Archive for 2012

Trolling for TFRs

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

‘Tis the final run for the political silly season, and what’s that got to do with aviation? Plenty.

The omnipresent VIP Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) abounds. The average for this campaign season has been 15 to 20 per week. Let’s take one thing off the table—the need for VIP TFRs. Unfortunately, asymmetrical warfare is prevalent. GA remains a perceived threat, although the probability is highly unlikely. This discussion is best had over adult beverages, but for the foreseeable future, we’re probably stuck with it.

However, in this day of instant notification via multiple means, why the FAA’s disclaimer on the TFR website, to wit: Depicted TFR data may not be a complete listing. Pilots should not use the information on this website for flight planning purposes. For the latest information, call your local Flight Service Station at 1-800-WX-BRIEF?

There are multiple government agencies involved, including the FAA, TSA, the Secret Service, and DoD, which compounds coordination. Is it too much to ask that key dissemination vehicles of critical information, and that includes websites and uplinked data, be timely and accurate? DUAT, DUATS, and most of the commercial sites should have current data that show that the pilot has made a good faith effort to stay informed. Naturally, a tail number log-in is needed for verification, but that’s a small concession.

Way too many needless intercepts and the associated hassles have been made because of the need to contact FSS. They are glad for the business, but that’s not the point. This is almost like posting a pseudo speed limit sign on the highway and saying that it may be correct, but you have to pull over and call the Speed Limit Control Desk (SLCD) to verify.

An additional point is that many businesses lose lots of revenue since the following operations are excluded in parts of the TFR: flight training, practice instrument approaches, aerobatic flight, glider operations, seaplane operations, parachute operations, ultralight, hang gliding, balloon operations, agriculture/crop dusting, animal population control flight operations, banner towing operations, sightseeing operations, maintenance test flights, radio controlled model aircraft operations, model rocketry, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and utility and pipeline survey operations.

Should the government have some formula for compensating them for lost revenue? In the interim, you might consider AOPA’s Pilot Protection Plan—just in case.

Lastly, a big thank you to Robert Goyer of Flying Magazine who said, “We’re all in this together. Let’s do our best to join our voices so that the non-flying world hears one voice, big, loud, and clear.” One way you can add your voice is by donating to the AOPA Foundation as we fight to preserve our freedom to fly. Donate today at



50 Ways to leave your Lover

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

But there are only six, two, or one out of this aircraft—depending on whether you are on a Southwest Airlines 737, a Cessna 182, or a Piper Cherokee. Everyone knows to brief passengers on a GA flight. It’s required by FAR 91.519 and requires, among other things, explanation regarding smoking, belts and shoulder harnesses, aforementioned doors and exits, survival gear, ditching procedures (if applicable), and oxygen equipment.

Many of us give this perfunctory attention, but maybe there’s good reason not to be so hasty. The fatal accident involving Senator Ted Stevens in Alaska likely resulted in additional loss of life because of several factors. The epirb beacon was apparently not well mounted, came loose, and became inoperable. Antennae are also sometimes broken in crashes leaving the equipment mute. Personal locator beacons (PLBs) or similar tracking devices are actually very good backups. The real kicker was that there was a fully functional satellite phone aboard that would have brought help much sooner had the passengers known where to look and how to operate it.

After the Stevens accident, the NTSB specifically asked the Air Safety Institute if we would raise awareness of after-crash actions and before departure briefings. With support from Jacie Ann Crowell, a major donor and a member of The Ninety Nines, that presentation and associated briefing card are now ready. This is essential viewing, and like the airline safety briefings that we’ve all ignored, don’t!

As an additional reminder, as we come into the cold weather, throw a good overcoat, some boots, and a hat into the aircraft, and perhaps a space blanket. It would be a pity to make the best forced landing of your life and not be able to tell the story because you succumbed to hypothermia!

A final thought—flying VFR, don’t forget the flight plan. It’s not something everyone does, and with good preparation and a little luck, you’ll never need it—sort of like life insurance!


Air Force One Misses an Approach

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Remember when the New York Times’ slogan was, “All the news that’s fit to print?”

Today’s media has changed that to, “All the news that fits, we print…or something.”

CNN and a number of other outlets breathlessly announced last week, “Air Force One, flying President Barack Obama to a campaign event, aborted an initial landing attempt in Ohio on Wednesday due to weather conditions. The jumbo jet experienced turbulence on approach to Toledo and was within sight of the runway when the pilot pulled the plane up and circled the airport, according to reporters on board….”

At this point the weather did not appear to be particularly bad, but there are few details.

After the very routine missed approach (or at least routine to any pilot with more than a few IFR hours), the world’s largest GA aircraft landed safely (well, OK—it’s technically paid for by the taxpayers but functions exactly as any GA aircraft: one gets to go direct, with passengers of your choosing, and largely without TSA interference), the campaign stop was saved, and the world is better informed. So as not to be partisan, it was also reported that Ann Romney’s charter flight suffered an electrical problem, and her aircraft had to stop in Denver. There are worse places, and I’ve personally had an unplanned maintenance stop in several of them.

Wonder what the reaction would be if a similar amount of attention were paid to automotive miscues:

“The Mom-van with three kids aboard missed the exit to Flabob Avenue but ultimately arrived safely. The children were slightly late for soccer and tee-ball, but the teams ultimately prevailed, despite substitute referees.”

“George K. Slackjaw narrowly escaped doom while changing a flat tire on East Street undeterred by heavy traffic and the occasional distraction from muggers. With deft wielding of a tire iron, George was able to continue safely to his destination.”

Ad nauseum.

By now you’ve figured out that bad news sells, and success in informing the community is, at least for some outlets, secondary to business success. Then there’s the sheer volume of dead air or electrons that have to be filled which leads to all sorts of mischief and filler.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised that people and media still find aviation remarkable, except the airline experience, which is somewhat less so. Less than one-third of one percent of the eligible population is certificated to fly, and you know how folks react when we casually let it drop that we fly ourselves.

I’ve already had some fun with neighbors explaining that missed approaches and occasional mechanical malfunctions are not usually life threatening and are about on par with missing an exit or changing a tire. Now, where did I put that tire iron?