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Navigation training

Navigation training

Winter is time for training. With low visibility and unpredictable weather, long trips in VFR are uncertain business. Staying on the ground is not an option, staying close to the airport is a compromise. I’m using the occasion for some navigation training. My plan today is a simple triangle to a near by VOR and back.

The air is cold and the plane is light. “Kilo Sierra” is eager to get of the ground.

The first leg is easy. I have dialed in the VORs frequency in the navigation radio. On the “Omni Bearing Indicator” (OBI), I turn the dial until the indicator needle moves into the center at around 140°. That is the course to the VOR.

03 Anflugkarte

The way is not very far and after about 15 minutes I am near the VOR. Directly over it, there is no reception. The NAV flag on the instrument comes up to indicate bad reception, so I know that I have reached the waypoint.

Now comes the second part. I turn the OBI to my new course, bank “Kilo Sierra” to the left and watch the directional giro turn slowly. The “to” flag on the OBI switches over to “from” and I am on my way. On this leg I don’t have a physical way point. I will request my bearing from the airport to determin the turning point.

I’m flying a triangle. From the airport I flew south-east to the VOR. From the VOR I’m flying north-east to my next way point. And from there I am planning to fly south-west, heading 230° for approach into runway 23. So my next turning point will be when my bearing to the airport is 230° (or a bit before as the airpane needs time to turn).

Todays flight is a training mission. I know the area and I have a pretty good idea of where I am. After the calculated time I see the town that is close to the mark on my map for the turning point. I start calling the airport “Delta Kilo Sierra, requesting QDM”.

“QDM” means the the magnetic heading from the aircraft to the airport. There are many “Q-codes”. Their origin is marine morse code, when brevity was key. The most common one for aviation is “QNH” which is the local atmospheric pressure calculated to mean sea level.

“270″ is the somewhat expected answer from the tower. I am 40° away from my desired course. After a few moments I ask again. “262″ is the instant reply. The radio operator at the airport has a large display for “QDM” and its counter part “QDR”, the magnetic heading from the station. With every transmission from an aircraft, the display lights up and shows the direction the aircraft is in. A very helpful tool for the small airport which does not have radar vectoring.

I am close to the airport so the degrees go fast. I decide to start my turn onto the desired course of 230°. When I am on course, I ask again for the “QDM” to confirm the heading. “226″, almost perfect.

Back on the ground I taxi to the apron and park “Kilo Sierra” next to another Cessna. An instructor I know is near by, his student is doing the pre flight. He smiles at me “I was wondering who it was requesting ‘QDM’ on a clear day like today”. I smile back “It was hard work trying not to see the airport from where I was”. The instructor looks at his student “Beautiful day for some navigation practice, don’t you think?”

To be continued…


(originally posted on March 13, 2014 by tilbo at

Merry Christmas 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

Visibility: clouded by egg nog
Temperature: warm at heart
Location: under the Mistletoe
Equipment: christmas tree

Merry Christmas

2013 has been a fun flying year for yours truly. It started out with dual time in the 172. I trained radio navigation and passed the check ride “Controlled Visual Flight“. As soon as I had the new license in the mail, I used it to get lost on a short hop in bad weather.

My flying buddy started the season with his rocket ship “Kilo Tango” and I was fortunate enough to go with him a few times. I even ferried the beauty for him.

Speaking of beauties, I met another exciting lady. LISA is one of the airplanes that is operated by “Pilot & Flugzeug” magazine. She is available for rent and I liked her when I got checked out on her. We have not flown together all that much but I am looking forward to more trips in 2014.

My home base of EDAY must like the light sports crowd. That is the only explanation for the tower controllers presence at 4 o’clock in the morning. On the day of the shortest night, VFR pilots in Strausberg go nuts and embrace the sun with a flight into the sunrise. I can hardly wait to repeat this great experience this year!

I saw a few new airports this year. One of them I reached on the ground but got to know by air. I love having visitors. The one in July was an honor but also a bit of a nuisance. Another one seems to be here to stay and is quite exciting!

We saw a few technical problems on the blog this year. This got me thinking and as a first step, I have registeresd a new URL. is where you can find me in the future – wether it will be with or somewhere else (plus a .aero-domain is really cool!)

I love podcasts and there are a lot of them out there. In 2013, I gave feedback and made comments and this blog was featured a few times. In May, Captain Jeff of the Airplane Pilot Guy podcast linked me after I gave feedback and in November I had a question for him.  In October, I had a chance to sub for David Vanderhoof as the Airplane Geeks historian on the Airplane Geeks Podcast. I choose to write about the Mooney M20, as I am a bit of a Mooniac.

For 2014, I have great plans already. What would be a new year without a new rating! And my list for new destinations is getting longer almost daily.

I wish you all a great New Year. Have fun, be safe and go out and fly!

To be continued…

04 Jepp-Approach-to-North-Pole-Santa-Christmas

Courtesy of Jeppesen: North Pole Chart


(originally posted on December 25, 2013 by tilbo at

Mooney M20 – Speed and efficiency

Mooney M20 – Speed and efficiency

Mooney is back!

The Mooney Aviation Company of Kerrville, Texas is the manufacturer of the very fast, very efficient M20 family of single engine aircraft. After a long period of “hibernation”, I was very excited to hear that they found a new investor and Mooney is gearing up to resume production!

I am a dry Mooniac – a fan of Mooney airplanes although I sadly don’t fly one myself. Recently I did some research on the history of the Mooney M20 family. I was inspired by David Vanderhoof of the Airplane Geeks Podcast ( and it was a lot of fun!

Here is my history of the M20. To hear it on the Airplane Geeks Podcast, go toEpisode 271 on their website. You should also subscribe to the podcast – it’s great!

Mooney M20 – Speed and efficiency

Mooney M20 low pass

The world of aviation has always been fueled by passion. Al Mooney and his brother Art have been a major source for pilots’ dreams of speed and efficiency for more than 60 years.

Born in 1906, Al Mooney grew-up being fascinated with everything flying. He started to work for different airplane manufacturers in Kansas and quickly became a successful aircraft designer. But Al wanted more. He had a vision for a new aircraft, a sports plane with the heart of a fighter, fast and efficient.

After a failed attempt in 1929, the second Mooney Aircraft Company was founded in 1946. Their first product was the M18 “Mite”. A single seat, low wing trainer that already combined the trademark qualities of speed and efficiency. But Al had only just started.


The Mooney M20 was the next big step, a family of four seat, single engine, piston aircraft. In production since 1955, the M20 is one of the legacy GA aircraft types. Some 11.000 M20s in a dozen or more variants have been built and are operated by advanced private pilots and small companies.

Mooney M20s are very recognizable as all models share the signature tail. The leading edge is completely vertical, creating a very distinctive look. But there is more to the tail then just looks. Instead of using conventional trim tabs, the entire tail pivots. This changes the angle of attack of the vertical stabilizers for trimming the aircraft in flight.

This seemingly complicated method is an original design feature of the M20 family and is a big factor in the airplanes very stable flight characteristics.

1960 M20 (Photo by Phillip Capper)

Most variants of the M20 have retractable landing gears. Early models had a manual retraction mechanism, operated by a Johnson bar. Timing and speed was critical for the operation and the safe retraction required some practice. An electric system replaced the Johnson bar from 1967 on. The design of the landing gear is very sturdy and uses rubber disks as dampeners, creating a fail proof, cost efficient and easy to service system.

The first Mooneys had wooden tails and sleek, wooden wings. After problems with stability and durability, most aircraft have been retrofitted with metal tails. From about 1960 on, the wings of all M20s have been built around a single tip-to-tip aluminum wing spar, eliminating the earlier wooden construction. The heavy-duty wing spar is an important factor for the good safety record of the M20.

The original M20 was powered by a 150 horsepower Lycoming O-320, followed by a 180 horsepower O-360 in the M20A of 1958.

Larger and farther

In 1964, Mooney introduced the M20E with a fuel injected, four cylinder Lycoming O-360 engine with 200 horsepower. While all Mooneys had been fast compared to their peers from Cessna and Piper, the M20E was the first true high performance Mooney.

With the Mooney M20F “Executive” of 1966, the company responded to the customers demand for more room. The “Executive” had a stretched fuselage and an additional window. The aircraft was slower than the short fuselage version but offered more room, larger tanks and more payload. The “Executive” was able to carry four passengers over a thousand miles.


1977 was one of the most notable years for Mooney. The company hired “Mr. Fast” – aerodynamics expert Roy LoPresti as vice president for engineering. He designed the M20J “201″, one of the most successful models in company history and the first GA aircraft to fly 200 miles per hour on 200 horsepower. An achievement that is noteworthy until today. Many Mooniacs consider the “201” to be the best Mooney ever. It clearly hit a sweet spot of speed and efficiency.

Hard to handle

The M20K was the first Mooney with 6 cylinder engine. The powerful Continental TSIO-360 had cooling problems in the small Mooney cowling. It required special care and modified climb pattern in hot conditions and was one of the reasons behind the M20s reputation for being demanding. The combination of engine and airframe could be a challenge for the typical private pilot in a time before computers were there to help with the engine management.

Mooney and Porsche

When Porsche entered the GA stage in 1985, their PFM 3200 engine seemed to be a perfect match for the M20. The 210 horsepower rating fit the requirements, the single lever operation of the electronically managed engine took care of any handling problems and the name Porsche resonated speed, quality engineering and luxury.

Unfortunately Porsche decided not to stay in the market for long and only 40 M20PFMs were ever built.


One of the few M20 PFM
One of the few M20 PFM


Critics say that in subsequent models too much emphasis was put on speed alone and that Al Mooneys philosophy of efficiency and economy became secondary. While this may be true, the Mooney Acclaim Type S of 2008 with a top speed of 242 knots still holds the record for the fastest piston single.


The Mooney Company was hit hard by the late 2000s economic down turn and has all but ceased operations. In 2013, most employees had been let go and no new aircraft are being built at present. However, the community of Mooney pilots, owners and lovers is still big and used birds are high in demand.

After a long break, Mooney has attended Airventure 2013 and there are new rumors about a Chinese investor. This Mooniac is not alone in hoping to see new M20s coming out of Kerrville soon!

To be continued…


M20TN Acclaim Type S (Picture Mooney Aviation Company, Inc.)
M20TN Acclaim Type S (Picture Mooney Aviation Company, Inc.)



(originally posted on October 23, 2013 by tilbo at

Gray as in grayt time for theory…

Gray as in grayt time for theory…

Visibility: almost none
Temperature: 2°C
Wind: blowing sleet sideways
Location: local aviation administration
Equipment: Computer in the testing center – again

It has been gray for weeks. I don’t remember the last clear day. The last few days, even small IFR traffic stays on the ground as the low hanging clouds are full of ice. In this weather, it is best to leave the flying to the pros with the heavy iron.

For folks like me, this is the time of year for theory (or a flying vacation – but for now, that will remain a future blog post to dream of…).

I’m back at the local aviation administration. The testing office has become home turf over the course of the last few visits. The examiner greets me by name.

I’m here for the theory exam for Controlled Visual Flight (CVFR). This module is the last step I need to upgrade my national private pilots license to the international one. I feel well prepared. I used the same tutoring software that has led me through the previous theory exams. The subjects tested today are “Navigation”, “Air Law” and “Aircraft Performance”.

The test starts, I read the first question and I have never heard it before. Odd, the tutoring software was spot on in all previous test. The surprises continue. The questions are within the field I have learned but many of them are not from the database I have used. Judging by his face, the guy next to me has the same problem.

I use all of the allotted time to answer the questions and to check them. The challenge was pleasant, the result okay. “Aircraft Performance” was kind of close with 77%. “If you pass, nobody will ever ask again” is the examiners comment to that. I will see him again for the check ride…

To be continued…


(originally posted on January 11, 2013 by tilbo at

Baby break

Baby break

Hey folks,

just a quick update, I’m on a little baby break right now. A new copilot is keeping me up at night and on the ground during the day.

Stay tuned, however! There are tail wheel endorsements, night ratings and passenger flights waiting for me as soon as I can sneak out of the house!

To be continued…

07 Baby wing suit


(originally posted on September 18, 2013 by tilbo at



“Forget all that stuff about thrust and drag, lift and gravity, an airplane flies because of money.”

Flying is expensive. There are many ways to justify the cost or to calculate it in a way that makes it look cheaper. But the truth remains: flying is expensive!

Airlines operate under enormous financial pressure. That is why utilization of capacities is key for them. Over its life span, a long haul airliner typically spends more time flying than on the ground – including all of the maintenance time.

In the world of “General Aviation”, aircraft spend days or even weeks at a time on the ground. Privately owned aircraft often have a very small number of flight hours to calculate against the cost of maintenance or acquisition.

In flight schools or with commercial operators, the work load is often better. But then the operators profit margin enters the equation.

Liquid gold

No matter what type of aircraft – fuel is the biggest single cost factor. The piston engines of many GA aircraft are large and old fashioned. In the struggle between efficiency and reliability, the latter always wins. That is why engine manufacturers are very reluctant to adopt new technologies to make the engines more efficient. But in the times of 2,70 Euro per liter of Avgas (more than 12 US dollars per gallon!), it is difficult to accept that unburned liquid gold is used to regulate the internal cooling of the engine.

Flying is a great experience. But as long as it is so expensive, few private individuals fly. And as long as the number of pilots is small, the prices are high – it’s the classic catch 22.

Light Sports

The development of light sports aircraft is a big movement towards more affordability. The idea of deregulation of certain light aircraft in combination with limitations in performance and/or capabilities, exists in several countries. One of the earliest examples is the US model. Light sports aircraft can not exceed a maximum take off weight of 600 kilogram, they can not be complex (no retractable gear and no constant speed prop) and they can not fly faster than 120 knots.

In return, the license is easier and faster to get and there is no medical certificate required. A lot of maintenance can be done outside of a certified shop.

This simplification has lead to a very active community of sports pilots in the US. Some of them new pilots, enjoying the easier entry into flying, some of them private pilots, transitioning for the easier class.

Light Europe

The Joined Aviation Authorities (JAA) of 34 European states has been working on their own light sports regulations. Although inspired by the American model, the existing drafts have some very important differences. As the ELA-regulations (European Light Sports) are subsequently taking effect, the development over the next number of years is going to very interesting!

To be continued…


(originally posted on August 14, 2013 by tilbo at

Captain Sum Ting Wong

Captain Sum Ting Wong

The case of the dreadful crash landing of Asiana flight 214 in San Francisco has been in the news for days.

The cable news channels are under a lot of pressure to produce a constant stream of exciting new revelations, facts and turn of events. So much so that at times the quality of the story and the fact checking seems to be secondary.

A fine example is a recent story at Fox News affiliate KTVU in which the news lady announces that they have learned the names of the four pilots onboard the 777 jetliner – only to later find out that they had fallen victim to a prank.

As embarrassing (and funny) as this may be for KTVU and the poor news reading drone, it is also a result of an audience demanding more news all the time.

Yours truly, Captain Sum Ting Wong

To be continued…


(originally posted on July 14, 2013 by tilbo at

Air Force One

Air Force One

Visibility: light haze in the evening sun
Temperature: 25°C
Equipment: VC-25A

I live in the capital city and we have a lot of international guests. The city has a lot of routine in hosting the most important leaders from all over the world but todays guest is special even for us.

POTUS is in town. His entourage has flown in a few days ago already. A fleet of menacing looking C-17s arrived at the airport carrying cars, equipment and personnel in their bellies. The arrival of Air Force One itself was more of a calm event as all other air traffic was on hold for 20 minutes or more. So the beauty from Andrews AFB had the stage to herself.

Another big difference to other state visits is the no fly zone. For two days, there is no VFR flying 30 miles around the center of the big city. That means a mandatory break for almost all of the private pilots in the area. No wonder that not everybody welcomes the leader of the free world equally warm heartedly.

I like having him in town, although being grounded sucks!

To be continued…


(originally posted on July 5, 2013 by tilbo at



Visibility: CAVOC, more than 10k
Temperature: 16°C
Wind: 250°, 6 knots
QNH: 1021hPa
Location: EDAZ (Schönhagen)
Equipment: N9920U Grumman AA-5A “Cheetah”

I read several magazines about aviation on a more or less regular basis. But there is one that I never miss an issue of: “Pilot und Flugzeug“. The magazine itself is in a small format and does not look as glossy as some. But the content is the best I have seen. A lot of it is over my head but I am inspired by it every month.

The other great thing about “Pilot und Flugzeug” is the fact that they operate three aircraft. Two are single engine four seaters and one is a pressurized turbine twin. And all of them are available for readers to use!

Today I will be checked out on “Lisa Berlin”. She is a Grumman AA-5A “Cheetah”. LISA is a light four seater, not unlike the Cessna 172 I have been flying. But her low wing configuration gives her a sleek look compared to the trusted but bulky Cessna. I have read the flight manual, passed a small online check-out, mailed copies of my license and the rental agreement to the publisher and today I get to meet LISA in person.


LISA is stationed at Schönhagen. A busy and well organized airfield south of the big city. I am early and a friendly clerk hands me log book and the keys. I have time for a walk around on my own.

When the friendly instructor arrives, we start with some formalities and ground school. Then follows the briefing in the aircraft. LISA was born in the 70s but has been equipped with modern avionics, including a Bendix KFD 840 “Primary Flight Display”. This integrated flight instrument requires some training before it is mastered.

Off we go

I’m ready for some action and so is LISA. The steering on the ground is done by differential breaking which requires practice. We take off and fly out of the pattern to do air work. As a low wing aircraft, LISA has a higher roll rate than the high wing Cessna, the climb qualities are similar.

We do a few turns, stalls, slow flight with flaps and without, and a basic introduction to the auto pilot. I like the little cat right away. She feels lighter on the controls than the Cessna and is still more stable than the agile but nervous Light Sport class.

After about half an hour of air work, we turn back to the airport for some landings. On to the next challenge!

Ground effect

I have almost no experience with low wing aircraft. Close to the ground, the flow of air under the wings can build up so that the aircraft “floats” on this waive. This “ground effect” is a much bigger factor in low wing aircraft, as the wings are much closer to the ground.

The instructor has told me to not worry too much and just cut the power a bit earlyer that I usually would. So I bring the engine to idle, flare and grease her to the ground. The stall horn chimes (as it should) and LISA sits down in the middle of the touch down zone. Wow, that was easy!

Beginners luck – the next two approaches are a bit bumpier. But all in all LISA handles well on approach and lands easily.

After an hour the instructor has seen enough. He signs my log book and I am officially qualified to fly PIC in the Grumman AA-5A. EDAZ has a nice restaurant with a terrace overlooking the apron. This is where I conclude the flying day with a large beverage on the table in front of me. I can’t wait for the next time I see LISA!

To be continued…


(originally posted on May 8, 2013 by tilbo at

We miss you, Captain Dave!

We miss you, Captain Dave!

There are many blogs on aviation out there. My all time favorite, however, is Captain Dave’s “Flight Level 390″ blog.


A while back it disappeared from blogspot and I did not find anybody who knew much about it. This is tragic and I miss Captain Dave’s view on the world from above a lot. After all he was an inportant inspiration and influence on me to start this blog!


I hope you are well, Dave! And I hope to read from you again in the future. Happy Landings until then!

To be continued…


(originally posted on March 16, 2013 by tilbo at