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  #1  
Old 05-14-2018, 06:52 PM
Ed_Wischmeyer's Avatar
Ed_Wischmeyer Ed_Wischmeyer is offline
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Savannah, GA
Posts: 758
Default Lessons Learned / IFR X-C RV-9A

Learned a few things on a very recent trip from Savannah, GA to SE Michigan and back.

When I flew with my friend in Michigan yesterday, I became aware of how sloppy my flying has become. Several reasons: one is that I used to be really, really good hand flying under the hood, and my recollections far surpass present reality. Second, the planes I've flown, RV and others, have had good handling characteristics, lots of power, and most of them have had high drag when you wanted it. I've gotten out of the habit of flying nice traffic patterns because I've had airplanes that didn't require it. Bad form.

I've also been working on a procedure for engaging the autopilot right after takeoff and integrating it into everything else that needs to be done. So the procedure is: set everything up on the flight director, take off, retract flaps at 80 knots, pitch to 7 degrees, autopilot on, and then fuel pump off. Don't engage airspeed hold right over the runway because the autopilot may dive to get speed.

This procedure worked great twice yesterday, but didn't work on the third takeoff -- the autopilot wouldn't engage! Fortunately, fiddling with the autopilot disconnect button and the TOGA button got the autopilot happy again. I wonder how well I would have handled things on the first takeoff, racing to get out ahead of the thunderstorms (ten minutes after I took off, it poured), if the autopilot had decided not to cooperate...

So what are my new year's (it's gotta be new year's somewhere) resolutions?
* Fly precise traffic patterns and get really good at them again. No more screwing around with the pattern just because I can get away with it;
* Do an autopilot takeoff (almost) every time for practice and so that it becomes routine;
* Hand fly the -9A a lot more. Get really good and really precise at it;
* Always put the checklist down in the same place in the cockpit. Twice on this trip I hid it from myself;
* I know all the frequencies at my home airport so I never write them down. Not writing them down is a bad habit for when I go to an unfamiliar airport, like this afternoon, so start writing down frequencies and such.
* Develop and maintain really good habit patterns. When I was a newbie, good habits made flying easier. Now that aging is a fact of life, good habit patterns will help reduce mistakes and blunders;

Iím aware of the maxim that thereís always something more to learn, but sometimes Iím displeased with how much is left, or how much needs to be refreshed.
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RV-8 (steam gauges), RV-9A at KSAV (Savannah, GA; dual screen G3X with autopilot, GTN 650)
Previously RV-4, RV-8A, AirCam, Cessna 175
ATP CFII PhD, so I have no excuses when I screw up
2018 dues paid
Retired - "They used to pay me to be good, now I'm good for nothing."
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  #2  
Old 05-15-2018, 05:49 AM
Cth6 Cth6 is offline
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
Location: Central Florida
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Got to ask, why work on doing an autopilot take off? Feels like so much can go wrong as opposed to hand flying to say 2,000' AGL or more when using a non-redundant AP. I get the program the heck out of it, just in case.

Not judging, just curious. Most of my 25 years of flying has been in non A/P aircraft so a bit of a noob here.
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  #3  
Old 05-15-2018, 06:16 AM
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Ed_Wischmeyer Ed_Wischmeyer is offline
 
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Location: Savannah, GA
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Although I'd occasionally flown planes with autopilots before, the RV-9A is the first plane I've flown that has an all singing, all dancing fly the flight plan, altitude preselect autopilot. Takeoff and initial climb being high workload, why not use all the tools at hand? That's my "thinking." But, of course, the pilot needs to be able to step in at any time to handle any failure -- like the autopilot -- and that's the challenging part.

Not a definitive answer, but the best I've got.
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RV-8 (steam gauges), RV-9A at KSAV (Savannah, GA; dual screen G3X with autopilot, GTN 650)
Previously RV-4, RV-8A, AirCam, Cessna 175
ATP CFII PhD, so I have no excuses when I screw up
2018 dues paid
Retired - "They used to pay me to be good, now I'm good for nothing."
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  #4  
Old 05-15-2018, 06:28 AM
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Auburntsts Auburntsts is offline
 
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Location: Dumfries, VA
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My rule is not to engage the autopilot until I'm at least 400 AGL above the departure end of the runway which is the minimum altitude before you should make any turns while maintaining a minimum climb gradient of 200ft/NM until the minimum IFR altitude is reached.
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Last edited by Auburntsts : 05-15-2018 at 07:46 AM.
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  #5  
Old 05-15-2018, 07:33 AM
cajunwings cajunwings is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: new iberia la
Posts: 574
Default Autopilot use

To add: Practice and more practice is the only way to get or stay sharp. Any time you turn a autopilot on or off it may do something you don’t expect so be prepared and a little altitude might be a good thing. 1 example- on a night IFR departure at 1000’ I had a trim runaway triggered by autopilot engagement. For a reason manufacturers sometimes specify minimum altitudes for autopilot use. Be careful out there.

Don Broussard
RV9 Rebuild in Progress
57 Pacer

Last edited by cajunwings : 05-15-2018 at 10:23 AM.
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  #6  
Old 05-15-2018, 07:36 AM
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airguy airguy is offline
 
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Location: Garden City, Tx
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I'm a firm believer in the autopilot myself and use it A LOT - but never below 1000 AGL. There is just too much going on to trust the autopilot to do its thing without error. I'll take off, turn out of the pattern while climbing through 500, establish on course and then wake up "George".
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Built an off-plan 9A with too much fuel and too much HP. Should drop dead any minute now.
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  #7  
Old 05-15-2018, 01:29 PM
Canadian_JOY Canadian_JOY is offline
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Ontario, Canada
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Thanks for sharing these pearls of wisdom, Ed. It does us good to go into the confessional once in awhile. Now you've given me something to think about re my own precision in flying...
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  #8  
Old 05-15-2018, 04:06 PM
Ed_Wischmeyer's Avatar
Ed_Wischmeyer Ed_Wischmeyer is offline
 
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Location: Savannah, GA
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A friend who flies Gulfstreams says that their book specifies turning on the autopilot no lower than 200 feet on takeoff. And of course, you don't just turn on the autopilot, hope for the best and ignore the flight instruments. I always look to make sure that it's doing what I think I told it to. Caught a lot of errors that way...

Great comments from lotsa folks here, thanks!
__________________
RV-8 (steam gauges), RV-9A at KSAV (Savannah, GA; dual screen G3X with autopilot, GTN 650)
Previously RV-4, RV-8A, AirCam, Cessna 175
ATP CFII PhD, so I have no excuses when I screw up
2018 dues paid
Retired - "They used to pay me to be good, now I'm good for nothing."
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  #9  
Old 05-15-2018, 07:45 PM
rightrudder rightrudder is offline
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: Laguna Hills, CA
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I don't have autopilot on my -9A and it was great on my trip from California to Osh last year. Once it's trimmed out, it takes minimal corrections to maintain altitude, or at least +/- 50 ft of where you want to be. It keeps me engaged in flying the plane, and encourages scanning the instruments.
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RV-9A "slider"
Flew to Osh in 2017 & 2018!
Tail number N427DK
Donation made for 2018
You haven't seen a tree until you've seen its shadow from the sky -- Amelia Earhart
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  #10  
Old 05-15-2018, 08:02 PM
flyinhood flyinhood is offline
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: 52F
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I'm a big fan of using VS on initial autopilot engagement. It is easy to roll it down as your approaching your first assigned altitude, or you can just roll in a value that will give you your desired deck angle after ATC gives you your first climb and you have your engine power set for climb.


Great advice on checking everything before and during engagement. We all know that altitude and Nav deviation errors are the FAA's 2 biggest corrections.
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Last edited by flyinhood : 05-16-2018 at 04:22 AM.
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