Posts Tagged ‘Tom Horne’

Holding in lieu of Procedure Turn?

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

My “On Final, On the Gauges” article in the August AOPA Pilot discussed IFR final approach procedures, and it apparently hit a nerve in the “holding in lieu of” department. My read of the AIM, as set out in AIM 5-4-9, is that you don’t need to make that trip around the holding pattern–even if it’s published in bold on the approach plate–as long as: No PT is on the chart, when you’re getting radar vectors to the final approach course, when you’re doing a timed approach from a holding fix. Anyone ever done a timed approach? Not me.

Member George Shanks wrote me to emphasize that most RNAV (GPS) approaches with the “T”-style entry paths to the FAF are also exempt from holding. “If the approach is in the “T” or inverted “L” format and fly-by waypoints are in use … it would not be necessary to use the course reversal pattern.”

Jose Riera has a good question: “If a holding pattern is depicted at the FAF, you are required to make one turn around before resuming your course inbound to the runway. Can you tell me why this is?”

Personally, I don’t know. Maybe it has to do with steering clear of obstacles or terrain. All I know is that most times you’ll be on vectors from ATC, and a hold-in-lieu-of PT would be unlikely. Which is good, because let’s face it, most of us just don’t want to hold …..

Anybody else with views on holding at the FAF?

Last chance for Tempelhof

Monday, July 28th, 2008

AOPA-Germany’s managing director, Michael Erb, wrote me the other day asking for help in saving Berlin, Germany’s Tempelhof Airport. It may be the last chance to keep the historic airport open. A referendum to keep the airport open failed to get enough votes earlier this year. And Klaus Wowereit (pronounced Vo-ver-ite), Berlin’s mayor, who has always wanted to close Tempelhof, now seems to be on track to getting his way. He’s the Richard Daley of Berlin.

Erb sent me a link that you can use to send in your vote to preserve the airport as a UNESCO world heritage site. Here it is:

Fill it out and send it in. It’s the most we can do at this point.

How ironic that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama used the Berlin Airlift so often in his recent speech in Berlin. Without once referring to the airport that made it possible. Anyway, here’s a way to make your voice heard on the matter.

Around the World–Job Done!

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Well, Air Journey LLC’s escorted around-the-world trip is now fully logged by all 8 of its pilot-participants. As you may recall from my earlier blogs, this saga began back in May at Quebec City, then crossed the Atlantic to Inverness, Scotland and Paris. On July 22, the trip officially finished the home stretch as the airplanes cleared customs in Alaska and then re-entered the good old continental United States. The trip itinerary included stops in Malta, Egypt, Dubai, Oman, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea, and Russia. Air Journey president Thierry Pouille declared the trip a success, but admitted that the pilots and passengers were a bit bushed after the two-month-long circumnavigation. Journey director J-P Arnaud took 10 days off to decompress from all those briefings, permits, and reservations he had to manage.

The airplanes on the trip included a PC-12, a TBM 700, a Cessna Mustang, a Royal Beech Duke (a turboprop conversion), and a Cessna Conquest II.

There were only two reroutings due to unanticipated events, Pouille said. The biggest road block came when the group tried to enter the People’s Republic of China. PRC officials denied the group entry, a setback I discussed in a previous blog, so the group forged ahead to Taiwan and South Korea.

As for mechanical problems, there were a few. The Duke needed new vacuum pumps and the PC-12’s AHRS units momentarily lost its bearings in a zone of magnetic anomalies called the “South East Asian Anomaly,” for example. Then its flaps malfunctioned. The biggest mechanical was with the Conquest II. Its landing gear wouldn’t extend, so repairs were made–twice–in Bangkok. Bad idea. The crew had to extend the gear using the nitrogen blow-down bottle three times, and even flew one leg with gear down until additional repairs were made in Hong Kong.

But all’s well that ends well. Want to go on Air journey’s 2009 RTW trip? It’s $68,750 per person, and leaves May 13, 2009 from Bar Harbor, Maine. The stops will be the same as this year’s trip, with the exception that the PRC is crossed off the list. Bali will take its place. For more information, go to the Web site and see blogs of the 2008 trip. With any luck, I’ll be along on a few of the 2009 trip’s legs. Air Journey will also be at EAA AirVenture–in Hangar D, at booth 4095–so you can sign up there and meet the Air Journey staff.

Sneak Peek: WSI’s new, interactive Pilotbrief Pro Online

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

WSI has just come out with a new version of its “Pro” online services. It will be in beta test mode for 5 to 6 months. I’ve been scoping it out for the past few days. The main feature is its interactive weather graphics map, which lets you display various layers of information. You mouse-over various items–Sigmets, Airmets, watch boxes, airport symbols, etc–and up pops the text information that elaborates on the hazards. Menus let you select which products you want to view, as well as customize the radar display to show infrared, satellite/radar, or WSI’s “pseudo radar.” Pseudo radar imagery is derived from proprietary computer models.

You can zoom in and out of the interactive map–or IMap as WSi calls it–and by panning you can even access the rest of the world’s weather. Another feature I liked was the ability to call up preferred IFR routes. You just type in the identifier for the departure and destination airports, and the latest route clearances are listed. Click on one, and the route is depicted on the IMap. This makes it easy to visualize the weather along the route. WSI’s Flight Plan Guidance (FPG) is also available. This projects the movement of sigmets and airmets up to 12 hours in advance.

There’s even going to be a daily video briefing that gives the weather overview for the entire continental United States. Those who liked the old “Aviation Weather” shows on PBS should like this. Right now, the video consists of an ad for WSI–no video briefings until August.

Text weather and flight plan filing is also accessible by clicking on icons at the top of the page.

Best of all: Pilotbrief Online Pro with interactive IMap will be offered to AOPA members for $39.95 per month (that’s a $40 discount). For more information contact WSi at: [email protected] or dial 1-800-USA-2FLY (872-2359).

China’s Closed-Door Policy

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

A while ago I blogged about Air Journey’s around-the-world trip. I came back after flying as far as Paris, but the group moved on–until now. Seems that China (the communist one) won’t let the goup in.

This, after weeks painstaking preparatory work by Air Journey’s staff: Overflight permits, visas, entry permits, and much more, had been secured. Nevertheless, the group was stuck in Hong Kong, so the decision was made to fly the airlines to Beijing.

Guess what! When the group went to get their tickets they were denied access again! The reasoning was that since they had crew visas, and were not flying their own airplanes, they couldn’t board an airliner without violating some sort of additional, obscure bureaucratic rule. Catch-22!

Last I heard, the new plan was to hang out in Hong Kong for a few days, then fly to Taiwan for gas. From there, it would be on to South Korea–bypassing Chicom-land altogether.

Skew-Ts?! Oh No!

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

In AOPA Pilot’s July issue, my Wx Watch column topic touched on Skew-T Log-P charts. These, friends, are the meteorological equivalents of our NDB approaches! They frustrate meteorologists and pilots alike. I’ve heard graybeard meteorologists get tangled up trying to explain the MANY aspects of information that can be deciphered on Skew-Ts. And briefers? Fugeddaboutit…. a typical briefer contemplating a Skew-T would be like a frog looking at a watch.

In the column I went through brief discusssions of stability, instability, and temperature-dew point spread aloft as signs of cloudiness. I was nervous as the article went to press. Would anyone think the topic too egg-headed?

Much to my surprise I got several e-mails asking for more info, wanting clarification, and wondering how hypothetical situations might appear on a Skew-T. Getting this kind of feedback was great…and it proves that many AOPA members do indeed have a curiosity about the weather that surpasses the usual in the pilot community.

Jet-A and Sales

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

The buzz on the turbine airplane static display sites is all about fuel prices. Are skyrocketing fuel prices affecting sales? You bet, says a Socata official standing by a TBM 850. “This burns 60 gph in cruise,” he said. “We’ve heard about a lot of Cessna Mustang buyers selling their delivery positions. We don’t have that problem … yes, the customer for a $3 million airplane isn’t as affected by fuel price escalations, but that may be changing. We’re seeing more prospects coming from light jets that burn 110 or more gallons per hour.”

At the Eclipse static display, representatives were also singing their product’s praises. “The Eclipse burns a lot less fuel than a Citation II, for example. A lot of people seriously interested in the Eclipse are downsizing. They’re retired, maybe have second homes, and don’t have to carry their kids and a lot of baggage around. So they don’t want a bigger cabin. They figure, ‘why should I pay for the hefty fuel burn when I fly a big, empty airplane around?’

Speaking of fuel issues, another one is beginning to crop up as the temperatures now reach the mid-nineties. Fuel is expanding in the tanks, causing fuel vents to drip raw gas on the ramp. Ah, summer in the mid-Atlantic.

The Tower’s-eye View

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

“Aircraft leaving Runway 30, turn left on taxiway Delta, and follow the marshallers to parking.”

That’s perhaps the most common type of radio call I made during the the AOPA Fly-In. My duty was to serve in the ground control tower cab from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. This cab has some history to it. During World War II, when the Frederick airport was a military training field, the cab really was a control tower. Now it sits atop a squat building that houses the airport restaurant–the Airway Cafe.

I showed up a 7 sharp, and it was low IFR–200 feet vertical visibility, and the AWOS was broadcasting visibilities of 1/4 mile in fog. So my equipment–a VHF air band transceiver (for talking to arrivals), a Nextel phone (for calling the temporary FAA control tower across the field), and a portable transceiver (for talking to other AOPA staffers)–was pretty silent. There were two missed approaches, however. By 8:30 a.m. the fog burned off, and it was show time!

You get a real insight into the world of air traffic control doing this job. Incoming pilots call me up after leaving the runway, then I give them directions. Twins park at the ends of the hangars, Mooneys park in front of the Frederick Flight Center ramp, all turbine aircraft park on the Landmark ramp, and the rest park on the grass. Even though it’s fairly tame up in the cab, there’s no denying a touch of nervousness when each airplane calls you up. Working with me was Toni Mensching and John Collins from AOPA’s member services division.

I only screwed up once, and I think I got away with it without there being a federal case. I sent a display airplane–a Diamond TwinStar–to a visitor parking area. Realizing my mistake, I had him do a 180, and he followed a golf cart to his site.

Some times it got confusing. Marshallers also have transceivers, so sometimes they jump on ground control duty too. Other times incoming airplanes simply wouldn’t call up at all! Which is OK, as long as they spot the marshallers and follow directions to parking. You see a lot of pilots not wanting to taxi on the grass, but they shouldn’t worry. AOPA has checked out the grass areas and the surfaces are pretty bump-free. Low-slung airplanes–like Mooneys–get their own, well-rolled and maintained grass parking so they don’t have to fret about prop strikes.

In all, I worked about 20 airplanes. By the end of my tour temperatures were heading for the 90s, and more and more airplanes were on approaches to runways 30 and 23. Time to leave the relative cool and breezy tower cab and cruise the displays!

A Mustang, in the home stretch

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Bunchrew House was a nice stay, what with its dinner in the great room overlooking the Firth, and cozy ambiance. But what’s with the towel heater? Never could figure that out. Yesterday we took a gander at Loch Ness, then went to Cawdor Castle–supposedly the geographic locale in mind when Shakespeare wrote Macbeth. Only banged my head on the door sill once!

Back at Bunchrew, it was time to sit around the coal-fed fireplace and shoot the bull about things aviation. In all, a great stay–just like all the others. And it was the third place the group stayed that wasn’t on the original itinerary; weather and a strike by airport workers at Bergen, Norway kept us from our planned stays. Many thanks are owed to Sophie Pouille–the wife of Air Journey owner Thierry Pouille. She made all the hotel and other changes, sometimes in as little as three hours! And all from Jupiter, Florida.

I’ve gotten quite good at washing in the sink. Who knew that a mini-bar of Heather Vegetable soap could do such a good job on a shirt and some other things? And hey, that towel-heater doubles as a clothes dryer!

Today was my day to accompany Tracy Forrest and and John Hayes in Forrest’s Cessna Mustang for the 580-nm trip to Paris. It took us a mere two hours to make the trip. We cruised at FL410 while burning just 71 gph (both engines). At times our groundspeed reached 335 knots. The G1000’s VNAV functions were put to good use: Forrest loaded the entire route and its vertical profile–while still on the ramp waiting for takeoff from Inverness!

At about FL380, the air temperatures started moving to the ISA +2- to 3-degree Celsius level. For such a small rise in temperature, there was a big effect on climb rate. In the mid-30’s, where temperatures were just below ISA, the Mustang was climbing at a healthy 1,000 fpm at an indicated airspeed of 160-170 knots. But at FL380, climb rate sank to 400 fpm, and to keep that we had to fly at 140 KIAS. Even so, we made it to FL410 in 27 minutes. Not bad at all. This is how one becomes spoiled.

We landed at the Pontoise, France, airport (LFPT) and Thierry was there to greet us. But first, it was time for lunch at the Pontoise Flying Club’s restaurant (this is France, after all). I had the duck confit and a boilermaker–just kidding!! Yes, there was wine, and when in Rome…. besides, for Hayes and me this would be our last leg with the group, so it was a celebration of sorts. 

The Pontoise club has 450 members, by the way. A whole flock of Cessnas were parked near the club restaurant, and on weekends I’m told that the place is a popular destination for pilots and non-pilots alike. There are even swing sets for kids. After taking a look at some of the planes based here, we took cabs to Paris.

Right now, I’m in the Hotel Plaza Athenee in downtown Paris. Like I said, this Air Journey trip is first-class all the way. (It should be, at some $55,000 per head for the “Around The World Trip” participants). I have a doorbell and a suite of three rooms, and pretty soon I’m going to jump on the Metro and go down to St. Germain des Pres.

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So it’s no more North Atlantic blogging for me… I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. And please don’t be jealous, I’ll be back tomorrow at my more mundane duties. This means changing planes at London Heathrow–one of the worst fates that can happen to a traveler. There’s a new terminal there (terminal 5). They spent millions and millions on this thing, and still you have to wait to go through security (again! The concept of a secure side for connecting passengers apparently evades the British mind), then hike like a maniac to change airlines. If you don’t have two or more hours between flights, you won’t make your connection.

But while my work here is finished, Air Journey moves on. The group goes to Gibraltar in a few days, then Marrakech, Morocco, then …. well, check their website for details and blogs from the participants. The trip doesn’t end until July 20, when the pilots and their passengers finish up by going to EAA’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

And the RTW trip isn’t the only iron in Air Journey’s fire. There’s another group in Gautemala now, another trans-Atlantic trip in June, and a trip to Alaska as well. That’s a lot of work for the company’s three employees! Next time you feel like some adventure with a minimum of flying and travelling risks, check out Air Journey–even if you use them solely for lodging arrangements. They know general aviation, and they know their way around the world.


Bye-Bye BIRK, Hello Scottish Highlands

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Yesterday was our day to be tourists in Iceland. I hesitate to advertise this great island’s many attributes, out of fear that more tourists will come and inevitably ruin the place. But this is the spot to see some great geologic sights, and Iceland is most certainly a unique blend of the cosmopolitan and the very rural. The main outing of the day was a tour of the Thingvellir, and a visit to some geysers. The Thingvellir is considered the convocation site of the first parliament–way back around 1000 A.D. It’s a long cliff of volcanic rock accretions, stacked in huge broken blocks. The idea, our guide said, was that the rock wall served to amplify the voices of the speakers (“it was the first public address system,” the guide joked). As for the geysers, they were very willing to spout steam and spray at about three minute intervals. As I took pictures and video, one of them got me good. I was IFR in a sulfurous steam bath. Not too hot, though.

Downtown Reykjavik is a mixture of small-town scale with big-city attractions. Seems like everything is within a few blocks . Like bars, restaurants (excellent seafood), and shopping? You’ll love Reykjavik. But don’t tell anybody. I don’t want to show up here some day and find a boatload of 4,000 camera-toting, loudmouthed tourists screwing it up.

Late in the day, Jean-Pierre made an announcement: ATC has gone on strike in Norway! And here I thought France was the only nation that scheduled its strikes for tourist season. So Air Journey headquarters in Jupiter, Florida came up with a plan B in a matter of three hours–we were going to Inverness, Scotland, instead.

Early today, after going through the rigamarole of filing the flight plans, engines were started and the first callups made. Guess what? ATC had no record of the flight plans! So it was shut down, go back in to refile, then finally launch on a newly-concocted clearance. Our route was as follows: BIRK ING (the Ingo, Iceland  VOR) RATSU intersection (at 60N 10W) STN (the Stornoway, Scotland VOR), then  direct to the Inverness airport. We made the trip in 2 hours 30 minutes, helped by a strong tailwind component announced by a short bout with moderate turbulence.

The weather was good VFR all the way along the 670-nm route from BIRK to EGPE (Inverness). What an oddity! I flew with Butch and Diane Stevens in their 1992 TBM 700A, which Butch claims cruises at 318 knots true at FL270. That’s faster than your average TBM 700, a fact that Butch attributes to his removing the wing-mounted radar pod–and the installation of a beefier compressor wheel. 

During the flight, I noticed that Butch and Diane had stashed their clothing in a bunch of clear-plastic Rubbermaind/Tupperware containers. There was a lot. Each bin was labelled: short-sleeve shirts, long-sleeve shirts, pants, dress clothes, and underwear. Another airplane on the trip has pallets–really!–of water, clothes, food, and who knows what else. Me, I have a single roll-aboard, a laptop, and a camera bag. Last night I ran out of clean clothes. Washed me dirties in the tub.

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All landed uneventfully, and then each airplane’s owner payed a $140 landing charge, a $41 parking charge, and a $228 ground handling charge (the purpose of which–apart from pure profit–no one can explain). Sound high? BIRK’s fees were approximately double that.

Then we were driven to the Bunchrew House Hotel and Restaurant in Inverness. What a fantastic place! It’s on the shores of the Beauly Firth, and looks like some viscount’s mansion. Next, we’ll go looking for the Loch Ness Monster and attend a whisky tasting. This involves checking out some 117 different single-malt Scotches. I’ll drink to keeping the U.S. user-fee free!