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Weekly tips, technique and training from IFR.

Keeping Time
No matter how fancy or capable your watch is, it doesnt meet the FAAs requirements.

Keeping Time

If youve dropped the habit of timing your approaches, know that running the clock is simple, cheap insurance. While youre at it, there are many other things you should time.

The trusty digital timer is a fixture in IFR training. You learned to time your turns, your flight segments, holds and approaches. You learned to keep an eye on your arrival times, lest you run late and need to inform ATC.

Lately, though, the practice of timing approaches and related operations has largely gone by the wayside with the use of GPS navigators. With your flight plan laid out and the ETA for each upcoming fix displayed nicely on your screen, few pilots bother to separately use a timer. And, let’s face it: Timer use for navigation is solely a backup if you’ve got GPS and a moving map.

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This Way or That-a-Way

This Way or That-a-Way

Theres a bit more nuance to ATC vectors than just saying, Turn left. There are many ways can a controller steer you around the sky, and multiple reasons for doing so.

Air traffic controllers have quite a few options for saying one simple thing: “Turn your airplane.” Each vectoring method, like a hammer or a pair of pliers, is a specialized tool designed to fit a particular situation. As you fly, you may hear a variety of vectoring radio phraseology on a daily basis. Like many real-world tools, they may appear simple and familiar on the surface. However, using them requires proper technique and foresight on the part of both controllers and pilots.

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Stay Out of The Dirt

Stay Out of The Dirt

Controlled flight into terrain can occur if we dont know where the dirt is or if we cant out climb it. Mitigation starts with proper planning and culminates in good discipline.

With the exception of a crazed pilot bent on suicide and/or mass murder, nobody wants their airplane to hit the ground at speed. Why, then, do we continue to pilot our aircraft under control all the way to the point of impact with Mother Earth? Pros and students alike are guilty, and perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this is that these oft-fatal accidents are all preventable. The answer begins with proper pre-flight planning to evaluate the risks and your performance. The rest is having the discipline to follow through. This may all seem obvious, but we keep crashing, so let’s see what we can do about it.

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Summer Patterns

Summer Patterns

Summer brings more cross-country flights, unfamiliar airports and varying weather. Understanding summer weather patterns can help you arrive safe and stress free.

For many pilots, summer means fly-ins, more flying and searches for the best $100 hamburger. It also marks the end of powerful jet streams and large, organized weather systems that cross the United States from one end to the other. By the time June rolls around, all that stuff shifts north and becomes a problem for our Canadian friends. But, that also gives them four months of mild summer temperatures, so don’t feel too bad for them. So what exactly do we have in the United States? We can distill it down to three main features. First there’s the large Atlantic Bermuda high, covering the eastern half of the country.

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Looks Can Be Deceiving

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Approach plates are purposely designed to a common, replicable standard. The downside is that familiarity breeds complacency and can obscure important details.

One of the best things about an ILS is that you know what you’re going to get. The boundaries of TERPS criteria mean they all work pretty much the same: You fly a published altitude to intercept a glideslope, ease down through the amorphous ether toward terra firma and either land or miss. Except for when that is so, so not the case. Take a look at the ILS Runway 16R into Reno/Tahoe (KRNO). On first glance, this is a simple ILS with the primary complication being some obvious terrain in the area. Terrain like that always warrants a close reading of the chart and its notes, usually to find the non-standard climb required if you must fly the missed. That’s not an issue in this case, but there are four other oddities to contend with—one of which is an outright error on the chart.

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Decisions Made Easy

Decisions Made Easy

Knowing what to do, how to handle most situations, is easy if you have documented limitations. Of course, you have to adhere to them for them to keep you safe.

When I made my living flying airliners, someone from the non-flying world would occasionally ask me, “Doesn’t it bother you to have to make all of those decisions?” My answer was always the same. “I never have to make any decisions. All of the decisions have already been made and are written down in a book.” Well, that wasn’t completely true. I got to decide what I wanted to eat (once I got to be a Captain) and when I wanted to eat.

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Readback: June 2015

Readback: June 2015

I read your editorial “The Drones Are Here” with interest. You asked the question “When was the last time you flew below 400 feet away from an airport?” My answer is: yesterday. As a seaplane pilot, I do this all the time over bodies of water. So do thousands of other seaplane and helicopter pilots. There is no way on earth that we would ever be able to “see and avoid” these tiny toy aircraft—at least not in time for the “avoid” part—and for sure, their untrained operators would not be likely to anticipate and avoid us. It is not a matter of if, but when someone will be killed by these dangerous drone operations. I guess our lives are less important than the interests of hundreds of thousands of drone hobbyists.

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