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One of simulation’s greatest strengths is flying parts of the world where you might never make it in person. Alaska calls to the hearts of many a pilot, so we’ll take you there today. Nothing too strenuous: Just a jaunt from Anchorage (PANC) down south to Seward (PAWD) on the ocean and then over to Kenai (PAEN) on Cook Inlet. Yeah, ICAO Alaskan airports start with a “P” not a “K.” Hmm... if you put the “I”—meaning you—in PANC you get “Panic.” Coincidence?
A fter a record winter where temperatures fell below -30 degrees F in some parts of the Midwest, it’s hard to believe summer is approaching again. That means a rapid increase in thunderstorm activity across the country. In this issue our goal is to help you not only understand the parts of a storm but also what’s going on underneath the hood and what it means for the forecast. The information also might help save your bacon when things go downhill unexpectedly and all the data you have is what’s out the window.
Naturally, you want blue skies and full sun to get the most out of such a trip. There’s usually no issue with that, but the Gulf region and Florida Keys have their share of showers and thunderstorms. Hurricanes and tropical storms not withstanding, weather here is dynamic, so you’re going to start familiarizing yourself with this new territory early. Little do you know that it’s the mapping, not the weather, that will catch you by surprise.
When we got BasicMed, something we’d done for a long time was taken away. BasicMed applies to acting as pilot in command. But, with BasicMed you’re not legal to act as a safety pilot for your buddy who’s under the hood practicing approaches in VMC. So, you exercise the workaround of agreeing ahead of time that you, the safety pilot, are indeed the PIC for this flight (more on that in a moment), then you’re once again good to go even with BasicMed ... if, that is, the aircraft insurance agrees. Let’s look more carefully at all this.
Operations take place daily in uncontrolled airspace. Paynesville, MN (KPEX) is a typical non-towered airport with the familiar vignette depicting Class E beginning at 700 feet AGL. Departing Paynesville, any time we spend in the clouds below the Class E floor is IFR in uncontrolled airspace. Of course, as you should recall, lacking that magenta vignette, the 700-foot limit becomes 1200 feet. Instrument approaches begin with an ATC clearance in controlled airspace, but often take us into uncontrolled Class G airspace. At Paynesville, the RNAV (GPS) RWY 11 approach LPV mins take us to 200 feet AGL, 500 feet into the surface Class G airspace.
Your home field is non-towered, and the AWOS says the winds are fierce out of the west. If it was VFR, Runway 27 would rock. However, there’s nasty precipitation starting five miles east of the airport. The RNAV 27 approach would drive you right through it. You’ve already been beaten up enough for one day. Instead, the reported 800 foot ceiling inspires you request an RNAV approach to Runway 36 with a circle to Runway 27. The circling mins are 600 feet for your aircraft category. You’ll stay close to the airport and once you get underneath, you can bring it around to land into the wind on 27.