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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.

BasicMed Checkup

BasicMed is the result of a legislative initiative that produced Public Law 114-190, the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016, signed into law on July 15, 2016. BasicMed (a term that came later) is found in Section 2307 of the law: Medical Certification of Certain Small Aircraft Pilots. This law directed the Executive Branch, through the FAA, to issue regulations within 180 days to allow pilots to act as PIC under the law. The regulations (new Part 68 and changes to Part 61 & 91) and the term, BasicMed, came into existence when the rules were published in Federal Register on January 11, 2017 and became effective on May 1, 2017. Because the law only addressed pilots acting as PIC, we have the unintended consequence that a safety pilot, not simultaneously also acting as PIC, needs an FAA Medical as a required crewmember, as weve discussed previously.

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.

Make a Note

Does this meet your takeoff minimums? As a Part 91, single-engine-land flyer it can legally be as low as 0/0, but you prefer to be able to be able to make it back in if need be, plus a little margin. So use the RNAV 15 approach as the backup. But wait: Youre LNAV only, no vertical navigation, so your MDA is 1920 feet with one-mile visibility. This is nearly 100 feet higher than the current ceiling-still legal to fly under 91.175, but not a good turnback plan.

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.

On The Air: November 2019

In upstate South Carolina, Michelin has a number of plants that manufacture tires and one recently completed a 40-year anniversary. Maybe the FAA wanted to honor such presence in the local economy with the MCHLN TWO ARRIVAL, serving several airports including the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. There you can find PROVN MCHLN TYRES. Im sure that the 130-year-old Bib or Bibendum AKA the Michelin Man, is happy for this aerial advertising.

On The Air: November 2019

In upstate South Carolina, Michelin has a number of plants that manufacture tires and one recently completed a 40-year anniversary. Maybe the FAA wanted to honor such presence in the local economy with the MCHLN TWO ARRIVAL, serving several airports including the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. There you can find PROVN MCHLN TYRES. Im sure that the 130-year-old Bib or Bibendum AKA the Michelin Man, is happy for this aerial advertising.

Canadas ADS-B

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.

Why GPS Doesnt Work

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.

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.