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Weekly tips, technique and training from IFR.

January 2020

Full Issue (PDF)

Briefing

Briefing: January 2020Subscribers Only

The final report on the first of two catastrophic crashes that led to the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX was released by Indonesia’s air safety board in late October and it painted a damning picture of missteps at every stage leading up to the downing of Lion Air 610 in the Java Sea. From poor basic design, to pilot error and faulty design, the report listed at least nine causal factors for the crash, which killed all 189 people on board. “From what we know, there are nine things that contributed to this accident,” Indonesian air accident investigator Nurcahyo Utomo said in a news conference announcing the report’s findings. “If one of the nine hadn’t occurred, maybe the accident wouldn’t have occurred,” he added. One of those factors was the fact that the pilots didn’t react the way Boeing designers predicted pilots would respond to emergencies such as the faulty angle of attack data triggering the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) into thwarting their attempts to keep the aircraft from diving into the ocean.

Features

Weather ModelsSubscribers Only

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.

Any Ol’ AlternateSubscribers Only

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.

Check Your DataSubscribers Only

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…

Radio ConfidenceSubscribers Only

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.

Backing Up GPSSubscribers Only

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.

Stupid Pilot TricksSubscribers Only

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.

On the Air

On The Air: January 2020Subscribers Only

This past June we were returning from Canada to Colorado in mid-afternoon IFR in our PA 32. The typical afternoon thunderstorms were in full swing. As we progressed homeward just east of a several hundred mile long line of Cumulonimbus buildups we heard Salt Lake Center clearing departing flights up to FL 260. Nothing higher. All requests for higher were denied with the same explanation—all the available (what there was of it because of the weather) airspace above FL 260 was already saturated with traffic. The controller was juggling airplanes as best as he could.

Readback

Readback: January 2020Subscribers Only

Your shop gave you bad advice. Garmin says that the frequencies are sufficiently different, even counting various harmonics, that interference wouldn’t be an inherent problem. They do, though, recommend a minimum of two feet between a GPS antenna and any strong transmitter. There are few, if any, airframes where it would be impossible to get at least that. If your tech, however, has seen that problem, it’s likely due to other factors, like poor antenna grounding, poor connections, bad wiring, etc., but not antenna proximity unless they were right next to each other.

Remarks

“Got ‘em On the Fish Finder”Subscribers Only

The FAA does a fine job of providing a framework for our safe flying. But, even within that, there are a few arcane things that might not make sense or might be done better. My favorite example is §91.126 that essentially says if the Class G airport has standard left traffic, “When approaching to land … each pilot of an airplane must make all turns … to the left.” It’s difficult to argue that entering a traffic pattern isn’t “approaching to land,” but that first turn is to the right, against the rules. (Yes, the FAA has talked around this, but it says what it says and that’s not what we do.)