I flew in the B757 from the right seat

… hmm.. i.e. in a Simulator!

Even though the full motion controller was turned off (and I didn’t actually fly :-)), it was still neat to be in the right seat, and watch the aircraft fly an approach into Denver International Airport with precision. An RNP Approach, at that, which I will never be able to fly in the C172 🙂

A Required Navigation Performance (RNP) procedure is an advanced Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedure that uses Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation with additional on board monitoring and alerting. To fly one of these procedures it is necessary for both the aircraft and aircrew to be certified to fly. RNP approaches enable precise 3-D paths in congested or noise sensitive airspace, and through difficult terrain. In addition, they provide stabilized and fuel efficient approaches, for aircraft and aircrew certified to fly.


The RNP approach to runway 34L into KDEN provides minimums based on the capability of the aircraft and aircrew from 0.1 to 0.3nm. Starting at HIMOM at 11,000ft, the B757 programmed to fly the RNAV (RNP) Z RWY 34L approach smoothly maneuvered to MCMUL before easily navigating the radius-to-fix (RF) leg to TUGGL at 7,700 and the final approach fix at WINTR and landing smoothly on the centerline on 34L.

One word. Awesome!


For more information on PBN and RNP go here.
RNP Procedures

Oshkosh ’04

It’s SpaceShipOne week… and I am reblogging related posts on the topic!

Fly 'n Things

Launching the next century of flight

It is that time of the year again and I was fortunate enough to make it to Oshkosh for the third consecutive year in a row, albeit for just two days. It is always invigorating and exciting to be present at Oshkosh. Isn’t it incredible that such a small airport is transformed for one week into almost a city of its own, comprising of pilots and aviation enthusiasts from all over the world?

DCF 1.0

The theme for this year’s convention was Launching the next century of Flight and what better way then by cheering the men who are launching the next generation of spacecraft? After the successful flight of SpaceshipOne on June 21st, there was much cause for celebration. A triumphant Rutan and Melville flew in the Starship Beechcraft, the chase plane for SpaceShipOne. Crowds thronged to hear Rutan and Melville speak, to…

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From the early stages of private pilot instruction we are ingrained with using checklists for each phase of flight, and one key item in the after landing checklist is to tune to 121.5 frequency. The reason to do this is to determine if you might have inadvertently set off the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT). In the event of a hard landing, this is very much possible. The second instance where this frequency becomes important is if you have to declare an emergency.


121.5 is the civilian aviation emergency frequency also known as the VHF Guard frequency.  Testing of ELT can typically be performed  within first five minutes after the hour. This frequency is monitored by most air traffic control towers, flight service stations, air traffic control centers and other emergency services. This frequency is also used to alert pilots of encroachment into restricted or prohibited areas.

Flying in and around the DC SFRA the last five years or so, tuning to this frequency in the second COMM has become a habit. My first foray into flying under the SFRA was a timid one (See Oops! I think I might be headed to Dulles). Time and again, I have been told that all this would be second nature. While I initially fretted and worried, I am inclined to now say, that the SFRA rarely bothers me these days. I’ve come to file my flight plans as a given, follow procedures within the SFRA as given and after the initial 15-20 minutes of flight I am off free as a bird under VFR conditions. So it has become second nature, indeed!

Despite the fact that the SFRA has been in place for more than a decade, GA pilots continue to encroach on this highly restricted airspace. More often than not, I continue to hear warnings and interceptions via Black Hawks for aircraft infringing on the airspace. There has been an occasional time when I have heard distress calls or ELTs going off.  And on occasion I have have heard some conversations by military or other training flight personnel 🙂

For sometime now there has been talk of decommissioning this distress frequency. On Feb. 1 2009, the satellite processing of distress signals from 121.5 MHz was discontinued. NOAA highly recommends switching to 406MHz for anyone using emergency beacons. The reason for the decommission being issues with poor accuracy and false alerts.

If you are in the market for a new emergency beacon, the strong recommendation by NOAA is to switch to the digital 406MHz.


Emergency Services Available to a Pilot
NOAA Search and Rescue


“Miami Center, can we get direct Ft. Pierce,” I asked eying the ominous looking dark clouds at our 12 o’clock.
“Unable for the next 10 minutes. Maintain heading,” responded Miami Center.

We had departed Bimini, our final halt in the Bahamas before heading back to the States. It was cloudy and IMC along the Florida Coast and we had filed an IFR flight plan for the return.  Bimini is a mere 10nm miles from the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ ) and with luck, we had circled as we climbed to altitude and after multiple attempts, finally established radio contact with Miami Center. This was not only crucial since we were in-bound, crossing the ADIZ, but also because weather along our route was mostly IMC.

We proceeded as directed, continuing to watch the rapidly approaching weather system, straight ahead. When is the best time to tell the controller I am unable to follow his directive, I pondered. The system ahead looked turbulent and moisture laden. It is not fun heading into this mess in a Cessna 172. But I was also curious to see how it felt, how I would handle it, and understand my limits. Fortunately, just as we started penetrating the mess, Miami Center, cleared us direct to Ft. Pierce, so we could avoid the system.

Unable might seem like a taboo word, something you should never use or one you feel affronted to use since it admits a weakness of some sort or some such frivolous reason, but believe it or not it is the most effective word in your pilot lingo that might just save the day.

It is perfectly alright to respond with Unable if you are not able to follow any directive from ATC without jeopardizing the safety of  yourself or your passengers. In flying, safety always comes first. As a pilot, your first prerogative is always the safety of your passengers and you. Once safely down, you can always deal with the consequences of your Unable actions. This doesn’t mean that you can now be frivolous and use Unable on any occasion that you feel you should or want to.

I can count the number of times that I used this most effective keyword in the last 14 years of my flying career on my finger tips. There were times when I came close to using it. But most times I override my desire to be a cautious flyer, to allow me to safely stretch the limits of my tolerance, to experience events that otherwise I couldn’t.

“Cessna XXX, cleared direct AVX, descend and maintain 5,000,” cleared LA Center as we neared the Venture VOR (VTU). This meant flying 50nm across the ocean, direct to Avalon, our intended destination. I had been conservative in my planning and filed:


This allowed us to trace the California coastline all the way past LAX and allowed us a short 25nm hop to Catalina Island. But here we were, not only flying lower, but also 50nm across the ocean. Definitely not within  gliding distance to land. Neither my co-pilot, nor I, was worried. It was a pristine VFR day and experiences such as these are valuable. Being on an IFR flight plan, ATC knew exactly where we were, and there were hundreds of boats along the way!

As a pilot, it is up to you to determine what those limits are and when it is essential to use Unable. Remember, safety always comes first. But it is not necessary to be so conservative that you exclude all experiences and use your safe word prematurely.

On a wholly different flight, my friends and I were returning from the Key West on a VFR flight. The weather was iffy and our return trip meant dodging clouds along the Florida coastline. Unfortunately, I was not IFR current and hence had to maintain VFR for the duration of my flight.

“Climb to 2500 ft and contact Ft Lauderdale Tower,” directed Miami Approach.
My response was succinct, “Unable,” as I lowered the nose a little below 1,000ft.
“How high can you go?” queried Miami Approach.
“Not much above 1,000ft,” responded I.
“Stay out of Class Charlie Airspace and contact Ft Lauderdale Tower,”  with that Miami Approach bid adieu. We headed further out to the ocean, away from the Intra-Coastal waters, to stay out of Ft. Lauderdale airspace,and contacted Ft. LauderdaleTower.

“Cleared through the coastal route, descend and maintain 500 ft,” cleared Ft. Lauderdale Tower, once we established contact.

It was music to our ears. The clouds continued to darken  around us and we could feel the occasional drizzle on the wind shield.  Off in the distance, a partial rainbow gleamed in the eastern sky, patches of blue still visible in the evening sky.  While a little south of Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport (where we planned to land), the dark rain bearing clouds looked ominously threatening, hovering just a shade away from the airport edge. We landed in the nick of time, just as the storm started to pass over the airport. Tying down the aircraft in a drizzle, it felt good to be back and out of the storms way.

Unable is the most effective word in your back pocket. It is okay to use, if you are in a sticky situation. Use it wisely, and sparingly. Remember safety comes first!

Upset Recovery and Emergency Training (UPRT)

Lately there has been a considerable emphasis on awareness of Loss of Control (LOC) in flight which happens to be the major contributor to GA accidents. Until 2005, Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) was the greatest reason for GA accidents.

It is not that LOC accidents/incidents have seen a rise over the years, but rather CFIT have steadily decreased, while LOC counts continue to remain steady. This is not surprising. Since latest advances in technology and better avionics in the cockpit have improved pilot awareness as well as provided tools to dynamically plan and prepare for contingencies related to weather and terrain.


LOC still remains a problem. Since as I indicated previously, while we train for stalls and unusual attitudes, there are many more causes of LOC accidents/incidents out there that are less common and  difficult to train for.

There is a compelling need to train for this. And all the major organizations such as AOPA, EAA, NTSB, SAFE and many others have been pushing this need emphatically this year. Just in the last 2-3 months I have attended several safety seminars on the topic.

The most commonly used trainers such as the C172, DA20 or similar aircraft are less suited to train for these situations. Instead grab an instructor interested in UPRT and an aerobatic airplane to familiarize with some of these challenging LOC events.


While not every instructor might be trained or prepared to give such training, I know at least a few out west that have provided both safety seminars as well as hands on training. One such instructor was Rick Stowell who has provided Emergency Maneuvering Training both ground and in flight  for more than a decade. Also checkout his book on the topic.  I am sure there are many others out there.

Loss of Control can happen in a heart beat. Don’t wait for that moment!

photo(5)You might also want to read Flight for Safety   while you are at it:-)


Loss of Control in Flight
Emergency Procedures
EAA Webinars
NTSB Presentations: Preventing Aerodynamic Stalls and LOC Accidents
Upset Prevention and Recovery Training
Reconsidering Upset Recovery Training



Loss of Control in Flight

It can happen in a heart beat!

The single biggest threat to GA accidents/incidents has been VMC flying into IMC for the longest time. Engine failure might have been another. But times have changed.

As we continue to fly newer aircraft, such as the Cirrus, Cessna G100, Diamond and more, there has been a shift in the cause of accidents/incidents.

snf19No surprises here.  Advanced weather information in the cockpit provided by XM Satellite, TIS, and ADS-B has considerably improved the safety of flying in bad weather in leaps and bounds. This does not necessarily eliminate weather related accidents/incidents completely. VMC flying into IMC is no longer so much a threat. But if unprepared, latency in updates to weather information, can still result in accidents and incidents.

According to the latest safety statistics, Loss of Control during flight, is the single biggest contributor of accidents to GA flights. Not only that, compared to other categories of flight such as Commercial and Air Taxi, GA accidents/incidents continue to increase!

photo(5)I can remember a time, when I flew with a single VOR receiver in the cockpit. My sole knowledge of en route weather was what I garnered during preflight planning, any en route HIWAS weather or ATC provided weather updates. Whenever inclement bad weather was expected, I choose to stay home.

Loss of Control during flight is whole different matter. It is one, we rarely prepare for. True, we do learn stall recovery, but loss of control during flight, is a valid threat. There are so many factors that can contribute to loss of control: loss of rudder control, stall, spin, loss of aileron and more.

And, it can happen in a heart beat!

Recently during a flight into Lakeland, FL, I experienced a slight loss of control. No stall warning. If there were one, I am trained to react. Neither did the controls feel mushy. The nose didn’t drop left.  Instead it oscillated to the right. I am still uncertain of the nature of the error. And hence unsure what the correction should be. Unfortunately, I didn’t check airspeed at the time. The last time I checked, it was 69 knots.

To my credit, I can only claim a long day, with almost 8 hours of flying at least half of them as PIC, some of them in IFR, and some of them holding, flying and following directions. My first thought was wake turbulence or some sort of winds…

What do you think?

I recently attended the 4th in the series of Safety Seminars hosted by NTSB, in collaboration with FAA, SAFE, AOPA and Flight Safety, where GA Safety is still a major concern.

Loss of control is still, in my mind, a major threat. One that is difficult to plan or prepare for.

True, stall and spin training are there.

But what, if you don’t know what is happening? How can you react then?


Safety Seminar: Preventing Aerodynamic Stalls and Loss of Control Accidents

Emergency Procedures

IMG_0676Typically, the only time we review emergency procedures, is during flight training, be it private, instrument, commercial or other higher ratings. Or maybe during Flight Reviews. But not all flights reviews are as thorough as they should be. The onus is on the pilot, to ensure that he/she achieves the most from any flight training or flight review and obtains the necessary training in any emergency procedures that he/she wishes.

It is easy to lose focus, save time and money and achieve a quick review. But is it the right thing to do? Stalls, engine fire and Engine-out procedures are the most common emergency procedures that are reviewed over and over again. Although these events occur rarely, they can occur at the most importune moment,  if one is not vigilant! There are still others, that are out there such as ice or oil on windshield, VMC into IMC, disorientation, IMC flying, tire blowout, loss of avionics, alternator failure, spin awareness, loss of control, loss of electrical system, loss of GPS  and many more that are less frequently addressed. So plan your next review or a session with a dedicated instructor to suit your specific needs. After all, safety begins with the pilot!

Lately, Linda and I have taken to spending our time during a long flight, by reviewing all the emergency procedures in the POH to entertain ourselves. I think it is a great way, to refresh and prepare us for emergency situations. Likewise,  attending safety seminars, Webinars and flying with a flight instructor to review and work on emergencies is another excellent way to be prepared.

How do you plan and prepare for emergencies? Drop me a line…

If you don’t already have an account or belong to these organizations, here are a few resources to get you started on attending free seminars or Webinars on safety:


Reflections on Lake Parker Arrival

Now that I have flown both the Fisk Arrival into Oshkosh during Airventure and the Lake Parker Arrival into Lakeland during Sun ‘n Fun, I have had time to reflect on the two.

Both arrivals are well documented in a published NOTAM, ahead of time, and available so pilots can plan, and prepare for the arrival. In the case of the Fisk Arrival, there are numerous videos available on the EAA Airventure website. Flying the arrival for the first time last year, I read and re-read the NOTAM, watched all the videos, fretted and felt excited, and eagerly awaited the experience.

bitsandpiecesDespite our expectation to arrive in Oshkosh on Thursday evening, we did not get there till Saturday morning. Executing the Fisk Arrival ended up being a lot easier, than what I imagined or prepared for. There are far fewer aircraft arrivals towards the end of Airventure. Further, the number of arrivals early in the morning are far fewer than what one would expect in the evening in the middle of the week. Still there was enough excitement and nervousness to keep me alert.

snf9When the air traffic controller spoke to me as I approached Fisk, I knew exactly when he was talking to me. As he cleared me to proceed and when I transferred to Oshkosh Tower clearance, again I exactly knew when ATC was talking to me. Enough that I could recognize my ATC clearances on liveatc.net

The Lake Parker Arrival, on the other hand, was a whole different matter. Arriving during the middle of the week, in the evening, meant, there were hordes of other pilots doing exactly that! Even as we departed Leesburg International Airport (KLEE) around 6:00pm, our Traffic Advisory System started to pick up innumerable aircraft, all headed in the same general heading, and, at the same general altitude.

photo 1Since it is almost difficult to identify traffic visually most times by looking out the window, our chances here were even slimmer. A few miles from Lake Parker, one by one the aircraft disappeared from our display, as did we, likely from there’s, when we got within 3nm of Lake Parker. We were in the blind.

There is a VFR fix called VPKER over Lake Parker. A stranger (pilot of course) we ran into at Berkeley County (KMKS) earlier in the afternoon had stopped by to speak to us and give us some tips when he heard we were headed in that direction which was an extremely useful clue to making the Lake Parker Arrival. Next useful clue came from Conor from our Flight school, as we briefed the procedure at KLEE. He indicated, he would angle more east and approach the lake from the east, giving him a view of the aircraft over Lake Parker.

Sound ideas.

In the the end that is what we did. And it proved that is what ATC expected.

snf7Especially considering there were multiple aircraft starting to arrive from all directions, and holding was in place for the next 45 minutes to an hour!

ATC communications were a lot less easy to follow at Lakeland. I think I rocked my wings a lot more times than I was asked to. Frankly how do you know you are not the high wing ATC is talking to? Considering there might be 4, 5, 6 or more at the same time?

I use flight following routinely for most of my cross-country flying. When ATC advices me of traffic, I rarely even locate it visually, before I am told “Traffic not a factor!”

Imagine now, that I am one of the hundreds of aircraft, all converging on KLAL for a landing. Frankly, once I identify who I think, I am following, I follow him as best as I can. Occasionally I see others, but it is hard to know if they belong to my hold loop or not…

But I let ATC worry about that. They seem to excel at what they do… Can you imagine monitoring hundreds of aircraft, different types, different speeds, and talking to them saying “Champ do this”, “High Wing do that”, “Mooney put your gear down” etc?

photo(37)I am not even sure, I can recognize all the aircraft types, let alone my lead aircraft 🙂

Ultimately, it all worked out well. I followed my lead aircraft, all the way to the runway. There was a brief moment when we forget what the procedure was to follow after all the holding. Luckily, I chose to worry less of the NOTAM and procedure, but followed the lead aircraft. There was a brief moment, when I let my guard down and almost stalled. But we fixed it and made it down safely.

All kudos go to the ATC who support Sun ‘n Fun and Airventure and make it a safe, fun and easy to arrive at, during a congested flyin event!

snf16This year marked 40 years of Sun ‘n Fun.

I know Airventure is a whole lot busier, especially during the evening, and during the week!


If curious about ATC communications during Sun ‘n Fun check here. Pick a date between April 1st and 6th morning or evening (Usually available for only 3 months after the date)

The Big Lie

I came across an interesting article this morning entitled- The Sky Kings: After We Had Our Accident, that most interestingly talks about the “big lie”.

We’ve heard it, often enough. In fact, I have said this often enough when friends and family queried about how safe it was to fly: “There are more car accidents every second than there are airplane accidents!” Or as the King’s say:” The most dangerous part of the trip is the drive to an airport”

To paraphrase the King’s, “While this is true, if you are flying airlines, it is not even close for GA aircraft. You are seven times more likely to be involved in a fatality in a GA aircraft than a car.”

snf20Fortunately, the article also tries to address the lapses as well as provide options to address these lapses:

PAVE: Pilot, Aircraft, enVironment, and External pressures: the tool available to pilots to determine how safe the planned flight is going to be. The idea being, you identify the risks of the flight before they happen.

CARE: Consequences, Alternative, Reality and External Pressures. This recognizes that the moment you are airborne, all the risk factors can change.

And they leave us finally with another acronym- CHORRD: Conditions, Hazards, Operational changes, Runway required and available, Return procedure, and our Departure routes and altitudes. It is a great situational tool that helps you plan and execute your flight.

While my negative experiences are fairly limited (Thank Goodness!), I do follow a common logic, each time I fly:

  • I rarely fly, anymore, when I think I am not capable of safely flying either as the Pilot in Command, Safety Pilot or Passenger.
  • As I indicated in my previous post, I often fly with my flying buddy, when possible. This is terrific. Since I know my co-pilot’s strengths and weakness’ as she/he knows mine. Based on the applicable circumstances, this prepares me (or her/him)  to decide if it is safe to fly or not!
  • I/We constantly communicate with each other to determine if I/he/she feels comfortable flying the particular scenario such as in clouds/night/congested situation
  • When it comes to flying, or driving or life in general 🙂 Safety always comes first!

And it is okay to take calculated risks!

It is a great saying, and it is true for flying on the airlines. But sadly, it isn’t even close to being true for general aviation. You are seven times more likely per mile to be involved in a fatality in a GA airplane than you are in a car. To get that figure, compare the fatal accident rate per mile for cars from the National Highway Transportation Safety
Administration to the fatal accident rate per hour for airplanes from the National Transportation Safety Board and assume an average speed of 150 miles per hour for airplanes.

Read more at http://www.flyingmag.com/technique/proficiency/sky-kings-after-we-had-our-accident#WxXweToC66wqHOfX.99

It is a great saying, and it is true for flying on the airlines. But sadly, it isn’t even close to being true for general aviation. You are seven times more likely per mile to be involved in a fatality in a GA airplane than you are in a car. To get that figure, compare the fatal accident rate per mile for cars from the National Highway Transportation Safety
Administration to the fatal accident rate per hour for airplanes from the National Transportation Safety Board and assume an average speed of 150 miles per hour for airplanes.

Read more at http://www.flyingmag.com/technique/proficiency/sky-kings-after-we-had-our-accident#WxXweToC66wqHOfX.99

It is a great saying, and it is true for flying on the airlines. But sadly, it isn’t even close to being true for general aviation. You are seven times more likely per mile to be involved in a fatality in a GA airplane than you are in a car. To get that figure, compare the fatal accident rate per mile for cars from the National Highway Transportation Safety
Administration to the fatal accident rate per hour for airplanes from the National Transportation Safety Board and assume an average speed of 150 miles per hour for airplanes.

Read more at http://www.flyingmag.com/technique/proficiency/sky-kings-after-we-had-our-accident#WxXweToC66wqHOfX.99

It is a great saying, and it is true for flying on the airlines. But sadly, it isn’t even close to being true for general aviation. You are seven times more likely per mile to be involved in a fatality in a GA airplane than you are in a car. To get that figure, compare the fatal accident rate per mile for cars from the National Highway Transportation Safety
Administration to the fatal accident rate per hour for airplanes from the National Transportation Safety Board and assume an average speed of 150 miles per hour for airplanes.

Read more at http://www.flyingmag.com/technique/proficiency/sky-kings-after-we-had-our-accident#WxXweToC66wqHOfX.99

Automatic Dependant Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B)

When was the last time you used a plotter, a marker and a VFR chart?


Truth be told, I’ve used mine rarely since I got my private pilot license!

As you can see my instrument plotter remains unopened to this day! I have stopped buying paper charts since I became a subscribed user of  iPad and Foreflight.

The aircraft I trained in for my primary private pilot certificate, was a basic C152 trainer with a single VOR, six pack analog instruments for Airspeed, Attitude, Altitude, Turn Coordinator, Heading, and Vertical Speed Indicator. Any flight planning required poring over VFR charts, identifying ground references, computing headings, distances and checking weather with the Flight Service Stations. That was then.

adsb2Once I got my Private Pilot Rating, I quickly moved to the four seat C172S and the PA28 that were equipped with GPS. I frequently used VFR charts, sometimes a plotter and several hours for planning my flight. I spent  hours, perusing the weather sites such as aviationweather.gov, talking to Flight Service Stations (FSS) to understand weather patterns and preparing for my upcoming cross country flight. I purchased  backup hand held radio, intercom, Garmin GPS moving map handheld and other devices, that not only provided additional information, but also served as back devices for the safety of flight.

photo(5)Truth be told, they were quickly obsoleted by the fact, that I progressed to newer aircraft that were equipped with built in GPS and Flight Management Systems (FMS). There was no turning back, once I got here!

Once I switched to the G1000 aircraft, when they started to invade flight schools back in early 2000’s, there was no looking back. These days that is my first aircraft of choice. My hand held devices, which served as early backups, soon remained unused. Instead, my latest toys are the iPad with ForeFlight and the Stratus. Even these I rarely use. return3When I fly the G1000, there is rarely a need to use the iPad with Foreflight and Stratus. Truth be told, I love to fly by looking outside and don’t want to be bogged down with technology. The G1000 is excellent for all weather flying. The iPad with ForeFlight and Stratus  (or some other similar device, app and software) are excellent devices that enhance the safety of any cross country flight.

Bahamas 2013 096During  longer cross country flights  when weather events prevail, these backup devices very quickly become primary safety devices.  ADS-B with weather and traffic services are an incredible tool for General Aviation (GA) pilots. Especially so when you fly in congested airspace, special use areas and are haunted with less than normal weather conditions.

IMG-20130106-00043ADS-B coverage through Traffic Information System – Broadcast (TIS-B) and Flight Information System – Broadcast (FIS-B) provides traffic services and weather for suitably equipped aircraft. Both a valuable asset to GA pilots.If you posses an iPad with ForeFlight and possess a Stratus 2, you can obtain both these services without any other subscription.

MIT is conducting a study and taking a survey of GA pilots on the use of ADS-B. If you are a GA pilot, and interested, please consider participating by checking  this out.

IMG_0575Navigation these days is so much easier because of GPS, ADS-B and so much more…..