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Our Intermittent GPS Future

Various government agencies think its necessary to potentially render GPS useless throughout hundreds of square miles of the NAS nearly every single day. We who live in the West have experienced this for years. From my home in Santa Fe, NM, I get at least one, sometimes a few, notices of nearby GPS outages every week. But, more recently, those of you in the East have begun to feel more of the same pain.

Just Say It: Unable

ATC will often ask pilots if they can do something somewhat out of the ordinary for the purpose of granting a shortcut or maybe to gain that extra slice of airspace. This subtle word works on both sides of the coin. In the pattern, Tower might ask a pilot to fly a short approach that-if the pilot is unprepared and accepts it-requires a steep and fast dive. Perhaps youve been offered that so they can fit you inside of other traffic, to avoid vectoring you 10 miles out to get behind everyone. Or, perhaps they just need you to cross the approach end of the runway so they can start getting other airplanes out. Regardless, if you dont think you can safely and properly comply, bring on the PIC authority and just say it, Unable.

How Much Is Enough?

Removing the old autopilot will leave holes in the left panel that would be too ugly if we just covered them, so were going to cut new metal. Since were doing that, the shop has suggested we might consider replacing the backup analog airspeed indicator, attitude gyro, and altimeter with an integrated electronic standby instrument. Yeah, thats probably a good idea, especially right now, as the vacuum attitude indicator has been slow to come alive recently and is probably about to die.

Logging vs. Being PIC

You are an instrument-rated private pilot. Your friend is working on the rating and you have acted as her safety pilot while she practices under the hood. Shes doing great. Today ceilings are high but below final approach fix altitudes. You feel comfortable filing IFR as pilot in command while she flies, so you file and off you go in the clubs 172. No hood for your friend today. She does all the flying. Two approaches, with 12 minutes in actual instrument conditions. She did well.

Exploring Every Angle

What happens if you depart on the original IFR squawk? In a word: confusion. While, you are technically VFR-you voided your clearance by departing VFR-ATCs radar doesnt know that. Itll still detect that IFR squawk and tag you up on the scope as if you were on that IFR clearance. An unexpected IFR target popping up amidst their other IFR traffic is a real distraction to a controller, especially if its an aircraft who was expected to hold for release.

Overlay Approaches

Lets connect some dots. In 1969, NARCO (now defunct) introduced the CLC-60 VORTAC Offset Control Panel that allowed navigation to a phantom fix defined as a distance and direction (rho-theta) from an existing VORTAC. It was touted as the first RNAV system. In the 80s, Bendix/Kings KNS-80 Integrated Navigation System might be considered the first practical RNAV navigator (it had VOR, LOC, DME, RNAV, and GS). Like the CLC-60, it could electronically move a VORTAC and was IFR certified.

Old Friends

Look around the ramp and in hangars at almost any GA airport in the country, and youll find some amazing aircraft. Youll also find some once-amazing aircraft that have been neglected and nearly abandoned for years, rendering them useless place holders. Sadly, one of those in the latter group belongs to my wife and me. (Its a Beechcraft Skipper we got for my wife to fly after we invested in the Cessna 340 Ive talked so much about.)

Report Leaving

In the case of the departure, and from a certain perspective, I could call that report a requirement. The respective approach/center controller is required to verify your altitude anyway to make sure it is what they are seeing on their screens, just like the Tower controller is required to make sure you are squawking the right code before they switch you. As you continue your climb, and as annoying as it can be, the verification requests could continue on every new frequency, and certainly with each new facility. While your initial departure and the climb is where you will report leaving an altitude the most, what about when youre at cruise or even up in the flight levels?

Sorting Out ADS-B

You already have a transponder that transmits a dumb and blind signal in response to interrogation from other sources. Well, its not entirely dumb in that you can enter a four-digit base-eight (no 8s or 9s) code on the instrument and when the transponder responds to an interrogation, it puts that code and even your present altitude (to the nearest 100 feet) onto its outgoing signal. ADS-B Out keeps that but takes it a bit further.

Readback: January 2019

Another good rule of thumb is Buys Bullots law: To locate where the bad weather is coming from, put your back to the wind and extend your left arm straight out. Thats where the low pressure bad WX is coming from. It works for me.

Stupid Pilot Tricks: 2019

Yep, its time to make fun of those who in 2015 ignored sound judgment and lived to garner pilot lounge derision. And, since pilots tend to repeat the same mistakes in hopes of different results, we heed George Orwell who said, We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men. Since no intelligent man or woman stepped forward, its up to me.

The Day the Music Died

Unless youre under age 30 or live in a remote village in Mongolia, youve likely heard the 1971 Don McLean song American Pie, in which the events on the night of February 2-3, 1959 are recalled. That night, three of Americas top rock musicians died in a tragic aviation accident in Iowa. The accident is ingrained in American culture. I cant think of a better example of an accident worth researching for lessons to learn.