Since this is the first issue of IFR Magazine in the 2020s, it’s fitting that we stop and look at how far we’ve come with computer forecast models. They’ve made a huge impact on aviation forecasting. If you just take the single-engine up for an hour on the weekend, you probably don’t have much need for the weather models, but if you do any sort of regular cross-country flying, chances are you’ve run across at least some of them.
Pop quiz: When must you file an alternate? That’s an easy one, we all know the rule about needing 2000-3 one hour before and after the ETA. Next question: When do you file an alternate? Probably the most common answer is, “I always file an alternate.” Fair enough, it’s never a bad idea. Now, regulations aside, why do you file an alternate? Naturally the response is: In the event the weather’s gone down too low at the destination and we need somewhere else to go. Right up there is an unexpected loss of equipment or a navaid required for an approach. And while the regs are also designed to provide a backup for lost communications, this often serves as a distant third, ’cause these days we’re just not all that worried about that.
At the airport, I’ll pull the airplane out of the hangar, preflight, and hop in. Once inside I get the ATIS and clearance before starting the engines. That morning Tower was still closed—I’m a morning person—so in good VMC, I planned to launch VFR and pick up my clearance in the air from Center. With the engines running, I uploaded the flight plan from Pilot. That’s where the first sign of trouble popped up; my Garmin GTN 650 didn’t like the flight plan from my Garmin Pilot EFB. It was fine last time. What the…
Remember when you first picked up the mic in an airplane, either to ATC or at a non-towered field? Most of us were probably as tentative as a boy trying to get his first date . Even if you’re good at public speaking, few of us gain the comfort without first practicing with prepared remarks. But, on the radio our scripts are too vague and variable; we have to learn along the way. Meanwhile we’re so worried about sounding bad or saying the wrong thing, we often sound bad and say the wrong thing. Fortunately, practice makes perfect—or at least better.
The MON will remain until an advanced system emerges that can seamlessly recover from a GPS failure. Until 2014 the FAA advanced a system that provides alternate positioning, navigation, and timing (APNT) as GPS provides PNT. In 2015 APNT research was pushed into NextGen’s far term, 2026-2030. Once the MON is complete, the FAA plans to re-evaluate existing VORs, but at that point, APNT research will just be getting off the ground. The bottom line: some VOR navigation will be with us for years to come. You’d be well advised to keep your VOR navigation skills sharp.
Sure as the BRS Save-O’-The-Month calendar flips to a new year, we here at the Department of Self-Righteous Finger Pointing, present the best of the dumbest ways pilots have contributed to keeping the skies safe by rendering as many aircraft as possible unairworthy. Today, we review the year 2016, which reflected a modest improvement in not crashing but still logged 1627 accident/incidents worthy of NTSB note. That’s 4.46 events per day or roughly one prang every 5.3 hours. As with past Stupid Pilot Tricks, we use NTSB “probable cause” results and don’t report on fatal accidents.