CHARTS & PLATES

ATC Safety Net

The most obvious and essential ATC tool is a working radio. Imagine an airport is fogged in, with hard IMC and essentially zero visibility. The tower controller cant see the airplanes. However, using a single radio with his knowledge of the airport layout, and accurate position reports from pilots moving around in the soup, he can still work the traffic. Radar controllers can also rely on pilot position reports to separate traffic in non-radar operations. Again, all they need is a radio and knowledge of their surroundings to build a mental traffic picture.

TERPS 101

Since we trust our lives to procedures designed to TERPS standards whenever were in the soup, lets pull back the curtain just a little bit to see whats going on behind the scenes of our approach charts. Note that collectively the TERPS standards easily run over 1000 pages and often involve quite a bit of math, so this is intended to be an overview and is by no means exhaustive. We will be looking at basic concepts and how they apply to approach procedures in this article; in a future article well discuss standards for other phases of flight.

Alternate Missed

When the problem was the missed approach, my favorite tool was requesting alternate missed approach instructions. With a single ATC transmission, the requirement vanished because we werent flying that missed. At least, thats how I interpreted the regs, and the statute of limitations is past. I later realized I could even suggest my own procedure to get pointed at the IAF for the next approach. This permitted a fun game of rapid approach roulette, which is what this sim challenge is all about.

Satellite Imagery

Since the mid-1970s, satellite imagery has made its way into everything from television weathercasts to flight weather briefings. We see them constantly. When a hurricane is approaching the coast, viewers are presented with satellite images. When the local news shows the forecast, a satellite image is almost always used. This technology has grown progressively more complex and powerful over the years, and more than ever it can be a valuable part of flight planning. Lets examine some of the basics of the technology and look at todays capabilities.

Clearing Flags

Its certainly legal to fly through the AIRMET. These are advisories covering large areas. But it behooves you to determine that your flight plan wont enter known or forecast light or moderate icing conditions as prohibited in 91.527. Here goes. Theres a stationary front just west of the route, bringing in cloud layers and scattered showers. Freezing levels will hit between 7000 and 12,000 feet. So, at 8000 feet, you do risk picking up ice. One lone pilot report from a single-engine turbine over Iowa shows negative ice in climb from 3000 to the tops at 11,000. This isnt all that useful since youre flying lower and slower, but you are willing to climb as high as 12,000 feet to be on top. Your Plan B, while not at all mission-friendly, is to turn back to warmer air and land in Iowa, or even return to Bowling Green if thats best.

Skew-T Revisited

The Skew-T log-p diagram, typically just called a Skew-T, is an amazing tool for understanding whats happening in the atmosphere at a given station. They are essential for understanding a precipitation regime or differentiating icing layers. Even after nearly three decades in meteorology I would find it almost impossible to understand an icing situation without this tool, and I often visualize the makeup of an environment with a sort of mental Skew-T image. I cant underscore how valuable these diagrams are once you get to know them.

On The Air: October 2019

The ride over was smooth and generally clear on a recent flight, but there were intermittent clouds and bumps at 7000:Piper 28D: Allentown Approach, Piper Two Eight Delta, request.Allentown Approach: Go ahead.Piper 28D: We are about to enter a cloud layer at 7000. Is 5000 available? Ive got my 90-year-old dad with me and Id like him to have a smooth ride.Approach: Both of you can godown to 5000.

Briefing: October 2019

The Air Force and tech company DZYNE have created an ungainly-looking device that can take off, fly and land an airplane like a human pilot and without tearing the aircraft apart. The Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) Center for Rapid Innovation flew a Cessna 206 with the ROBOpilot at the controls for two hours on Aug. 9 and said the idea is to make the machine interchangeable with human pilots. Imagine being able to rapidly and affordably convert a general aviation aircraft, like a Cessna or Piper, into an unmanned aerial vehicle, having it fly a mission autonomously, and then returning it back to its original manned configuration, said Dr. Alok Das, senior scientist with the Center for Rapid Innovation, in a statement. A video with the news release shows the robotic pilot making corrections to keep the centerline during takeoff and a bounced, but ultimately safe landing.

Readback: October 2019

First, we checked with Garmin and their equipment actually decodes the Morse code identifier rather than rely on GPS and the tuned frequency to look it up in the boxs database. So far, so good. We next checked with Mark Kolber, our regs guru, and he pointed us to AIM 1-1-3.c. That paragraph talks about navaid identification in general, pointing out that merely hearing Morse code isnt enough because it could be transmitting TEST. Likewise, live voice transmissions from FSS or ATC dont indicate a valid navigation signal. The prize, though, is in the paragraphs last sentence, If your equipment automatically decodes the identifier, it is not necessary to listen to the audio identification. So, Rick, youre right. If the box decodes and displays the Morse code identifier, you can rely on that.

When Things Go Wrong

It should be obvious that we never say the words, Declare, Emergency, Mayday, or Pan-Pan unless we indeed have a dire situation. These words have the potential to flip a controllers airspace upside down faster than a Vmc roll, so they should be used with discretion. Even saying Declare by itself could lead us to believe that assistance is needed, as well as Pan-Pan (Urgent condition). Because Pan-Pan is considered an urgent condition (maybe not a full-blown emergency), it has the potential to turn into Mayday (Distress) so we mostly treat it as such.

Spotting Traffic

TCAS II is the most comprehensive form of TCAS, but its range depends on what it is asked to do. Overall pulse detection range is 30 NM for Mode S transponders and 14 NM for Mode A/C units. Surveillance must be reliable within 14 NM, but TCAS II will only assess threats within 12 NM as possible RAs. TCAS II guarantees system reliability within at least 4.5 NM. Two TCAS II systems can coordinate RAs to maximize vertical separation, typically 300-700 feet. There is even a reverse RA if one aircraft fails to respond correctly in the latest version 7.1 software.

Readback: September 2019

Im so glad you tackled the question of whether it is a requirement to report leaving an altitude. I read the regs years ago and have continued to report leaving on every altitude change but I often feel I am alone or perhaps one of a small minority. Ive gone back and reviewed the regs again to see whether I was doing it incorrectly since I wasnt hearing many others doing so and it does take more air time to say, ...leaving flight level 240 descending flight level 200 than 200, when cleared from FL240 to FL200, for example.