Chances are you’ve looked at that table of precipitation types in aviation meteorology books and been fascinated by all the different possibilities. We see all these different types of codes in METAR and TAF reports every day, so why do ground schools just give us the decoding tables and not much else? Each kind of code tells its own little story about what the air mass is doing, what’s going on at that airfield, and how the weather will affect flight operations.
The standard ILS approach is kind of a seen-one-seen-’em-all situation. Sure, the numbers vary from one to the other, but the technique is rather straightforward and they’re all mostly the same. All you have to do is get established on the localizer, usually with a few turns from your friendly controller, wait for the glideslope needle to come in and then just follow them both to the runway. And, that’s just about all there is to it. Until there’s more…
Recently our flying club toured the new tower at Palm Beach International in southeastern Florida. About 60 pilots signed up to see this multimillion-dollar facility. This is what we saw.
Instrument approaches are designed such that several divergent paths and procedures funnel into one of a few common designs. Almost every approach you fly will either be a cone of narrowing vertical and lateral guidance; or a staircase of stepdowns to a minimum altitude.
It was once believed that all swans were white. No one considered the possibility of black swans until a Dutch explorer discovered them in Australia in 1697. That is the nature of a Black Swan event: It’s rare, has an extreme impact and is predictable in retrospect.
Along with legions of other pilots, I learned to fly in Cessna Skyhawks, with six-pack instrument panels. Even when I moved on up to the 21st century and Garmin G1000-equipped 172SPs, the core aircraft remained familiar—similar V speeds, control yoke, nose wheel steering, big trim wheel. There was a comfort in the sameness.