Archive for August, 2013

Should FSS be at AirVenture & SNF?

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

eaalFailure to get a weather briefing is often cited as a contributing factor in fatal accidents. The question is why? Some pilots apparently operate under the theory that if you don’t think you’ll like the answer, don’t ask the question. Operating safely in and around weather makes that strategy suspect. There are many sources where one can get weather these days and if you’re capable of self-briefing, that’s fine. But, and I’ve fussed about this before, the FAA steadfastly refuses to be responsible for graphical TFR info from any source, including their own website, unless it comes directly from the flight service station (FSS). Y’all be careful out there!

An AOPA member and Foundation donor at EAA AirVenture asked what I thought about FSS NOT being available to the masses at the event. In past years the FSS occupied a busy corner of the FAA building, and from early morning until quitting time they were always doing a very good business in explaining the weather and TFRs, if any, assisting with notams, and the all-important filing of flight plans.

But not this year! It also was the case at Sun ‘n Fun. Could this be related to a shortfall in government funds (sequestration) or something else? We’re asking a few questions of our friends at the FAA.

It just seems like a good idea to make in-person weather briefings available to the masses of pilots at OSH during EAA AirVenture. A key factor here is interpretation, as opposed to just reading the forecasts and METARs. To be sure, some briefings are more like readings; adding little value to what is available online. But the ability to have a discussion and collaborate—even though the final decision always rests with the PIC—is helpful to many.

VFR into IMC and convective encounters are two staples of summer flying accidents, and you need to know what’s out there. We lose an average of about three aircraft per month, and with the concentration of aircraft at AirVenture and SNF this seems like a good investment. We could start another discussion relative to air traffic control towers but hold that thought!

Of course, the flip side of the argument as quoted from FAR 61.105, the aeronautical knowledge portion of what every private pilot should have mastered, is that of paragraph (b)(6): “Recognition of critical weather situations from the ground and in flight, wind shear avoidance, and the procurement and use of aeronautical weather reports and forecasts.” How you get those reports and forecasts apparently is your problem at places like OSH.

You can get almost anything from the web, including airmets, sigmets, pireps, METARs, and TAFs, but no reliable graphic TFR data and no opportunity to discuss. If anyone called FSS during the show, we’d like to hear how well that worked—long hold times, etc.

If the FAA is going to cherry-pick services they are going to offer, perhaps it would be good if the users had an opportunity to weigh in as well. What do you think?

Basics Again

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

SW Gear Up Landing LGA

There was another landing mishap last week at LaGuardia when a Boeing 737 ended up with a collapsed nosewheel. In the final seconds of the visual approach, according to the NTSB, the pitch attitude went from two degrees nose up to three degrees nose down. The results prove that big airplanes don’t like to wheelbarrow any more than little ones. Mechanical or pilot anomaly? We’ll find out shortly.

And just when you think you’ve heard it all,  early this week, the FAA said it was advising foreign carriers against executing purely visual approaches into SFO as a result of watching some rather bizarre performances from crews from other countries—several resulting in go-arounds. Good that they aborted a poor approach—question is why it was needed.

CBS news noted, “The FAA decided to recommend the GPS-based instrument system ‘out of an abundance of caution’ the agency said Sunday in a prepared statement. Pilots on Asiana Airlines Flight 214 had been cleared to make a visual approach when the plane crash-landed on a runway at the San Francisco airport [on] July 6. Three girls died, and 180 people were injured. The FAA says that since then, pilots for Asiana and other foreign carriers have had more aborted landings than usual while trying to make visual approaches. The agency didn’t provide exact numbers.”

So the FAA has suggested that foreign air carrier pilots may not be capable of hand flying a visual approach? It gets you to wondering what else couldn’t possibly go wrong. A modest suggestion is that if crews are getting so little practice on long haul international routes that regular simulator time in the fine art of hand-flown visual approaches would be an excellent idea. Of course, another thought is for the long haul types to fly a few short legs once a month, in country, to maintain their skills. That may not be practical as the big Boeings and Buses aren’t often used as city hoppers. Still, this is not a place for rookies.

All of this serves as a not-so-subtle reminder that angle of attack reigns supreme and that nose wheels are not for landing. Let us reserve final judgment until the NTSB gets through its work—the results should be of great interest to all pilots.

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