Low Fuel Tactics
In response to your article “What is Minimum Fuel?” (Feb 2010 IFR):
I believe that the single most important thing to do at your first thought that you may be running tight on fuel is to slow down to your max range power setting—which is about 40-percent power in most small planes—and lean to 50-degrees lean of peak EGT. This will allow you to fly the longest distance with the remaining fuel before you drop from the sky. The distance is what is important, not the time.
Declare minimum fuel at 45 minutes and a fuel emergency at 30 minutes remaining. If you are low on fuel, do not put the props forward as part of your landing procedure because it will cause you to burn significantly more fuel and you wouldn’t want to run out of fuel and land a quarter-mile short of the runway. I fly the turbocharged Cessna 340 and I recalculate my fuel to destination every 30 minutes of flight. My limit is to never land with less than 60 minutes of fuel remaining in the tanks.
I have had to divert in IFR earlier then the regs require to keep within my own personal limits.
I have two questions regarding the minimum fuel article:
1. Does telling ATC I need to land “without delay” when dealing with minimum fuel have any accepted meaning (whether or not minimum fuel is stated)?
2. After declaring minimum fuel, what transpires after the pilot has safely landed? That is, does the FAA get involved in any manner?
San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Using unofficial phraseology doesn’t guaranty any special service and just muddies the waters. If you’re low on fuel, say so, so the controller knows exactly what’s going on. There should be no enforcement after the fact—or even any follow-up—so long as you didn’t cause a huge traffic issue for ATC. And, even if you did and there was follow-up, you’d have to have been grossly negligent for it to turn into enforcement.
And even then, enforcement is better than running the tanks dry while you’re still (briefly) in the air.
‘Scuse Me, While I Find the Sky
I enjoyed your recent IFR article “Glass Panel Scans” (Feb 2010 IFR). One dangerous issue it did not mention, though, is the confusing operation of the roll indicator between piston and jet aircraft.
Piston pilots transitioning to light jets such as the Embraer Phenom are surprised that the roll indicator operates exactly opposite to piston aircraft, even for the Garmin 1000. For piston aircraft, the Garmin 1000 has the upward-pointing arrow acting as if it were attached to the top of the vertical stabilizer; it moves as the aircraft moves. The Phenom display, on the other hand, uses the upward pointing arrow as a “sky pointer” always pointing to the vertical.
This is more than confusing. In a high-stress situation it would be easy for the transitioning pilot to correct in the wrong direction, steepening the bank rather than leveling the wings.
I’m amazed this difference has somehow developed. It strikes me as very dangerous.
Climbing with One Caged
As a pilot of transport category aircraft, I was surprised at the cavalier attitude Lee Smith had towards single-engine operations in his article “Half-Dead Climbs in IMC” (Dec 2009 IFR).
Mr. Smith writes two pages on how professionals are “expected to go” and writes that the safest solution (taking less weight to make a proper climb gradient) is often unacceptable. In the article, Mr. Smith writes about the 3.3-percent gradient and purports to “mitigate” risk by checking sectional charts and using GPS to look for prominent obstacles should he be unable to climb at a rate of 200 feet per mile. Unfortunately, he makes no mention of the 2.5-percent Obstacle Identification Surface (OIS) or the requirement to climb to 400 feet before turning on a diverse departure. Any obstacle that doesn’t penetrate the OIS—say some trees around the airport—will not be mentioned and could be unknown hazards to anyone who attempts to operate below the minimum required gradient.
I understand there are the regulations and then there are the realities of commercial aviation and the pressures GA pilots face when the weather is not cooperating. Like Mr. Smith, I too am a professional, but I would never tell anyone to be below minimums, in IMC conditions, relying on a VFR chart to avoid obstacles, all while trying to fly a single-engine profile. Encouraging pilots to accept this risk is irresponsible.
The chance you’ll go single-engine at the moment you rotate into IFR conditions is indeed slim, but I can think of few other times when the consequences of poor decision-making could be so dire.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
We think your final point is partly what Lee was getting at. The chances are so slim that the risk/benefit equation allows one to say it’s OK to launch. But he points out that the risk is not zero, so, just in case it’s your really unlucky day, you can think about ways to survive what would probably—without some thought—be fatal.
No Navaid Available
I fly out of Columbus, Ohio, where the ILS Runway 28L uses the Appleton VOR for direction and hold instructions on the missed approach.
Yesterday, the VOR was NOTAM’d out. What procedure is to be followed if this occurs?
I didn’t need to go missed, but it got me thinking.
When a navaid is out of service, ATC will (should) issue alternate missed-approach instructions. If visual conditions prevail they might not, but you should probably still query them to be sure you know what to do on the missed in case you can’t check back in right away.
As an aside, you can ask for alternate missed-approach instructions anytime you can’t identify the navaid for the missed (such as not having that equipment on board). But it’s at ATC’s discretion to issue the alternate missed in this case.
I’m a subscriber to IFR and reading your Remarks column in the December 2009 issue got my attention. Specifically, your comments concerning the Vectors-to-Final (VTF) and losing a waypoint at which ATC may still give an altitude-crossing restriction.
That happened to me on an ILS approach into Palomar-Carlsbad, Calif., a couple of weeks ago. The waypoint ESCON disappeared when I activated VTF, but Approach gave me a 3000-foot crossing restriction at ESCON.
I’m planning another flight to Palomar next week and would like to fully understand the work-around for that.
Could you point me to an amplified discussion on this?
Sure. We can even show you, as well as demonstrate some other cool GNS 430 tricks. Follow the link to the video.
Old IFR Articles
I have been a subscriber since December 2002 and have saved almost all of my back issues. I absolutely love your magazine.
Is there a good way to search all of your past articles by subject, title, or author? Do you publish some sort of index?
I am close to my MEI and CFII certificates, and want to be able to reference your magazine for instruction. But I have so many of them that looking for any particular subject seems like a daunting task.
Thanks for your help.
The December issue each year has an editorial index with the year’s articles by topic and author. You can order any back issues you might be missing from the reader service card, usually on page 23.
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