Readback: February 2020

I noted an interesting change to the Instrument Rating ACS released back in June last year. It used to be that per the ACS, a circling approach required a heading change of at least 90 degrees from the final approach course to the landing runway. That requirement is now gone, replaced with the requirement to Visually maneuver to a base or downwind leg appropriate for the landing runway and environmental conditions. Also, new language was added saying the pilot must not bank over 30 degrees.

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.

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.

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.

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.)


Last month, we gave you a survey course on what happens behind the scenes of approach procedures (TERPS 101). Thats a prerequisite for this course, since were going to build on what was covered in that article to examine the nuts and bolts of other types of procedures. In case you didnt complete the prerequisite, lets quickly go over what you need to know.