TRAINING & SIMS

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.

On The Air: October 2019

The ride over was smooth and generally clear on a recent flight, but there were intermittent clouds and bumps at 7000:Piper 28D: Allentown Approach, Piper Two Eight Delta, request.Allentown Approach: Go ahead.Piper 28D: We are about to enter a cloud layer at 7000. Is 5000 available? Ive got my 90-year-old dad with me and Id like him to have a smooth ride.Approach: Both of you can godown to 5000.

Briefing: October 2019

The Air Force and tech company DZYNE have created an ungainly-looking device that can take off, fly and land an airplane like a human pilot and without tearing the aircraft apart. The Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) Center for Rapid Innovation flew a Cessna 206 with the ROBOpilot at the controls for two hours on Aug. 9 and said the idea is to make the machine interchangeable with human pilots. Imagine being able to rapidly and affordably convert a general aviation aircraft, like a Cessna or Piper, into an unmanned aerial vehicle, having it fly a mission autonomously, and then returning it back to its original manned configuration, said Dr. Alok Das, senior scientist with the Center for Rapid Innovation, in a statement. A video with the news release shows the robotic pilot making corrections to keep the centerline during takeoff and a bounced, but ultimately safe landing.

Readback: October 2019

First, we checked with Garmin and their equipment actually decodes the Morse code identifier rather than rely on GPS and the tuned frequency to look it up in the boxs database. So far, so good. We next checked with Mark Kolber, our regs guru, and he pointed us to AIM 1-1-3.c. That paragraph talks about navaid identification in general, pointing out that merely hearing Morse code isnt enough because it could be transmitting TEST. Likewise, live voice transmissions from FSS or ATC dont indicate a valid navigation signal. The prize, though, is in the paragraphs last sentence, If your equipment automatically decodes the identifier, it is not necessary to listen to the audio identification. So, Rick, youre right. If the box decodes and displays the Morse code identifier, you can rely on that.

When Things Go Wrong

It should be obvious that we never say the words, Declare, Emergency, Mayday, or Pan-Pan unless we indeed have a dire situation. These words have the potential to flip a controllers airspace upside down faster than a Vmc roll, so they should be used with discretion. Even saying Declare by itself could lead us to believe that assistance is needed, as well as Pan-Pan (Urgent condition). Because Pan-Pan is considered an urgent condition (maybe not a full-blown emergency), it has the potential to turn into Mayday (Distress) so we mostly treat it as such.

Spotting Traffic

TCAS II is the most comprehensive form of TCAS, but its range depends on what it is asked to do. Overall pulse detection range is 30 NM for Mode S transponders and 14 NM for Mode A/C units. Surveillance must be reliable within 14 NM, but TCAS II will only assess threats within 12 NM as possible RAs. TCAS II guarantees system reliability within at least 4.5 NM. Two TCAS II systems can coordinate RAs to maximize vertical separation, typically 300-700 feet. There is even a reverse RA if one aircraft fails to respond correctly in the latest version 7.1 software.

Good Plan Gone Awry

Time to check Off-Route Obstruction Clearance Altitudes. These start at 3400 to 4000 feet then quickly get up to 6000. The terrain continues to rise towards 8000 feet past Scottsbluff. Uh, were not in Minnesota anymore. OROCAs, as defined by the Instrument Procedures Handbook, are for situational awareness and emergency use. While OROCAs provide standard obstacle clearance margins (1000 feet in non-mountainous areas), you cant count on them. You decide its safest to file for 8000 feet.

The Payoff

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.

Briefing: September 2019

uAvionix is working on a wingtip ADS-B Out device that will work with satellite-based ADS-B systems that will be used in several countries and the U.S. system, which relies on ground stations. The skyBeacon X will pack upward and downward pointing antennas into a compact integrated device that will also replace a wingtip position light. The development project was spurred by contact from Canadian pilots who could be required to install ADS-B Out as early as 2023. Nav Canada, the not-for-profit corporation that supplies air traffic services in Canada, will use the Aireon satellite system for ADS-B surveillance and that requires antennas pointed skyward. Most ADS-B systems now available for GA aircraft are designed for the U.S. terrestrial system and the few that do offer the so-called antenna diversity required in Canada are significantly more expensive. uAvionix hopes to have the system ready for sale in 2021.

Readback: September 2019

Im so glad you tackled the question of whether it is a requirement to report leaving an altitude. I read the regs years ago and have continued to report leaving on every altitude change but I often feel I am alone or perhaps one of a small minority. Ive gone back and reviewed the regs again to see whether I was doing it incorrectly since I wasnt hearing many others doing so and it does take more air time to say, ...leaving flight level 240 descending flight level 200 than 200, when cleared from FL240 to FL200, for example.

A Visual in IMC

Lets consider a situation. We are flying over the Florida Everglades in low IMC. Our alternator just died, which clearly counts as an emergency in IMC. So, we must land. Now! Wind is blowing from the west at 25 knots and we are close to Dade-Collier Transition and Training Airport (KTNT). Although it used to have three approaches to Runway 9-an ILS, an NDB and an RNAV-the only one now available is the RNAV (GPS) RWY 9 approach. With that wind, we certainly will not be landing on Runway 9, even though the runway is 10,500-feet long.

AIM Is Non-Regulatory

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.