When I purchased our Eclipse 500 jet, which is an amazing airplane, I found that there were opportunities to make it easier for operators to take care of their airplanes. I had always wanted to explore 3-D printing and this was a great chance to create some useful tools.
Working with our son, Tigre Pickett, we embarked on a fun design experience to create useful devices for Eclipse pilots. It was simple, I needed the accessories, they weren’t available, so why not create them and improve the tools at the same time!
Eclipse Seat Release Tool
The Eclipse has an interesting seat design. The six seats in the Eclipse 500 can removed after first disengaging the locking pawl on each corner of the seat. This pawl is connected to a short cable that can be lifted from the locking position, when then allows easy removal of the seat…. once you now the tricks!
Eclipse at one point had the tool available, however the manufacturer no longer made the tool. Tigre and I embarked on our first Eclipse 3D printing project. I came up with the basic design, which was very close to the tool that was no longer available. Tigre, using his design experience, generated our first prototype. After four various versions we arrived at this tool:
Our first version worked perfectly, however when I tried to use one of the tools I found that it needed to be improved. Underneath the seats, there may be very little light and to see the cable sometimes you need a flashlight. I thought, why not create a tool with an integrated flashlight! In this manner you would only need one hand to release the locking cable. A new product was born! Integrating a flashlight into a new version of the tool took several iterations to find the perfect combination of light and tool. Our final lighted Eclipse Seat Release Tool makes it easy to locate the cable and release it, especially in low light conditions.
The test in actual use proved our concept, and the ease of use.
We also designed the tool to have an integrated flashlight storage capability, simply turn the light around!
Ordering your Eclipse Seat Release Tool
Either version of the tool can be ordered in high performance plastic, or stainless steel – both in various colors (white, black, blue, red, yellow, green, orange). Steel infused with bronze (black, silver, gold) is much more expensive to make, however it is very cool!
- Plastic – non-lighted $30
- Stainless steel -non-lighted $60
- Plastic – with light (light included) $40
- Stainless steel with light (light included) $90
- Extra flashlight – $2.50
Contact Rich at Rich@PersonalWings.com for more information or to order the Eclipse Seat Release Tool!
Eclipse Static Port Covers
The Eclipse has a rather unique static port installation, one that can be problematic with it rains. The location of the port, on the top of the nose, can result in water ingress into the static system with associated issues. There have been a number of solutions over the years, including the use of tape to cover the ports. We decided to develop a custom solution that works well for the Eclipse jets.
Our goals were:
- Utilize high quality materials that will provide a long life to the Eclipse pilots.
- Accommodate the high temperature of the static port in situations where it had not completely cooled down to ambient temperature.
- Provide an excellent seal against the elements, namely moisture.
- Be easy to use, and superior visibility to avoid leaving them in place!
- Avoid any dissimilar metal incompatibility issues.
- Have yet another family design project.
- Have fun designing the tool!
Starting with the basic concept of a cover, we designed several configurations and tested them on our Eclipse jet. With each iteration we got closer to meeting our goals. After nearly two months of development, we had our current version, the Personal Wings Eclipse Static Port Cover.
It took some time to source all of the materials for the design, from the Remove Before Flying (RBF) tags to the fasteners. We tried various components, with an eye to provide a lightweight device that would last for some time. For example, all of the commercially available RBF tags were either too heavy which increases weight and potential damage to the aircraft paint, or too bulky. We decided to design our own from a high visibility and reflective material. They are also so light that even in high winds they should not damage the paint. It takes a lot more time to make them, however we like the result and we can improve it over time.
The Eclipse fuselage is curved, so we wanted to match that curve. The net result is a static port cover that requires minimum force to secure to the aircraft and provide an excellent seal at the same time. Our design utilizes high quality nylon fasteners, to avoid any incompatibility issues with the jet static port and potentially get stuck! Even if they do get stuck, it is easier to remove a plastic fastener than a metal one. We tested the fasteners with considerably more force than even a ham-fisted pilot might use and they didn’t break!
The seals are a high durometer silicone compound that is highly resistant to heat. Silicone has a melting point of 330 degrees Celsius, so if a pilot accidentally leaves them on, at ground idle they reduce any potential damage to the airplane. Nylon has a lower melting point, 220-265 C, which still provides some protection if they are inadvertently left on when starting the engines. All pilots using our covers need to do a careful preflight and remove them before starting the engines. Of course, we can’t control what pilots may do, and are not responsible, however we wanted to expand their options!
They may not help in extreme precipitation events, however our testing so far indicates that virtually no water gets into the static ports
Ordering your Eclipse Static Port Cover
- $160 for 2 complete static port covers
- $20 extra for nose ‘Remove Before Flying’ streamer.
Each set is covered by our limited 6 month warranty. Basically, if you lose any subpart (screws, seals, streamers, etc.) we will repair or replace, at our discretion, the defective component. For an additional 6 months, we will repair at our cost of parts and return postage.
While we do our best to make a quality product that should seal very well, the purchaser assumes all responsibility for usability and effective use of the device. Since we are constantly looking at ways to improve the product, the versions we ship may be slightly different than the photos above.
Contact Rich at Rich@PersonalWings.com for more information or to order the Static Covers.
My friend and I were flying his Cessna Citation CJ3 to Hillsboro Airport in Oregon (KHIO) from Lincoln Nebraska (KLNK) on our way to Alaska to watch the Iditarod Race . I’ve been flying this particular CJ3 for six years, in fact it was my first flight in the plane that was the impetus to obtain my CE-525S type rating . The CJ3 had just back in the air after the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics upgrade was completed at Duncan Aviation in Lincoln . I’ve been flying and teaching the Pro Line Fusion system since the first installation. The multiple flight legs to Alaska would provide a great opportunity to train my friend on a variety of techniques.
Before departing Lincoln I loaded the flight plans, including the second leg (Alternate Flight Plan) from KHIO to Anchorage (KPANC) using the new ARINCDirect app through the wireless connectivity of the IMS-3500 module, which was recently certified for the CJ3. I’ll write another article on that capability soon!
On Fusion you can view the Secondary, or Alternate, flight plan on the map screens of the MFD or the PFDs. This makes for a great method of verifying your next flights, or just to check the weather along the route.
Just when we were enjoying the scenery
We departed Lincoln and were cleared quickly to FL430 and were discussing different aspects of the new avionics system.
We were cruising west at FL430 flying over Idaho and we noticed the oil pressure on the right engine was lower than the left. All values had been in the green range during our flights so we had not paid a lot of attention to specific values prior to recording the values in our flight log. Our engine parameters usually match within a very close range, so it was unusual to observe a significant gap between the two engines. All other engine parameters matched as expected.
We continued our flight evaluating what may be the cause of the discrepancy. Our diagnostic steps started with any recent work on the plane. The recent Fusion upgrade and additional work we had completed should not have involved the oil system. We had previously experience a split in the oil pressure and completed a Williams International Service Bulletin for an oil check valve replacement, We thought it might be related to that replacement, however everything had been stable after that repair for some time. Each engine is equipped with two oil pressure sensors, one is a pressure switch and the other a transducer. The pressure switch is set at a particular trigger value, 23 PSI for the CJ3. The transducer measures actual oil pressure when then displays as a digital value on the avionics.
I frequently fly with my Garmin Explorer Iridium satellite communicator. It is a great device, and I have been using it, and the previous version by DeLorme, for 5 years including on my previous trip to Europe this past Fall. It allows me to send messages, track our progress, and communicate in case of an emergency. This was a great opportunity to use it again.
Near the scenic Salmon River I sent a message using the Explorer to a good friend, Troy Lewis, who works at Williams International, the manufacturer of our engines. Troy is a colleague of ours on the NBAA Cessna Citation Technical Advisory Committee and also provides customer support for Williams. The pressure had now decreased to 47 PSI, which wasn’t an immediate concern to Troy but the trend is an issue. After HIO we would be heading up the British Columbia and Alaska coastlines to Anchorage (PANC) with very few options along the way. We can fly long distances with one engine, if necessary, however it isn’t good for the engine and our range decreases on one engine since we would have to fly at a lower altitude. Neither result was good.
As we approached Oregon and our descent profile into the Portland area, the oil pressure on the right engine then started to fluctuate, something we have never seen in this plane. It would decrease a few PSI, then rise again, however the values still didn’t match the left engine. The oil pressure then started decreasing into the 40-45 PSI range, which isn’t a good sign. The minimum oil pressure in flight for the CJ3 is 45 PSI with an N2 above 80%. In typical cruise, our N2 is well above that number. Below 80% N2 the minimum is 35 PSI. The oil levels were perfect before flight, and the oil temperatures were exactly the same on both engines. Usually, but not always, you will see an increase in oil temperature if the oil pressure drops.
We were at FL430 (43,000 ft) and started to discuss our options and agreed that if the pressure decreased any more we would shut down the right engine. Troy suggested retarding the right engine and see if the pressure increase, which it didn’t. This helped us eliminate the check valve as the cause. Our issue appeared to be caused by a defective oil pressure transducer, or something worse – an actual oil leak or pump failure.
I’ve had experience a low oil pressure indication earlier in a Piper Meridian (PT6-42A) at FL270 with my wife Jane on a flight to my 40th high school reunion in Denver, and at that time thought it might be a recurring oil transducer indicating issue we had which was bothersome but not critical. We continued to happily cruise in the Flight Levels towards Denver and friends. A few minutes later I saw oil streaming over the windshield and did an emergency descent into Cortez CO. I thought it wasn’t a good idea to assume this indication was benign this time 🙂
We were landing in the Portland area and I sent Troy a message to determine Williams’ nearest support team. They stated that Flightcraft at Portland International Airport (KPDX) was a support center. Troy called their staff and texted me, not only confirmation they could help, but also which hangar door to use and who would meet us upon landing! Obviously PDX was now in our new plans. I had flown into PDX many times, when I lived in Oregon and Flightcraft had always provided excellent service. We checked the limitations sections of the AFM and both agreed if the oil pressure dropped any further and approached the limitation minimum we would shutdown the engine.
Over eastern Oregon we were now heading to PDX and the pressure started to rise a little then stabilized. We made the decision that we would shut down the engine at 34 PSI. I practice engine shutdowns both in flight and in simulators on a recurring basis. Practicing these procedures can actually be a fun and challenging experience; learning the aircraft systems and how to react to abnormal conditions. Well at least, I enjoy the challenge! A few minutes later just east of Mt. Hood, the oil pressure indication dropped to 34 PSI.
Mike was the pilot flying on this leg and went through the process of securing the engine, using the Emergency/Abnormal Checklist. It is relatively simple process, confirm the affected engine (you don’t want to shut down the good one!), pull throttle to idle, then cutoff. Secure the generator on the affected engine. You apply additional rudder trim to counteract the asymmetric power since we are now flying on one engine. The CJ3 provides ‘rudder bias’ which senses a failed engine and augments our manual rudder adjustment to help maintain coordinated flight. As we descended we monitored the respective fuel levels and used the fuel transfer system to balance our fuel. The CJ3 has a 200 pound fuel imbalance limit, with 600 possible in emergency situations.
I advised Seattle Center Air Traffic Control we had completed a precautionary engine shutdown and requested a diversion to PDX with one engine inoperative. At this point, Mike and I didn’t consider this an emergency since everything else was operating well, so an emergency wasn’t declared, only expedited handling requested. If we had felt that any significant delay would have affected our safety, or we were in immediate need of a landing, then an emergency declaration would have been appropriate for us. I have declared an emergency in other situations and it can be the best course of action and pilots should never avoid that decision that when they are in immediate need of assistance.
Descend Via but then….
As we were descending via the HHOOD4 Arrival, we were instructed to change to Portland Approach Control. We were using COM2, controlled by the second CCP (Cursor Control Panel) for that radio, while the first CCP controlled COM1 where we monitored Emergency (121.5) which was our standard. I was managing the Flight Management System (FMS) as well as communications. I switched frequencies, or at least I thought I did, and the second CCP then failed!
Now we are descending at 260-270 KIAS, 2000FPM, with a ground speed in excess of 330 KTAS. Approach Control expected us on the new frequency, which we had not activated due to the failed CCP. Our standard procedure of monitoring 121.5 on COM1 was useful, since they contacted us on that radio and we used the Quik Tune feature of Fusion to change to the appropriate frequency. Of course, you don’t expect multiple failures at the same time however it does make it more interesting.
Portland Approach was very helpful, especially when I requested no delays if possible. The plane was flying well, however it doesn’t hurt to ask for a bit of assistance. The right engine was shut down and the less time you can have an engine spinning in the wind without oil pressure, the less likely you will encounter other issues. We reviewed the Single-Engine Approach Checklist to ensure we didn’t miss any items. While we knew the plane well, the use of checklists is a good standard protocol – especially when you have an abnormal event.
We were cleared for the ILS RWY 10L by vectors to final. We were now VFR below the clouds and had a great view of the Columbia River, something I always enjoyed when we lived in Oregon.
Our approach speed was a little high on final for the ILS 10L which we adjusted on the glide path. The touchdown by Mike was perfect and we then taxied to the west side of the Flightcraft maintenance hangar that was opening – just as Troy informed us!
The Welcoming Committee was there when we landed, not only the Flightcraft team but also the Portland Airport Fire Department – just in case.
Flightcraft – Help to the Rescue
It was now approaching 1530 and our goal of reaching Anchorage that evening was no longer attainable. The technical team at Flightcraft was truly amazing. Within 30 minutes of landing, the had the cowlings off our engines, had hooked up test equipment and isolated the problem – the oil pressure transducer. The corrosion didn’t appear to be severe, however in testing we believe it extended beyond what was visible to us. They even let me help, which probably delayed them a little bit 🙂
It was now 1615. We had isolated the problem and now needed a replacement – on Friday evening no less, and then required installation. Paul, one of the supervisors at Flightcraft worked quickly and found a part at the Textron Sacramento Service Center. With everybody working hard to help us, we were able to get an airline counter-to-counter replacement on the way to PDX.
We decided to enjoy Portland, or at least the airport area, and went to dinner at Salty’s on the same river we just flew over – the Columbia. If you find yourself in Portland, it is a great restaurant with an enjoyable jazz group on Friday evenings, and you can watch planes land at PDX! We also met up with friends who needed a ride to Alaska, so it worked out for everyone.
At 10 pm the new part arrived from Textron and Scot Fitch, the A&P mechanic who stayed late to help along with a colleague, called to let me know the part had arrived. Mike and I went to the hangar to help and test run the engines. After a little additional tweaking, we had proper oil pressure! Scot and his assistant did an amazing job getting our bird back in service.
The next morning we were off to Anchorage and the Iditarod, maybe 15 hours late, but that was inconsequential and we were grateful for the excellent support by Williams, ATC, Textron, and Flightcraft! Besides it allowed us to view the spectacular British Columbia and Alaska coasts in daylight! More details on the remaining trip and the Iditarod soon…..
Off to the Super Bowl
A friend asked me to fly the Cessna Citation CJ2 to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis while he was on a well deserved vacation. It sounded like a good idea, I always enjoy flying into busy airspace and events and it is a refreshing challenge coordinating all of the components and seeing so many aircraft in the air at the same time.
It started out as a perfect flight, flying the CJ2 cross country from San Diego (KCRQ) to Minneapolis St. Paul (KSTP) for Super Bowl 52! Our support team, who manages the aircraft, did an amazing job arranging the ground details including coveted hotel rooms on short notice.
We were able to get an arrival slot and parking — one of 235 reservations at Signature alone. and a total of 1200 aircraft operations in the area. After a stop in Van Nuys (KVNY) to pick up a passenger, and get our warm clothes ready for the cold we were off to Minnesota.
we did a fast turn at Scottsbluff Nebraska (KBFF). The fueler at Valley Airways, the FBO at KBFF, was great, providing us with a very quick turnaround and and very reasonable fuel price. Overhead we saw a flock of birds heading north, which seemed a bit early for February.
We could have made it non-stop to KSTP if everything was perfect, including weather and traffic, however my experience flying into other high volume events, such as EAA , a stop is the safest option. I’ve been on final approach at Oshkosh (KOSH) and the aircraft in front of us had an incident on the runway, requiring us to go missed, enter holding, and eventually land elsewhere.
The flight was great. I took the opportunity to teach my co-pilot, Perry, some additional functions of our Universal Flight Management System (FMS) as we flew across the US at FL390. While not the latest system, it worked well especially when coupled with the Garmin GNS530 and our Rockwell Collins Pro Line displays.
The outside temperatures were cold on this flight so it was easy to fly at that altitude in the CJ2 and it provided a slight speed advantage over flying at FL410 or above. We encountered some clouds, and a little ice on the descent however it was extremely smooth, and fun as usual!
Super Bowl Arrival
We were cleared into KSTP via the GOPHER 1 Arrival with the expected altitudes. Everything was going by our plan. Perry and I remarked how we fit in nicely into the flow into Minneapolis for the Super Bowl and while others had to hold, we were flying directly to the approach corridor. Other than anticipating weather that was 80 degrees colder than San Diego, we were set.
I arrived on base leg on the ILS 32 at exactly our arrival time slot, 1604 MST, which was probably a fluke, but useful in any case! This was the only runway open and was covered with snow and some ice, with a moderate crosswind, thankfully the freezing fog had left an hour ago. The other runways, along with all ramp areas, were snow covered, used for parking the large number of airplanes. It looked like one large snow field!
Remember – Fly the Airplane!
The ILS approach proceeded well, Perry was doing a great job monitoring our progress and did the callout at 500 feet AGL with a confirmation that the annunciator panel was clear, gear down, and runway 32 confirmed . Out of the corner of my eye I saw the hydraulic advisory light flicker ‘HYD PRESS ON’ which is not usual when the system pressurizes as you activate the systems, such as flaps, speed brakes, or gear which are electrically controlled but hydraulic actuated.
Upon landing we put out the speed brakes and the Hydraulic Low Flow Warning (HYD FLOW LOW L R ) lights flashed quickly, then went solid – on both engines. Not a good sign.
When both of these annunciators illuminate it can only mean one thing – we lost all of our hydraulic fluid. We still had a ways to slow down the aircraft on a very slippery runway with a right crosswind and since the brakes are on a different system they would not be affected. The most important operation for a pilot is to always fly the airplane. If you allow yourself to become get distracted at critical times, it doesn’t always work out well.
I elected to taxi off the runway and park the plane. At this point I didn’t want to block landing traffic, nor did I want to quickly shut down the engines without a proper cool down. The hydraulic pumps were probably already damaged however, if you shut down a jet engine too quickly you risk blade rub on the case and other issues. While shutting down the engines quickly with a hydraulic failure might save the pumps, however there are no guarantees they would be okay – especially when both lights were illuminated.
While I secured the plane Perry helped the passengers deplane in very cold weather and mentioned I may want to take a look at something that the line person noticed —- not yellow snow but orange!!! The left wing was partially covered in fluid by the speed brake, and unless I hit a Yeti on landing it was hydraulic fluid!
The left actuator had actually burst at the seams and virtually emptied the hydraulic reservoir onto the beautiful Minnesota snow – on Super Bowl eve at one of the busiest airports in the country that night. After ensuring our passengers were in the warm shuttle to the Signature FBO on the west site of the airport, we post flighted the aircraft and started working on a plan. We had made it to the Super Bowl and we could deal with it, we just didn’t know how at that time.
Upon entering Signature shivering a bit from the cold, the Super Bowl Host Committee greeted us with mittens and hats, a great indicator of hospitality, and warmth. Over the next few days we would visit them often.
I inquired if Signature had a maintenance facility, which they did – TechnicAir. Things were looking up. I was put in touch with Bill Wuorinen , the maintenance supervisor at TechnicAir and explained our situation. I knew I was asking the impossible – significant maintenance help on the Saturday night before Super Bowl, below zero temperatures at night, with no hangars available and a number of other pilots needing help. Within 15 minutes we had a plan – Bill graciously agreed to help me diagnose the problem and move one of their planes out of the hangar.
Bill and I moved the plane to their shop. It was now almost 7pm and one of Bill’s staff started work on it immediately and removed the burst actuator from the left wing. The fluid pressure in the system is approximately 1500PSI and it appeared the bolt heads had sheared which meant that fluid at extremely high pressure exited the system immediately upon activation of the speed brakes.
The Textron Mobile Service Unit (MSU) was unable to help for at least three days, so it was gracious of Bill to help. The actuator was ordered just before 10 pm for delivery the next day and we hadn’t confirmed the status of the pumps; that would need to wait until the morning. In retrospect it probably would have been a good idea to order new pumps at that time as well.
Super Bowl – Downtown Excitement
I elected to explore Minneapolis to see the excitement for Super Bowl. It was crazy downtown. After walking around, seeing if I could still avoid frostbite, I found a great small place off the beaten path with a DJ, Lyon’s Pub. I appeared to be the only non-local which meant it was a great local bar. I could tell I was in Minnesota since people were wearing knit hats and boots on the dance floor ! If you visit Minneapolis I highly recommend a visit to Lyons Pub, for drinks o music. Everyone was excited about the game and it was fun talking to folks about their predictions.
Bill kept me advised late into the night on the part delivery tracking and we both hoped our problem would be solved quickly. Little did we know that in the morning we would find the hydraulic pumps were also damaged.
New Day – New Parts
In the morning they removed the hydraulic filters and found what appears to debris from the hydraulic pump. New pumps and filters were required, and ordered. Another delay, and now we were trying to get the parts delivered same day during Super Bowl. I have to give credit to the Textron delivery process, they had the pumps on a flight to MSP to arrive on a United flight at 11:30pm. The problem now was United airlines wouldn’t release the part to us until the next morning, not exactly the best customer service for AOG.
Early the next morning the technicians noticed that one of the replacement pumps arrived damaged from Textron. Our significant delay was expanding even more. I had two passengers that had critical meetings on Monday and a broken bird. As Captain I take responsibility for both my passengers and aircraft, so now it was off to find alternative transportation. There were no commercial flights within four hours of driving distance due to the Super Bowl, so we worked on a charter option. The problem was there were no arrival slots, even if we could find a plane to charter. While a colleague searched for charter options, I negotiated for arrival, and the subsequent departure, slots. The staffs at Signature at KSTP and Lynx at KANE were incredibly helpful in arranging the slots we needed.
After additional work by TechnicAir the plane was back in service on Tuesday. In light of the situation the down time was relatively little, however it was accomplished by a great team effort of all the aviation professionals in Minnesota and Textron.
The Hydraulic System
The Cessna Citation CJ2 utilizes two separate hydraulic systems, one for the brakes, and another one that operates the speed brakes, flaps, and gear. The brake hydraulic system is ‘closed-center’, while the later system is ‘open-center’. An ‘open center’ does not operate at high pressure until a sub system is activated, the fluid simply circulates. When the pilot selects an associated flight control device such as the speed brakes or flaps, pressure valves close which builds system pressure to 1500PSI. Then high pressure hydraulic fluid is routed through the appropriate actuator to operate the sub-system. In our case, when I extended the speed brakes, a valve closed routing 1500 PSI hydraulic fluid to the actuators. The left actuator then burst, sending high pressure fluid out of the system. The reservoir holds 156 cubic inches (2.7QTs) of fluid, so fluid would quickly exit the system.
The hydraulic pumps are mounted on the engine accessory gearbox where a number of ancillary equipment are located including the oil pump, Fuel Distribution Unit (FDU) and the PMA alternator. Of course when the hydraulic fails you lose your speed brakes, flaps, and normal gear extension.
When the system is breached, such as our actuator bursting, the fluid can quickly exit the system. Once the hydraulic pumps run dry the impeller is no longer lubricated by the fluid which starts the processes of destruction. Once the friction reaches a critical point the pumps fail and in theory the pump drives shears in order to minimize any damage to the accessory case. Im our situation, the pumps were still operating and the drive shaft was intact. If the pump fails completely then it also sheds material inside the housing necessitating replacement of carbon seals within the gearbox.
If you lose one hydraulic pump, the hydraulic systems may continue to operate unless there is a loss of fluid as in our case. If you lose both, then you are in a different situation. If a pilot has complete hydraulic failure of this system, then you are faced with no flaps, no speed brakes, and emergency extension (but not retraction) of the landing gear. This translates into longer runway requirements and slightly more complicated speed control. If the runway is contaminated (wet, snow, ice, etc.) then it further complicates landings due to additional runway required for landing.
I’ve reviewed the incident many times, as the pilot and as a Flight Instructor, analyzing the best procedures. The established aircraft checklist can only provide guidance under a certain set of circumstances, and are not designed to provide steps for all scenarios. The checklist only has one option – Land as soon as practical’ – well I had done that so in theory I was successful.
My main focus was to ‘fly the airplane’ and ensure the safety of my passengers as the primary goal, with the secondary goal to minimize damage to the airplane systems. If I had shut down the engines immediately upon low hydraulic pressure I may saved the hydraulic pumps however we would have faced additional issues including loss of braking, potential engine damage, etc.
Despite the issues with this incident, I was pleased my passengers had a great time visiting a wonderful city and viewing one of the best Super Bowls – Go Eagles!
Pro Line Fusion Citation CJ3 First Flight
A State-of-the-Art Avionics Upgrade
copyright 2017,2018 Personal Wings, Inc.
NOTE: This article is a condensed version of my full-length CJ3 Fusion training documentation. Pro Line Fusion training is available from Personal Wings, contact Rich Pickett for more information – Rich@PersonalWings.com
- April 2018 – Read my Twin & Turbine article in the March 2018 issue on flying Fusion in the CJ3! The plane on the cover, and in the article, is the primary one I fly!
- August 7, 2017 – new content and videos on flight planning, navigation, and weather.
Note: Due to the size of the photos, their resolution in the blog is scaled down. To view higher resolution images, most photos link to higher res with a click. This is a very long blog! I tried to keep it short, however Pro Line Fusion is a very capable avionics suite and even at this length, I only barely touch the surface!
I had been looking forward to flying the CJ3 with Rockwell Collins’ new Pro Line Fusion avionics systems since the upgrade program was conceptualized 2 years ago. The CJ3 jets were originally outfitted with the Pro Line 21 avionics suite which is a extremely capable system, but as with all technology, didn’t match the full capabilities of newer aircraft avionics. Cessna has been delivering the CJ3+ with Garmin 3000 avionics since 2015 which offers the latest Garmin technology, but until Fusion was announced there were no advanced system upgrades for the CJ3, other than WAAS and other enhancements to the Pro Line 21. The Garmin 3000 is a great system, offering touch controllers, high resolution displays, and other enhancements over previous Garmin systems such as the G1000, which in itself was a transformative change when released.
Rockwell has been using the Fusion system in other platforms for a short time, and recently had installed them in the venerable Beechcraft King Air, which now offers them as a factory installed system. It was this system that Rockwell elected to customize for the Citation CJ3.
The Pro Line Fusion is unique in many ways, including the incorporation of touch screen technology in the PFD (Primary Flight Display) – a first for the aviation industry. While others have utilized touch controllers (G3000) or touch sensitive navigation displays (Garmin GTN series) this was a bold move by Rockwell to explore this technology.
I attended a brief system familiarization course at Textron’s Tru Simulation and Training Proflight center in a King Air 250 FTD (Flight Training Device). While helpful for basic familiarization, nothing is like flying and teaching in the same aircraft model
The upgrade program engineering is extensive, and took over a year for Rockwell Collins and Duncan Aviation to design, install, fine-tune, fly, and obtain FAA approval for this system. A CJ3 owner graciously gave up use of his airplane for a year, so it could be used as a test bed. On Friday April 21, 2017, the FAA granted the approval STC to Rockwell Collins for the CJ3. It was only a few months later than anticipated, however it was worth the wait.
On April 26, Dave Lenz picked up his airplane at Cedar Rapids and made a few flights with Dale McPherson one of the Rockwell test pilots. After they landed it was now up to Dave and I to explore the aircraft. It was great to have the opportunity to teach, and fly, the first CJ3 with Fusion. Our first flight was short – Cedar Rapids IA (CID) to Madison WI (MSN).
It was helpful to have read the 838 pages of the Fusion Operating and Installation Manuals prior to the flight, but trying to remember everything was a challenge and clearly wasn’t possible. Rockwell Collins has a few YouTube videos explaining some of the basic functions which are helpful. While it is clearly a different technology architecture, previous experience with Pro Line 21 provided the basis for many of the FMS (Flight Management System) features, outside of that is is vastly different.
After 40 hours with the Rockwell Pro Line Fusion installation, I’m still learning about all of its capabilities. My intent with this review to offer you a glimpse into this powerful suite, not to cover every aspect of its operation. My goal is to constantly update this blog as I teach, and fly the CJ3 over the next several months.
The System Architecture
The Fusion system is comprised of 3 Adaptive Flight Displays (AFD). Rockwell Collins also names them Display Units (DU), in case you get confused like I do sometimes. Each AFD (DU) can serve as an MFD (Multi-Function Display) or a Primary Flight Display (PFD), depending upon configuration. This also is useful when an individual display is not functioning, the other displays can show the information from the inoperative display.
All of the data is entered on the AFDs, either by utilizing touch on the displays themselves, or through actions using the Cursor Control Panels (CCP) and Multi-Function Keyboard Panel (MKP). These multiple methods of entry are one of the most powerful features of Fusion.
The CCPs (one for each pilot) and the MKP (which pilots share) are located on the center pedestal. This is the same location that previously housed the FMS display and Keyboard for the Pro Line 21. The location of these controls is a natural reach for both pilots and enables the pilots to use either these controls, the touch screens directly, or both in conjunction for screen navigation and entry. The most optimal method for me is to first touch the AFD field I want, then use the CCP and MKP to do my data entry. As you can see in the photos, the autopilot CRS, ALT, and HDG controls have moved to the top of the pedestal, still in easy reach.
Cursor Control Panel (CCP)
The CCPs have several functions that can mimic, or enhance, touch functions on the AFDs. The controller (RC terms this a Multifunction Knob) serves as a joystick for movement on the AFDs, selection of fields for data entry, and select list data – hence the name.
Multifunction Keyboard Panel – MKP
The Multifunction Keyboard Panel (MKP) is extremely powerful. In addition to the keyboard – which is now in QWERTY format, the MKP contains a number of quick access function keys, and joystick. Pro Line 21 pilots will see familiar keys such as CHART, however many are new.
Navigating the Displays
Unique to aviation is the incorporation of certified touch-enabled PFDs that are a key component of the Pro Line Fusion. While some avionics manufacturers may also offer touch screen MFDs, the Fusion system offers some unique capabilities. Since only portions of the PFD are enabled for touch, you may forget which ones. It is simple to find out, just touch the screen on the side and the ‘hot spots’ appear on the PFD to show you the active regions.
On to the Flying
Now that I’ve given you a brief introduction to the architecture, it is time to pre-flight the system and fly!
First – Check Status – Initialize System
One of the first steps is to check the status of the system (Databases, GNSS, Position, etc), initialize our weight and fuel, calculate performance parameters, and load a flight plan.
CJ3 Fusion Setup | Status | FMSLoading The Flight Plan
The Pro Line series excels at flight plan data entry, and the Pro Line Fusion is no exception. As mentioned, you can load flight plans using either Plan or Fly pages – however only Plan will support Airway inclusion directly. Once the Airways are loaded, you can see the full waypoint detail in Fly, and of course modify as needed.
Departure and arrival procedures, including approaches, are loaded into the flight plan using the Dep/Arr button The photo below show a curved departure, GROMO 4, on a recent flight from Yakima Washington (KYKM). While initially the departure looks somewhat complex, the Fusion system makes it simple. Since it is an RNAV departure, the Flight Director and Auto Pilot greatly facilities flying it, and it was fun flying the arc.
Pro Line Fusion provides what seems an almost unlimited number of display options, offering the pilot a wide variety of flight plan management capability and situational awareness configurations.
One advantage of a long cross county with Pro Line Fusion, is you get a chance to explore all of the display options and features! Sometimes it is even more important to just look outside and appreciate the unique opportunity to pilot such aircraft at 45,000 feet.
Entering Crossing Restrictions (e.g. 10 miles east of JLI at 10000) is easy with Pro Line 21 and Fusion offers even additional methods. Here are some of techniques to enter the data.
- Graphically on the Map. You can touch the waypoint on your map, and the Waypoint menu appears – Select Crossing and the Crossing options shown below.
- Waypoint Icon – Plan or Fly Page. Touch the Waypoint ICON (Note- it is easy to forget and touch the Waypoint name) for the Waypoint menu, Select Crossing and the Crossing options appear in another pop-up dialog/menu.
- Waypoint Field. – Flight Plan or Fly Page. This is the easiest – just to the right of the Waypoint is a field – touch it and you can directly access the Crossing menu.
Arrival and Approaches
As with so many other features of Pro Line Fusion, there are a large number of methods to select an approach or arrival at an airport. As shown above for the departure, you can select the Dep/Arr button on the Plan or Fly pages.
Perhaps a very unique method is to access arrivals by selecting the ‘feathers’ on the runway approaches depicted on the MFD at the airport icon. As you can see by the MFD photo below, there are ‘feathers’ that depict instrument approaches to runways. Rockwell Collins has displayed the feathers using the orientation of the runways – a great way to spatial orient a pilot to the airport. While we have always been taught to visualize the runways at an airport, this method is far superior to guide the pilot. With Fusion, you can simply touch one of the arrows and the available approaches appear on a pop-up dialog box. I found it very useful when evaluating alternative airports along the route, or when I simply wanted to pick an approach at an airport.
One of the coolest features of Pro Line Fusion is the outstanding number of weather display options. In addition to onboard Radar, XM/Sirius Weather, you can also add the optional Datalink Request system for weather. I’m only describing the tip of the iceberg, if you can forgive the weather pun! Fusion provides an amazing number of display options, and you can only begin to explore them all over several cross country flights.
Configuring Weather for Display
The pilot can display weather on any one of the AFDs, either as an overlay on the MAP, or a dedicated Weather window to display graphical or text weather. While the Pro Line 21 suite offered a robust list of weather options for display on the MFD, usually be accessing the menu through one of the MEM keys, the Fusion pilot must configure their display. As noted earlier, this would be a great use of one of the Display Memory keys – perhaps User A or User B.
I don’t know if there is a conclusion! After spending a lot of time with Pro Line Fusion, taking 1400 photographs of the system, and a large number of hours writing, I could still spend more time exploring its capabilities. A pilot familiar with Pro Line 21 can learn the system in a few days and operate the system proficiently, however they will only discover its full power over time, similar to some of the more advanced avionics now available to pilots.
Pro Line Fusion is definitely an significant jump in capability over Pro Line 21. I still enjoy flying the later system, however the Fusion system is definitely worth evaluating this upgrade path. For those CJ3 Pro Line 21 operators anticipating adding WAAS and ADS-B out to their existing aircraft, upgrading to Fusion at an approximate cost of $325,000 which includes those functions is worth evaluating.
I worked on the software for the first HUD for Flight Dynamics, later to be purchased by Rockwell Collins. I would love to see that system integrated into Fusion.
While I enjoy using Fusion, there are still some issues that Rockwell Collins will need to resolve, such as Vspeeds, Performance, ADS-B in, and some usability changes. Of course, I’m very particular and I can always find ways to improve aircraft systems!
For Pro Line Fusion training in the CJ3 – contact Rich Pickett at rich@PersonalWings.com