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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.

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.

WEATHER ACCIDENTS #10

This is our tenth weather-accident article in a series we started in 2015. Our intent is to examine some of the ways that seasoned pilots manage to get into deadly predicaments. Safety procedures are well-covered in training materials, your aircraft manual, and FAA publications, so we prefer to teach the aviation meteorology of these situations. Our goal is to give you a rich background to help you to make good decisions when things go wrong.

Readback: November 2019

With that article, we thought wed put this whole discussion and its confusion behind us. However, as soon as the magazine hit your mailboxes, we started getting a related question: What if the BasicMed safety pilot is a CFI?We discussed this with our regs guru, Mark Kolber, and tossed this back and forth a bit to come up with our best answer. Lets take it one point at a time. The FAA treats CFIs as private pilots, not engaged in a commercial endeavor. Thus, no second-class medical is required. A CFI can even teach without a medical under 61.23(b)(5) if the CFI isnt required to be PIC (such as giving a BFR to a current pilot). However, the CFI without a medical cannot be PIC and cannot be a required crewmember. A CFI can be PIC under BasicMed per 61.113(i). So, a CFI with BasicMed can give primary instruction where the student cant fly alone, and the CFI can give instrument instruction in actual conditions if the trainee isnt instrument rated or isnt instrument current. So far so good. If a trainee is instrument rated and current, a CFI can provide instrument instruction in actual conditions under BasicMed. However, the underlying question that weve focused on is if a pilot (or CFI) with only BasicMed can be a safety pilot for the pilot flying wearing a hood under VFR. The answer is the same for the CFI as it is for the non-CFI since the same 61.113(i) to be PIC under BasicMed is referenced for both as the exception for an FAA Medical. The CFI must be acting as PIC to do so. (There might be some regulatory nuance you could explore, but the path isnt sufficiently clear to safely reach any other conclusion.) Bottom line: For your BasicMed CFI to be your safety pilot s/he cannot be a required crewmember so still must be PIC and your insurance probably wants a say in that. This whole discussion brings up a peripheral point. Any time youre flying with another certificated pilot, regardless of their certification, its best to clarify the roles to remove any ambiguity before takeoff.

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.

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.

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.