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!

ICON A5 Review – Grab your water shoes, beach towel and swimsuit!

ICON A5 Light Sport Amphibian Review – Quite a machine

Rich Beaching at Eagle Island - ICON A5 Review
Rich Beaching at Eagle Island – A5

On an earlier blog I wrote about obtaining my Commercial Seaplane Rating in Alaska, you may have read how much fun it is to fly a floatplane (seaplane rating per the FAA). I had a blast flying the Pacer and Super Cub on floats – splashing around on lakes in Alaska. Recently, again in Alaska, I had the opportunity to experience a ride in a 1942 Grumman Goose amphibian (only 17 left in the world) and Lake Renegade amphibian, as well as fly a Cessna 180 on floats.

ICON Aircraft offered me the opportunity to be one of the first pilots to participate in their new training program and fly their amazing Light Sport Seaplane amphibian – the ICON A5. I have a deposit on a future A5, however my particular aircraft probably won’t be available for a few years.

The ICON A5 is in a relatively new class of Light Sport aircraft, which opens an incredibly wide range of opportunities for pilots; Sport Pilots and Private/Commercial Pilots alike. Officially it is a Light Sport Aircraft-Single Engine Sea (LSA-ASES). While there have been other great LSA-ASES on the market, this one has probably garnered the most interest recently.

I won’t go into the full details of the FAA Sport Pilot license (SPL) in this blog (more details at AOPA or EAA), however basically it allows a faster method to obtain a pilot’s license. In as little at 20 hours (most people require more time) you can obtain a Sport Pilot License to fly an airplane, lighter-than-air (balloon), weight-shift, or gyroplane depending upon your training. Training for a floatplane rating, will take some additional flight and instruction time.

With a Sport Pilot license there are some limitations in comparison to Private Pilot license (PPL). You are limited in the size of the aircraft you can fly, where you can fly, when you can fly (no night and high altitude flying), and can only take one passenger. Even with these limitations, it is a great avenue to obtain a pilot’s license and have a lot of fun, and you can always progress to the less-limited Private Pilot’s License later!  One of the nice aspects of a Light Sport aircraft, is you can also use it for training for a Private Pilot’s license, usually at a lower cost.

If you already have a Private Pilot’s license, you can fly any Light Sport Aircraft that matches your category and class (e.g. single engine airplane land). In order to add a Sport Pilot additional aircraft category and class (e.g. single engine seaplane) to your PPL you follow the Sport Pilot additional rating process.   Upon completion of the SP training you take a Proficiency Check – rather than a Practical Test. The Proficiency Check is very similar to the Practical Test except it is administered by a CFI.  You can also use a Light Sport aircraft, like the A5, to add a full rating to your Private or Commercial Pilot’s license which would then require a check ride with a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), similar to the SPL Proficiency Check.  It may seem a bit confusing at first, especially since you have so many options, however the process is fairly easy.

The Aircraft

The ICON A5’s primary structure is carbon-fiber for strength and light weight. Weighing in at a max gross weight of 1510 lbs., it has a maximum useful load of 500 lbs and fuel capacity of 20 gallons (100LL or Unleaded 91 Octane automobile fuel). Powered by a very smooth Rotax 912iSc, fuel injected engine, running a propeller at a maximum 5800 RPM (4800-5000 RPM in cruise), producing 100 HP. With a fully digital Engine Control Unit (ECU), it provides a modern way to power an aircraft, with automatic ignition and fuel/air management. This is definitely the way to power piston aircraft.

ICON A5 N184BA on ramp at KVCB
A5 N184BA – one of my aircraft for training at KVCB

All light sport aircraft have a gross weight restriction; in the case of LSA-SES it is 1430. ICON was able to convince the FAA to allow them a higher gross weight due to some great aircraft design features, including a parachute system, the Complete Aircraft Parachute (CAP) provided by BRS – similar to the one in my Cirrus SR22. The ICON A5 CAP is very unique, when you deploy the parachute an interconnect also lowers the landing gear to further soften your emergency landing.

The Numbers – A5 Specs at a Glance

  • Gross Weight 1510
  • Useful Load 500
  • Baggage 60 lbs.
  • Fuel capacity 20 gal
  • Wingspan 34.8 ft – folded 7.8 ft.
  • Length 23.0 ft
  • Draft 14-23 inches (depending upon gear position – yes gear position !)
  • Vso – 39 KCAS Vs – 45 KCAS
  • Vfe – 75KCAS , Vle –KCAS, Vo 76 KCAS, Vne 120 KCAS
  • Vwr – 10 KIAS  (my definition – max speed for Water Rudder extension)
  • Vwv – 1 ft (my definition – max wave height for operation)


The A5 uses the Rotax 912iS engine, coupled with a Sensenich 3-blade composite propeller.  Since it is a pusher configuration, it avoids some of the damaging water spray while on the water and offers the pilot and passenger an unobstructed view. While the engine is mounted high on the fuselage, the pre-flight checks are easy (more on that later).  Cooling is also optimized – as long as you don’t leave the canopy fully open after engine start ,which may impede the air flow. Checking oil is also very simple, just step on the seawing and check the quantity on top of the engine. Since it is both air and water cooled, you check the coolant level at the rear of the engine during preflight.

A5 Rear View of Engine
A5 Rear View of ROTAX Engine – Canopy would be closed or in the trailing position with the engine operating

Electrical System

This is an electric airplane, utilizing a 12-volt battery charged by 2 alternators. The Engine Control Unit (ECU) utilizes two channels (Rotax calls them ‘lanes’). The primary alternator for the ECU is actually the smaller 16-amp unit. The 30-amp alternator powers the avionics, battery, and provides backup power to the ECU. Since the ignition system is fully electronic, similar to a car, the two alternators are needed for redundancy.  The plane makes extensive use of LEDs for lighting, as expected, providing a good internal lighting environment and excellent position and taxi/landing lights.

ICON A5 Right - Starboard Position Lights
A5 LED Position Light – Needed as a plane and a boat!

Fuel System

The A5 uses a single, fuselage-mounted, fuel tank, with an amazingly accurate self-calibrating fuel indicating system. You only have to put the fuel selector in the ‘ON’ position in flight. The airplane incorporates 2 engine-driven fuel pumps, again for redundancy.  The engine utilizes premium autogas (MOGAS) or 100 LL – the advantage of longer oil change intervals, etc. with the autogas.  Another clever ICON design is solving the issue of checking for fuel contamination.  Sampling fuel on a land plane can be a nuisance, on a float plane it is a major pain, trying to balance yourself on a float – hanging out over the water to reach a wing sump or balancing between the floats in the front for the engine sump.  ICON’s design is downright simple.  They incorporated a tube inside the fuel neck that reaches to the bottom of the fuel tank.  The pilot inserts a syringe that connects with that tube and you draw a fuel sample up for examination – nothing could be easier!

ICON A5 Fuel Neck
ICON A5 Fuel Neck – Note the small tube on the left where you attach a syringe

Gear System

In land retractable aircraft you utilize a squat switch to prevent gear retraction on the ground, not in an amphibian! Since you can extend and retract the gear in the water, without a weight-on-wheels sensor to prevent accidental retraction, you need to be careful at all times. A simple task if you use the checklist – every time.

The gear system is simple, which is great, featuring a fully castering nose wheel , with a two position switch – UP for Water, DOWN for LAND. As with all amphibians, you recite a full gear check item on your checklist – “Gear down for Runway – indicating down” and “Gear Up for Water – indicating Up”. Similar to the usual GUMP check, but even more important since your landing surface changes frequently.  The A5 main gear will probably not retract if accidentally raised while on land, however the nose gear would.  I don’t want to be the pilot to test this theory


ICON A5 Cockpit
ICON A5 Cockpit – all switches in easy reach

As a Computer Science Professor and techie, I love technology in airplanes. There are a number of great LSAs and other aircraft with powerful glass panels featuring integrated MFD (Multi-Function Display) with EIS (Engine Indicating Systems) and PFD (Primary Flight Display) implementations.   I enjoy flying and teaching in them, however the ICON A5’s design offers a very efficient implementation for its mission.  At 6′ 3″ I found the 46″ wide cockpit quite comfortable, even after 2 hour flights.  The cabin height is great, however our son is 6’7″ and for him it is a bit tighter especially the legroom.  The ICON staff mentioned that they aimed for the 95 percentile in fit, which makes sense, however 97% would be even better for our son 🙂  On the other hand it fits me perfectly!

Flight Instruments

After  flying over 80 aircraft makes/models, from taildraggers and gliders to helicopters and modern jets, it is wonderful to slip into the cockpit of the A5 and experience a well designed and ergonomic cockpit. The ICON folks designed a cockpit environment that is intuitive the minute you sit in the pilot’s seat. With the instrumentation conveniently arrayed in front of you with easy to read analog displays, it just seems right!

The Angle of Attack (AOA) indicator sits prominently at the top. ICON positioned the AOA at the top for a reason – you reference it during all phases of flight and it is an important instrument for landings.

The A5 utilizes a Garmin 796 GPS, which is removable, as the navigation system with XM capability and communicates with the single Trig COM. The A5s I flew have a Trig Mode-S Transponder and future production models will have an ES – extended squitter unit for ADS-B out and possibly ADS-B in.

After owning, and flying, a number of aircraft my only suggestion would be the addition of a volt/ammeter so you can see the actually battery voltage before start to check the health of the battery and charging rate and voltage during flight.  I mentioned this to the ICON folks, as a suggestion for the future.  Alternatively, you could use a 12v meter in the accessory receptacle in the center console, which is next to 2 USB power ports.

ICON A5 Instrumental Panel
ICON A5 Instrumental Panel – AOA at top

You can see some additions over land planes- the addition of a Purge Bilge annunciator – important when water gets into the airplane structure during normal water operations.  Since the wings fold a warning light informs you if the wings or stabilizer tips are not secure.  In addition they have a LAND AIRCRAFT light which indicates you may have an impending engine issue and it is in your best interest to get on the ground — or water as soon as possible!  ICON is changing the altimeter design, so future aircraft will look slightly different.

You don’t need an Exhaust Gas Temperature (EGT) gauge since the ECU takes all of the work of setting the correct mixture, which optimizes the engine and makes flying that much easier.

Folding the Wings

One of the very cool features of the A5, are the folding wings. Utilizing this system you can change the width of the A5 from 35 ft to 7.8 ft, in a matter of seconds. We did it in 15 seconds. The wings fold, and unfold, easily by activating levers under each wing. In order to maintain integrity and greatly reduce pilot effort, the ailerons automatically align when the wings are unfolded back into flying position.


Folding the wing on the ICON A5 from Personal Wings on Vimeo.


Sully demonstrating releasing the wing folding lever on the A5
Shane ‘Sully’ Sullivan demonstrating releasing the wing folding lever on the A5

Then wings are then pulled slightly out and rotated back into the stowed position.

A5 Wing in Folded - Stowed Position
A5 Wing in Folded – Stowed Position
ICON A5 Wing Folding Mechanism
ICON A5 Wing Folding Mechanism – You can see the wing locking levers in their unlocked position

Next you need to remove the horizontal stabilizer tips to minimize the width for trailering.  Simply turn the lever under the stabilizer and voila – the tips are removed!  The bird is now ready for easy storage or transport to another lake, or airport, or both!

Jay removing the stabilzer tips on the A5
Jay removing the stabilzer tips on the A5

The Course

To say I was excited about learning another airplane, especially the A5, would be an understatement. To me, flying is always about learning and gaining knowledge since my first license in 1977. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the A5 training materials.

ICON is offering several training programs including; Initial LSA-Land and Sea, Private Pilot Land transition to LSA-SES, and Private Pilot Sea A5 transition. Since I already had my Commercial Single Engine Sea I chose the later course. In some ways I was bummed, since I wanted to fly the airplane more hours!

Wendi Hauger of ICON scheduled my training and sent my training materials by email and FEDEX. The materials arrived shortly and I couldn’t wait to read them. Despite already having my ratings, and far amount of experience in 10,000 hours of flying, I read all of the materials to get an idea of their full program.

The materials are simply some of the best I’ve seen for initial and transitioning pilots. The course books includes: Sport Flying Academics, Sport Flying Operations, Flight Training Course Guide, and Sport Flying Supplement.

ICON is also developing an online course to supplement the information and help with pre-assessment before arriving at their training facilities.

ICON A5 Course Materials
ICON A5 Course Materials

The Sport Flying Academics manual does a great job of educating non-pilots on the various areas of flight. Their discussion, and course flow, on aerodynamics provides a very fluid progression from a simple discussion of why the study is important to encompass all of the information a Light Sport pilot would need, or for that matter at Private Pilot. Their approach, which initially appeared too simplistic to me, began to make more sense as I progressed through the book. As a CFI I would prefer a bit more information on flying into controlled airspace in this manual, however  this is covered in a separate Controlled Airspace Endorsement (CAE) Course. In 193 pages, they cover a large amount of essential information.

Sport Flying Operations.  In addition to expanding on a number of topics from the Sport Flying Academics manual, ICON starts the application of many of these topics to flying the A5.  They expand the training emphasis to discuss land and sea operation of the A5.  Water operations are inherently more difficult due to all of the different environmental factors (water condition, winds, floating debris, beaches, docks, etc.) which is reflected in the 40 pages on water ops and a much shorter section on landing on runways.  The other topics include navigation, weather, hazards, and a great selection of references on items ranging from the FARs to abbreviations.  I particularly liked the weather section (maybe since I once worked as an ABC Weathercaster in Oregon) since it takes a large amount of information and presents it in a very understandable format that is useful for Light Sport and Private pilots.

Sport Flying Supplement.  If you were wondering how to tie knots, or always wanted to know the full mathematical formula for range as it relates to propeller efficiency and L/D, this is the book for you! It also offers a detailed look at Angle of Attack (AOA) and its relationship to many performance factors.

Flight Training Course Guide.  This guide provides the outlines for several training options:  Initial Sport Pilot Single Engine Land and Sea, Transition Seaplane Rating for Sport and Private Pilots with existing Landplane certification, and Transition-Seaplane for pilots that already have the Land and Seaplane ratings are want to learn to fly the A5.    The guide discusses the pre-arrival academics as well as a syllabus for each lesson, clearly listed in each section.

Location, Location, Location

The first, and currently one, training center is at ICON’s headquarters at the Nut Tree Airport (KVCB) in Vacaville California, near Lake Berryessa  which is used for the water training. ICON is planning additional training centers as their company, and the demand, grows. The next training center will be in the Tampa Florida area, with others to follow. KVCB is also where the ICON A5 is being assembled.

I flew up from Montgomery Field (KMYF) under VFR conditions in a friend’s Piper Mirage that I borrowed for the trip.  The flight was only a bit over 2 hours in smooth skies at 16,500 ft. Of course, I had to bring one of my bikes along for local transportation.

Mirage Silver Fox at VCB for ICON A5 Training
Mirage Silver Fox at VCB for ICON A5 Training

Dawn Arrives at ICON

I arrived early in the morning on my bike before my instructor and had a chance to checkout the planes.  The line staff were getting the planes ready for training.  They did a great job of ensuring all of the aircraft were fueled and ready.  They also were very helpful answering my constant questioning about the aircraft and the systems.

Gaggle of ICON A5s Early Morning at KVCB
Gaggle of ICON A5s Early Morning at KVCB


The ICON Flight Center has a very good training facility with classroom and briefing rooms. After registering with Ariel Andrus, I was paired up with Shane ‘Sully’ Sullivan, a former Navy F/A-18 and P-3 pilot.  My classmate was a Private Pilot without a seaplane rating, so after an introductory session we split off for my transition training.  ICON describes their ground sessions as ‘Ground Labs’ and the information was presented in a very interactive method.  For me it was focused on the characteristics of an LSA and the A5 in particular.  Since I had reviewed all of the material prior to class, the process went very quickly.

Since this is a Light Sport Aircraft, one thing to remember is the keyword ‘light’.  It responds differently to high winds and the control forces are lighter than most General Aviation aircraft.  I found that not to be an issue, but always reminded myself that crosswind landings might be slightly more challenging, however its maximum demonstrated crosswind (an FAA definition) is the same as a Cessna 172.  In flight I found it to be an extremely responsive aircraft, you just need to adjust to its characteristics just as with any other aircraft.


ICON A5 - starting preflight inspection
ICON A5 – starting preflight inspection

My airplane for the day was the first production A5 which was generously donated to the EAA and temporarily is used on the ICON training fleet.  The preflight inspection is straight forward for an amphibian!  As with all aircraft you check the general condition.  Since we have folding wings and removable stabilizer tips, you have some additional inspections as noted above by ensuring the wing release handles are secure and the stabilizer tips secured.  The cockpit also has an annunciator in case these flying surfaces are not locked.  The seawing (horizontal surface on the fuselage) makes it easy to step up and check the air intake and oil level.

ICON A5 Nose Gear inspection
ICON A5 Nose Gear inspection – note the gear fairing is also the lower surface for beaching
 Cockpit windows on the ICON A5 - easily installed in seconds
Cockpit windows on the ICON A5 – easily installed in seconds
 Cockpit windows on the ICON A5 - easily installed in seconds
With the windows out – and deflectors installed – limited to 90 KIAS but very cool to fly without windows!
A5 Preflight Cockpit
A5 Preflight Cockpit – master switch in lower left of knee panel
A5 Preflight Cockpit
A5 Preflight Cockpit – parachute is secured by pin before flight and electrical panel with CBs and fuses. Fuel valve aft of parachute handle
ICON A5 Wing Folding Levers Stowed - we also check the security at the wing tip and stabilizer tip security
ICON A5 Wing Folding Levers Stowed – we also check the security at the wing tip and stabilizer tip security
ICON A5 Water Rudder - check for security and ability to manually push up - You don't see this on your typical Cessna!
ICON A5 Water Rudder – check for security and ability to manually push up – You don’t see this on your typical Cessna!

Up, Up, and Splash – Time to Get Wet!

Sully and Rich about to fly the A5
Sully and Rich about to fly the A5

Starting couldn’t be easier.  After doing our cockpit check (securing belts, brakes, CAP pin removed, etc.) you simply turn the master on and move the ignition to ‘Lane A’ wait 6 seconds while the ECU performs tests, then do the same on ‘Lane B’, turn to both and start.  The Rotax starts easily – every time hot or cold.  I increased the RPM to 2500 to excite the alternator and do a few checks, then off to the runup area.  At the runup area you check the ignition system, similar to a mag check on legacy engines, verify everything is operational and proceed to the runway.


The A5 literally leaps off the runway in a short distance when I rotated at 50KIAS with flaps up.   Gear retraction, and extension, is 75KIAS so relatively quickly the gear was up after clearing obstacles.  I climbed at Vy (best rate of climb) – 60 KIAS, with initial rate of climb (ROC) of 500+ FPM.  To be the most efficient you fly by AOA – white line for Vy. The plane is a dream to fly!

ICON A5 Climbing Vy White Line AOA
ICON A5 Climbing Vy White Line AOA

Stalls – or Not?

On the way to Lake Berryessa I flew in slow flight (minimum speed just above a stall) and performed the stall series.  This plane is so docile in the aerodynamic stalls, maintaining aileron control throughout the maneuver, that is is hard to call these the typical stalls you might see in other airplanes.  In most airplanes you have a relatively abrupt aerodynamic effect when stalling an airplane.  The aileron control in the A5 is similar to the Cirrus, you can effectively use them safely through the stall.  Through the series of stalls, I lost a maximum of 50 feet unless I purposely held onto the stall.  The departure, power-on, stall had a buffet but I was still climbing almost 100FPM!  The stalls are so gentle that if this is your first airplane flight you might think all airplanes stall like the A5!  I enjoyed then so much I always did some on our way to the lake, but then as my students know I always love stalls 🙂

A5 - slow flight approaching clean Stall - note AOA just above redline
A5 – slow flight approaching clean Stall – note AOA just above redline and IAS approaching a stall of 45 KIAS

Time to Splash!

Just to the north of Vacaville is the lake, with the dam on the east side.  On the first day, I flew over the dam and headed for the main portion of the lake.  Since you have so much flexibility to land on lakes and the ‘runways’ are not marked obviously, and you share the water with other watercraft it is very important to stay vigilant.   Descending to the lake, I take care to look for power lines, especially since this is a hydroelectric dam, that extend across the hill tops surrounding the lake.

Angle of Attack – The ICON A5 AOA Indicator

Since the best way to operate an aircraft is by flying the optimum Angle of Attack for a particular maneuver the only accurate way to determine it is to use an AOA indicator. ICON uses an intuitive approach – with basically three references – on green line, on white (dashed) line and yellow line.  As your speed increases the indicator progresses towards the top of the green – which is high speed cruise.  The red line represents the stall mentioned above.   Since AOA for a particular maneuver should be always the same degree, however the Indicated Airspeed (IAS) will change depending upon weight, flap configuration and G-loading using the AOA indicator is preferred.  This is the same reason turbine and military pilots rely on AOA.


ICON AOA Indicator
ICON AOA Indicator


I don’t know what can be more fun, flying at least, than landing on water and the A5 definitely seems like a duck in the water!

Approaching the water it is time to do the pre-landing checklist.  1) Gear UP for Water, indicating up 2) Flaps 30 degrees, 3) Water Rudder UP.   I always like to repeat the Gear check, 3 times, on downwind, base leg, and final — just in case !

Using the AOA indicator for water landings is so cool!  In the A5 you simply start your approach at an AOA on the ‘On-angle white line’  and keep that value until on short final.

As you slow down for landing just a few feet above the water you slow down to an AOA in the middle of the yellow, which is approximately 1.3 times the stall speed with the flaps extended.  You can also land a bit faster if you are landing on a glassy surface. In the video you will see how smoothly you can land on the water, in this case we were practicing on ‘glassy’ water which can be more challenging since you may not have adequate references for height above the water.


Okay you are flying into a lake and now you want to get on land.  You can use a dock, drive up a boat ramp, or what is really fun is to park on a beach!  On my first beaching, we chose Eagle Island – aptly named due to some eagles nearby.

From the air it is difficult to determine the true condition of any runway – land or water.  With water landings it may be more difficult since there may be submerged sandbars, tree stumps, and rocks.  Beaching can be an even bigger challenge.  The first order of business is to evaluate the landing area, then taxi by the beach after landing for a closer look, followed by a slow taxi towards the beach.

Rich Beaching at Eagle Island - A5
Rich Beaching at Eagle Island – A5

On Day 2 of the Transition Training, my second CFI – Mike Turner, and I  decided to practice a confined area landing on the way to the same beach.  Approaching the landing area, I was a bit slower than usual flying the AOA at the top of the yellow on base leg, then half way in the yellow for landing.  After landing, you can see a high speed, or step, taxi to the island,  then a turn to survey the area. As we approached the beach I shutdown the engine, removed headsets and seatbelts and prepared to get wet.


This time I beached on the point and made it easy for Mike to step out on dry land – for a change. The things I do for my flight instructor 🙂

ICON A5 Beaching at Eagle Island - Day 2
ICON A5 Beaching at Eagle Island – Day 2

As you probably noticed on the video, when you stop on the water –  water comes over the bow into the air vent as you decelerate, on your feet, then into the bilge.  The A5 has a water sensor, and when it illuminated, I simply turned on the bilge pump!

ICON A5 Purge Bilge Light
ICON A5 Purge Bilge Light

On the way out, I snapped a photo of one of my classmates, Burt, departing the island.

ICON A5 Leaving Eagle Island
ICON A5 Leaving Eagle Island

Since the A5 sits low in the water, you need to be careful when beaching on sloping surfaces or at docks.  To explore steeper beaches, we tried another island to experiment.  As you can see you have to be careful when using these beaches to avoid damage to the wing tip, or changing tides and water levels.

Beaching the A5 on a slope
Beaching the A5 on a slope – note how close the wingtip is to the beach.


Lake Berryessa is a great place to cruise, especially over the water in the A5.  One of the rivers that feed the lake is Putah Creek.  We dropped down and followed the creek back to the lake for more fun!

Flying along the Putah Creek
Flying along the Putah Creek


Call me crazy, but I love practicing emergencies.  In 40 years of flying, I’ve had a few real ones and the best way to prepare is to practice frequently

On the way to the lake on another flight from Vacaville, I did an emergency descent, reducing the power to idle and gliding at white line on the AOA all the way to the water.  With a glide ratio of 9:1, the A5 glided effortlessly, and I kept my intended landing spot in the same sight picture.  Close to the water, I extended my flaps to 30 degrees, continued to slow to an AOA of mid-yellow for a smooth landing on the water.   After landing, I increased power to do a Step Taxi at 30 kts under the power lines suspended over the lake and then transitioned back to a take off.

As you can see in the video, the plane glides very well with the AOA stable on the white line, with a pitch of between 9 and 11 degrees from an elevation of 3300 MSL (feet above Mean Sea Level) to the water surface at 440 MSL.  Again a great example of using the AOA.

Simulated engine failures after takeoff, etc. were equally as simple.  As long as the pilot monitors the AOA, it is an easy process to consistently make a safe landing.

Landing on Runways

This will be brief, mainly since I had so much fun on the water I didn’t want to spend much time on the runways.  The A5 is very simple to land, as long as you use the AOA and fly stabilized approaches you can consistently land the plane exactly where you want.  Of course, you always want to follow the checklist – especially ‘Gear DOWN for Runway – Indicating down’.  Whether you use flaps, or not, the A5 doesn’t use much runway and the pitch attitude is similar to my SR22 – just about 5 degrees nose up on touchdown.

Over Too Soon

It seemed my two day transition course was way too short, in fact we added an extra 2 hours just to have more fun before heading back to San Diego.  Flying floatplanes is such a kick, and flying the amphibious ICON A5 has to rank up near the top of my flying experiences.  It isn’t a fast cross county airplane, can’t carry a large load of people or baggage, and may have other limitations but that isn’t why you own or fly an ICON A5.  You fly an ICON A5 to have fun flying, on land or water, and have experiences that are only available with a handful of airplanes.  The design, quality, and shear pleasure of flying the aircraft left me with a big smile on my face, and a desire to fly it again!

If you’d like to learn how to perfect your  flying skills, contact me to schedule an instruction flight. Don’t forget your sandals!

Citation Recurrent Training – Back in the Box

I couldn’t believe that 2 years passed so quickly, it was time for my second CJ3 Citation Recurrent Training – CE525S. I completed my initial at ProFlight in December 2013, wrote a blog about the experience, and had flown the CJ3 almost 300 hours in the past 2 years including some great trips to Alaska for business, add my Seaplane rating, and all over the lower 48 states.

CJ3 Fl450 Florida Panhandle
Flying the CJ3 over the Florida Panhandle at 45,000 feet (FL450)

Citation Recurrent Training with Tru ProFlight

Since that time ProFlight was acquired by Textron Aviation and their new company – Tru Simulation + Training , which also purchased two simulator manufacturers. Same great program and staff, however the acquisition has allowed them to expand, adding additional pilot and maintenance training courses under Textron Aviation as well as the establishment of a new training center near Tampa Florida. Proflight is now Tru ProFlight Training. Occasionally I also help as an SIC for some clients working on their crew – CE525 – ratings at Tru ProFlight.

NextGen CJ3 Flight Training Device (FTD)

One advantage of being a Tru ProFlight customer is the ability to visit during the year and utilize their Citation CJ3 NextGen Flight Training Device (FTD). While I used that opportunity a few times during the year, I knew that a full recurrent would test my flying abilities and give me a chance to update my skills, especially on Abnormal/Emergency procedures. This FTD is unique among the other FTDs that I’ve used. The ‘cockpit’ couples full tactile experience with many of the knobs and switches a pilot uses in the aircraft (e.g. autopilot, FMSs, trim, flaps, throttle) with touch screens for some other functions. By coupling this capability with full controls, and a wrap around visual system, the pilot experiences almost the same functions as in the aircraft and sim. The feeling is so close to the actual aircraft, that when I trained my wife to land the CJ3 in the NextGen she started to aim for our hangar at Montgomery (MYF) at high speed – I had to pause the FTD before she ran into the CJ3 I fly in real life! I forgot I was in the FTD.

The Tru Proflight CJ3 FTD
The Tru Proflight CJ3 NextGen FTD for Citation Recurrent Training

In order to fly Pilot In Command (PIC) of a turbojet aircraft, you are required to have completed a flight proficiency check per FAR 61.58 within the previous 12 months in that type (e.g. CE525 for the Citation CJ3). If you have multiple type ratings, you can alternate the required Proficiency Check between models each year, however you must train specifically in each model within 2 years to fly as PIC. Technically I could wait another year since my currency is active in multiple jets, however I believe that training is extremely important, and Tru ProFlight offers a great CJ3 Citation recurrent training program in Carlsbad California, close to my home in San Diego.

Learning Management System (LMS)

The first item you receive after enrolling in the Tru ProFlight Citation CJ3 Recurrent course is a link, and login, to their online LMS. The LMS is divided into a number of chapters, and pages, with a quiz at the completion of each chapter.

ProFlight CJ3 LMS
ProFlight CJ3 LMS

Each chapter includes narrative text, audio, and animations for each topics. The animated system diagrams are very cool, offering clients the opportunity to see various operations, e.g. fuel flow, under normal and abnormal conditions. If you are like me, you don’t remember everything about a system when first viewing it, and reviewing abnormal conditions is easy when you can click a valve closed and see the result — all on your computer.

CJ3 Fuel System Lesson
CJ3 Fuel System Lesson

After about 15-20 hours of pre-study using the LMS on your own, when you first visit ProFlight you take a review quiz to complete the ground portion of your Recurrent. With that complete, now the fun starts!

The Simulator

Proflight utilizes some of the latest Level D simulators. The one I used was built by Opinicus, which was also acquired by Textron and is now a business unit of Tru Simulation + Training.

On to the Training Flights

With access to the CJ3 NextGen FTD, I could practice by myself virtually any flight operation while up at Tru ProFlight. An instructor was also available to answer questions, or put me through challenging scenarios in the FTD. One of the great features of the NextGen is that it utilizes much of the same software that is used in the full motion Level D sims with full control feel. In this way a flight in the FTD closely resembles one in the Level D. After some time in the NextGen, the simulator sessions now started.

Chuck Hosmer was my instructor for 2 of the 3 hour sessions. No matter how much you fly, you still learn from flying the sim. Each sim session is preceded with a thorough briefing on the scenario for the session. Tru ProFlight changes the scenarios periodically, which makes it more interesting.

Our first sim session at first seemed easy – depart Aspen-Pitkin County (KASE) and fly to Colorado Springs (KCOS). A short, relaxing, flight in the CJ3 – in normal condition. Then I remembered that nothing is easy in the sim! My instructor had planned a few challenges along the way. The weather at KASE was:

KASE 091255Z 33015KT 2SM -SHRA OVC008 25/10 A3032

Even before starting the engines the ATIS indicated that the crosswind starting limit for the CJ3 (10 KTS) would be exceeded, so first I had to request a tug to turn us into the wind. Exceeding the crosswind or tailwind limits can result in a hot start, exceeding the Interturbine Temperatures (ITT) maximums.

Once that was resolved, I completed the systems check  only to find out that my brake anti-skid system was inoperative. A quick call to maintenance (my instructor) resolved the issue and we continued. The KASE weather was IFR which required flying the LINDZ 8 Departure (SID), which was uneventful, but fun flying IFR through the mountains. Cruising over the Rockies my autopilot failed. After going through the Abnormal Checklist for that failure, I could not resolve the problem so it was up to me to fly to KCOS and do the approach.

On the way to KCOS, the ATIS informed me that the glideslope was inoperative on the RWY 35L ILS, the approach I was assigned. Since the weather at KCOS was a ceiling of 400 feet overcast and 1 mile visibility which was below the Minimum Descent Altitude (MDA) for the Localizer, missed approach was probable — my first clue! I didn’t seed the runway at minimums, so it was on to a missed approach. Pickle (Go Around pushed) , Power, Pitch, flaps to approach, gear up at positive rate of climb, FMS set, flaps up at V2+10. All of which occurred quickly.

On the missed approach, I was diverted to my alternate – Denver International (KDEN) and my autopilot miraculously started working! Denver was a good alternate, however the visibility was reported as 1/2 mile, with rain and low overcast of 200 feet. Another clue! The flight to Denver was short and just when I was about to relax, I had an engine fire on the left engine. I had used the LMS to study engine fire procedures, which also included an interactive lesson animating a fire sequence.

Citation recurrent training LMS engine fire lesson
LMS engine fire lesson

In the sim, my first clue was the left engine fire warning light with concurrent loss of engine oil, fuel, and hydraulic pressure as well as failure of the generator.

CJ3 left engine fire
CJ3 left engine fire

Once I confirmed the fire, then secured the engine by pressing the LH ENG Fire light which also closes the fuel and hydraulic valves for that engine and arms the fire extinguisher. After activating the fire extinguisher and completing the checklist – it was back to the ‘usual’. As always, the most important thing to remember if to ‘Fly the Airplane’. A single engine approach in the CJ3 is not difficult as long as you follow the Checklist – flaps set to approach (15 degrees), fly the approach at Vap (approach speed – approximately 8 KTS above Vref), which requires an approximate power setting of 55-60% N1.

Always Assume a Missed Approach

I’m always prepared for a missed approach – VFR or IFR. Possibly the only tricky part flying on one engine is a single engine missed (or takeoff), since you have so much asymmetric thrust which is assisted by the rudder bias system. Another clue! Of course I had to do a single engine missed since an airplane had taxied past the hold line just before I was to land. The missed sequence is Pickle (push the go around button), Power forward, Pitch up – all simultaneously. The flaps are confirmed to be in the approach mode only, gear up at positive rate, set or confirm FMS for the missed, and use a lot of rudder to keep the plane straight. Once you are at a safe altitude, your airspeed at V2 + 10, the remaining flaps can be retracted. Simple!!

I then set up to do a single engine approach to 16R ILS which had better weather. Along the way the autopilot failed, so it was a hand flown single engine ILS to minimums. We had extra time after landing, so I did a VFR takeoff with both engines, for some simple pattern work. You get the picture – another clue! On downwind just before I was going to deploy the flaps – the flaps somehow failed. Slowing down a jet without flaps, or speed brakes (if they also fail) is not easy. You must immediately reduce power and let the plane slow down. When I had practiced it earlier, I was way to fast and it is almost impossible to slow down the jet if you are too fast. Without flaps the approach speed is faster, and of course the required landing distance is substantially greater. The landing distance is also increased if the speed brakes are also inoperative. If you have full hydraulic failure, the gear will also not extend normally – but with everything else happening this is a minor inconvenience since the manual extension is simple. The visuals on the Proflight sim (built by Tru Simulation) are outstanding. Here is an example of a VFR approach at one of the airports I ‘flew’ into during training.

On final at Memphis in the CJ3 Citation recurrent training simulator
On final at Memphis in the CJ3 simulator – beautiful VFR day

Windshear ! Windshear ! Windshear !

After landing, we still had time, so it was off on a departure into significant windshear with the Proline 21 system announcing something I already knew 🙂 One trick I use is to rotate at a slightly higher speed if I suspect windshear or gusts and might also consider a no flap takeoff if runway length permits. When encountering the windshear, I pitched up to almost the stick pusher and didn’t change the aircraft configuration. It is tempting to change the flaps, if deployed, and it usually isn’t a good idea! The CJ3 is very powerful and while the takeoff was turbulent and the verbal annunciators were warning ‘Windshear’ we were able to finally make it above the critical phase.

After a landing, with all of the systems working (a surprise) it was time for the debrief. Nearly 3 hours had passed in the sim, and it seemed we were only in there a fraction of the time. The debrief is extremely useful, reviewing what I did correctly and also to identify areas for improvement.

Finishing Up

My next sim session was full of activity. Early on in the session I did the required air work: steep turns, stalls – including high altitude at FL450, emergency descents. Also added for variety was PFD failures, then an IFR approach to Memphis (KMEM). Since we can compress a lot of training in the session, we followed with a brake failure on takeoff, low visibility taxi using SMGCS.

Just when everything was going smoothly, with just a few emergencies. I did another takeoff with an engine failure at V1 (decision speed). As with the single engine missed approach, the challenge is using enough compensating rudder. Once you remember that, then it is almost easy to fly the plane! Actually it is a lot of work, but then that is why we train, and train some more.

Proficiency Check

For the 61.58 requirements, you can either do a progressive check where the required tasks are spread out over 2 or 3 sim sessions, or elect to do a single check session. I elected the later at Tru ProFlight to give me more time to prepare.

This check was done with Chris Clevering, one of the Tru ProFlight designated examiners. While similar to the type rating check ride, it is a little more relaxed – at least for me. Chris did an excellent briefing, evaluating my system knowledge as well as my comprehension about operating procedures. It was then into the simulator to spend another few hours crammed full of airwork, emergencies, and even some ‘normal’ flying. After flying some much time dealing with abnormal events, it was odd sometimes to fly an airplane with all of the systems working!!

After the 2 simulator sessions, the evaluation was basically a review of what I had learned – a lot of single engine flying, systems failures, and low visibility operations. Just to end on a high note – I had a departure in windshear and after recovering from that, a dual hydraulic failure, with a resultant manual gear extension, and of course flap failure to a full stop. All in all, a very robust Citation recurrent training program designed to keep you safe.

Train Like You Fly and Fly Like You Train

It is so important to continue flight training, that it should be ingrained in every pilot’s psyche! I cannot stress this enough. With almost 10,000 flight hours I never fail to learn something new (or improve my skills) when I train. It makes you a better pilot, keeps your mind sharp, and is just plain fun. The day I no longer train is the day I will stop flying (which I hope will be a very, very long time from now).

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) .

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Professional flight training is essential for the safe operation of today’s high performance aircraft including:  Eclipse, Cirrus  SR22, Piper PA-46 ( Malibu, Mirage, and Meridian), Aerostar, Pilatus PC-12 and others.  Insurance approved.  Cirrus SR22 rental aircraft also available.

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