Weekly tips, technique and training from IFR.

February 2017

Full Issue (PDF)

Download the Full February 2017 Issue PDFSubscribers Only

A 20-knot headwind or tailwind for a gliding 747 makes for a rounding error, but for an engine-out single it can mean the difference between an on-airport landing and an off-airport tragedy. Glider pilots have charts and techniques for speed and loading to maximize their performance, including adjustments for wind. They call it “Speed to Fly”; for X headwind increase the indicated glide speed to Y for a new rate of descent of Z.


IFR Briefing: February 2017

With flashing lights, smoke, and fanfare, Cirrus Aircraft rolled out their first Vision Jet for customer delivery, in late December. The FAA in December finalized new aircraft certification rules for general aviation that are expected to help the industry bring new designs and technology to market more quickly and cheaply. A chartered RJ85 crashed in Cerro Gordo, Colombia, while flying a holding pattern near its destination airport, on November 28. It might have made sense to the company, but nonetheless many aviators found it shocking to see Cessna dispose of its unsold Skycatcher stock, crushing the brand-new airplanes complete with their zero-time Continental engines.


Why It's So BumpySubscribers Only

I recently got a question from a reader: “When you are flying in clouds and the ride is bumpy, is it bumpy because it’s cloudy or is it cloudy because it’s bumpy?” Good question. Turbulence is often approached from a rather pragmatic approach in aviation, and that often leaves pilots with questions about where it fits in with weather patterns. Let’s look at this piecemeal. From a meteorological perspective, turbulence is bumpiness caused by flight into an area where wind is changing over a small distance.

DIY SOP ConsiderationsSubscribers Only

Good single-pilot resource management calls for three basic elements: Knowledge of one’s aircraft systems and characteristics, proficiency in their use under various conditions, and well-crafted, consistent routines. Those well-crafted, consistent routines—standard operating procedures, SOPs—encompass flows, checklists and callouts, but go well beyond the basics. We’ve started down the path toward personal SOPs in “Using an SOP in GA” in the September 2016 issue.

How We Goof with ATCSubscribers Only

Periodically, NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System publishes many of the most meaningful ASRS report submissions that relate to various specific aspects of aviation, such as weather, near-midairs, GPS and the like. We looked at these selected reports covering Air Traffic Control, with a view toward lessons we can learn in dealing with ATC, better practices we can follow, and generally ways to do things better. You’ll note two recurring themes. The first is incorrect pilot readbacks of controller instructions and controllers not catching the mistake. The second is pilots turning incorrectly left, right or to the wrong heading, or similar errors with altitude, as in this first case below.

The IFR Simulation ChallengeSubscribers Only

A friend of mine used to work in customer support for a simulator manufacturer. He told me the most common customer support question was: “OK, I’m sitting at the end of the runway. Now what?” Imagine a pilot in the real world pondering an equivalent question. There you are sitting at the end of the runway, engine running, and thinking, “Hmm. What should I do with this airplane?” Yet that’s the abyss many folks face—and turn their backs on—when trying to use a simulator for proficiency.

New Jeppesen SIDS and STARS

Airspace redesign, increased use of RNAV and optimum climb/descent profiles complicate and clutter STARs and SIDs. Procedure complexity previously stemmed from complicated lateral paths. Course changes and cross-radials required frequencies to be tuned and OBS knobs spun like the man behind the curtain. (I’m supposed to identify each of these stations too?) The HAARP arrival into LaGuardia is an example: tracking outbound on Kingston R-203, the number two radio is set on Deer Park R-338, then number one on the Pawling R-211 or Huguenot R-107 to identify BASYE intersection.

Best Glide Speeds

Perhaps we should cut right to the life-saving takeaway: If you’re engine-out in a typical single and gliding into a headwind of 15 knots or more, pitching down to at least 10 knots over published best glide speed will probably extend your glide range. This is true down to short final. Holding best glide into a headwind on short final and see you clearly won’t make it? Pitch down and see if that improves things. Just remember to slow back to your normal procedures for the actual landing, using or shedding those extra knots as necessary.

On the Air

On the Air: February 2017

Your recent OTA reminded me of a flight several years ago with my cousin’s daughter and her husband in the back seat during a scenic flight around the Dallas area. After the flight I asked her if she enjoyed it. Her reply was that the flight was nice and lots of fun, but she was concerned that I had to read the “instructions” on my kneeboard as I went through checklists during the flight.


Readback: February 2017

Not sure if this is a question or a frustration, but after reading the August 2016 quiz about PIREPs, it made me wonder why there are so few PIREP’s in the system. It appears that most reports of icing, tops, and bases that are given to ATC never make it into the PIREP system. Most of us frequently report these conditions when departing or arriving, however I seldom take the time to change frequency and submit an official PIREP. Is there a process or key phrase that we can say to ATC to ask them to submit the PIREP on our behalf. Seems like if a pilot reports icing in climb or in descent to departure or approach, ATC should submit that report as a PIREP.


New Sim Challenge

A few months back, Jeff Van West—previous editor of IFR and respected aviation journalist who still hangs around here, you know, kinda like the brother-in-law who needs to get a real job—and I were brainstorming about using a simulator to maintain instrument proficiency. We continue to stress this topic because it’s an important tool in proficiency. But, as more and more of you are flying simulators—either your own commercial or home-built sims, or one at your FBO or flight school—one common theme is that many of us aren’t sure what to do once we’re “in the box.”