Archive for June, 2010

Taxi to……

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Aircraft-Taxiing-02By now “everyone knows” that today (June 30, 2010) is the day a major change goes in to effect regarding taxi clearances. No longer will a “Taxi to Runway 30″ allow for crossing all runways prior to reaching the assigned runway for departure.

While it may not be published in your FAR/AIM for another year or two, this is a significant change to FAR 91.129(i). It is one of the few regs that I know by number.  In 1998 a runway safety committee I chaired recommended to FAA that the rule be changed to reduce the number of runway incursions.

Here is a link to our online course for runway safety and some additional changes to the phraseology relative to the rule.

Here’s what I like about the new approach: The red and white runway holding position  signs should be treated like stop signs.  Cross only when two conditions are met:

1) That you’ve received clearance to cross that specific runway.

2) That the runway is actually clear and safe to cross regardless of the clearance.

This seems so simple and yet pilots (especially GA pilots) continually have difficulty that results in more than our share of incursions. In a few words, distraction and complacency are often why. It’s something we can all work on.

Send me your thoughts below, and/or use the new web poll feature at right.

Living with Thunder

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Thunderstorms_ATC_Splash2-2We’ve been told, ad nauseum, about the dangers of thunderstorms. Most pilots heed the advice but, on average, there are about 5 accidents a year involving the big sparking clouds. Most, but not all, involve aircraft on IFR flight plans. Staying clear is essential and how do you make the decision to fly?

ASF has a new Thunderstorms and ATC course that launched last week and it’s recommended for all including VFR pilots. We don’t spend a lot of time on “This is a thunderstorm and there are three stages” but rather discuss the hows and whats of dealing with air traffic control. There are two accident case studies, one involving a data-linked aircraft.

My most recent thunderstorm experience involved a 40 minute trip in a Bonanza in the Baltimore area. There were some widely scattered boomers and the destination airport was just in the corner of a convective Sigmet  box. I’d looked at the radar in the hotel and it all seemed flyable although there was one big cell SW of the destination that was moving due east.

Since internet was not easily available to  file IFR I spoke to an FSS briefer. The briefer was predictably over-conservative in describing what seemed like a non-issue. As the conversation unfolded and he was describing the big cell that was moving at 25 knots , I mentioned to him that it would be at least an hour before I got to that patch of airspace and a lot could happen  – good or bad – by then.

We parted on friendly terms and the flight turned out to be easy IFR:  well on top of lower clouds at 6,000 and what CBs were around could be easily seen. All the heavy action was South. Here’s what was a bit troubling.  The briefer being very careful to describe what was there perhaps added more caution than was needed under this circumstance.

When I said that weather was South,  he responded that new cells might develop. When I asked about an end run around to the north that was also greeted with caution.  The problem with dealing with pessimists is that after awhile we tend to stop listening. If you understand weather – that’s fine. The trouble is that way too many pilots have only a cursory knowledge and that gets them into difficulty after many successful flights of hearing doom and gloom that doesn’t materialize.

I don’t have an easy answer for this because the government often gets sued whenever unforecast unpleasantness occurs. The converse is never true. That is, nobody gets in trouble on a forecast for nasty things that don’t happen. As we’ve said many time – ya gotta know the territory (understand weather) or be prepared to really divert when deciding it’s OK to take a look.

What I’d really like is truth in forecasting and pilots who understood what PIC really means (it’s not somebody else’s fault).

Note: there will be a live webinar on June 30. You can join us by registering online.

Learn to Fly with Glass?

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

blogAs we look at how to address the declining pilot population this note came through from a flight school owner.

“I have been exploring different options for modernization of my flight school fleet and I keep running into the same difficult question. Should I embrace the new simplified technology available by installing Aspen screens or a G500 into my primary fleet or should I only modernize the Nav/Com/GPS systems and maintain a six pack panel for teaching the core concepts before introducing the simplified way to interact with that information. Which serves the student better? Which do the students want when they are searching for schools?”

My unscientific observation is that cost is a big driver and newer aircraft with full glass tend to run 30% higher than a less glossy machine. However, “light glass” retrofits may offer less complexity and cost. I’ve also opined that new pilots need to learn the basics of flying with a bit less button pushing. That can certainly come later but let’s fly first and then develop the system management mentality as needed.

As we’re formulating direction, we’d like your thoughts.