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.

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…

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.

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.)

Readback: January 2020

Your shop gave you bad advice. Garmin says that the frequencies are sufficiently different, even counting various harmonics, that interference wouldnt 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, its 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.

Stupid Pilot Tricks

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. Thats 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 dont report on fatal accidents.

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.

Briefing: December 2019

FlightAware and FlightBridge are teaming up to organize private aircraft travel from doorstep to doorstep with predictability and accuracy. At the recent NBAA-BACE convention in Las Vegas, the two companies announced an integration of their two systems that will let business and private travelers plan their journeys down to the last detail while harnessing machine learning to ensure they go as smoothly as possible.


A new or modified procedure is a coordinated effort among many groups, such as airports, air traffic control, local communities, and local aircraft operators, each of whom may have input into the final procedure. Once a procedure is developed and everyone is as happy as theyre going to get with it, the procedure is sent through a quality assurance review process. This process essentially rebuilds the procedure to verify criteria compliance, use of correct data, and proper documentation. Once past quality assurance, the next step in procedure approval is performing a flight inspection to look for anything unsafe or unexpected on the procedure that wouldnt have been known during the design process.

Im Too Busy

But even if flying remains a joy, we dont fly enough, do we? Id like to log a few hours every week. Nearly all of my flying is purposeful; I travel by my own airplane because I have places to go. I log around 100 to 120 hours a year now, but it comes in bunches separated by breaks of a month or two where I never just go flying, and dont even visit the hangar … because Im too busy.

Readback: November 2019

With that article, we thought wed put this whole discussion and its confusion behind us. However, as soon as the magazine hit your mailboxes, we started getting a related question: What if the BasicMed safety pilot is a CFI?We discussed this with our regs guru, Mark Kolber, and tossed this back and forth a bit to come up with our best answer. Lets take it one point at a time. The FAA treats CFIs as private pilots, not engaged in a commercial endeavor. Thus, no second-class medical is required. A CFI can even teach without a medical under 61.23(b)(5) if the CFI isnt required to be PIC (such as giving a BFR to a current pilot). However, the CFI without a medical cannot be PIC and cannot be a required crewmember. A CFI can be PIC under BasicMed per 61.113(i). So, a CFI with BasicMed can give primary instruction where the student cant fly alone, and the CFI can give instrument instruction in actual conditions if the trainee isnt instrument rated or isnt instrument current. So far so good. If a trainee is instrument rated and current, a CFI can provide instrument instruction in actual conditions under BasicMed. However, the underlying question that weve focused on is if a pilot (or CFI) with only BasicMed can be a safety pilot for the pilot flying wearing a hood under VFR. The answer is the same for the CFI as it is for the non-CFI since the same 61.113(i) to be PIC under BasicMed is referenced for both as the exception for an FAA Medical. The CFI must be acting as PIC to do so. (There might be some regulatory nuance you could explore, but the path isnt sufficiently clear to safely reach any other conclusion.) Bottom line: For your BasicMed CFI to be your safety pilot s/he cannot be a required crewmember so still must be PIC and your insurance probably wants a say in that. This whole discussion brings up a peripheral point. Any time youre flying with another certificated pilot, regardless of their certification, its best to clarify the roles to remove any ambiguity before takeoff.

Briefing: November 2019

Redbird closed its Skyport FBO at San Marcos Regional Airport in Texas citing poor financial performance. In its eight years of operation, the Skyport has never made a dime. Not even a profitable quarter, Redbird founder Jerry Gregoire wrote in a blog post. Had it not been for Redbird Flight Simulators explosive growth and profitability over those years, the Skyport might have found itself in deep trouble very early on. Gregoire said the company miscalculated some fundamentals in building the FBO in 2011, including its location. It was, however, well received by users. It won ACE and STAR awards for best FBO at an airport with less than 4000 annual arrivals in 2018. Employees were offered jobs with the simulator company.