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Disobeying the FAA

Disobeying the FAA

At the end of 2015, the FAA counted 590,039 active certificated pilots. Divide that by the over-18 population of about 248 million people in July, 2015 and we discover that pilots make up just 0.24 percent of the population. If that doesn’t mark us as nonconformists, what does? There is a place for out-of-the-box thinking in aviation, even in that most rigid domain of airline aviation. I would rather fly with someone possessing something like Sully’s creativity than fly with a living automaton who would have gone right to the FMS looking for a solution while the airplane descended inexorably toward earth. I’m certain there are creative cockpit thinkers taking creative and appropriate actions every day. They just don’t make the front page.

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Colgan flight automated monitoring system

Pilot Monitoring

How do you get the most help from your avionics without abdicating your PIC responsibility to a bunch of heartless transistors? Simple: always know what to watch for.

To assume that an aircraft automation system has a will of its own and will try to kill us would be anthropomorphic. Autopilots and other automation systems have not reached that stage of sophistication. Not yet. What can—and too often does—happen, however, is that flight crews turn the flying duties over to the autopilot and relax. With frightening repetition, this ends in disaster.

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Disobeying the FAA

Disobeying the FAA

At the end of 2015, the FAA counted 590,039 active certificated pilots. Divide that by the over-18 population of about 248 million people in July, 2015 and we discover that pilots make up just 0.24 percent of the population. If that doesn’t mark us as nonconformists, what does? There is a place for out-of-the-box thinking in aviation, even in that most rigid domain of airline aviation. I would rather fly with someone possessing something like Sully’s creativity than fly with a living automaton who would have gone right to the FMS looking for a solution while the airplane descended inexorably toward earth. I’m certain there are creative cockpit thinkers taking creative and appropriate actions every day. They just don’t make the front page.

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Trust ATC, But Verify

ATC radar can play an integral role in flying the approach right down to the pavement. Just exercise vigilance with your own resources to ensure no details get missed.

We spend most of our IFR lives wrapped in the warm cocoon of radar coverage, vectored from point to point by the all-seeing presence of ATC. And while controllers are human and occasionally make mistakes, the checks and safety nets in place rarely result in close calls, let alone bent metal. It’s also true that when clearances get tight in the final descent to the airport, responsibility is handed over to the pilot.

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PA-34 approach at Port Huron Airport

Winter Airplane Accidents

These mistakes of experienced pilots reveal tough spots you could find yourself in some day. There were outs along the way. Knowing them might be your salvation.

Investigators also found that there was an absence of radar returns for the aircraft as it moved over the airfield, suggesting that it was below radar, which is only 500 feet AGL here. The wreckage imprint on the trees suggested a shallow descent angle. This suggested the pilot was hunting close to the ground trying to acquire the runway visually. Unfortunately, he was already past the airport.

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circle to land

Circling On The Climb

Everyone trains for that circle-to-land maneuver from an instrument approach, but there’s also an occasional need to fly circling departures. These can put you in the most marginal visual conditions waiting for the official IFR clearance. The usual suspects—weather, obstacles and flying the airplane—all come into play when you’re in that murky transition between VFR and IFR.

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aircraft icing

Where Your PIREPs Go

Do you worry a PIREP given to ATC just goes nowhere? Controllers try their best, but filing pilot reports may take some extra time if ATC is short on moments to spare.

Weather and NOTAMs are a huge percentage of the mountains of data controllers process daily, and a significant chunk of that comes from pilot reports. Some pilots wonder how the information they share gets processed by ATC. As one IFR reader expressed: “It appears that most reports of icing/tops/bases that are reported to ATC never make it into the PIREP system.”

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aircraft GPS system

I Want My GPS

We need completely realistic virtual avionics. I’ve been ringing this bell for a decade now and have achieved exactly nothing. Simulator training for real-world pilots is crippled without them. Pilots can’t practice the buttonology, which atrophies even faster than a six-pack scan. Pilots also want their own panels to fly virtually. I say that’s one of the biggest barriers to expanding the use of simulation.

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Reader Feedback: December 2016

Reader Feedback: December 2016

When I was based at PDK airport, a very busy airport in Atlanta, GA used by many business jets, the tower would routinely route smaller aircraft approaching from the east “to cross over mid-field at or above pattern altitude and enter a left downwind for Runway 3L.” Doing so while there were other aircraft in the pattern, landing and taking off. The reason was to keep the longer Runway 3R open for business jets landing and taking off. In this instance, a pilot would be crossing over two active runways.

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On the Air: December 2016

I periodically fly down to Wings Field in eastern Pennsylvania from my home base in Concord, NH. The direct route takes me through the western portion of New York’s Class B airspace. I always use flight following for these VFR flights. One time when I was handed off to the controller handling the Newark arrivals this conversation transpired:

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IFR Briefing: December 2016

The FAA’s long-awaited ADS-B rebate program launched on September 19, and drew more than 1300 applicants in the first two days, according to David Gray, the FAA’s ADS-B program manager. A robotic co-pilot that can be quickly installed in a variety of aircraft has been successfully tested in a Diamond DA-42 and a Cessna Caravan by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Textron Aviation flew its prototype Citation Longitude for the first time, in October. The super-midsize Longitude was announced in 2012. The crew of a Hawker 700A jet that crashed in Akron, Ohio, a year ago showed a “disregard for safety,” NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said in October, and the company they worked for, Execuflight, also “fell short of their obligations."

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IFR magazine

Download the Full December 2016 Issue PDF

The multiple steps involved in filing NOTAMs and PIREPs can steal time from a controller’s main purpose of separating aircraft. From their first transmission as a trainee, controllers have the term “priority of duty” bashed into their head. Allowing two aircraft to get too close because you were distracted by a PIREP or a NOTAM is not an option.

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