Arrived in Santa Fe today with N117KD, #72. Father and baby are both doing fine.
Arrived at DLH on Wednesday to be greeted by 40 degree temps. This didn’t bode well.
Thursday a.m. I arrived (late, as I was having breakfast with Woody) to take delivery. Alison did the walk-around with me, and all looked fine. The ceiling was about 1000’ and the temp was hovering around freezing, but we launched for the short acceptance flight (10 miles east, then back in on the ILS). The weather stunk so we decided to do all the ground training in the afternoon, giving the factory guys the opportunity to fix a couple of squawks.
Then I was late for ground training (I sense a theme) because I spent a bunch of time picking the brains of Mike Busch. A couple of guys whose names I have already forgotten (another theme of mine) who were buying one of the demo units (119CD) had already started the ground stuff, which was led by Regis, a new instructor from Wings Aloft, backed up by the now-famous Kara. We knocked it all off by the end of the day.
Friday brought OVC030, good enough for VFR stuff. Regis, Kara, and I went out to Grand Rapids and did a bunch of landings, which seemed to go well. The SR20 lands like a big plane–nail the numbers, hold it pretty flat over the runway, and wait for it to sink on. You don’t really flare it. And if you get slow, it will drop like a stone unless you add a lot of power. From there we went on to Brainerd, made famous in the movie “Fargo” (love that “range” accent) and had lunch. Then to St. Cloud for more landings. On the way back we were approaching Moose Lake. “I wonder if we could make the runway if the engine quit?” I asked, knowing full well what would happen next. The engine promptly quit. I ended up with full flaps and a mad slip toward the end (it slips pretty well, better than my 172). I misjudged a bit and would have made a turf landing short of the pavement, but luckily the engine was ressurrected in the nick of time. We were seeing 1500 fpm climb rates at 2000’ at gross. Of course, it was stinking cold and the baro pressure was really high, but it sure was impressive.
Saturday we did IFR stuff, filed to St. Paul. The bases were at about 4000. We nicked the clouds a couple of times, but I wore the hood all the way down. The ride just between the bases should have been awful, but it was just a bit bumpy in the SR20. I then shot what was perhaps the worst ILS of my life. Gusty crosswind, plus I had let the a/p couple the approach as far as localizer intercept, but this left a wee bit of aileron trim in (something to remember when you turn off the autopilot) and then I overcontrolled in pitch. Ah well, something to practice. Then back to DLH, and watched the autopilot fly a perfect DME arc and turn inbound. We landed and they signed me off.
I had a big advantage in that I’d worked with the 430 before, which is by far the most complex thing in the aircraft. Practice a whole bunch with the sim (you can download it from Garmin) so you don’t waste a bunch of time sitting on the ground learning the basics. The S-Tec manuals are also on-line, read them in advance as well.
I finished the day picking up a friend of mine in Grand Rapids and seeing the sights in northern MN.
That night my instructor arrived, and we launched on Sunday morning (after cleaning out North Country’s supply of 50W mineral oil–my apologies to positions 73 and up). We went over to Sky Harbor, since it looked like a cool place to shoot landings, and checked out my instructor (her first landing was of course way better than anything I did before or since). We then launched for Santa Fe, via Sioux City, IA, Garden City KS, and Dalhart, TX.
After droning along on the first leg on a/p watching the fall colors go by (it was finally sunny) we landed in Sioux City, where it was just above freezing (as it was in every city at which we landed) and the altimeter setting was an amazing 30.75. On the next leg, we decided to investigate, um, the low altitude handling characteristics of the aircraft, which turn out to be very nice indeed. My instructor was a bush pilot in Alaska, where flying higher than 500 AGL puts you at risk for becoming a big ice cube. After scaring some cows, we put down in Garden City KS, where her father (a retired airline pilot) met us with his RV-4. We did a bit of formation flying to shoot some pictures. He backed off and did a couple of rolls, which look very cool when they start at your altitude.
By the time we reached Dalhart, it was almost dark (the RV-4 has no gyros) and the forecast weather to the west stunk (LVS was reporting 1/4SM, VV001, FZFG.) We put down for the night.
This morning we headed west. We shot a couple more pictures of her dad, and then he did a classic fighter peel-off (also very cool close up) and headed back to Colorado. All the low altitude practice came in handy, as we ended up having to do a bit of scud running (over the fairly flat terrain south of the mountains) to get to SAF. The temp was just above freezing, of course, so climbing into the clouds wasn’t a very good option. The vis was very good under the layer, and there are lots of dirt roads and no wires (and no anything, for that matter.) I called for SVFR about 10 miles out but the field was VFR (sunny even) so the final few minutes seemed like a reward.
My instructor (who also flies Citations) loved the aircraft. Her dad (who used to fly 757s) was astounded by it. The crowd in Garden City that watched me drop it in were also impressed.
I didn’t have any issues with ATC wondering what the aircraft was, though to be honest we didn’t talk to a lot of ATC (other than a few towers).
All in all a great time. I did learn that I don’t want to be an Alaska bush pilot, even with an SR20.