An Existential Threat…

One of my good customers, Dave Boyle, had an unusual occurrence recently, and I thought it might help the PA46 community to understand the situation.  Dave is an excellent pilot, is the self-assigned “maintenance manager” in the 3-person partnership that owns a very nice 1987 Malibu, and is a good friend to our PA46 Community.  Here’s his story…

I’m a relatively new Malibu owner/pilot.  Recently, while preparing for a long cross country at the flight levels, I decided to practice the actions I would need to perform in a loss-of-pressurization emergency.  My partners and I have the pilot’s emergency oxygen bottle mounted on top of the cabinet behind the co-pilot’s seat, and the mask and hoses are also stowed there in a clear plastic bag, all readily accessible to the pilot.  In the hangar, sitting in the pilot’s seat, I began running through the procedures as realistically as I could.  Step one: don the O2 mask and turn on the oxygen flow.  I reached back, grabbed the plastic bag, extracted and donned the mask, and fully opened the valve on the O2 bottle.  With the all-important mask in place, I calmly read through and simulated the relevant checklist items.  Great job, Dave!  I took one more well earned sniff of that delicious 100-percent oxygen, reached over and shut off the oxygen flow valve, and began to gather up the O2 delivery hardware to restore the system to readiness.  Uh-oh…the tygon tubing which I had assumed was connecting my mask to the oxygen source was just lying there on the cabin floor connected to…nothing!  Here’s what had happened:

The clear plastic tygon tubing on typical Malibu/Mirage emergency oxygen systems runs from the O2 bottle, through a flow meter/verifier, and then to the face mask.  The flow meter/verifier can be either a rotameter (i.e., a floating plastic “BB” that rises in a vertically held tube as the O2 flow rate increases) or a “turbine wheel” that spins to give a visual indication when O2 is flowing.  We have the turbine wheel option shown in the picture below.

During my “test” of the system, the tubing had slipped off one of its connection points (designated by maroon arrow in picture).  If this had been a real in-flight emergency, you might argue that I should have looked initially at the turbine wheel to confirm oxygen was flowing.  And you would be correct.  However, in this case, the “failed” connection and related tubing were lying so far back on the cabin floor, that I would have had to undo my safety belt and climb back into the cabin to fix the problem.  This step is not something I want to perform during an in-flight depressurization emergency.  You probably don’t either.

The tygon tubing is held onto the short plastic nipples on the turbine wheel by the elasticity of the tubing.  You must exert a significant force to push the tubing onto the nipple whose outer diameter is larger than the tubing inside diameter.  This action stretches the tubing radially, and the tubing’s natural elasticity provides for a strong radial holding force.  This approach works well until time and possibly sun-heated cabin temperatures slowly erode the elasticity of the stretched tubing on the nipple.  In my case I could see that the short section of tubing which had been on the turbine wheel nipple for many years now maintained a much larger inside diameter than the rest of the tubing.  To solve this problem, all I had to do was snip off the quarter inch or so of “hardened,” no-longer-elastic tubing and force the end of the remaining “fresh” tubing over the nipple.

I then got back in the pilot’s seat and repeated the procedure to ensure everything was working properly.  Guess what?  When I pulled the tygon tubing to bring the turbine wheel into view to ensure oxygen was flowing to the mask, the connection on the other side of the turbine wheel came off!  It came off for exactly the same reason the other side had failed, long term loss of tygon tubing elasticity.  And, again, to repair this problem required leaving the pilot’s seat and moving into the cabin to get hold of all the loose ends.  Had this been a real in-flight emergency, things would probably not have ended well

The Message:  This experience convinced me that those of us who fly pressurized airplanes need to check these press-on connections on a regular basis (every six months?).  A firm tug on the tubing that stresses the connections will do the job.  If something pops off, it’s an easy fix with a pocket knife to slice off the quarter inch of “non-elastic” tubing and then push the freshly cut end of the tubing back on the nipple.  A firm tug on this new connection will give you a good feeling.  Moreover, it may save your life and the lives of your passengers in the future.

Dave Boyle
Commercial Pilot ASEL/AMEL, Instrument
Chemical and Nuclear Engineer, Texas A&M University (Retired)
US Air Force (Retired)

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Dual G500/G750 Meridian

I’ve been doing a lot of work with PA46 clients lately in the purchase of P46T Turbines…I call this “Buyer-Agent” services, and I really enjoy this aspect of the business.  One of my favorite “deals” on the market is an earlier Meridian that has much of the older Meggitt Avionics removed and “Dual G500/G750” installed.  When coupled with the fabulous STEC 1500 autopilot, it creates a panel that is clean, neat, orderly, and VERY functional.  In fact, I’d rather have a Dual G500/G750 Meridian (all-in price of about $850k – $900k) than a newer G1000 Meridian (starting at $1.25m, 2017 prices) if I could keep the difference in cash.

Here’s a video that I recently made in flight with a brand-new G500/G750 Meridian:

I must give props to Alan Akre at RC Avionics at Anoka, MN (  They’ve done 3 separate jobs for my clients recently and all were turn-key jobs that were “done right the first time”…which is an incredible statement about an avionics shop.  Avionics work VERY complicated with many moving parts…it’s not for the faint of heart and I’ve seen MANY botched jobs that cost the aircraft owner LOTS of time and money.  RC has become my go-to shop for the “big jobs”, and they’ve never let me down.

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Jetprop: Switzerland to USA Ferry Flight

Tom Thomason learned of Elie Vannier’s VERY nice Jetprop (N43CH) that was for sale, and promptly began a pursuit to purchase that ended with our going to Elie’s hometown of Lausanne, Switzerland.  Decked out with great avionics, great paint, and stellar maintenance history, we knew this airplane was going to be nice.  But…the best part of Elie’s Jetprop is the one-of-a-kind ferry tank (designed by John Mariani and installed by Malibu Aerospace) that allows for 66 additional gallons of fuel.  An incredibly simple and brilliant system, this Jetprop has more range than any other Jetprop on the planet.  Being a savvy and super-knowledgeable Jetprop owner, Tom knows a good PA46 deal when he sees one, and bought N43CH.

Tom came to JSO to start our trip together and some friends flew us to Dallas in their nice Beechcraft Bonanza.  We boarded the long flight from DFW to London, and were pleasantly surprised to receive upgrades to bulkhead seats together (with no one sitting next to either of us).  I’m not sure how Tom did it, but he slept the entire flight to London, while I watched two movies and read part of a book (yes, I paid for this later by being VERY tired on the ground!).  We arrived in Geneva, and met Elie face-to-face…which started a good relationship with a great man.

We drove to the GA-side of the Geneva airport and boarded N43CH for the test flight.  Realizing very quickly that this was one super-nice Jetprop and confirming that everything worked properly, the test flight quickly turned into a sight-seeing tour of the Swiss Alps.  If you’ve never seen the Swiss Alps, don’t go to your grave until you do…it’s unquestionably one of the most awe-inspiring places on earth.

Swiss Alps in the Jetprop

Some buy-sell relationships turn adversarial fairly quickly, but this sale was one that can only be described as “mutually beneficial”, friendly, and professional.  We gathered quickly that Elie was a man of tremendous character and cares for aviation to same degree that we do…the feelings were mutual.  For the next day Elie was a tremendous host and showed us the best of Lausanne.  We are indebted to Elie, certainly calling him a friend.

Our departure from Lausanne was normal and the beauty of the Swiss Alps faded to a white undercast below.  Although the weather in ELLX (Luxembourg) was forecast to be acceptable, when we arrived it was downright terrible with RVR being 100m.  We went to our alternate of Liege, Belgium.  The weather was CAVOK (Clear Air, Visibility OK) and we landed uneventfully.  But, this is where the logistical troubles began.  Liege is a huge airport, but it serves big airplanes and mainly cargo airplanes.  The service was terrible, the communication horrible, and we had trouble after trouble with everything from finding a toilet to filing a flight plan to just getting fuel.  We will remember our experience at Liege as one of the worst seen in my 25 years of flying….yes, that bad.  We finally got a modicum of a clearance and (although not understanding every aspect of the clearance) departed for Belfast, Northern Ireland. We clarified the clearance as we climbed and soon were in the smooth air over the English Channel.  Strong winds prevailed, but they were crosswinds.  We popped out of a high overcast on descent and were treated to the green landscape of Northern Ireland.  Despite being February, it was remarkably green and lush. The FBO in Belfast, Northern Ireland treated us very well….I’ll plan to go there again on another trip.

We encountered strong winds along the entire flight to Iceland, and thankfully they were quartering winds that netted a small tail wind component.  Check out the crosswind in the pic below!

We saw Iceland from afar (due to unusually clear weather) and noticed the immense white from the snow.  We didn’t know it when we arrived, but Iceland had a record snowfall on the nighttime prior to our arrival.  There were over 51cm of snow in a 4 hour period.  Literally the entire island was covered in snow….and this is unusual…Iceland is normally not “icy”.  Thankfully, the ground crew cleared the runway of snow quickly and we were the first airplane to arrive to a winter wonderland on a Sunday morning.  Since Greenland is closed on Sunday, and because we arrived around noon in Iceland, we had the better part of the day to spend sloshing around Iceland.  And…a slosh it was…snow was everywhere, but the temperature had risen to 35F.  So, on our walk through downtown Reykjavik we ended up wading through a mix of really slippery ice and melting cold water.  But…Reykjavik is one cool town, and it was fun to just be there.  The locals were excited to see the snow, too, and it seemed that the whole town came outside to play in the snow on a “warmer” no-wind day with piles of snow everywhere.

Reykjavik from the air

The weather was 25F upon our departure on Monday morning, but there was no wind.  Advised that we “must get weather in Narsarsauq before leaving” and because the weather forecaster in Greenland does not get up early, we arrived at BIRK a little later than normal (9am).  We learned that the weather in BGBW was acceptable, but strong winds prevailed and the weather was going to get worse as the day progressed.  We got extra fuel in the installed ferry tank (although we ended up not needing the additional fuel!!) and took off into a perfectly clear blue day.  We checked the ferry tank operation and otherwise had an uneventful flight to the eastern coast of Greenland.

Narsarsuaq (BGBW) is on the western coast of Greenland nestled in the end of a long fjord.  There’s enough well-known aviation-lore for this historic airport that is known by most pilots, so I won’t belabor the “toughness” or “danger” that can be found at BGBW.   I’ve been here many times before, but this day was to test my ability as an aviator.  As we came over the Greenland Icecap we were made aware of a new SIGMET that included BGBW…severe turbulence below 10,000ft.  I had not read about this prior to leaving BIRK, but the SIGMET was right…there was turbulence.

Tom is a great writer, and here’s his perspective of Narsarsuaq:

“The most impressive place we landed was Narsarsuaq. It  had an almost medieval  quality. Tall dark granite cliffs partially covered in low thick vegetation giving the appearance of a great castle.  Surrounded by high snow-covered mountains and a huge moat of  angry grey green sea filled with whitecaps, dark foreboding torn clouds were racing down from the mountain, firing cannons of turbulent air that rocked our ship and incessantly tried to push us back or throw us into the sea.   Even after landing, the taxiways had a doorkeepers riddle of ice and strong winds that we had to figure out before we could finally pull up to the entrance to the FBO of Narsarsuaq.
However, once we got there the line crew was excellent and the young woman “NaSu”, a native Greenlander was very pleasant and helped us immensely as we made  all the arrangements for our next flight to Goose bay. She even served us smoked lamb, that she had made herself from the herd that her husband owns on their farm. The tower operator had many stories of flying sea planes and helicopters in Greenland during his past 30 years. A very fascinating Swede who loved the land. Leaving Narsarsuaq was a chance for the Jetprop to really show its capabilities.  Climbing at a high “angle” of ascent, allowed  us to clear the surrounding mountains on the departure procedure. They were totally hidden to our eyes by clouds, but revealed to us by synthetic vision on the G500…” Tom Thomason

The weather was forecast to only get worse, and if we delayed too much longer we’d have to stay in Greenland a few days.

Greenland from the air


Strong winds at Narsarsuaq

I called Travis Holland for some wisdom about departing.  As a trusted North Atlantic veteran, I knew Travis would shoot straight with me about the tough weather.  I was nervous about departing back into the wind, but sensed that the only real threat was the strong surface winds.  If they subsided, I was comfortable.  By the grace of God, the winds did subside…if you call a 35kt wind subsiding.  After preparing for the flight, we jumped at the chance to leave BGBW and took off for Goose Bay (CYYR).  The visibility was predominantly 5 miles or better, but areas of heavy snow dropped the visibility down to 1/4 mile or less. The Synthetic Vision in Tom’s Jetprop made us very comfortable climbing above the amazingly rugged and beautiful Greenland below. The powerful Jetprop made short work of the climb and we were at FL260 in no time, battling the HUGE crosswinds at the upper-levels.

Over the Labrador Sea


Eastern Coast of Canada with huge winds pushing the ice out to sea

Tom and I both marveled at the beauty of the Labrador Sea.  The ice floes and immense amount of white below was laced with slivers of blue that revealed the depths of the water.  This was no place to have airplane problems, and we carefully calculated fuel, made appropriate radio calls, and monitored the airplane systems.  The Jetprop is singularly outstanding…easily one of my favorite airplanes…and I was happy to have this Jetprop as my steed.  With the mighty PT6 up front I never worried about the danger that lurked below.  We landed at Goose Bay (CYYR) in a strong wind (35kts) about 30 degrees from the right.  Tom again showed off his mastery of the crosswind landing and we were soon forced again to deal with the greatest threat of the day…taxiing on the slippery ice.  The ramp at Goose Bay was nothing more than a sheet of ice.  We crept along at a snails pace into the parking spot feeling the wheels slide every now and then.  To confirm our worries about the slippery ice, there was a big Dash-7 (Dehavilland Airplane, big…4-engines) parked on the ramp. We later learned that (while sitting chocked on the ground) a gust of wind pushed it along the ice and slammed it into another vehicle.  The slipperiness of the icy ramp was the real-deal, and I’m glad we got out of there with no incidents.



The third leg of the trip seemed to go on forever.  We had already flown 7+ hours that day, and we had another 4 hours staring us in the face.  The weather was favorable (smooth, clear, nice view of the ground), but the winds were certainly not…we had 70+ knots right on the nose the whole leg.  Interestingly, to fly from CYYR to CYMX (Montreal) the St.Lawrence River was underneath us seemingly the whole way.  We marveled at the immensity of the St. Lawrence River overall, and the isolation of the more northerly portions of that river.  Northern Canada is a place of incredible beauty, but also few people.  It is an unmolested wilderness that is truly beautiful.  We finally landed in CYMX (Montreal, Canada) just after dusk, and settled into a long, welcome sleep at the hotel.

Tom’s one time to relax in the back…he piloted 99% of this ferry flight

The next morning found us departing to KPTK (Pontiac, MI).  We spent most of that flight in solid IMC and a huge headwind.  The US Customs experience was pleasant and short, and soon we refueled and departed for the second leg of the day…KEVI, Indiana.

Upon landing in Michigan

We got lunch at a local sandwich shop and enjoyed being back in our own culture.  We wanted to get back in the air quickly as we knew we were going to face headwinds.  With 90 knots right on the nose, the forecast was right.  It took nearly 4 hours to fly from Indiana to Texas, and we were both tired upon landing.

At the end of the trip at KJSO, Cherokee County Airport, Texas

Tom stayed the night in my “Pilot Bunk Room”, and I went home for the evening.  The next morning Tom departed for his hometown in New Mexico.  As I reflect upon the trip, I’m continually amazed at the Jetprop.  Through all of the difficult weather the Jetprop (and PT6 up front) never missed a beat.  Also, I can’t help but think of how nice it was to fly with Tom.  Switzerland to Texas is a LONG way to sit in a small environment with one person, but Tom made it enjoyable the entire route.  It was a great experience that I hope to do again.  Congrats on your purchase, Tom!

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UflyMike Harmony Headset

I’m a “headset snob”.  There…it’s out.  Guilty as charged.  I have used all of the various headsets in the aviation marketplace and I like to use my own headset, and I use the UflyMike Adapter exclusively (  Even if a customer has one of the other premium brands already fitted in the right seat, I’ll bring my own UflyMike and use it…and it’s not because I’m a “clean freak” or a hypochondriac.  I simply think the noise-cancelling headset is one of the BIG improvements in aviation in my generation and I like to use only the best.  Right now, the UflyMike is the best IMO.

As most know, I only write Articles for products or services that I actually like and use.  Such is the case with the UflyMike Adapter. I once flew a ferry flight from Africa (in 2013) with a pilot and he had a Bose QC-15 headset with the UflyMike Adapter.  I tried it and was hooked.  I now own 10 separate sets and use them in whatever airplane I fly, and offer them to the people that ride in the back seats.  UflyMike outflanked all of the big names in the headset market by innovation and attractive pricing.  They built a better mousetrap.

But…Bose threw a curveball at UflyMike in 2015 by discontinuing the QC-15 headset in favor of the QC-25.   The old UflyMike adapter does not work with new QC-25 headset.  So, UflyMike had to go back to the drawing board to create the “Harmony Adapter” for the QC-25.  And, the transition must have been terrible because it took FOREVER for them to finally bring their new product to the marketplace (it was supposed to come out in Spring 2016 and I just got my headset in January 2017).  I’m betting that Bose engineered the QC-25 to be VERY difficult to adapt…certainly the UflyMike adapter hurts the sale of the WAY overpriced Bose A20 headset ($1200+ for one headset).  And, Uflymike needed to correct some minor problems/glitches that existed with the QC-15 adapter.  It’s taken Ufly Mike WAY too long to get the Harmony to the marketplace, but the wait was worth it.  I’ve had the Harmony for about 3 weeks (as of this writing) and have flown about 30+ hours so far (I fly over 1000 hours each year, with 95% of those hours with a UflyMike around my ears).

The Bose QC-25 headset is not a huge step-up from the QC-15.  Both are light and comfortable and cancel the noise well.  So, the advantages for moving up to the QC-25/Harmony is all about the improvements to the adapter.  And, there’s plenty that different with the Harmony Adapter…

  • Thinner cord: The Harmony cord is thinner and less bulky.  Not a big deal, but noticeable.
  • Separate volume controls:  The old adapter had a 3-position switch that was acceptable, but not ideal.  The Harmony has separate volume for each ear via a rheostat  on the box on the cord.  Being forthright, the separate volume controls are not important to me, but the fact that there is a volume control is important.  I’ve had several instances where the volume control got caught between my leg and the sidewall (for instance) and changed the volume in flight.  Not a big deal, but…
  • Shorter mic boom, better mic: The mic boom is noticeably shorter, used by placing the mic on the edge of the mouth, not directly in front of the lips.  It takes a few minutes to get used to, but I’ve found it better (especially if you want to drink from a bottle, hehe)
  • Microphone sensitivity control: This is a neat feature that dovetails nicely with the shorter mic boom.  Once in flight the mic gain can be changed to work with the amount of white noise.  It’s sort of like adjusting the squelch, but better.
  • Aux input: I use the AUX input regularly, and the input is now on the control box (on the cord).  I like this installation better than the old version.
  • Dead Battery: When the battery ran out of juice in the QC-15 Adapter, the headset stopped working.  With the QC-25/Harmony a dead battery simply means the noise cancelling stops.  You can still use the headset.  This is a MAJOR upgrade IMO.

Why do I like the UflyMike as opposed to other aviation headsets?  Here’s my short list:

  • Poor competition: The big boys in the market (Bose, Lightspeed, David/Clark) either have a REALLY crappy product (David/Clark), are super expensive (Bose), or have forgotten their modest roots and have a history of poor service (Lightspeed).  Any of them could have dominated the marketplace had they provided a great product at a great price with great service, but each chose to leave one of the legs of the 3-legged stool out of the equation.
  • Price: You can buy a Bose QC-25 for about $300, and a UflyMike Adapter for about $300.  So, an all-in price of $600 gets you a great product.
  • Low profile headrest: The top of both the QC-15 and Qc-25 headsets are VERY low profile, and that works great for my 6’4″ frame in a small cockpit.  I simply cannot wear a headset that has a big, tall foamy pad on top for I constantly hit the top of the fuselage.
  • Small company: Most of the great innovations in any market occur at small to medium sized companies.  UflyMike has a neat history and has (so far) not forgotten their roots.  They are all about innovation and building a better mousetrap…they have 3 legs on their stool.
  • History: I’ve got literally 3000+ hours flying with the UflyMike headsets, and I appreciate the fact that they are robust, durable, and always work.

So…yes…go buy the Bose QC-25 Headset with a UflyMike adapter.  I think you’ll REALLY like it!

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SL 1204 and the PA46 Windshield

You know the old joke…”What’s the landing light used for in a single-engine airplane with an engine failure at night?”  Answer: “You turn it on when you near the ground…if you don’t like what you see, turn it off!”  A weird parallel can be made with the windshield heat and the PA46.

Suffice it to say, the Windshield Heat situation on the PA46 has evolved into a real mess.  Without a doubt, the operation of the windshield heat has been the “elephant in the room” on just about every purchase/sale of every PA46 for as long as I can remember, but now Piper recently released Service Letter 1204 which was supposed to clear up the muddy water.  Well, it arguably cleared up the water for there’s now little doubt about the condition of a windshield.  But where we can now clearly see, few are liking what they see.  And, we cannot “turn off” SL 1204.  We are going to have to live with SL 1204 and it’s going to cost money.  Let’s go back into history and discuss the windshield heat from day-one…

Nearly every PA46 in the fleet is FIKI (Flight Into Known Icing) equipped.  There are a few early Malibu’s and a few recent Matrix versions which did not come from the Piper factory with all of the icing systems (most non-FIKI PA46’s have no wing boots), but the VAST majority of PA46’s are FIKI-equipped.  In order to be FIKI-equipped, a PA46 must have (among other requirements) windshield heat.

The early Continental Malibu’s came from the factory with a Hot Plate.  I personally dislike the Hot Plate as it destroys the forward visibility of the pilot.  There are still plenty of 1984-1988 Malibu’s with the Hot Plate, and some of them still work, but many don’t.  Today, there’s no replacement or repair for the early Hot Plate, so if it fails the owner is left with the option of removing it from the airplane (and placarding the airplane with “Flight Into Known Icing Prohibited”) or upgrading to a Glass Windshield.

In 1989 Piper came out with the Mirage installed with a “Plexiglass Windshield”.  This windshield had lots of failures and became known as the windshield that “either worked really well” (and still works), or that would frequently experience “infant mortality”.  There are still some Plexiglass Windshields in the fleet, but there are fewer and fewer every year.

In 1995 Piper began installing the (currently used) “Glass Heated Windshield”. made by PPG.  This windshield is found on all PA46’s that come from the Piper Factory (Meridian, Mirage, Matrix) after 1995 and is the only windshield that can be purchased today.  So, if your Hot Plate windshield or your Plexiglass Windshield were to fail (and you want to be FIKI equipped), you will have to buy the Glass Windshield.

Before Service Letter 1204, to check the operation of the heated windshield (glass or Plexi), the POH for the PA46’s mandated that the amp draw be checked.  Basically, you’d make sure only one electrical source (one alternator or generator) is running and note the amp reading before and after turning on the windshield heat.  A new windshield should draw 19 amps on LOW and 24 amps on HIGH, but Supplement 2 of the POH advises a “preflight check” of the windshield be accomplished with the pilot seeking an amp draw above 13 greater in LOW and 23 in HIGH (See Section 9, Supplement 2 of the Mirage POH).  If it is less than 13, then it’d be in the “gray area” where lots of interpretation was required.  The windshield has lots of very small wires that act as heating elements embedded in the windshield.  When these wires get broken (for now unknown reasons), the electrons don’t flow across that portion of the windshield and the amp draw goes down.

To help clear up the confusion, Malibu Aerospace (led by Chad Menne) creatively began using infrared images to determine the operation of the windshield, and other maintenance shops and instructors (including me) followed their lead.  With an infrared camera it is VERY easy to see exactly where the windshield is heating and where it’s not heating.  I think the Infrared Camera is the BEST way to test the operation of a heated windshield. Although VERY subjective, if the amp draw was lower than 13, the pilot/owner/mechanic could use the Infrared Image decide if the windshield heated up enough area for the pilot to see in a icing event, or if the windshield required replacement.

The catch is that the windshield replacement is VERY expensive.  As of this writing, a new windshield costs $21k to purchase and the installation is laborious, often pushing total replacement cost up to $30k.  And…to add insult to injury, if the airplane is older, it is often prudent to replace the copilot windshield as well.  The CP windshield adds just a little more labor to replace both and if there are scratches on the co-pilot side, then the cost for an entire replacement can top $35k.  If you own an early “Hot Plate” Malibu and require replacement, then there’s more bad news…the wiring and windshield controller is different, there’s new switches to install, and new cockpit indications are required.  A Windshield replacement in an early Malibu can push $40k very quickly.  Bottom line…a windshield is expensive!

We’ve trudged on for years in the gray area with nearly all of the “quality” PA46 shops signing off annuals with “less-than-optimal” windshields because the Maintenance Manual does not offer any criteria for checking the Windshield Heat…it merely says to check to see that there was an amp draw…any amp draw.  Maintainers follow the guidance of the Maintenance Manual, not the POH when performing maintenance.  Most owners that live in the southern USA would ride along for years with windshields that would draw FAR fewer amps that was mentioned in the POH.  Most northern-based pilots that often flew IFR in the cold clouds would opt to have it replaced, as icing would be a frequent visitor in flight.

At sale, the wise buyer of any PA46 would include “Airworthiness Items” as a “seller-paid-item” in the Purchase Agreement.  If the amp draw was discovered to be less than 13 amps in the prebuy, the Buyer would press the Seller to buy a new windshield (this is the gray area).  That $30k “elephant in the room” would often result in hurt feelings, empty pocketbooks, and sometimes it would stop the sale entirely because that windshield was “in the gray area”.

In the Fall of 2016, Piper issued Service Letter 1204 to help “clarify” the Windshield Heat issue.  Basically, the resistance of the windshield is now tested with an ohm meter. Note, this is not a home-toolbox ohm meter found at your local Auto Zone…it’s a 4-terminal ohm meter that is highly accurate, required because of the low resistances being measured. And…make no mistake…the operation of the ohm meter should not be left to rookies.  There’s simply too many variables when testing such low resistances.  I suspect there will be LOTS of windshields replaced because dealing with such low resistances is tricky business…a corroded connector can move the needle over the line, for example.

But…assuming a mechanic knows what he’s doing, and reads with the right equipment…if the reading is within limits specified in the SL, then everything is OK.  If not, then the SL declares that the windshield “Must” be replaced.  Not “suggested”, not “should”…it says “Must”.  And, it advises that the POH and Maintenance Manual are to be revised to eliminate the discussion of the amp draw (but that has not happened as-of yet).

Here’s the kicker…SL’s are NOT mandatory.  Even though the SL uses the word “Must”, no owner/pilot MUST do anything that a SL illustrates.  If the FAA wants to mandate an action, they will issue an Airworthiness Directive (AD).  No AD has been issued on the PA46 windshield.  So, the SL is currently the best written guidance for a maintenance shop to use, but a responsible owner must carefully consider prudence when deciding to write that $30k-$40k check, and right now replacement is NOT mandatory if the windshield fails SL 1204.

My big issue with the new SL is that the allowable resistance range for what is an “acceptable windshield” is representative for a NEW windshield.  I’ve seen LOTS of windshields that had a slightly low (but decent) amp draws and looked just fine through an infrared camera, but would fail the resistance check.  If I owned a PA46 and planned to keep the airplane for a while, I’d view the windshield issue with a different lens…I’d consider the amp draw, check out infrared images, look at the resistance, and also consider where I lived and how often I anticipated needing the windshield.  In Texas, we need the windshield heat rarely…I can count the number of times I’ve turned on the Windshield Heat in the last decade on one hand.  But, anyone that operates anywhere defined as “northerly” probably uses the windshield heat frequently.  Again, prudence must be considered.

At sale though…there’s no holds barred.  If the Seller has been nursing a weak windshield for a few years, you can rest assured they do NOT want to pay $30k at sale.  And, consequently, the Buyer will be VERY interested in making sure the windshield works IAW Service Letter 1204.  Who will win?  Answer: whoever has the most knowledge and whoever CAREFULLY considers the verbiage of the legally-binding Purchase Agreement.

If an airplane is about to go on the market, I recommend a Seller consider the condition of the Windshield Heat closely and be prepared to discuss it PRIOR to signing the Purchase Agreement (PA).  If I were the Buyer, I’d want to know the condition of the windshield and also know the language of the PA.  If the windshield doesn’t work, then the Seller should disclose this early so that discussion can ensue.  If it absolutely does work, then this is a good selling point.  If the windshield is going to be in a “gray area”, then I suggest the Buyer and Seller work out a “win/win” scenario.  Usually the purchase price is lowered to a fair value, and then the windshield heat is eliminated from consideration as an “airworthiness item” on the prebuy.

If a Buyer or Seller walks into a transaction without knowledge of the windshield heat, the chances are VERY high that person is going to be be VERY disappointed at sale.

One thing is for sure…PPG (manufacturer of the heated windshield) is smiling widely.  There’s going to be LOTS of windshields replaced in the near-term as maintenance facilities will undoubtedly find LOTS of windshields that will have resistance measurements outside the parameters illustrated in Service Letter 1204.  My hope is that PPG will spend some serious energy determining why the PA46 Glass Windshields have such a poor record of performance and produce a windshield that doesn’t fail so frequently.  I fly LOTS of other pressurized, turbo-charged, high-altitude airplanes and those rarely have the repetitive problems that are found on the PA46 heated windshield.

For the time being, knowledge is key…as in any transaction, “he with the most knowledge usually wins”.  It’s a $30k question…be sure to position yourself well in the marketplace.  There’s going to be a LOT of $30k checks written by PA46 owners in the near future…be sure you’re not one of them.

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