Why Ask Why? — PilotSafety.org


It’s often said the most underutilized words in the pilot/controller lexicon are “Unable” and “Say Again”. Sometimes, it’s critically important to get your point across, clear up a misunderstanding and getclarification in the most expeditious way possible, and other times, the issue is a bit more subtle but just as important. Recently, a story came […]

via Why Ask Why? — PilotSafety.org

Seasonal Safety: SANTA! — Aviation Ideas and Discussion!


In keeping with the holiday spirit, I thought I’d use this specially created instrument approach procedure (IAP) chart that Jeppesen put out a couple years ago for the North Pole for this blog article. Although the chart is clearly a figment of someone’s imagination, it still can be used as a teaching aid in explaining…

via Seasonal Safety: SANTA! — Aviation Ideas and Discussion!

Monday Musings: Unable


Four years ago…

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.

Continue to read here.

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.

H34LZ

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!

Links:

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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121.5


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.

IMG_5211

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.

Links:

Emergency Services Available to a Pilot
NOAA Search and Rescue

Unable


“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:

CREPE3.MQO.RZS.VTU.LAX.SL1.AVU

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.

goneflying1

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.

snf0

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:-)

photo(36)

Resources:
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?

Resources:

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…

Resources:
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:

FlightSafety
AOPA
EAA