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Radar Service Gotchas

An instrument-rated pilot called me a while back, seeking an IPC to prepare for a trip he wanted to make. Unfortunately, it had been nearly a year since hed flown at all.

Autumn Changes

Fall conjures memories of bright blue skies, cool mornings and generally good daytime flying. But in aviation, looks can be deceiving. New air masses are on the move, the jet stream begins to flex its muscle over much of the United States, fronts are marching southward, and theres likely a tropical storm in the Caribbean or the Gulf. How does this affect your flying and how can you avoid an unplanned turn of events?

A Watershed Event

On Thursday, December 28, 1978, a United Airlines DC-8 enroute from Denver, Colorado to Portland, Oregon, crashed 6.9 miles east-southeast of Portland International Airport.

Big Sky Theory

A beautiful VFR day in south Florida was coming to a close. The shadows of beach-front hotels were stretching across the sand 3500 feet below. For my first cross country after getting my private, my wife and I flew VFR from Miamis Opa Locka airport up to Stuart for some Mexican food-a $100 burrito run, so to speak. We were headed home along the coast.

Briefing: November 2014

Two general-aviation aircraft designs, the Turbine Mallard and the all-metal tandem SAM LSA, are up for sale. Thierry Zibi said he enjoyed designing and building the SAM, but doesnt want to run a production company. The SAM is certified in Canada as an Advanced Ultralight, and is compliant with the LSA rule in the USA. Frakes Aviation acquired classic Grumman Mallards type certificate some years ago, and upgraded the fleet with turbine engines. The TC is back on the market now, as the current owners are ready to retire. Were looking for someone to take on the entire project, said Sam Jantzen, of Mallard Aircraft, who is working with Frakes. That would include not just the type certificate but the inventory of parts and several partially-built aircraft now owned by Frakes and based in Texas.

Coded Departure Routes

Pilots want ways to mitigate bad weather. The Coded Departure Route (CDR) is one of the least-known such tools in GA, although its been available since 2007. The AIM tells us, CDRs provide air traffic control a rapid means to reroute departing aircraft when the filed route is constrained by either weather or congestion. So, if youd rather not wait, a CDR might be for you.

Putting the Pieces in Place

Control towers are team operations, like all other ATC facilities. Tower may ultimately control which aircraft takes off first, but its Ground that sets the stage. A solid ground controller monitors Towers traffic flow and puts each outbound aircraft in a position thats most advantageous for their departure. Theyre essentially playing high stakes chess with aircraft-shaped pieces.

Weather Planning

Preflight weather planning has long consisted of calling an FAA Flight Service Station. Years ago, you might have even visited one. But, using the Internet, you can now draw on the same resources that meteorologists use. While the 2000s brought weather data to the cockpit, were now getting some Internet tools to the cockpit via dedicated datalink. Although we cant yet cheaply surf the web at cruise, we connect to the Internet at the FBO, on the ramp and in the plane on the ground, using phones and tablets with WiFi and cellular data.

Tips for Weather Planning

Remember that web sites outside the FAA and NWS domains should be considered supplementary tools to be used in combination with a weather briefing through official sources.

More Required Reports

Last months clinic began a detailed look at the reports we are required to give ATC or FSS during an IFR flight. Specifically, we began looking at the reports other than the position reports required by 14 CFR 91.183(a), which well cover separately. The remaining reports come from three sources: 14 CFR 91.183 (paragraphs b and c), 14 CFR 91.187, and AIM 5-3-3.

Readback: November 2014

Toward the end of his excellent article, Gaming the System in the August issue, Mr. Kramer talks of cancelling IFR when the frequency is busy and you have gone into VFR conditions. I have always tried to do this to relieve ATC of unnecessary responsibilities.However, this may be a little different in Bravo airspace. On a westbound flight through Washingtons Class B, I cancelled IFR after passing Baltimore and many of the buildups. The controller thanked me, replying, Maintain VFR, report any changes in course or altitude. A few minutes later I had more buildups in front of me. I reported it, and worked my way through. I have always wondered under circumstances like this if I had returned to IFR what the proper communications would have been in the Bravo air space.

Holes You Should Know About in Official WX Products

Few pilots know that FAA imposes a hard character limit on text products such as Convective SIGMETs and the Area Forecasts (FA). The Aviation Weather Center (AWC) has a check program for the Area Forecast that counts the number of characters. On busy weather days when these forecasters have a lot to mention in the forecast, they often bust the character count. This forces them to cut from either the text or the synopsis in order to make the size fit through the National Airspace Data Interchange Network (NADIN) hubs. Often the first casualty is the ellipsis (...). Forecasters can use two periods instead of three. Another casualty is the synopsis. Of course, the last resort is to cut from the text of the FA.