Friday, February 29, 2008

Oddball NOTAMs

Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) are used to disseminate important information to pilots and over the years I've seen some pretty unusual notices. One involved a flight restriction over a river necessitated by a flurry of news helicopters filming a pair of wayward whales. I've seen NOTAMs in the past (but not in the last few years) warning pilots of the possibility of guns being fired into the air on the Fourth of July. But just when you think you've seen it all ... (emphasis mine)
FDC 8/5536 FDC SPECIAL NOTICE ..
THIS NOTAM REPLACES FDC 8/5501 DUE TO ADDITION OF CONTACT NUMBER. EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY UNTIL 0803092300 UTC. AIRCRAFT ARE ADVISED THAT A POTENTIAL HAZARD MAY OCCUR DUE TO REENTRY OF SATELLITE USA-193 DEBRIS INTO THE EARTHS ATMOSPHERE. FURTHER NOTAMS WILL BE ISSUED IF MORE INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE. IN THE INTEREST OF FLIGHT SAFETY, IT IS CRITICAL THAT ALL PILOTS/FLIGHT CREW MEMBERS REPORT ANY OBSERVED FALLING SPACE DEBRIS TO THE APPROPRIATE ATC FACILITY TO INCLUDE POSITION, ALTITUDE, TIME, AND DIRECTION OF DEBRIS OBSERVED. FAA HEADQUARTERS, AIR TRAFFIC SYSTEMS OPERATIONS SECURITY, 202-493-5107, IS THE FAA COORDINATION FACILITY.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Get Out of Aspen



When instrument approaches go bad, it's often while the pilot is executing the missed approach procedure. Many pilots brief an instrument approach using what Jeppesen calls the Briefing Strip™ and most NACO approach charts have been modified to present a similar format. However you brief an approach, I recommend that you always be mentally prepared to execute the missed approach procedure rather than always assuming a landing will be assured.

Every missed approach procedure I've seen begins with the words Climb, Climbing, Immediate climb, or Immediate climbing, so first things first - climb and, if necessary, turn!

A common mistake pilots make is to climb too slowly instead of at their aircraft's best rate of climb. If you have terrain awareness capability on your aircraft, you best have it turned on. Climb at best rate until you don't see any red or yellow on your left on terrain awareness display, then switch to a less aggressive cruise climb. Depending on the vintage of your G1000, it may be savvy enough to know all about the missed approach procedure, including any required altitudes and heading changes. In any event, always comply with the missed approach procedure printed on the approach chart.

Flying the missed with the G1000 should be fairly simple. As you reach the missed approach point (MAP), a fly-over waypoint, the G1000 will suspend waypoint sequencing and the OBS soft key will change to SUSP. The moving map will display a dotted line representing the extended approach course from the MAP. I see many pilots try to fly the missed approach procedure with the G1000 by pressing the FLP (flight plan) key and scrolling to the next desired waypoint. This requires more head-down time while close to the ground - a particularly dangerous endeavor. It's simpler to just press the SUSP key and keep your eyes on the prize - your aircraft's climb pitch attitude, configuration, power setting, and any required heading changes. If you were flying a non-GPS approach, you will need to press the CDI key a couple of times to reselect the GPS as the navigation source.

In most cases, the GPS can be used to fly the missed approach procedure. Two exceptions that I know of (there may be others) are the Aspen LOC/DME E and VOR/DME or GPS C approaches. These approaches use a separate localizer dedicated solely for the missed approach procedure. Let's consider the Aspen LOC/DME E approach.








I can find no reference to a rule allowing GPS to be substituted for a localizer, so you'll need to be prepared to fly the missed approach using one of the navigation receivers set to the localizer. And while the G1000 will automatically set the VOR or localizer frequency for you in the #1 nav receiver when you load the approach, the second localizer frequency needed for the missed approach is not automatically loaded: You'll have to load the missed approach localizer frequency yourself.



Once you are within a 1.2 times deflection of the localizer course, within 15 miles of the final approach fix, and have a valid localizer frequency loaded, the G1000 will automatically switch the navigation source from the GPS to the localizer in nav 1. Note that the HSI needle changes from magenta (for GPS) to green (for VOR or Localizer).



Before you reach the MAP, I recommend that you have your heading bug synchronized with your current heading and the autopilot (if in use) set to heading mode. Notice all the red and yellow in the terrain display - your piloting skills need to be sharp or you may hit something sharp.




When you decide to execute the missed approach, set the autopilot for a climb and turn the heading bug to command a right turn to heading 300˚.


While George is climbing and turning to the desired heading, activate the localizer frequency for the missed approach. If necessary, adjust the heading bug to intercept the localizer backcourse and then activate the autopilot in nav mode. Even though I believe the GPS cannot legally be substituted for a localizer backcourse, I'd still recommend that you monitor the GPS-derived missed approach course.



If you haven't already purchased Garmin's latest G1000 simulator for your PC, consider doing so. Then sit down and practice this missed approach (or missed approaches at your home airport). Being proficient, especially with the missed approach procedure, is important for an instrument-rated pilot. You never know when you might need to Get Out of Aspen.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Thousand Words

I'm preparing another detailed G1000 post, which should be up in a couple of days. In the mean time, here are some photos of the varying weather conditions that Northern California has faced recently - everything from quarter mile visibility to rain to broken clouds to clear blue skies.







Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Changing Fortunes, Changing Gears

My home airport is pretty much divided into The North Field and The South Field. During daylight hours, there are separate control towers, separate tower and ground frequencies, but one clearance delivery frequency. Jet aircraft usually depart the South Field runway while the North Field is used primarily by propeller aircraft, helicopters, and GA. In spite of this division, it is fairly common to hear an airline pilot use the North Ground frequency by mistake, as happened the other morning.
"Ground, Alaska 789, ready to push, gate 7"

"Alaska 789, contact South Ground on 121.75"

"Oh, sorry ..."

Being ready to taxi ourselves, I couldn't resist:
Good morning Oakland Ground, Cessna 12345, ready to push at the port-a-ports, VFR Lodi, request runway 33, with Lima."
The ground controller didn't miss a beat
Cessna 12345, Oakland Ground, good morning, push at your discretion, taxi runway 33, VFR at or below 2500, standby for the squawk."


For the past three weeks, the weather throughout California has been bad for flying light aircraft. For a professional flight instructor, this means an irregular working schedule and unpredictable hours. That in turn has kept me from having a regular blogging schedule, hence the delay since my last post. Lots of rain, low freezing levels, snow as low as 1500' at times. Even trying to teach on my usual days off didn't seem to work. A cold front passed, but unstable, moist air remained. I discussed the options with two different students and we agree that the end result might not be that productive, maybe even unsafe. Later the sun was shinning through broken cumulus and I wondered if I made the wrong call. A few minutes later, small hail is bouncing off my front porch and I feel better about our choice.

When an instrument approach has a Hold In Lieu Of a procedure turn (sometimes called HILO), the only way you can be assured that you have a clearance to fly the hold is to ask the controller for "Pilot Nav" or "the full approach." If you are approaching the airport such that you are flying opposite the approach course, you can let ATC vector you to the intermediate approach course (assuming there is radar coverage in your area) or you can ask for "pilot nav." Pilots often ask for the full approach to maintain instrument currency so they can put in their logbook that they flew a holding pattern.

Consider the Stockton ILS 29R.


When you load this approach in a Garmin 530 and you want the full approach, you'll need to select SC (the Locator Outer Marker) as the Initial Approach Fix (IAF). This can cause considerable confusion to the uninitiated when requesting the approach "pilot nav" because NORCAL will tell you "Proceed direct JOTLY." It's unfortunate that there are two names for what is essentially one fix, and it certainly doesn't reduce the workload in a single-pilot environment.





Take a look at the GPS flight plan. Notice that the approach is coded so that once you complete the holding pattern for course reversal, the next waypoint appears to be SIMMS which is well outside the hold boundary.



When you complete the course reversal, the leg between SIMMS and JOTLY is activated once you are established inbound. Fascinating, though I can't explain why this approach was coded this way.





Now consider the Sacramento ILS RWY 2. Like the Stockton ILS 29R, this approach has a Locator Outer Marker.



Yet when you go to load this approach, the LOM is identified as EXECC, not SA. I wish I knew why this approach is different than the Stockton ILS 29R, but I don't. The good news here is that when you ask the controller to fly this approach "pilot nav," they will tell you "proceed direct EXECC" and you'll have no trouble correlating that with the options displayed by the Garmin 530.








It seems the moral of this story for IFR pilots who fly by themselves is similar to the old Samurai adage: "Expect nothing and be prepared for anything."