Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Up the Down Staircase

"Mooselips Approach, Cessna 12345, 3000 feet, request practice ILS 30 at Bison, published missed, information tango."

"Cessna 12345, Mooselips Approach, Bison altimeter 3002, unable ILS 30, runway 12 in use at Bison, did you have another approach request?" 

If you haven't yet had an exchange like the one, it's likely that you soon will because the FAA has decided that opposite direction approaches into towered airports are no longer allowed. To the uninitiated, practice approaches to a runway when there's opposite direction traffic may seem inherently dangerous, but it is something that's been done safely at many airports for as long as anyone can remember. One example in Northern California is Sacramento Executive where all the instrument approaches are to runway 2 and 90% of the time runway 20 is in use.

At KSAC, the procedure for handling opposite direction approaches is simple and has worked well (and without incident, to my knowledge): The tower instructs the aircraft inbound on the approach to start their missed approach (usually a climbing left turn) prior to the runway threshold and any traffic departing the opposite direct turns in the other direction.

For areas like the California Central Coast, the restriction on opposite direction instrument approaches has been in place since I arrived in June and it has serious implications for instrument flight training since the ILS approaches for San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, and Santa Barbara are likely to be opposite direction 90% of the time. For a student to train to fly an ILS in a real aircraft, you need to fly quite a distance. Same goes for instrument rating practical tests that require an ILS because the aircraft is not equipped with WAAS GPS and/or there's no RNAV approach available with LPV minima to a DA of 250 feet or lower.

There currently is no formal FAA Order (to my knowledge) that describes this restriction, though one hopes that will change: Everyone from students to instructors to controllers would like to see this rule codified. As it stands, this restriction seems to have been passed down from on high to TRACONs in the US. Some exceptions may be allowed when there's an "operational need" such as for FAA flight checks of instrument procedures. You may be able to call your local TRACON on the phone and make prior arrangements if you need to do an ILS for an instrument rating check ride or for practice. And waivers may be issued for some airports with a high volume of training. Then again, your request might still be refused. Your tax dollars at work.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

You're a Professional CFI if ...

You have memorized most of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations without ever intending to do so.

When asked a question, you can provide three different answers, all of which are correct.

Pilots seek you out to ask your advice, then they ignore it.

You can send a plane into maintenance simply by touching it.

A dog groomer earns more per hour than you.

You know seven different ways to explain a complex topic.

When your student finally gets what you've been trying to tell them, they say "Why didn't you tell me this before?!"

A dog walker earns more per hour that you.

You spent your entire last vacation passing your ATP check ride.

Part-time CFIs ask you "What kind of plane do you own?"

Rich aircraft owners never pay on time and argue about how much you've charged them.

You spent your entire vacation budget passing your ATP check ride.

Pilots who can barely afford flight training always pay you on time and never complain about how much you've charged.

You feel compelled to maintain an aviation blog, but then fill it snarky posts.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Staying Concise, Staying Solvent

Flight instruction has been a bit SLOw for me over the last month, but the good news is that gave me time to get to some neglected writing projects. Loyal readers may recall that when I released my first iBook a little over two years ago, I mentioned plans to do a whole concise series. So after several long days, and with some help from my friends (who proofread and helped to smooth the rough edges), The Concise Guide to the Diamond DA40-180 is now available on the iBooks store. And kudos to the Apple iBooks review team, who examined and approved my submission in a matter of days.

The late John Ciardi once pronounced "May you stay solvent by whatever means are available to you." Being a professional flight instructor may not actually involve a formal vow of poverty, but sometimes it sure seems that way. If you have purchased one or more of my books in the past, please accept my heartfelt thanks. I appreciate your support and hope that my books have been useful to your aviation endeavors.

With more time on my hands for the foreseeable future, I just may have another book or two up my sleeve. So stay tuned ...