METAR and TAF by Text Message

Many times it would be great to learn an airport’s weather while not having ready access to a computer or tablet? At work or in a meeting, and ForeFlight is available?

Leidos is now offering weather text messaging from a phone.

Liedos Logo

It’s simple and easy, text keyword M or METAR or T or TAF and ICAO airport code to 358-782‬ or FLT SVC. Scroll down for menu of commands.

Examples: M or METAR then an airport’s ICAO identifier like KSFO

METAR example

Leidos weather by text message commands:

Text 358-782‬ or FLT SVC plus any of the following commands:
HELP for menu of options
M or Metar plus airport ICAO code
T or TAF plus airport ICAO code
ACU plus active flight plan ID for adverse conditions update
PT for Plain Text. Adding PT to the end of any command replies in plain text instead of the standard abbreviations.

Example: M KSNS PT

METAR example comparison of plain text verses abbreviated

Give it try. Pretty cool service.

Prop Balancing

Smooth running machines last longer and with operator fatigue. Considering the cost of aircraft engines, making them operate smoothly even more important to extend engine life and performance.

An aircraft’s propeller is essential a giant flywheel bolted right to the output shaft of most single engine piston aircraft. With this “direct drive” approach, the engine and propeller are essentially one integrates unit. If the prop is out of balance, then the engine is out of balance.

The prop manufacturer statically balances the prop, meaning the prop is balanced, but only with itself. Likewise engine manufacturers balance engines to various degrees of refinement.

So why doesn’t a balanced prop mated to a balanced engine not actually balanced? The balance points of each is slightly different. And it’s this difference that causes vibration.

The remedy is to have the prop dynamically balanced. Dynamic balancing is accomplished by adding very small amounts of weight in the form of a washer tactically mounted to the prop’s mounting flange.

A special sensor is attached to a prop blade and as the prop spins, the out of balance rotation is detected by a computer program that suggests where to place the counter balance weights on the prop hub.

The proof not just in the data, but the feel of the plane. Other seasoned pilots are astonished how smooth the engine operates.

A quality dynamic prop balance costs between $200-$350 depending shop rate and part of the country. Many shops charge a flat fee to perform the service. Worth EVERY penny.

Comparison of ForeFlight 3D to Google Maps

I just upgraded to Foreflight Pro today because of the new 3D feature they have been promoting.

Here’s an example of the approach to San Carlos KSQL rwy 30. KSQL has a couple of prominent visual checkpoints like the Cement plant and the Diamond lake. Neither of those is visible in Foreflight, but are present in google maps from the same perspective. The examples below don’t include these landmarks to adjust the size constraints. However from those examples you can clearly see the difference in usability. There are no landmarks in Foreflight’s view.

Even the Slough around the edge of the airport is not represented correctly.

They tout the advantage is to help pilots find new to them airports. Maybe “where’s Waldo” can find this one. 

This is the prime feature of the ForeFlight Pro upgrade, I don’t think t’s worth the extra $100 a year.

Back-up Handheld Radio Antenna

N46PG is true high density altitude mountain bird. The combination of the Rajay Turbo-normalized STC, 3 blade scimitar Hartzell prop, and Robertson STOL kit allows for ridiculous short field performance at max gross weight unimaginable in a stock 182. A recent flight over the Sierra Nevada mountains at 16,500 the plane comfortably performed 700’/min climb over clouds with power left to spare.

A previous owner of this aircraft mounted a 3rd comm antenna with a BNC connector overhead for a handheld radio. I’ve never tested the added range of a handheld with the external antenna, but I can pull in distances of communication not capable with just the portable unit’s antenna.

Given the back-country capability of the aircraft, a back-up communications solution is a good idea.

I bought a basic Yaesu handheld kit which included an external power cord, AC charger and battery pack, AAA battery pack, and aviation headset adapter.

The whole set-up connected to the external antenna BNC

A local Avshop made a 3′ BNC antenna cable that stores in an easy coil in the lower kick panel pocket for quick access. I’m very happy with the arrangement and peace of mind knowing there a quality emergency solution. Just as important the antenna cable is slightly behind the pilot’s seat. With the radio in my lap, the antenna cable drops to the right and up between the front seats to overhead connector. The cable never interferes with normal operations.

3rd Comm Antenna on Empennage

A number of pilots are interested in having access to an external antenna. I’ve seen exposed BNC T connector sticking out of the dash or BNC unions that could be uncoupled to then couple-in a handheld antenna. Personally I find both of these solutions unsatisfactory, as a pilot would need to divert their attention from flying to take two hands while bending down to attach an antenna. This is a lower cost option, but does require diversion of attention.

This particular ceiling connector approach allows more attention focused on flying, remain in the upright seating position, while making a one handed twist to set-up the radio.

Hopefully this post will inspire other even better ideas for managing emergency communications options.

Realigning Cessna Doors

Over the years the lightweight doors on many Cessna single engine aircraft become slightly bent and misaligned preventing smooth operation. Over the course of a small plane’s lifetime eventually a pilot will forget or is unable to park down wind, and a strong gust of wind will catch the door and bend it from behind the hinges.

There are many contributing factors to doors not aligning correctly, lie fitment of the door to the frame, old molding that’s aged and become stiff, improper moldings, alignment of latch bolt to latch, and/or excessive play in latch mechanism.

The red line is a witness mark to the most common area of door deformation from catchment and blow open from the wind.

This alignment issue not only impedes ease of operation, but frequently invites gaps in fitment allowing air infiltration or in some cases added airframe drag impending performance. How many times have Cessna pilots needed to slam a door two or three times to ensure it seated firmly? Who hasn’t had to power through pushing/pulling the door handle with much greater force than desired or intended?

Too often mechanics seem to try and solve door alignment issues by fixing symptoms rather than root causes. Most commonly large quarter round molding is installed as a solution to door gaps air infiltration, which usually makes the problem door fitment even worse. Putting oversized molding on a door frame frequently twists the door on the frame. How many times have you seen a Cessna with the aft lower corner kicked out and the upper aft corner inset?

Common 1/4 Round Aircraft Door Molding

Assuming the door is tweaked rather than seriously bent, there is a better solution for a cost effective fix. Aircraft parts have a happy spot when installed properly. There shouldn’t be any pre-load on parts when installed or in course of use, unless specified in the Maintenance & Operations manual.

The alternative is proper realignment and appropriate rubber molding, This can be accomplished by re-shimming the door at the external hinge mounts to make the door fit more square to the frame opening. In addition, use molding that is more malleable to to the contours between the frame and door. Installing oversized quarter round to fill enlarge doorframe gaps from bent doors is not the answer, since it’s simultaneously too wide for parts of the door opening where the gap is within spec and it is stiff.

I met the owner of Aircraft Door Seals LLC at Sun N’ Fun in 2016. The product seemed impressive for retrofit replacements. Unlike the stiff quarter round, this product is L shaped and very supple.

The product is FAA-PMA certified. It’s glued to the inside edge of the door on one side and the other leg of the L leg is left loose. It’s an ingenious idea because the loose side of the moulding will press or flap itself into any gap too large to compression seal.

Aircraft Door Seals LLC molding

Suggestions to Align Cessna Doors

Warning: Discuss proper procedures with your A&P before attempting any airframe work. All work must comply with standard procedures & practices.

Parts and tools required:

  • Scraps of .020 & .030 aluminum
  • Tools to cut and drill above aluminum
  • New AN screws with slightly longer reach for fuselage side of door hinges
  • Peerco 321 adhesive remover
  • Couple of disposable rags to wipe away the dissolved glue
  • Small stiff nylon brush to get the remaining adhesive from around the door rivets (available at local auto parts or hardware store)
  • New door molding. Strongly recommend Aircraft Door Seals LLC Model SKU ADS-C1401
  • 3M 08001 Yellow Super Weatherstrip and Gasket Adhesive (available at local auto parts store)
  1. Source replacement AN screws with a longer reach equal the extra shims added thickness. Usually standards & practices require 1.5 to 4 threads showing beyond the nut. Suggestion: remove one upper and lower hinge screw, measure the reach, and order .020/.030/.040 longer AN screws.
  2. Strip off the old rubber molding. It helps to pry underneath with a small scrapper while lifting up on the old molding. Try as little as possible to tear the molding.
  3. The adhesive and bits of molding left on the door must be completely removed from the door to provide an effective surface for the new molding. Peerco 321 adhesive remover quickly dissolves most common 3M weather strip glue commonly used for these rubber moldings. Carefully follow the directions on the container. Use a disposable rag and soft bristle brush to mechanically help the adhesive removal process.
  4. Operate the door without the molding installed. With the door closed, witness where the door is not flush with the frame. It’s common the see the bottom-aft kicked out and the top-aft of door inset. This can be corrected by making shims which fit between the airframe and door hinge mount.
  5. Optional Step: remove the door latch mechanism, dissemble, clean and re-grease, reassemble. See the companion Blog Overhauling Door Mechanisms:
  6. Cut a few shims of various thicknesses of aluminum in the shape of the airframe side of the hinge mount. I cut mine as a precisely sized rectangle to the dimensional outline of the hinge. Next radius the corners to match the corners on the hinge. Shims should have the same surface area of the hinge to provide a good even mating surface. Another option is slip a scrap of aluminum or heavy stock paper between the fuselage and hinge, and trace the outline of the hinge as a template.
  7. Commonly an .030 is a good starting place for the top hinge. Retest the door’s closure and fitment. Keep adjusting shim thickness until the door flushes out to the frame or the best compromise can be achieved. Sometimes it’s necessary to make a compromise in the parameter fitment depending on how the door is warped. If you can’t get it right onto mark, you will probably make if close and much better.
  8. My own plane required a single .032 shim on the pilot side top hinge; while the right side required .030 top shim and .020 bottom shim. A photo below shows the door in perfect alignment and square to the airframe.
  9. Install the new door molding as per the manufacturers instructions. Door Seals LLC’s product has an orientation. Witness one side is thicker than the other, and only one side is glued with the other side left floating.
  10. Allow set-up time for the adhesive
  11. Test the door again and make adjustments to latch and hinge shims as needed. It may also be necessary to tune the rotating catch in the airframe that mates with the door’s latching bar. This is another area where mechanics have made adjustments fixing symptoms of oversized molding.
Door Seal Installation Diagram
Door Stripped of old Quarter Round Molding and Adhesive. I used a pair of clamps between the door and Strut to hold the door still for work.

You can see the after picture below. The door mates up flush around the entire frame. The perceived quality of the plane was enhanced greatly both from a visual standpoint and improved ease of operation.

Properly fitted door that now operates like a new aircraft

This work is not terribly difficult, it just requires patience and a little craftsmanship. It’s highly likely your A&P would allow the pilot/owner to perform most of the work. The aircraft owner removing door panels, old molding, and adhesive is an easy 3 hours of effort and can represent an easy sweat equity investment. Even manufacturing the shims is fairly easy work with a Dremel cut-off wheel and grinder to trim. Installing the new molding is also straightforward if the directions are carefully followed.

Adding the shims is a minor airframe modification requiring an A&P log entry.


After making the necessary tuning of door fitment to the airframe, it’s a delight to open and close the doors. I embarked on this project in my own quest to remove preload from the doors. My own “captain obvious” moment after completion was the enhanced safety factor having the doors operate as specified and expected. Everyone onboard now knows for certain the door is closed, latched, and locked properly. In the event of the unthinkable under high stress, the doors now easily rotate to “latched, not locked” position in preparation for faster egress.

Also see the companion Blog post on overhauling Cessna door latch mechanisms.

Adding Cessna 182T Console Cupholder to an Older 182

CJ1036 Console Cupholder
CJ1036 Console Cupholder

Cessna CJ1036 Floor Organizer

After flying a few late model 172SP’s, this Cessna cupholder seemed like the best small cockpit organizer for any high-wing Cessna. It’s standard equipment in all 172’s/182’s since 1997.

Easily stores a small flashlight in the upper right, POH and checklist in the long slot, a pair of water bottles, and aft sunglasses & a couple of pens.

Everything stays put and easy reach. The unit is very sturdy, bottom weighted, attached to the floor with velcro.

The unit fits my 182P perfectly and it’s built way tougher than any automotive solution.

Cessna part# CJ1036 and sells for about $143.

Southwest’s Grounded 737MAX fleet

Southwest's grounded 737MAX Fleet
Southwest’s grounded 737MAX Fleet

May4th, took a snapshot of Southwest’s grounded 737MAX fleet while flying near Victorville, Ca at 11,500 feet.

Victorville is an awesome desert graveyard for old commercial jets, and jets in mothball storage.

Pilot Made Checklists

With multiple STC’s affecting factory original book procedures and performance, a new comprehensive checklist was needed.

After trying several different formats in various forms, finally a concise spiral bound checklist in 2 sizes that’s easily accessible in various stages of flight was developed.

One list fits a standard knee board and the other shirt pocket sized.

(Click on images to enlarge)

The checklist is tabbed according phases of flight and organized as per personal preference.

Front page above: Significant data points
Tabs: Engine Start, Taxi, Pre-Take-off, Cruise/Approach, Landing, and Preflight at the back. Also tabbed along the bottom are special checklists for operating with STOL performance with the Robertson kit.

How it’s made

The checklist was created with Microsoft PowerPoint and printed double side with a color laser printer.

In PowerPoint, the content is centered along the 0 (zero)mid-point of the horizontal axis as show below. Additional guidelines set the vertical and horizontal placement. being perfectly center is key to printing the opposite page for the final printout to be registered perfectly on the front and back of each page.

Below is a tabbed page example. Notice the main content block is still centered, with the tabs extending right or left of the centerline. The green tab is the facing page in view and the white tab is the content on the back side of the page in view.

The tabbed index makes it very easy to flip back and forth through various phases of flight.

Top Tip: Check the actual alignment of the boxes by measurement rather than just using the alignment guides for proper opposite page centering. See below.


As mentioned previously, use a printer with duplex (double sided printing) along the short side, as optioned in PowerPoint’s print options menu. The default for printing in Landscape mode is perfect.

As a free bonus, it’s super simple to make a pocket edition by merely switching the print options to Portrait mode and select printing along the long side in the 2-sided print options.

Putting it together

For $7, the local Office Depot services desk laminated the pages, gave them back to trim to size, then took the trimmed pages back and they made the spiral binding. The store had a terrific media trimmer to cut to size and cut around the tabs.

Special note

A pilot created checklist needs to include the checklist items from the POH and any supplemental flight manuals to be “FAA legal” . Given the significant STC’s on this plane a custom checklist was necessary to colocate all the POH and supplemental information into one cohesive list.

The finished results is fantastic and easy to use. A lot of pilots use a larger single card. The indexed tabbed approach reduces clutter and makes checklist adherence simpler. Being small and light, it’s always on the clipboard, unobtrusive, and always handy.

Flew over Meteor Crater Natural Landmark

All I could think of was WOW how big was the rock that landed there?

Flying from Palm Springs to Santa Fe at 12,500′ it’s one of the few landmarks that break-up an arid landscape. The diameter is 3,891′, 550′ deep, impact diameter was 160′ and it happened 50,000 years ago.

Pretty incredible.

For more information see the park’s website: