Archive for May, 2008

Crossed wind entries?

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Since we’ve had quite a discussion on comm procedures at non-towered airports let me once again, step between the dog and the fire hydrant. What’s your view on entering on the traffic pattern on crosswind leg at pattern altitude, either mid field or at the departure end ( opposite of where the T.O. roll started)?

There’s a lot of history behind this question which we can engage later and there are certainly pros and cons. My understanding is that in Canada, it is mandatory to enter on crosswind. In the U.S. the AIM does not address how one is supposed to get to the proper side of the pattern if approaching from the opposite side of downwind but assume it is to cross above pattern altitude and descend on the far side to enter into the 45.

I’ve seen it work very well both ways depending on conditions and would like a sense of the audience based on your experiences.

Notam: With AOPA Fly In coming next week and International AOPA conference the following week and out of the country, I will likely be off frequency until late June.

Too Much Taxi Talk

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Last week we discussed the overcrowding on Common Traffic Advisory Frequencies ( CTAF) especially at non-towered airports. There were some strong opinions on chatter clutter regarding certain ground calls.

Taxi-out, and clear-of-the-runway calls in day VFR conditions are overkill in my view. The FAA implemented these as runway safety took center stage some years back. Presumably solving one problem often creates others – such as frequency congestion. The statistics and the operational realities at most small GA airports do NOT support these AIM recommendations in my view. Paragraph 4-1-9 and Table 4-1-1 in AIM have the recommended radio calls. I was unable to find a recommendation for a taxi-across-the-runway call so someone is being creative.

If conditions are such that pilots can SEE, there is no need for the above calls. On the runway or on approach, you and I should be scanning for conflicts, just like intersections when driving. It is a high-risk, high-alert time but yakking on taxi activities in high density is distracting from the greater need to avoid aircraft actually departing or airborne in the pattern.

There are three common-sense situations when you should speak up when taxiing. During night and IFR conditions where other pilots cannot easily determine if the runway is clear and in day VFR if the airport layout is such that a runway/taxiway intersection is not visible from the departure end.

Freaking on the Frequency

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

It’s a beautiful day, the weekend is here, and the world’s aloft. Collisions should be top of mind. Besides looking out the window, the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) is one of the best tools we have to listen and broadcast positions when entering, leaving or staying in the pattern.

Unfortunately, the CTAFs at many nontowered airports are a mess. If just two airports share the frequency that’s workable. But when several occupy the spectrum, especially when one on the party line is a busy, the radio loses much of it’s lifesaving potential.

What worked 20 years ago may not work today. If you’re flying at a radio-saturated location, how about working with the authorities to make the frequencies usable? Pilots, corporate operators, flight schools, instructors, and the insurance community all have a vested interest. Perhaps the CTAF operator, FBO, or municipality whines about needing new ground radios since the old ones cannot be converted or about how the local pilots will be confused because Podunk Municipal has always been on 122.8. These concerns pale in comparison to what a maidair collision will do to the airport’s reputation.

If your CTAF is overcrowded, do something about it! AOPA has guidance on how to this at http://www.aopa.org/whatsnew/air_traffic/unicom.html. Be sure to put your concerns in writing/email so that a paper trail is evident. It’s amazing how accountability encourages responsibility in public officials.