Staying Flexible During Approaches

I’ve often described techniques for loading approaches to preserve your options should ATC or you need to change plans during the terminal phase of flight.

In the video below, I was cleared for and had started flying the RNAV RWY 24 approach at Hoquiam, WA (KHQM) when a medivac flight on the ground there called Seattle Center to request IFR clearance. KHQM was reporting IFR conditions (OVC 700 with 10 miles visibility), and because the airport has Class E airspace to the surface, that pilot could not depart without a clearance (see Canceling IFR).

The Center controller explained that he couldn’t release the flight until I completed my approach. I offered to take vectors off the procedure to let the other pilot depart, and Center canceled my approach clearance and sent me back to an initial fix.

I was still flying a feeder route, and because I had loaded the approach with an expected initial fix, it was easy to scroll back up the list of fixes and proceed direct to that fix to “reactivate” the procedure when Center reissued the approach clearance.

Enjoy the views of cloud surfing, breaking out of the clouds on final, and flying a coupled missed approach with the GFC 600 autopilot.

More Practice with New Avionics

Here are two videos that show practice approaches with the new Garmin G500 TXi, GTN 750 XI, and GFC 600 autopilot.

The first video shows the departure from Boeing Field (KBFI) and the RNAV (GPS) RWY 20 approach at Bremerton, WA (KPWT).

The second video shows the ILS RWY 20 at KPWT, flown with the autopilot off, but with cues from the flight director.

Unfortunately, I had a problem with the audio connection while recording these videos, so they don’t include ATC or intercom audio. I’ll fix that issue for future videos.

RNAV (GPS) approach to LPV minimums
ILS approach with flight director

Garmin Updates GTN Trainer App

Garmin has updated the free GTN Trainer app for the iPad. The new version reflects system software 6.62, which includes features added since version 6.5, such as vertical navigation, along track offsets and more.

You can find a detailed discussion of some of these functions at New Garmin GTN 750 Features.

Downloading Avionics Manuals

Many pilots like to have PDF copies of the handbooks for the avionics installed in their aircraft or for reference when considering upgrades. As a flight instructor, I fly a variety of aircraft, so I keep PDFs of the pilot’s guides and cockpit references for many GPS navigators, autopilots, and other avionics on my iPad for quick reference when working with customers—and in the cockpit, as noted in AC 91-78. (The Documents feature in ForeFlight is handy way to keep these items organized and available.)

To save you the trouble of tracking down references, I keep PDF versions of the handbooks for many popular avionics in my Aviation Documents folder at OneDrive, ready for you to download. But to ensure that you always get the latest (or, if necessary, earlier versions of the manuals), visit the manufacturers’ websites.

Most avionics manufactures provide free PDF versions of their handbooks on their websites. But sometimes navigating those websites to find the references can be daunting. Here’s a quick guide to finding the handbooks for the popular Garmin GTN 750 Touchscreen GPS/Nav/Comm/MFD. You can follow a similar process to locate the handbooks for other Garmin products or the references for products sold by other avionics manufacturers.

You can find handbooks for other popular avionics at the following manufacturers’ websites. If the name of the manufacturer you’re interested in doesn’t appear in the following list, Google is your friend:


Garmin GTN 750 Handbooks

Start at the main Garmin website, In the search box in the upper-right corner, type gtn 750 (or the name of any other Garmin product).


In the list of the search results, click the name of the product you’re interested in.


On the product page, click Manuals.


When the Manuals page appears, click Appliance Data in the Choose product version drop-down box. (Why Garmin chose Appliance Data as the name for this option is any engineer’s guess.)


A list of all of the handbooks and references for the GTN 750 appears. Choose the document you want to download, and copy the PDF to your device. Repeat the download step as often as necessary to collect all the documents you want. Note the revision dates and revision letters to ensure that you copy the documents that correspond to the system software installed in the units installed in your airplane.


The ‘High’ Cost of Avionics

Pilots often complain about the high cost of new avionics, especially when compared to the value of the venerable airframes they’re often installed in.

I have a slide in my GPS for IFR Pilots presentation that shows a state-of-the-art avionics package from Narco in 1962.

This “dream package” included ADF, DME, VOR/ILS, dual transmitters (360 channels), and a marker beacon receiver. No transponder. No autopilot. No intercom/audio panel.

The stack cost $8,000 in 1962 dollars (about $62,000 in today’s money, according to the CPI calculator here), and it weighed 65 pounds. Of course, it was made of components that are far less reliable than today’s solid-state gizmos, and it didn’t include RNAV capability, moving maps, weather and traffic display, and a host of other features we’ve grown accustomed to in the 21st century.

How did that system compare to the cost of new aircraft of the same era?

The base price for new C172 in 1955 was $8,995 (about $78,000 in today’s dollars), according to Wikipedia. The 1960 model had a list price of $9,450 ($75,000). By 1966, the list price for the basic model was $12,450 ($89,700); the upgraded Skyhawk listed for $13,300 ($95,900).

So, “Nancy Narco’s” snazzy 1962 system cost some 85% of the cost of a new Cessna 172 of about the same vintage.

Now, the median family income in the U.S. in 1960 was $5,600, according to a report from the Bureau of the Census. The average price of a house that year was around $18,500.

By way of comparison, the Household Income: 2012  report from the Bureau of the Census says the median household income in the U.S. in 2012 was $51,324.

Now, it’s certainly true that the cost of new aircraft has risen much faster than the general rate of inflation since the 1960s. A new 2012 180-hp C172S listed for $307,500 (that’s an airplane with a G1000 avionics system, including a sophisticated autopilot; a much nicer interior; and other improvements over its ancestors—but still).

That leap in price is a well-worn subject of debate (liability costs, low levels of production, cost of certification, etc.). But avionics have remained a relative bargain, especially when you consider the additional capabilities and reliability of today’s electronics.

BruceAir’s Guide to the PMA8000BT Audio Panel

I recently had a PS Engineering PMA8000BT audio panel/intercom installed in the A36. It’s a terrific unit with many features. To help me learn the key functions, I created my own Quick Reference Guide to the PMA8000BT. You can download the PDF version from the Pilot Goodies folder at my SkDrive.