2019 Aviation Update

I thought I would complete my aviation update on time this year as last year’s wasn’t done until late March.  I’m very happy to report that I logged hours in every month of 2019 except for January.  The plane was in annual and Michigan weather isn’t conducive to much flying in January anyway.  I broke 60 hours in 2019 but of course this isn’t as my as I would have liked to have flown.  N111RW had a couple of intermittent maintenance issues that set me back a bit in both aviation funds as well as lack of flying time while the plane was in the shop.  The first issue was an autopilot servo that was intermittent and only wanted to fail when I was in IMC or on final approach.  I had the plane at the shop a couple of times troubleshooting the issue and finally changing out the roll servo solved the problem.  Another intermittent issue I had was that I would get an AHRS (attitude indicator error) at rotation on my primary flight display.  Again, this took a couple of times at my avionics shop but finally changing out the AHRS unit has eliminated the issues (*knock on wood*).  When I have avionics or autopilot issues I always put the plane through a number of flights in good weather to ensure that the problem has indeed been solved prior to loading up the family and flying cross-country in instrument conditions.  Luckily I started flying with Todd J who I met at the airport and owns a Piper Seneca that is the same year as my Saratoga.  The Seneca is essentially the same airframe as the Saratoga except that it has 2 engines.  Todd and I have flown together a number of times over the last few months practicing approaches and working through the various issues that I had.  Todd also happens to be a CFI and he owns a Aeronca Champ.  We’ve been able to log a number of dual instruction hours during our flights which is good to keep us both current.

Here is a summary of 2019:

2019 Hours: 60.2

Total Hours: 1056.7

2019 Approximate Mileage: 5,900 miles.


Map of all the flights made in 2019:

Here’s a quick summary of my flights in 2019.  My first flight of the year wasn’t until February 22nd.  This was just a local solo flight after the annual inspection.  This year’s annual took a little longer than expected as couple of wing braces needed to be replaced which required removal of the wings.  In March I flew a few times locally to maintain my currency and also fly some instrument approaches.  Once was with Bryan and another with a friend Blair from work.  On one solo IFR flight I finally broke the 1000 hour flying mark.  At the end of March the family and I flew to Florida for Spring Break where we again stayed on Anna Maria Island.  We stopped in Kentucky and Georgia on the way down and our final destination was Sarasota.  During the week we decided to jump down to Key West for the day as it was only about an hour flight.  We were only there for the day but got to see quite a bit.  This would have been over 6 hours each way driving but the plane made it achievable in a day trip.  After a fun filled week in Florida we returned home and again stopped in Georgia and Kentucky.  When we were about to land in Georgia my autopilot stopped working and I had to hand fly an approach to about 200 feet above minimums.  The weather wasn’t horrible but it was a low ceiling with rain and fog.  We waited out the weather a bit and then proceeded home.  The autopilot still wasn’t working so I ended up hand flying the plane from Georgia to Michigan.  It was a long day and I became aware of why the autopilot failed as the plane was rolling to the left and I had to put constant pressure on the yoke.  This was due to the ailerons not being properly adjusted after the annual inspection which eventually led to the autopilot servo being overworked and led to its failure.  This took me a few flights to troubleshoot though after returning from Florida as the problem was intermittent.  There were a few flights between April and July between Holland and Grand Rapids testing out the autopilot and flying it to Mayday Avionics for service.  Finally replacing the servo solved the issue.  In August, Lori, Bryan and I finally got some more cross-country time in and flew a Pilots N Paws mission to pick up Lexi the Schnauzer in Indianapolis and bring her back to Michigan.  Also in August my parents (Jeff & Peggy) came to visit and I flew them across the state where we landed on Grosse Ile which is the island in the Detroit River where I grew up.  Surprisingly this was my first time landing on Grosse Ile.  We borrowed the courtesy car, drove around the Island and had lunch at a local bar & grill.  At the end of August I added another solo flight to Dowagiac just to get in the air and get fuel.  In September I again encountered another issue that would require multiple rounds of test flights.  Todd and I were getting ready to do a local IFR flight in actual conditions (perfect for proficiency practice) when on rotation my primary flight display gave me an AHRS failure.  Basically the main instrument that I use to ensure I keep the plane level while in instrument conditions failed.  This issue was again intermittent and the next few flights were back and forth between Holland and Grand Rapids to test it out.  Finally the AHRS unit was replaced and the issue was resolved.  Todd was very helpful with this during troubleshooting and even helped fly me in his Seneca to pick up N111RW.  The issue was finally fixed in late October and then Todd and I flew locally a few times where we got a considerable amount of instrument practice time in and also verification that the issues were resolved.  Also in October I met Todd down in South Haven and he gave me an intro to tail-wheel lesson in his Aeronca Champ!  In November I was able to log 6 hours of flying all of which was local to Michigan but one was a breakfast flight to Jackson with Bryan and our friends Scott and his son Andrew who are in Scouts with us.  December was also a busy month with over 8 hours of flying but again all local to Michigan.  Todd and I flew a bit with another breakfast run to Jackson.  I took Hannah and her friend Drew on a flight around Holland and Grand Rapids and finally my last flight of the year was to take the family up to Manistee to see Lori’s Aunt Tina & Uncle Bill.  When we arrived I took Hannah, Uncle Bill and cousin Michael for a quick local flight around the area as we have been talking about it for at least 2 years.  We had a great evening flight back to Holland to finish up the year of flying.

So that’s my update for 2019.  I usually put a bunch of goals or hopes at this point in my yearly update but this year I’m not going to do that.  I’m just going to enjoy every opportunity I get to fly and use the plane as much as possible.  We will see where 2020 takes us!

New States:  No new states in 2019 unless you count The Conch Republic (Key West) as a different country/state.  This map shows all the states I’ve landed a GA airplane to date.








Here is more data for my pilot friends (2019/Total):

Cross-country: 32.7/727.4

Night: 1.8/67.7

IMC: 6.4/80.9

Approaches: 18/276

Landings: 64/1248

Click here to review prior years updates:  2018, 2017, 2016, 201520142013201220112010

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Congrats on flying into Key West! We have been there on commercial but hope to fly ourselves this year. I’m also looking forward to your Bahamas planing.

I get the maintenance glitches, had a few myself with the Commander but I think we are squared away and ready to log some flight time.


I enjoyed our time in 2019 and look forward to a new year of flying adventures.

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