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Weve all lamented the frequent difference between legal, safe, and even occasionally right. I just got slapped with a many-thousand dollar reminder of that whole concept.

The Power of Paint

Look at the RNAV (GPS)-A approach at Naples, FL (KAPF). Seems like it is a straight-in approach to Runway 32 but it only has circling minimums. There are three conditions stated in the FAA Instrument Procedures Handbook (FAA-H-8038-16B) preventing straight-in minimums: 1) The final approach course alignment with the runway centerline exceeds 30 degrees, which isn't the case here. 2) The descent gradient is greater than 400 feet/NM from the FAF to the threshold crossing height (TCH). The actual descent gradient here is 316 feet/NM. 3) A runway is not clearly defined on the airfield. This is all that's left.

Filed vs. Cleared vs. Flown

Every instrument pilot should understand the process of filing, getting a clearance, and then flying an IFR flight plan. But why does it occasionally seem that ATC makes things complicated? Say you've filed a straightforward Point A to B then C. But then you're cleared from Point A to B then to X, Y, Z, and only finally to Point C. Why are these extra fixes in the flight plan? Where did they come from? Why this today instead of an intermediate RNAV fix that you usually get?

Check Your Data

At the airport, Ill 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-Im 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. Thats where the first sign of trouble popped up; my Garmin GTN 650 didnt like the flight plan from my Garmin Pilot EFB. It was fine last time. What the…

Any Ol Alternate

Pop quiz: When must you file an alternate? Thats 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, its never a bad idea. Now, regulations aside, why do you file an alternate? Naturally the response is: In the event the weathers 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 were just not all that worried about that.

Weather Models

Since this is the first issue of IFR Magazine in the 2020s, its fitting that we stop and look at how far weve come with computer forecast models. Theyve made a huge impact on aviation forecasting. If you just take the single-engine up for an hour on the weekend, you probably dont have much need for the weather models, but if you do any sort of regular cross-country flying, chances are youve run across at least some of them.

On The Air: January 2020

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.

Radio Confidence

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 youre 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 were 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 GPS

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 NextGens 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. Youd be well advised to keep your VOR navigation skills sharp.

Got em On the Fish Finder

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. Its difficult to argue that entering a traffic pattern isnt 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 thats not what we do.)

Briefing: January 2020

The final report on the first of two catastrophic crashes that led to the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX was released by Indonesias 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 reports findings. If one of the nine hadnt occurred, maybe the accident wouldnt have occurred, he added. One of those factors was the fact that the pilots didnt 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.