The Tiger Has Landed

I just returned from a 48 hour round trip to southern Florida to pick up a refurbished Grumman AA-5B Tiger and ferry it back to California. I’ll say this for general aviation, it’s always an adventure. I took a few photos, which are available here.

My first thought after sitting down to memorialize the weekend: I’d forgotten how exhausting these transcontinental trips can be, especially when you’re dodging thunderstorms for 2000 continuous miles. Florida in late August — good times.

The commercial flight out to Ft. Meyers was blessedly uneventful, but between the three hour time change and our 6:45 a.m. wheels up plan for Sunday morning, I was behind the curve even before we started. Fortunately the thunderstorms were confined to the coasts at that hour and we managed to pick our way up to Tallahassee and then over to west Texas on the first day.

This Grumman is very well equipped: Garmin GNS430, Shadin fuel flow, EDM700 engine monitor, Stec 40 autopilot with altitude hold, new canopy glass and Scheme Designers paint, LoPresti cowling and HID landing light.

But all that stuff was a distant second to the capabilities of the Garmin 496 handheld Zach brought with him. The XM satellite downlink was worth it’s weight in gold on this trip. Having that thing in the cockpit is like putting a FSS briefer in the copilot seat (a real briefer, that is, not these Lockheed automatons). We knew the exact location of every cell, every lightning strike, cloud cover, and so on. Jacksonville Center was announcing a new convective sigmet every couple of minutes, and by the time he was done talking we’d have a graphical plot of it overlayed on the 496.

This was my sixth transcon trip in a GA aircraft. Most of them have been delivery and training flights, which is neat because there’s nothing quite like watching someone realize the long-held dream of obtaining their own aircraft. More that just watching, being a part of it, and helping guide them through the exciting (and often confusing) delivery process. Is the aircraft ok? Paperwork in order? How do we get home? How do I master the avionics and systems in this thing?

Zach was fun to work with because this trip represented so many firsts for him. Before we left Orange County, he had only 60 hours in his logbook and had just obtained his PPL. This trip increased his total time by 25%. It was also his longest distance flight, longest leg time-wise, highest flight altitude, first real encounter with weather, and so on. The growth and experience he gained in just one day is phenomenal, and it was a pleasure to be a part of it.

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