Weekly tips, technique and training from IFR.

March 2017

Full Issue (PDF)

Download the Full March 2017 Issue PDFSubscribers Only

The FAA is focusing on increasing the use of PBN procedures, particularly RNAV STARs. Increased use of PBN procedures will reduce ATC complexity and simplify traffic sequencing. PBN begins to really shine as new, more efficient traffic management and avionics capabilities enter the NAS. Pilots will find ATC more predictable and discover more opportunities to fly efficiently. At about 3300 smaller airports, safer PBN approaches with LPV and LNAV/VNAV minimums will be commissioned to every qualified runway. Most, but not all, airports will have an IAP to at least one runway end.


Briefing: March 2017

After years of lobbying by general-aviation advocates, the FAA issued new rules in January that aim to make it easier for many pilots to maintain their medical certification. SpaceX successfully launched a rocket in January that deployed 10 IridiumNext satellites, the first of 66 that will expand real-time global coverage for tracking airplanes in flight by mid-2018. The avionics industry will rise to the challenge of equipping the U.S. aircraft fleet with ADS-B Out by the Jan. 1, 2020, deadline, according to industry leader Ric Peri. The NTSB issued a rare urgent safety recommendation in January, warning pilots that Piper PA-31T-series aircraft may have unsafe wiring that could lead to arcing and fires.


FrontsSubscribers Only

Fronts in TAFs and weather briefings often mean a day of delays and canceled plans. Considering the impact that they have on flight operations, we should understand fronts. Let’s study them so you can make a good guess about the resulting weather. Our modern knowledge of fronts began around 1910 in the Bergen School of Meteorology in Norway. Their early work laid out the mathematics of forecasting and described fronts, showing that they are defined by a change in air mass density. Changes in wind speed, humidity, or pressure are all secondary.

Capital Line Items

Just like Albany in New York and Sacramento in California, you won’t find Maine’s capital buildings anywhere in the state’s thriving metropolis. Of course, that’s because Maine doesn’t really have a thriving metropolis. (Our biggest “city,” Portland only has 67,000 people and has issues, being dubbed the “other” Portland.) However, we do have a capital in our eleventh-largest town of Augusta, population 18,000. I’m told 17,993 of them are lawyers. Of the remaining seven, perhaps you’re visiting the guy who paints watercolors of the lovely view overlooking the Kennebec River.

Runway IncursionsSubscribers Only

With all the distractions in the cockpit—whether it’s loading the navigator, copying a clearance or simply dropping the only pen you brought along—it’s no surprise that close calls on the ground are still common. Perhaps not surprising, but not acceptable either. After all, we have a lot of tools to help us remain safe on the ground. We’ve had ground-safety procedures drilled into our heads in recent years. GPS is common now for taxiing, along with lots of signs and lights to guide us. So runway incursions and related incidents ought to be on the decline. As it turns out, though, things haven’t improved.

No More Medicals?

The FAA has released the medical requirements for the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 (PBOR2) and quite frankly, I think it is a home run for general aviation, pilots, and the AOPA who fostered it through Congress. The new program is called BasicMed that is technically the FAA’s implementation of medical requirements in the PBOR2 portion of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 known (of course) as FESSA. The final rule from the FAA, released January 10, 2017, and effective May 1, 2017, can be found on the FAA web site,

The March to PBN

Many of us routinely use GPS as sole-source navigation throughout our flights. Congratulations; you’re leveraging the benefits of Performance Based Navigation. That’s good. We have thousands of RNAV (GPS) approaches, many with vertical guidance, and they’re far safer, more reliable and more accurate than ground-based approaches. We often fly direct or nearly so. All these advances are reshaping the National Airspace System (NAS) and the way we fly IFR, but PBN is still young.

Hold Vs. HILPTSubscribers Only

A reader, a helo pilot from the U.S. Coast Guard, wrote to ask some interesting questions. It seems they’d just had an FMS upgrade that enables them to fly RNAV (GPS) approaches. All the approach holds that are course reversals (hold in lieu of procedure turn, HILPT) are shown with four-nautical-mile legs. He asked if it is required to fly the entire leg length. The e-mail discussion evolved to ask if a charted hold, such as a missed approach hold, also had mandatory leg lengths. These probing questions prompted some interesting virtual discussions at IFR.

On the Air

On the Air: March 2017

Flying our Cessna Caravans into Chicago O’Hare daily, frequently provides some interesting situations. Our redline is 175 knots and most of our planes can only do 150 knots in level flight. The controllers there are absolutely amazing and do what they can to make use of the fact that we are small and nimble. Here are a couple examples.


Readback: March 2017

Jeff Van West is one of my favorite modern-day aviation writers. His article, “Seeing Double” in the November issue is a fine example of Jeff taking us by the hand through important, but oft overlooked and esoteric aspects of our IFR life. But his use of the word “declination” instead of the correct word, “variation,” is a fingernail on the blackboard kind of irritant, if you remember blackboards. I have these old yellowed books that I studied in the ‘50s: AF Manual 51-40, Air Navigation Vol 1, by the Department of the Air Force (1959), page viii, and The American Flight Navigator by John Dohm (1958) page 324.


Too Little Too late

As suggested by recent decisions and actions, FAA leadership might actually be agreeing with that last bit. Over a year ago they announced a different regulatory climate called compliance philosophy, which is supposed to engender a more cooperative relationship between the regulator and the regulated. The FAA also began relaxing some certification requirements in favor of common sense safety improvements like seat belts and shoulder harnesses, angle-of-attack indicators, and more recently non-certified EFIS in certified aircraft. Now, they’ve responded to the legislative mandate to do away with the third-class medical for many of us.