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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just to make sure you understand whats up, lets review. In the U.S., weve got excellent radar coverage, so all those radar sites have been modified to understand your aircrafts ADS-B out transmissions. In those areas where radar sites dont quite have adequate coverage, the FAA has added ground stations specifically to receive your ADS-B Out. The bottom line is that the FAA has sufficient ground-based coverage to know where you are almost all the time, using your ADS-B Out.
Dark clouds are looming on the horizon of our otherwise exciting GPS future. With increasing frequency, the military is jamming or spoofing GPS over huge swaths of airspace. A typical GPS NOTAM for Albuquerque center covers a radius of 237 NM at 10,000 feet, 207 NM at 400 feet and 165 NM at 50 feet daily for most of a week. Pilots in the Southwest have become accustomed to these NOTAMs, but theyre becoming more frequent and expanding to other areas of the country.
The Parts, Subparts and Sections of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, what we commonly call the Federal Aviation Regulations or FARs, are the only truly regulatory documents we have. These are the formal regulations adopted by the FAA. They are authorized by an Act of Congress. Sometimes the authorization is general. When created by the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, the FAA was given broad authority to issue regulations to carry out its functions. Sometimes it is specific like the Congressional mandates to increase ATP requirements following the 2009 Colgan crash or to create BasicMed.
However, the FAAs ADS-B installation date of January 1st, 2020 was nearly a decade away, and he faced a hostile audience. Numerous pilots seated around us hit him on point after point. The price of the transponder units. The installation and certification headache. The lack of ADS-B coverage (at the time). The overall cost-vs.-benefit scenario. They clung to the if it aint broke, dont fix it theme. The company rep did his best, but it was a frustrating battle.
Before you get a contact approach, some more boxes need to be checked, starting with weather minimums on par with Special VFR and Class G airspace. AIM 5-4-25 kicks off with them: Pilots operating in accordance with an IFR flight plan, provided they are clear of clouds and have at least one mile flight visibility and can reasonably expect to continue to the destination airport in those conditions, may request ATC authorization for a contact approach.