Plane & Pilot
Monday, September 1, 2008

The Ageless Skylane


“Age and experience trump youth and enthusiasm every time.” Well, almost every time.


As I look down—and up—at the Andes Mountains ahead, I can’t help feeling some comfort that I’m flying one of the oldest, toughest airplanes above the planet. Santiago, Chile, is in the Skylane’s rear window as I climb higher above the famous Pan-American Highway, reaching for 13,000 feet to clear the tall ridgeline into Argentina.

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Unfortunately, gross-weight increases haven’t kept pace with the airplane’s increasing weight gain. Since 1981, the Skylane has flown with a gross weight of 3,100 pounds. Pump a full 87 gallons into the tanks of a new Turbo Skylane, and you’ll typically be left with only 508 pounds for people and stuff. That’s two folks plus piles of luggage, or three lightweights and toothbrushes. You don’t always have to fly with full tanks, but because most owners tend to top off after a flight, and you can’t necessarily know what your load will be on the next trip, the current gross weight can represent a significant limitation.

Perhaps the Skylane’s best qualification is quite simply how easily it flies. Stalls are almost total nonevents, handling is simple and unchallenging and the airplane is operationally simple to manage. It’s almost in the speed class of a light retractable, but it’s far easier to operate.

The Skylane’s Jack-of-most-trades personality makes it a comfortable package, readily adaptable to low-time pilots. During my evaluation, student-pilot Herrera flew the airplane for perhaps a half-hour, including cruise, descent, full pattern and landing. She was amazed at how simply the airplane flew. “I expected to be intimidated by the extra weight [650 pounds],” said Herrera, “but the higher gross seemed to improve, rather than degrade, stability. You can use most of the same numbers as in the Skyhawk without feeling as if you’re pushing the limits, and the flare and actual landing seem easier rather than harder. It’s generally an easy airplane to fly. I want one.”

Garmin G1000 Tips
By Joe Shelton
You’ve mastered the basics, but here are some additional hints for utilizing more of what the system has to offer.
1) Create “Template” flight plans for departures. If you fly from your home airport to a variety of destinations, rather than making a complete flight plan each time, create “template” flight plans that include any obstacle or normal departure procedures, as well as the complete routing to a waypoint where, depending upon the destination, the flight might diverge onto different routings. When you want to create a new flight plan, simply copy the template flight plan, change the name, complete the routing to the destination and save it.


2) Use the track vector for more precise navigation. The track vector line is designed to show where the aircraft will be after a specified time. The default is 60 seconds; that’s too short, so change it to five minutes or greater. When given a waypoint, point the track vector at it until the GPS has been reprogrammed. You can use the line’s length to calculate a relatively accurate reference of time to a waypoint. For example, two lengths of a five-minute line would be 10 minutes. When the airplane is heading slightly away from the course line, the track vector warns that the aircraft is diverging from the flight plan or approach course long before the course deviation indicator (CDI) will.


3) Create user waypoints to simplify the VFR approaches. The navigation status bar at the top of the MFD can be configured to include vertical speed required (VSR), which provides the required descent rate to reach the user-selected altitude at the next waypoint. To keep pilots from making up custom IFR approaches, it won’t display a descent rate to the destination airport, and that makes descent planning more difficult. Create a user waypoint at, for example, the lead-in to the 45-degree traffic pattern arrival and include it in your VFR flight plan. Watch the VSR field until it reaches the desired descent rate (e.g., 500 fpm), and begin the descent. To make the arrival even more precise, select FLC (flight level change) and the desired arrival airspeed (using the nose-up or -down buttons), and when the descent rate is at the desired value, initiate the descent by reducing power or adding drag using speed brakes or flaps.


4) Set the “track” field as the left value in the MFD's navigation status bar. Track is the aircraft’s course over the ground. If you’re using the autopilot in GPS/NAV mode, the autopilot uses track to stay on course. When you’re hand-flying or using heading mode, once established on course, match the track (TRK) value to the bearing (BRG) value as displayed in the farthest right field in the PFD, and the aircraft will remain exactly on course. Flying TRK makes everything, including terminal, en route and, especially, instrument approaches, an absolute snap. If the TRK value is greater than the BRG value, turn left; if the TRK value is smaller, turn right. If the TRK changes even one degree from the BRG, it will immediately become obvious and can be corrected long before it ever shows on the CDI.

5) Configure the PFD inset and MFD maps. Although the MFD’s map size allows a much better view of almost everything, it can’t display weather and terrain simultaneously. Use the PFD’s inset map set to a closer range (e.g., 5 to 10 nm) to display tactical information like traffic, terrain and the approach course, i.e., information that’s best viewed directly in front of the pilot. Use the MFD map set at a larger range for a broader view and for traffic that’s farther away. When weather conditions warrant, use the MFD to display weather.


SPECS: 2008 Cessna Turbo Skylane



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