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Autopilot Installation

As I write this at the beginning of August, 84R is finally getting a new autopilot, a Garmin GFC500.  Garmin certified its autopilot for the 182RG in early Fall 2019, but due to the number of owners rushing to get their planes compliant with the FAA’s January 1, 2020, ADS-B mandate, there wasn’t an avionics shop in sight with the time to schedule anything but ADS-B work.  The backlog of work continued into 2020.

The autopilot installation should be done about mid-August, barring any unforeseen complications, and after a brief check-out period will be available for general club pilot use.  The GFC500 installation for 84R will include all the normal autopilot features minus the yaw damper (YD), plus yoke-mounted electric trim, AP Disconnect and GA (Go-Around) controls.

Pilots not familiar with the operation of the GFC500 autopilot should review two Garmin manuals in the Useful Documents section of this site, Garmin GFC500 Autopilot Flight Manual Supplement and Garmin G5 Electronic Flight Instrument Pilot’s Guide.  Garmin has tightly integrated operation of the autopilot with the G5 flight instrument displays, so much of the autopilot operation can be controlled on the G5.  Those functions are described in the G5 manual.  The flight manual supplement includes more detailed descriptions of the autopilot operation as well as information on the autopilot specific to the 182RG.

Miscellaneous Notes, Aircraft Type-ID and ATC Clearances

84R has been flying a lot since coming back on-line with new fuel bladders at the end of June, partly due to the misfortunes of 756RA six months ago that made 84R until just this week the only flyable 182RG in the fleet.  Thank you to all the pilots who’ve flown 84R this summer and who’ve also been patient with the inevitable maintenance issues that arrive when a 43 year-old plane is actively flown.  For just a few examples: Replaced a sticking pilot’s PTT switch; fixed a loose passenger window latch; overhauled a leaky primer pump; replaced a failed main battery (at AVX!); replaced the old window covers; replaced the cracked right exhaust manifold.

Many Plus One pilots will know that I’ve been working to get 84R upgraded as much as possible, and as my budget could absorb.  The plane now has a nice complement of newer avionics: Two Garmin G5 AI and HSI displays, a GTX-345 ADS-B In/Out transponder, a new Garmin GTC-255a Com2/Nav2 with glide slope CDI, a GNS-430W GPS, a JPI EDM830 engine monitor, and a Flightstream 210 to connect via Bluetooth to Foreflight on iPads or iPhones.  The key item missing has been a good autopilot.  I had settled on Garmin’s GFC-500, but it was not certified for the 182RG until late this summer.  I still want to install the GFC-500, but with airplane owners pushing to get ADS-B equipment installed before January 2020, no avionics shop has any time available for anything else before next year.  Stay tuned…..

I recently attended a presentation by the MYF tower manager, and picked up a few useful bits of information and advice:

  • ATC would like pilots to use the correct ICAO aircraft types in flight plans or when asking for flight following.  For example, PA28 hasn’t been in use for over 10 years. Instead use P28A, P28R, etc.  The correct type for 84R is C82R, not C182 or 182R.  This gives ATC clear information about a plane’s performance in their airspace.
  • Pilots who want an IFR clearance to depart MYF but also want to avoid a long wait for IFR release can request the SOLEDAD DEPARTURE.  This procedure allows the flight to depart MYF VFR and fly heading 270 at or below 2,500′ until given a climb clearance by ATC, which activates the IFR clearance.  The ceiling-visibility minimums for the procedure are 3000′ – 3NM.  See FAA NOTAMS for more information.
  • VFR On Top Clearances:  Pilots who just want to get above the clouds and then cancel IFR, should request clearance to OCN for westbound departures or RYAHH for eastbound departures.  For an IFR flight to a destination, file OTP with departure clearance.
  • VFR Arrivals from the west:  ATC requests pilots flying south down the coast to wait until passing Mt. Soledad before turning east to join the downwind pattern.  This avoids potential traffic alerts by putting arriving planes more than a mile south of those departing MYF to the west.

Back with New Fuel Tanks

84R is finally back on-line after waiting a long time to have new fuel bladders installed.  Leaks in the old bladders were discovered while the plane was down because the rebuilt landing gear hydraulic pump motor was found to be faulty.  We couldn’t get another motor for several weeks, so we sent the “new,” but faulty motor out for repair, which turned out to need only minor soldering on one of the motor windings.  When the fuel leaks were discovered, we had to order new bladders.  New fuel bladders, at least the best quality ones, are not stocked by suppliers, because when folded and resting on a shelf, they tend to develop creases that can lead to premature failure.  It takes three weeks to fabricate a set of fuel bladders.

Installing new fuel bladders involves removal of much of the cabin interior headliner, multiple access panels in the wings that haven’t been opened in years, and old protective tape and adhesive from the wing cavities, followed by application of new tape over the wing rivets, feeding the rolled up bladders through the access holes and attaching corner tabs to the inside of the wings.  Then the fuel system attachments can be connected and the interior re-assembled.  Not an easy or quick process, and one I hope we don’t repeat for many years.