Captain’s Log-7 July 2013-An Amazing Airplane: Continued

The new look in cockpit layout.  All the gauges but 4 are now included in the 3 screens.  Actually, the are included as well but the 4 gauges are just for backup. There so much information readily available that greatly increases situational awareness.  And my Lightspeed headset just rounds out the the high tech feel.

The new look in cockpit layout. All the gauges but 4 are now included in the 3 screens. Actually, they are included as well, the 4 gauges are just for backup in case of electrical failure. There is so much information readily available that greatly increases situational awareness.  And my Lightspeed headset just rounds out the the high tech feel.

Well, after flying the new Grand Caravan some more I continue to be amazed at all the information at my fingertips.  I can’t help but feel like we are experiencing the same kind of jump in technology as the big sailing ships had, going to big steam engines and all the new dials and gauges that came with that.  In some ways, it is more work to get used to, but as it becomes habit the workload is actually eased.  Still, I think there will be things to learn for a long time.  Ancora Imparo, as Michelangelo is supposed to have said in his 87th year.   “Still, I am learning.”

Along with the horizon picture that really shows what is out in front of you in great detail, the airspeed in on the ribbon on the left.  Altitude is the ribbon on the right.  Heading to fly and distance of course and how far away you are from destination are all right there.  4 comm frequencies and 4 Nave frequencies all there ready to use in a heartbeat.  A little inset that can tell me if I am getting close to terrain and which way the wind is coming from and how strong. And if you don't want to fly, the autopilot can do everything but the takeoff and landing.  It is truly amazing.

Along with the horizon picture that really shows what is out in front of you in great detail, the airspeed in on the ribbon on the left. Altitude is the ribbon on the right. Heading to fly and distance of course and how far away you are from destination are all right there. 4 comm frequencies and 4 Nav frequencies all there ready to use in a heartbeat. A little inset that can tell me if I am getting close to terrain and which way the wind is coming from and how strong. And if you don’t want to fly, the autopilot can do everything but the takeoff and landing. It is truly amazing.

The 3 big screens replace all the other instruments in the plane, (except for 4 little gauges at the bottom center of the panel for emergencies.  Engine, navigation, flight instruments.)  The airspeed has markings for Vx, Vy, a flashing warning light and bell when you get to redline.   It was all just what your eyes might see if you happen to be looking that way before.  The moving map of where you are going also shows close airstrips in case you have an engine problem or need to divert for weather.  It shows lightning strikes and electrical activity so you can make early adjustments to avoid weather.  Traffic from other aircraft shows in varying degrees of intensity as it gets closer.  The picture on the screen shows hills and mountains, rivers and towns and even the numbers on the runway as you are coming in to land.  The situational awareness capabilities are awesome.  You can set the plane to descend at a particular degree angle or feet per minute and it will alert you to start the descent…if you push the right button.  If you add fuel to the plane it will track how much you are burning and how much you have left and how far you can go at present usage and puts a little green ring on the map where you will be into your reserve and another one where you will run completely out.  I may forget how to plan all this out for myself if I am not careful!  Maybe a bit like the days when we had to plot all our courses and account for magnetic variation and deviation and wind and then keep your eyes on the ground all the time picking up landmarks to verify we were where we thought.  Now all of that is accomplished by just putting the place you are going in the flight plan and it says the heading to fly, or for the auto pilot to fly, and the distance to run is there and your ETA and time to run and the exact position of the plane within feet!  I remember when GPS first came out how it took away 40% of all the things I worried about as a pilot.  Flying in a place with very few landmarks for long periods of time can be quite exciting.  I have told stories of getting lost over the ocean in Micronesia.  This is all a thing of the past now.  I hope!  As long as we don’t get hit by lightning and all the electrics go out.  But that is a bit negative isn’t it?

The Nav page shows a map with out airplane off to the left of course.  You can see little lightning flashes of different intensity to the right and in back of the plane, which is why I am off to the left!  Lake Albert out in front of Bunia the destination.  To the left of the map are the engine instruments.  An inset shows me how high I am above the ground in this area and across the top it shows that I am going 157kt across the ground, I have 93.1 nm to run, 35;29 minutes with an ETA of 1426utc.  How fantastic!  And just a few years ago, I had big sections of white on my maps that said "relief data incomplete"  Things change.

The Nav page shows a map with our airplane off to the left of course. You can see little yellow lightning flashes of different intensity to the right and in back of the plane, which is why I am off to the left. Lake Albert out in front of Bunia (FZKA), the destination. To the left of the map are the engine instruments. An inset bottom right, shows me how high I am above the ground in this area and across the top it shows that I am going 157 KT across the ground, I have 93.1 NM to run, 35;29 minutes with an ETA of 1426 UTC. How fantastic! And just a few years ago, I was flying around Africa with big sections of white on my maps that said “relief data incomplete” Things change.

One of the emergency procedures we did with Brian Shepson was to simulate losing all electrical and the beautiful screens with all this information just go black and there is nothing but you and the airplane and 4 little gauges that tell you your attitude, how high you are, how fast you are going and the torque of the engine.  In some ways, it was wonderful to me.  I felt I was flying again and not driving a big video game.  I could almost feel the wind in my hair and catch the smell of Avgas on the air again.  But don’t get me wrong.  I love all the new stuff, while remaining glad for all the old skills that have kept me alive for many years.  I look forward to incorporating the new to help me never hurt anyone with my airplane.

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4 Responses to Captain’s Log-7 July 2013-An Amazing Airplane: Continued

  1. Dan says:

    Hi Jon,
    Greetings from San Francisco. I hope all is well with you and Cher. I will be back in a month or two.
    Best,
    Dan

  2. Dave Woolsey says:

    Greetings Jon. Is this the “restored” Caravan that I read about on the MAF site? Glad it’s fun and working well for you. Today I have been on Youtube checking some of the MAF footage of you in Africa. BTW, I got the ac on your mom’s Pontiac working again last week with the same fix we applied last time. Dave

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