Everyone seems to be on the constant descent final approach (CDFA) bandwagon these days, telling us to avoid the trusted and long-used dive-n-drive technique on non-precision approaches. To be clear, I am not arguing against using a CDFA technique. Indeed, CDFA is a valuable tool. Add the availability of an advisory glideslope from modern navigators-although not required for a CDFA-and CDFA becomes as simple as an ILS. So, why use dive-n-drive at all? Im glad you asked.
Structural failure accidents, often from getting too friendly with thunderstorms, kill both people and what little good press GA is able to garner. In the last decade, 50 accidents-about 10 per cent of all accidents-were due to in-flight structural failure. Worse, even with better weather data in flight, these accidents arent going away.
It had been a fun morning. The heater had broken in the TRACON radar room. It was 20 degrees outside, not much better inside, and the hot chocolate I was drinking was losing its steam-literally. On top of that, busy last-minute holiday traffic had been giving our morning skeleton crew a kick in the teeth.
Three interesting news items came through my e-mail today. The first was the NTSBs findings that, while there were some contributing factors, the pilots of Asiana 214 simply screwed up, particularly in their use of the automation in their aircraft.
The opposite of a dive-n-drive descent on an approach is called a Continuous Descent Final Approach, or CDFA. You might think of an ILS as the ultimate CDFA. More specifically, though, this technique is applied to a non-precision approach. So, well use the synonym, Constant Angle Non-Precision Approach (CANPA) for a CDFA on a non-precision approach. What are they? Should you fly one?
Early July saw a fiery crash of an Asiana B-777. That was followed by Southwests unsuccessful nosewheel landing and a UPS flight hitting the ground. While the NTSB grinds toward its final reports, lessons for us are emerging.