It’s been a great couple of days in Saratoga Springs, New York. You almost had to miss it since your TBM is in the shop. Luckily, the owner of your former V-tail Bonanza let you borrow back your old bird after a few phone calls and promises of adult beverages. You knocked out your business engagement early so you even got a chance to tour the battlefields—which was great until torrential rains forced a retreat to a local pub.
Did you know that even piston airplanes can occasionally leave a contrail? Sure, it’s unusual, but it can happen. Many of us often wonder why some airplanes leave contrails that can last seemingly forever, while others leave a contrail that doesn’t last but a few seconds. Plus, of course, sometimes there’s no contrail at all. Contrails are an interesting phenomenon. So, let’s have some fun examining the science behind contrails. Along the way we can use that as a basis to learn a bit more about how the atmosphere behaves.
The whole thing started when a reader asked about an approach to a Runway 26 that had the note, “Rwy 26 Straight-in and Circling minimums NA at night.” “Why doesn’t it just say the approach is NA at night?” the reader asked. We agreed that’s what it seemed to say, but we also wondered why it was said in so awkward a manner. So, we investigated and the answer we found surprised all of us.
On occasion I have a flight “across the pond.” No, it’s not an ocean crossing, although it sometimes feels like it. These flights cross Lake Michigan, and require a bit more planning than flights over land. When you fly around the Great Lakes, it’s taken for granted that if you’re in a single-engine piston aircraft, you have to carefully examine the risks and mitigations. Don’t want to cross the lake at all? Fly around it and spend that extra time to stay over land. Not good weather for a crossing? Same deal.
After a few days of unusually nasty weather, the day of my postponed IPC dawned bright and clear. There wasn’t even much wind. It was the perfect day to fly, and as it turned out, it seemed like just about every other pilot around thought the same thing. There was traffic everywhere and everyone wanted something different. I was caught in a perfect storm.
Maybe we’re too busy focusing on the forest and the trees that the dirt making up the foundation of the arbors is ignored. Or perhaps it’s the elephant in the room no one discusses. Instructors don’t teach it because they don’t understand the opaque system themselves—can’t teach something you don’t know. Whatever the cause, many pilots have a poor understanding of how aeronautical information travels through the system and how charts are updated.
In late 2010, experienced pilot and U.S. senator James Inhofe was issued a pilot violation by the FAA. Displeased with the violation process, he created and sponsored the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 1 and 2. The NTSB is supposed to be an impartial entity to which a pilot may appeal a certificate suspension or revocation. For decades, aviation attorneys have known this is not reality.