First Flight Preparations
Last updated 9-29-04

First up - a VERY strengent pitot/static/transponder check.

One of the things I have to perform prior to flight is a pitot/static test and sign-off (and again every 24 months there-after). So, I had Bryan Wriston of Wriston Aviation come out to do the tests. I have to say, he is a top notch guy and has the latest top-notch test equipment - I wish I could say the same for MY equipment. In short, my plumbing and the little steam guages passed easily...the Microair T2000 transponder DID NOT! Also on the good side - a BIG thank you to Greg Richter and crew and Blue Mountain Avionics - the EFIS-Lite passed with flying colors!!! It was accurte within 10ft from -1000 to 20,000, and within 1kt full range 0-350. Anyway, it looks like the transponder will have to make the trip back to Microair in Australia in the next few days.

UPDATE 8-10-04: I spoke with Microair and their take is that the unit should not be doing what it is doing. Mine is a version "4" unit, and there is an upgrade available under warranty. So, I shipped the unit back to Aussie-land today for upgrade and re-calibration. I was able to get the plane inspected, but I still can't fly without it - two different FARs that specify what is airworthy and what instruments/signoffs are required for flight. (sigh) ...before you ask, I'm just barely under the DFW Class B vail.

UPDATE 8-20-04: After being held up in customs for 4 days (probably because of tighter security during the Olympics or something), Microair finally got the transponder in their hands. They stuck it on the bench and tested it the same day (very helpful and curtious staff, by the way). The verdict - "Mike has repaired your transponder. The filter was off frequency which would result in the receiver giving out a very poor response. It will be despatched first mail on Monday, as it is now late Friday afternoon and the scotch weld is still drying on it." How's that for support?!? Well, it's great...if it is still working when it comes back! I'm hopeful and positive but time will tell.

UPDATE 8-22-04: Well...there is still a gapping hole where there should be a transponder, I'm still grounded, and it's a beautiful day....(sigh). So, to keep from going crazy, I completed a few odds and ends to keep my mind off the wait. One of the main things was cleaning, polishing and removing some scratches from the canopies. I also fixed a little audio panel bug that had been bugging me for some time - detailed below.

UPDATE 8-26-04: While tracking the transponder on it's return journey, I recieved an unexpected email from Microair:

"I thought you would like to know.... As you are probably aware, your T2000 required a filter replacement. We have had the chance to put your old filter under the scope. The filter and the tuning screws are silver plated for high RF performance. Two of the screws in the filter had their plating cut and peeled back by a sharpe edge in the threaded holes of the chassis. The sliver of silver plate eventually managed to vibrate down the tuning stub hole to the point where it got past the teflon sleeve and grounded out that element leg of the filter. This pulled the filter off frequency. The summary of all of this is... your transponder suffered from a stripped thread! Regards, Ian."

Ha! Well that was nice of them! I have to admit, even though the transponder was practically DOA, I have recieved nothing but the best support from these folks. They are certainly winning back my trust. Now, I just hope the bloody thing works as it should when it gets here! (fingers crossed)

UPDATE 9-12-04: Well...the plane is now flying, the transponder was returned and re-installed, and it is still not performing correctly. Bryan was able to get it signed off using an older analog transponder test set and my flight tests continue. ATC reports that the transponder is "intermittent" but they do get correct Mode C info every few sweeps. After contacting Microair again concerning the problems, they informed me that they are looking into this issue systemically as there have been several other reports as well. The information I have provided them was very helpful in determining the root cause of the problems. They have already initiated a design fix that should resolve the problems only experienced by those units operating in a very high density radar environment. I want to also go on record here by saying that I have NOTHING against Microair itself - they have been very professional, friendly, eager to help, and have been more than generous while coming to terms with this problem. Because the "fix" is likely to take a few months to implement and re-certify (yes, the FAA TSO paperwork trail again for them) and that does not fit my personal timeline needs - they very openly offered a full refund including the return shipping costs. I have no doubt they will fix this problem - they have a fine staff, and a solid ethical company. I took them up on the offer, and that transaction should take place in a day or so. I'll be placing an order for a Becker ATC4401-250 the same day. I choose the Becker because it "fits" the 2.25" hole and has the same basic dimensions as the Microair.

UPDATE 9-29-04: I'm just getting around to updating this page...the actual conclusion took far less time. In short, Microair has voluntarily refunded all the money, I got the Becker and it worked 100% out of the box, and the problems are solved. I have to still give Microair very high marks for their professional and helpful working on this situation. I have no doubt they will get their issues solved in short order, and will be pumping out a great product soon. I'm also happy to have a fully functional transponder with not a complaint one from ATC thus far!!

Performing surgery to correct a audio problem

For some reason, I didn't discover that I had an audio problem until I got to the hangar. I was calibrating and setting up the ACS2002 engine monitor and warning system, and I suddenly noticed that the volume was very low - I could barely hear the alerts. I selected Com1 on the KA-134 audio panel, and everything was loud and clear. Still on Com1 (iCom A200), I selected a few other sources (NAV, Marker, etc.) and all was fine. I switch to Com2 (Microair 760) and suddenly all the Aux audio inputs get muted significantly. It was weird! Only when the Microair 760 radio was turned on was there any problems at all...and no problems with EITHER Com setting when going out to the cabin speaker. Initially thinking I could have yet ANOTHER bad Microair product, I ran some tests - the radio seemed to be working properly. Next, I shot out a cry for help to several of the email lists and several people replied. The consensus was that the answer was buried in the schematics of either the radio or the audio panel. Microair does not distribute the schematics for their equipment (a very BAD thing for a manufacturer to do, in my opinion) so I dove into the KA-134 schematic diagram. It was determined that the 134 has NO isolation resistor block for the audio inputs routed to the headphones - ONLY the inputs going to the internal cabin speaker amplifier do. So it was theorized that the Microair radio was expecting the isolation to take place in the panel, and the panel was expecting it to be in the radio. (figures, huh) So, if this theory was correct, all I really needed to do was add a 560-ohm resistor in series with the audio output of the radio, before the panel.

I got out my trusty soldering iron, Fluke multi-tester, and the "helping hands" and performed surgery on the Com2 connector while still attached to the panel. I used the Fluke to verify and isolate the audio output line, de-soldered the connection, added the resistor and soldered the line back together. I was confident this was the problem, so I put some shrink wrap on the wire splice, re-assembled the connector, and reconnected it to the radio. A quick flip of the switch, and ALL WAS WELL! I had Com2 and aux audio all at the same volume levels. Now, I feel much more comfortable with the audio system as I can hear the warning alerts over any transmission on either radio!

Thank you all that responded with various theories and troubleshooting ideas. I hope this web post might help someone else that has a similar problem. Good luck herding those electrons out there!

Getting some REAL time in type - oh, what bliss!!!

UPDATE 8-25-04: I can, at long last, now say that I have been properly initiated to the 'canard' club. After 11+ years of cramped GIB stick, I finally got to play with the front one!! Scott Carter and I logged 2.5 hours of REAL canard time today, and I must say that it was the most exciting and natural experience I have ever an airplane anyway. To say these planes are EZ to fly is an understatement...although different, none the less. (Thank You, Burt!) My biggest surprise - THE VIEW! For the first time, I could actually SEE the runway on landing, and a totally different...and more natural...canard "picture"! Oh...yes....I LIKE!!!

It was a real pleasure to fly Scott's beautiful 320-powered Long. She's a good ship, and she's got a great builder/owner. At first, I think Scott was more nervous than I was (rightfully so, it's HIS plane and all) but didn't let on. But when the flying was done - Scott said "oh yeah, you're ready go are going to love that Berkut of yours"! High praise!

I have to admit, I really was on top of things for a first go at it...although learning, I felt very comfortable. Canard planes fly differently (from the many hours of slogging through the sky in a spam-cam - no turning back) but not terribly so. Aside from stick pressures, it lands much like a Cessna 421 (mid-size cabin twin) I once flew. You fly the angle (angle of attack), basically 2-3 power settings at preset levels, and "fly" it to the runway like a twin.

You canard guys, I envied you all for a decade...but I'm actually glad I had not done this sooner. I would have fallen in love and bought a EZ years ago, much to the detriment of the Berkut project. I would have been flying all the time, but I never would have finished the Berkut. I can say now...I am just about ready...and I CAN'T WAIT TO FLY THE BERKUT! WHOOHOO!!

What's better is that I will get even MORE time in this wonderful bird later this week. Thank you again, Scott. This experience makes all the difference!

Back to the Proto-page