Our Citation CJ3 Trip to the Iditarod Race in Alaska Took an Interesting Detour

March 2018

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!

Doing Fusion ground checks before leaving the hangar
Doing Fusion ground checks before leaving the hangar
Loading the second flight plan - KHIO PANC - through the ARINC Direct app.
Loading the second flight plan – KHIO PANC – through the ARINC Direct app.

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.

Viewing the Alternative Flight Plan KHIO-PANC before departing KLNK
Viewing the Alternative Flight Plan KHIO-PANC before departing KLNK

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.

Departing Lincoln Nebraska
Departing Lincoln Nebraska

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. 

CJ3 Low Oil Pressure Right Engine - Loading HIO Approach
CJ3 Low Oil Pressure Right Engine – Loading HIO Approach

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.

Emergency Equipment - iPad and Garmin Explorer - don't leave home without it!
Emergency Equipment – iPad and Garmin Explorer – don’t leave home without it!

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!

CJ3 - Right Engine Shutdown - MFD and PFD FMS
CJ3 – Right Engine Shutdown – MFD and PFD FMS

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.

CJ3 - Right Engine Shutdown - MFD and PFD
CJ3 – Right Engine Shutdown – MFD and PFD – on the HHOOD4 arrival

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.

CJ3 Emergency Checklist - Single Engine Approach
CJ3 Emergency Checklist – Single Engine Approach

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.

CJ3 - On Single Engine Approach - ILS RWY 10L KPDX
CJ3 – On Single Engine Approach – ILS RWY 10L KPDX
Columbia River View on FInal for RWY 10L KPDX
Columbia River View on FInal for RWY 10L KPDX

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.

Welcoming Committee at KPDX
Welcoming Committee at KPDX

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 🙂

Testing the oil transducer
Testing the oil transducer


Corrosion on Oil Transducer Pins
Corrosion on Oil Transducer Pins – not the discoloration on the pins and the base of the connection.

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.


Salty's on the Columbia
Salty’s on the Columbia

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…..

Near Vancouver island BC
Near Vancouver island BC
The Turbine Otter Ready to Rock!
The Turbine Otter Ready to Rock!



On the way to Super Bowl 52 – Hydraulic failure in the Cessna Citation CJ2

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.

Starting off on our Super Bowl adventure - in a warm climate
Starting off on our Super Bowl adventure – in a warm climate

  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.

Valley Airways Scottsbluff NE KBFF - Birds Flying North Overhead
Valley Airways Scottsbluff NE KBFF – Birds Flying North Overhead


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.

CJ2 Universal FMS
CJ2 Universal FMS

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.

Arriving into the Minneapolis area. Heavy traffic on the arrival. A lot of football fans!
Arriving into the Minneapolis area. Heavy traffic on the arrival. A lot of football fans!

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.

Low Hydraulic Flow Annunciator
Low Hydraulic Flow Annunciator

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.

KSTP Ramp - Maybe I need a snow machine instead of an airplane.
KSTP Ramp – Maybe I need a snow machine instead of an airplane.

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!

We may have a slight problem with the left wing. Hydraulic fluid leaking from actuator.
We may have a slight problem with the left wing. Hydraulic fluid leaking from actuator.

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.

Remind me - Why did we leave San Diego?
Remind me – Why did we leave San Diego?

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.

Gifts from the Super Bowl Welcome Committee - very appropriate
Gifts from the Super Bowl Welcome Committee – very appropriate

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.

Speed Brake Hydraulic Actuator - sheared bolts and split open
Speed Brake Hydraulic Actuator – sheared bolts and split open

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.

Lyons Pub - Minneapolis, a great local pub and DJ
Lyons Pub – Minneapolis, a great local pub and DJ
The Super Bowl Clock countdown - only 17 hours to go!
The Super Bowl Clock countdown – only 17 hours to go!

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.

Hydraulic Fluid Filter with debris in the pleats
Hydraulic Fluid Filter with debris in the pleats

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.

Hydraulic Pump - Foreground
Hydraulic Pump on the accessory gearbox – Foreground

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.

CJ2 Abnormal Checklist - Dual Hydraulic Failure
CJ2 Abnormal Checklist – Dual Hydraulic Failure

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!

Flying in Alaska!

In March 2014, I had an opportunity to visit Alaska for my aviation consulting with a friend in a Citation CJ3.  Flying up to Alaska offers some of the most stunning scenery I’ve seen.  Our departure point for the last leg to Anchorage was Hillsboro (HIO).  Flying up the coast in the Citation CJ3, rather than the slightly shorter direct course over the ocean, offered spectacular views with virtually unlimited visibility.  Having previously lived in the Northwest, I always enjoyed flying by the mountains, especially Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Hood, today was no exception.  I remember flying low over Mt. St. Helens a year after it exploded, with the largest landslide ever recorded.  Today it looked peaceful, covered in snow.

Mt. Rainier Mt. Hood Mt. St. Helens
Mt. Rainier Mt. Hood Mt. St. Helens

As  we climbed to 43,000 feet MSL (FL430) the dark blue sky above the horizon was breathtaking, and we could  see the curvature of our planet.

Along the British Columbia Coast at FL430
Along the British Columbia Coast at FL430

The number of glaciers were too many to count as we flew up the coast.  One of the largest along the route is the Malaspina Glacier which is fed by the Seward Glacier north of Yakutat Alaska.


As we got closer to Malaspina, we could see the detail of the leading edge of the glacier as it moves into the ocean, including the ice field in the water.

Closeup of Malaspina Glacier

Flying into Anchorage, we encountered low clouds for the first time on our flight.  The clouds are frequently caused in this area when the cold moisture from the sound move over the warmer land and condenses.  In this photo, in the distance you can see the Sleeping Lady – Mt. Susitna.

Flying into Anchorage - Sleeping Lady (Mt. Susitna) in the background
Flying into Anchorage – Sleeping Lady (Mt. Susitna) in the background

Skiing in Alaska

With all of mountains in Alaska, I was hoping for some good skiing.  The only ski area near Anchorage is Alyeska, a relatively small ski resort.  The runs, except at the top which was closed, are narrow and were very icy (the marketing term is ‘firm’) from the recent weather.  After a few runs, and great views, I decided I’d rather be flying!

View from Alyeska Ski Area
View from Alyeska Ski Area

Flying IN Alaska

After flying up to Alaska in the CJ3, I wanted to explore the area at a lower level, and speed.  Despite having an extremely large number of aircraft based in Alaska, there are very few opportunities for aircraft rental. In Anchorage, I found Land and Sea Aviation located at Merrill Field (PAMR).  Anchorage has a number of airports in addition to the primary airport (PANC), including the largest seaplane base in the world – Lake Hood which is adjacent to PANC,  and military fields, all within close proximity.  This arrangement requires special consideration when flying, and a specific FAR – 93.  The Airport Facility Directory (AFD) contains specific instructions for departure and arrival routes for each airport.  If you want to view the airport weather in real time, the FAA also has a great network of airport cameras throughout Alaska that provide a useful way to check local conditions – FAA Airport Cams

One of the best ways to explore Alaska by air is by taildragger, especially since I miss flying on snow runways and gravel strips.  Land and Sea had a plane to fill my need, a Citabria! For my checkout, I met Tracy Kraun, a great CFI with loads of taildragger experience.  At a cruise speed of 90 KIAS – and fun to fly, it fit my needs!

Citabria N5169X Uncovered and Ready to Fly!
Citabria N5169X Uncovered and Ready to Fly!

Equipped with the most advanced avionics 🙂 we were ready to taxi for departure.

Citabria Glass Panel
Citabria Glass Panel – at least glass lenses on the instruments!

The views down low are as spectacular as from 43,000 feet.  Departing to the northeast we could see the White Mountains on our right, on our flight up to Willow AK (PAUO) airport to practice landings.

White Mountains in the Background
White Mountains in the Background

I picked Willow airport, since it is next to Willow Lake, the actual start of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race that was starting the next day.  The airport traffic area was filled with volunteers – Iditarod Air Force – who help shuttle supplies and people for the race.  It was great doing wheel and three-point landings with so many taildragger airplanes, and helicopters, in the pattern.  Landing on the snow has always been one of my favorites, it keeps you on your toes (and heels since the Citabria has heel brakes).  It was fun getting familiar with the Citabria with such breathtaking scenery.

Downwind Willow AK Airport
Downwind Willow AK (PAUO) Airport

After a number of patterns, it was off to Goose Bay (Z40) to practice on a gravel strip.  I’m closing in on having flown into nearly 700 airports, and what better way to add an airport than Good Bay.  On the way we were able to view the reflection of the White Mountains in the water.

Mountain Reflection - Goose Bay AK
Mountain Reflection – Goose Bay AK

Goose Bay is adjacent to the Sound, with a small cliff on one end.  The water in the Sound is very cold, hence the ice seen in the foreground.  Flying over such cold water was a great incentive to remember carburetor heat, and pay attention to the landing!  The gravel is in very good condition, and the State does a great job of clearing the runway since it is used so often. Our next stop was back to Merrill Field.

Final Approach Goose Bay AK - Z40
Slipping on Final Approach Goose Bay AK – Z40

What a great way to experience Alaska!

Anchorage Area - showing flight path. Red dots indicate weather reporting stations
Anchorage Area – showing flight path. Red dots indicate weather reporting stations

Iditarod Great Sled Race

We were planning of flying up to Willow to watch the start of the race on Sunday March 2nd.  During pre-flight the tail wheel was flat – so 2 hours later, in a car, I was at Willow Lake.  If you haven’t seen the Iditarod, it is well worth the visit alone.   At the start there were many countries represented, with mushers of both genders, all starting on an amazing race of 1049 miles with incredible teams of dogs!

Iditarod 1049 Miles - Starts Here
Iditarod 1049 Miles – Starts Here

The start is a party of its own.  People bring ice-tents, BBQs, and  you name it to watch the start of the race.  There is Caribou sausage and other fare you only see in the north! The temperature was a balmy 30 F, which is too warm for the dogs who perform better in 0 F and below. Each team uses a group of musher handlers just to keep the dogs organized and happy.  The dogs are so excited, they were jumping and ready to start this grueling race.

Musher Handler with Lead Dogs
Musher Handler with Lead Dogs
Awaiting Their Turn
Awaiting Their Turn

When released by the starter – the dogs literally leap ahed on their way to run the equivalent of run 40 Marathons!

Dogs Starting Their Run for 1049 miles
Dogs Starting Their Run for 1049 miles


I flew to Fairbanks (PAFA) to conduct some work for an airborne climate monitoring research project on behalf of  SDSU.  While at the Fairbanks airport, I found a location where I could rent a Cessna 172 for a quick low level flight around the area, before heading back to Anchorage.  As with Anchorage, there are many aircraft at Fairbanks but few places to rent.  I found a small, and well maintained, fleet at Warbelows Flight School which is owned by Andrew Warbelow.  I asked Shane Jones, one of their CFIs, to join me on a checkout flight in one of their C172s. They know how to keep the planes flying, right down to -30 F.  Each one of their tie down spots has an electric outlet for engine and cockpit heaters, as well as access to a large pre-heater.  It was great starting a warm airplane, with a comfortable interior!

Getting Ready to Fly with Shane PAFA
Getting Ready to Fly with Shane  at PAFA

The area around Fairbanks has some interesting features.  The airport itself keeps one runway snow-covered for use by ski-planes!  Just outside of town is the Fort Know gold pit mine.  The dust from the mine even has a gold hue!

Downwind Fairbanks AK PAFA
Downwind Fairbanks AK PAFA
Fort Knox Gold Mine Fairbanks
Fort Knox Gold Mine Fairbanks

On the way back to Anchorage, the view of Denali was truly spectacular.  With a peak height of over 20,000 feet the mountain looms over the geography with glaciers emanating in various directions.

Denali National Park

If you get the change, I highly recommend exploring Alaska.  Whether you fly your own airplane to our northernmost State, charter a flight, or rent a plane to fly in Alaska, you will be rewarded with an amazing experience.

The flight back to San Diego was enjoyable, watching the sun set over the Pacific. Over northern California we encountered a spectacular light show.  I was flying the CJ3 at FL450 and we could see numerous lightning strikes – below us!  The high altitude capabilities of the CJ3 allowed us to safely fly above the storms, avoiding changing our flight path.

CJ3 Lightning - Flight back from Alaska at FL450. The strikes were from the storm below.
CJ3 Lightning – Flight back from Alaska at FL450. The strikes were from the storm below.

Citation CJ3 Type Rating

ProFlight Citation CJ3 Simulator Personal Wings

I enjoy flight training, whether as a CFI for over 35 years or as a student. I always learn from the experiences, and believe we can always improve our piloting skills.  After obtaining 5 jet ratings, I thought what the heck, time to add another one. My Aero Vodochody L-29 and L-39 (AV-L29, AV-L39) ratings are defined as Experimental Authorizations by the FAA, a term used for large vintage and experimental turbine aircraft which require special checkrides and approvals.  The EA-500S (Eclipse 500), CE-500 (Cessna Citation 500 series) and CE-510S (Cessna Mustang Single Pilot) are type ratings, required for certified large piston (> 12,500 lbs) and all turbojet aircraft.  In many countries outside of the U.S. a type rating is even required for smaller piston-powered aircraft such as the Piper Malibu series (PA-46) .

[contentblock id=adsense_mobile_banner]

Adding the Cessna Citation 525 series of jets to my license seemed like a great idea. The Citation 525 (CE-525) includes: Citation Jet, CJ1, CJ1+, CJ2, CJ2+, CJ3,  CJ4, and the newest 525 – the M2.  The ‘+’ indicates the CJ1 or CJ2 model incorporates FADEC – Full Authority Digital Engine Control, which is included standard in the CJ3, CJ4, and the M2.

Citation CE-525 Type Rating

A type rating can be obtained under FAA Part 61 or Part 142.  Part 61 generally involves flight training and checkride in the aircraft.  Part 142 approved programs use full motion simulators (Level C and D) which are so capable,  you can log time and take your checkride in the devices, just as if you were flying the airplane.   My goal was to obtain the Single Pilot type rating – CE-525S. In previous type ratings, I’ve obtained 4 (L29, L39, CE-500, CE-510S) under Part 61 and 1(EA-500S) utilizing a Part 142 course. For the CE-525S I chose Part 142, and researched a variety of offerings from Flight Safety and CAE Simuflite to newer entrants in the market.

One of the newest centers is Proflight, LLCt , just north of my San Diego home in Carlsbad CA. (Update 2014 – Proflight was acquired by Textron Aviation and is now part of their new division Tru Simulation + Training – Trusimulation.com )

Visiting Proflight, I was impressed by their training methods, and curriculum.  Proflight has been doing Cessna Conquest  training for many years, and their new jet program focuses on the CE-525 series with a CJ3 Sim, which was also a bonus for me. It was clearly ahead more traditional schools, using the latest Learning Management Systems (LMS) and an extremely high fidelity Level D CJ3 simulator. Officially the course is 17 days, with two Sundays off.  In actuality, you start the learning process before even setting foot in the classroom the first day.  I started studying at least 2 weeks before, using information provided by Proflight and other resources.  Proflight does an excellent job by offering an online LMS that takes the student through 16 modules, from pre-flight inspection to detailed systems in pneumatics, power plant, hydraulics and more.   Along the way you answer nearly 200 questions on quizzes to check your knowledge uptake!  The proverbial firehose of information was aimed directly at me, and while intense, it was a blast.

[contentblock id=adsense_large_rect]

For those pilots who were attending a jet course for their first type rating, the FAA would only allow the issuance of a crew rating (CE-525) if the checkride is done in the simulator.  The only way to bypass this limitation is for them to do the checkride in the actual aircraft. Since I have a few others, my checkride in the sim would be for a Single Pilot rating (CE-525S).


Every day we had at least 4 hours of presentations, either new material or review of what we had learned earlier in the LMS.  Building upon our previous completion of the LMS, Chris Clevering was our primary instructor.  Chris’ systems knowledge is encyclopedic, and practical, so it was extremely thorough and the time passed quickly.  Proflight uses a guided instruction method, utilizing high quality animations which we could then activate under normal or abnormal operations.  My review with Dave Love the second week helped to cement the knowledge in conjunction with our simulator sessions.

Situational and Systems Integration

Proflight takes extensive advantage of their non-motion Flight Training Devices (FTD) for the ground training.  Proflight utilizes a very powerful Next Gen CJ3 trainer as well as a fixed Level 6 CJ3 simulator, all of which are built by Opinicus. For the first 7 days we ‘flew’ the FTDs.  For 3-4 hours each day my training partner and I would brief, then fly scenarios that included full checklist reviews as well as all aspects of flight. The Next Generation trainer is a FTD that uses high resolution screens to represent the cockpit instrumental panel, and actual throttles and FMS (Flight Management System) keyboards.  The visuals, while not the same as the Level 6 or Level D, are outstanding.

Chuck Hosmer, a Proflight instructor, flying the Next Gen CJ3 FTD
Chuck Hosmer, a Proflight instructor, flying the Next Gen CJ3 FTD

The Level 6 FTD is a non-motion version of the Level D simulator, with a full cockpit replication.  The wrap around visuals provide a totally immersive experience.

CJ3 Level 6 Cockpit
CJ3 Level 6 FTD Cockpit

Just to keep us on our toes, every session included numerous emergencies ranging from aborted takeoffs, engine fires, hydraulic failures, explosive decompression, to icing and wind shear.  Our instructors would incorporate these events just when we thought it was time to relax!  While these were non-motion devices, you forgot that aspect when confronted with failed engines, ice induced stalls, and no-flap landings.  These were excellent experiences to prepare for the full-motion simulators. Frequently I would stay after the class for a few more hours to use the FTDs.  It was great being able to easily repeat certain aspects of training.  After one of the classes I was flying our Cirrus SR22  from Montgomery (MYF) to Los Angeles (LAX)  to pick up a friend, I used the FTD to pre-fly the route just to get familiar again with the procedures.

Motion — at last!

Proflight Level D CJ3 Sim
Proflight Level D CJ3 Sim with Fixed Level 6 Sim in back

On day 9, my instructor Tom Wood and I headed for the first official motion sim flight in the Level D CJ3 simulator.  The beauty of using the other Proflight FTDs, is that they all use the same control software so the transition was easy.   We had practiced many of the same operations before entering the Level D, so it made the transition much easier than using more traditional methods. For the next 6 days, either Tom Wood or Dave Love would serve as my instructors, subjecting me to a wide variety of scenarios with an assortment of emergencies.

[contentblock id=adsense_mobile_banner]

Holding in position on Runway 18R at Memphis (MEM)
Holding in position on Runway 18R at Memphis (MEM)

One of the new FAA training requirements is a stall on the auto pilot while above FL410.  The  aerodynamics at high altitude are substantially different than lower and it takes more altitude to recover. The aircraft was more sensitive to control inputs and to a secondary stallI and I was able to recover with an altitude loss of 500 feet. Each session would build on the experience of the earlier ones.  After each 3 hour sim session, we would analyze our flight then head to the classroom for a few hours of systems review.  The days were long, however it was a blast!

The Day

It was now time for the type rating oral exam and checkride, which reminded me of my graduate school thesis defense, except a lot more fun! Early at 7 a.m. on day 17, I met my Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) Russ Defrancesco for the ground portion of my test.   Russ did a great job explaining the process and putting me at ease.  As the FAA evaluator, he is not there to conduct any instruction but rather to assess my potential ability to operate as PIC of a 14,000 pound jet airplane using ATP standards. The oral exam is just not a recital of the limitations (over 120) and abnormal checklist memory items (20), but scenario-based questions that thoroughly probed my knowledge of systems and the inter relationships.

For example: If the bleed air overheat annunciator illuminates, what might be the issue, how does the bleed air system operate, and how do you respond to the issue in flight?

The bleed air is hot air that is extracted from the high-pressure compressor to operate various systems. The highest temperature air is used by engine anti-ice, then cooled some for the wing and windshield anti-ice, then cooled further for pressurization (normal and emergency), pneumatic controllers, rudder bias, and tail deice boots.  It initially leaves the engine at nearly 1000oF, then passes through heat exchanges/coolers that lower the temperature for the other systems.  It the annunciator illuminates it indicates the bleed air at one of the controllers is > 560oF. This may be caused by either a controller issue, bleed air leak, or high demand.  Using the Emergency/Abnormal Checklist, tells the pilot to reduce the affected throttle, if practical.

After 2 1/2 hours of similar questions and scenarios, it was time for the practical test in the CJ3 simulator. With few exceptions, the practical maneuvers would be in IFR conditions. Russ would act  as ATC during the flight, directing me to the next procedure and of course invoking all sorts of emergencies along the way!

After a low visibility taxi (1/4 sm in fog) on 18R at Memphis (MEM) I was cleared for take-off.  After moving the throttles to full takeoff thrust, the airplane accelerated through 70 KIAS, then WHAM!  I had lost an engine.  I completed the Rejected Takeoff (RTO) by retarding throttles, full braking, and speed brakes – then was electronically repositioned by Russ for another takeoff.  This one went smoothly, and I climbed to 10,000 MSL to start the air work.  After steep turns, unusual attitude recoveries, and a high altitude clean stall it was a rapid descent at 4,000 FPM to 2,500 MSL to complete the stall series. A great warm-up for what would follow.

The first landing was the easy one, an ILS 27 with a circle to 18R, all of course at minimums. Cleared for my next takeoff, I accelerated, confirmed the instruments, at 97 KIAS announced V1 (decision speed) and then WHAM!  I had lost the right engine  and had to continue the takeoff, rotating at Vr – 100 KIAS. With 2780 lbs of asymmetric thrust at takeoff it takes full rudder to keep the plane going straight. After gear up, I confirmed I was climbing at V2 – 110 KIAS, then continued the climb to a safe altitude (1500 AGL) and accelerated to V2+10 before retracting flaps. After telling ATC I had lost an engine, and following the checklist, I asked for a vector back to MEM. ATC obliged with a ILS 27, however the weather was worsening and might be below minimums shortly. With only one engine you increase the Vref  by 10 knots  for the final approach.  For our weight, the new Vref would be 113 KIAS.  After configuring the plane, the approach was perfect — except for the weather.  At minimums, I had to execute a missed approach and it was full rudder again!  Of course, the missed approach had to include a hold, with a single engine operating.  While in holding ATC notified me that perhaps my failed engine was okay, and try a re-start.  Remarkably it worked!

For two more hours, I encountered an engine fire, failed PFD, failed Auto Pilot (twice), wind shear, hydraulic failure, brake failure, gear extension failure, missed approaches, and finally we ended with  a no-flap landing. After completing some paperwork, with a fresh CE-525S type rating it hand, it felt good to have completed such a rigorous training program.  The folks at Proflight did an excellent job, not just training for the type rating, but using practical flight scenarios that will be useful when flying the Citation.  Hopefully I won’t encounter as many emergencies in the real aircraft!

Training is Never Over

As pilots we know that we should always be training, and turbine aircraft are no exception.  One of the reasons that there are fewer accidents in turbines, especially jets, is the rigorous requirements for both the initial rating and recurrent training.  In order to act as PIC of a jet after obtaining the type rating you must have had a valid proficiency check (FAR 61.58). The 61.58 check must be completed in that make and model every 12 months, unless you fly multiple jets, in which case you can alternate between 2 of them every 24 months. Even if you don’t fly turbines, you still need to manage the risk of flying.  It is important to participate in frequent training, not just to keep current under the minimum FAA requirements, but also to take scenario-based instruction and practice a variety of emergencies.  Having flown over 8500 hours, and visited 700 airports, and encountered several in-flight emergencies I know first hand that you simply can’t train for everything, however preparing for the inevitable is valuable.

Update – 2014

In 2014 True Simulation + Training, a Textron company, acquired ProFlight.  Textron which also owns Cessna and  Hawker Beechcraft expects to offer additional training opportunities through ProFlight and their simulator acquisitions, Opinicus (who makes the ProFlight sims) and Mechtronix.

[contentblock id=adsense_large_rect]