts Supply Is Good

Subscribers Only - Ignorance is bliss, but there’s a dark feeling when a pilot realizes there is far less fuel on board than the fuel gauges indicate. Get lucky like I once did and you’ll recognize the inaccuracies inherent with aging analog fuel quantity gauges when you’re on the ground. The next step is chasing the problem, which means removing the instrument for testing and rebuilding and recalibrating the fuel measuring sensors in the tanks.

Cabin USB Power: Guardian Easiest Install

Subscribers Only - Since tablets, smartphones and portable ADS-B units are integral to our flying, USB charging devices have become necessary inflight accessories. You could carry along a portable USB power supply, but if you’re like us, you might forget to recharge it—if you can remember where you left it. Both Guardian Avionics and True Blue Power (from Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics) have the most complete line of panel-mounted USB power supplies engineered specifically for installation in aircraft.

Garmin D2 Bravo/Ti: Rugged, Good Battery

As pilot watches go, Garmin’s second-gen D2 Bravo and the latest D2 Titanium may not be as handsome as a Breitling or a racing-inspired Tag Heuer Carrera, but they cost far less ($899 for the Titanium and $599 for the Bravo) and do a whole lot more in and out of the cockpit. Which functions you’ll use will depend on what you have for external sensors, whether or not you are a Garmin Pilot app user and whether or not you’re into sports and fitness.

BasicMed: Mixed Views From Pilots

The FAA’s recently announced BasicMed rule drew cheers from owners and pilots, but there’s still confusion about what effect it will have on the industry and worry that non-AME doctors won’t sign off on the FAA’s new medical checklist. At press time, the FAA had published a draft of the checklist in AC 68-1 and although BasicMed won’t be available until May 1, 2017, the AC serves as a template for pilots to convince non-AME docs to sign the approval.

Cessna 340

Subscribers Only - The typical cabin-class piston twin buyer is generally moving up from a high-performance single, or perhaps even stepping down from a jet or turboprop. With a need to go places comfortably and efficiently, these buyers recognize that a serious business airplane needs a decent cabin, credible speed and the ability to hack it when there’s ice or other rotten flying conditions in the forecast. Pressurization is nice since passengers don’t want to spend several hours with a plastic hose stuck up the nose.