Monday, October 27, 2008

What were they thinking?

I make spin training an option for private pilot and commercial candidates, but the regulations in the US require flight instructor candidates to receive ground and flight training in stall/spin awareness, spin entry and spin recovery. Instructor candidates must demonstrate instructional proficiency in these areas, too.

The other day I did spin training with a flight instructor candidate (one of the areas of flight instruction that I can do while I wait for my medical status to be resolved). The aircraft we chose was a trusty old Cessna 152. In theory we could have used a Cessna 172, assuming it was loaded in the utility category, but most 172 owners don't want their aircraft used for spin training. And for good reason: Spins wreak havoc on gyro instruments unless the instruments are designed to be caged. Many 172s are flown in instrument conditions, something you don't want to do if some of the flight instruments are questionable from being subjected to intentional spins.

My usual approach to teaching spin entry and recovery is to demonstrate two entries, first to the right and then to the left. Most Cessna aircraft designs enter a spin reluctantly, but predictably. Due to the inherent left-turning tendency at high pitch attitudes, the spin to the right is more docile so I start with that. After demonstrating two spin entries, I coach the pilot I'm instructing in doing the same. After a total of four spin entries and recoveries, assuming the pilot feels okay, we do some more. After the initial rush wears off, most pilots want to do at least a few more spins.

Some pilots want to see fully developed spins, where the rotation becomes faster and more stabilized. A 152 Aerobat Texas Taildragger conversion I once flew liked to really wind up in developed spins, probably due to the replacement of the nose gear with a tail wheel and the repositioning of the main gear. For instructor candidates, I like to do some scenario-based teaching where I pretend to be a student who inadvertently enters a spin during a stall demonstration and the instructor candidate takes control of the aircraft - the "I got it" maneuver. Another scenario is a cross-controlled stall during the infamous base-to-final turn.

A while ago I wrote about the dwindling number of complex single-engine airplanes for training (those with retractable landing gear, controllable pitch prop, and flaps). There's only one complex single-engine trainer airplane currently in production - the venerable Piper Arrow. There's a similar, but somewhat less serious problem in the decreasing number of training aircraft approved for intentional spins.

For spin training, there are numerous specialty aerobatic aircraft and some flight schools even specialize in "upset" and spin recovery training. Remember that the requirement for flight instructor candidates is to demonstrate instructional proficiency and I think that is best done in a training aircraft: An Extra 300 is a cool plane, but it's not representative of the types of aircraft used to train GA pilots.

This got me to thinking again about the soon-to-be-certificated Cessna SkyCatcher, which I wrote about a while back. As my instructor candidate and I squeezed ourselves into the vintage Cessna 152 we were going to use for his spin training, complete with older radios and a serviceable, but funky intercom, I found myself revisiting Cessna's decision to not design the SkyCatcher for intentional spins. Granted, the primary intent of this design seems to be sport aircraft market, but it is also the de facto replacement for the no-longer-manufactured C150 and C152. The fact that this plane cannot be spun intentionally is a huge oversight.

Most readers probably have read about the crash of a protoytpe SkyCatcher during spin testing. Reports say that the aircraft entered a flap spin and the test pilot bailed out after an unsuccessful attempt to recover from the spin and then an unsuccessful deployment of the aircraft's ballistic parachute. Just looking at the aircraft, it is not hard imagine it having an slightly aft center of gravity. The ballistic parachute, a laudable design goal, would also put additional weight aft of the center of gravity. If these observations are correct, perhaps a redistribution of weight in the aircraft would solve the spin recovery problem? Of course, additional weight might put the aircraft over the 1320 pound maximum takeoff weight limit for sport aircraft.

The GA pilot population is dwindling. We need instructors to train new pilots. Instructor candidates need to undergo spin training. Without an influx of new instructors, there will be fewer instructors available to train new pilots. Without an influx of new pilots and affordable (and versatile) aircraft for those pilots to use, the market for new aircraft can only shrink.

What were they thinking?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Assume a Frictionless Universe

As a diversion from recent events, I wanted to get on with some other posts I had in the pipeline.

I received a really cool gift a few weeks ago - a Zaon MRX PCAS (portable collision avoidance system). I've been using it for over a week now and wanted to share my observations on this fascinating product. You might be wondering why an instructor who trains in TAA (technically advance aircraft) with Traffic Information Service (TIS) would need a PCAS. And the purists out there say we should just be using our eyes to look for other aircraft, not fancy gadgets. You can explain most anything if you assume, as the old physics jokes go, that we live in a frictionless universe. The thing is, there's plenty of potential friction out there.

There are several reasons why a PCAS unit can increase safety and prevent collisions. Here are just a few:
  • There are several places I fly where ATC's radar doesn't support TIS.
  • I often fly aircraft that are not equipped with TIS (Traffic Information System).
  • Even when TIS is available, the Zaon MRX provides several unique advantages.

If you're like me, you get a sinking feeling when you hear the G1000's audible warning "TIS not available." This happens when you are out of radar contact or when you enter an area where ATC's radar does not support the uploading of traffic data to appropriately enabled, Mode S transponders. The NORCAL sectors around Stockton/Modesto and eastward do not support TIS nor does Travis Approach. These are areas I frequent with students and while I'm conscientious about scanning for traffic, let's just say I've been able to perform more air-to-air inspections on the rivets of other aircraft than I'd like.

The FAA put us on notice that support for TIS will be phased out over the next 7 years or so. This seems a fundamentally bad idea, based on the unrealistic notion that we'll all soon have ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) and won't need TIS. Nothing could be further from the truth. ADS-B has yet to see the widespread acceptance that the G1000 and other TIS products have seen. I've never flown an ADS-B aircraft, but there must be thousands of G1000 aircraft out there using TIS to provide an increased level of safety. Ground-based support for ADS-B is supposed to be completed for the US National Airspace System by sometime in 2014. By the way, Garmin provided this map a while back to show areas where TIS is still supported along with when and where it will be phased out.

I've been using the Zaon MRX both in TIS-equipped aircraft and those that have no collision avoidance systems. The MRX only provides the distance and relative altitude to other aircraft based on their transponder replies; it doesn't tell you where the traffic is in relation to you. What I've discovered is that even when TIS is available and working, the MRX provides useful, perhaps lifesaving information.

You can set the warning envelope on the MRX and I usually use the 3 mile radius and 2000 foot altitude setting, unless I'm in busy, class B or class C airspace. When an aircraft gets too close, the MRX will flash, display the distance and relative altitude, and provide a beep. The warnings take two-forms - and advisory and alert. You can hook up the MRX to provide audible warnings through you headset, but I find I can see the flashing alert and hear the beep, even through a noise-canceling headset.

The MRX will detect pretty much any transponder when it responds to an interrogation from ATC radar or from another aircraft's TCAS. It is possible for the MRX to detect a collision threat from an aircraft transponder that is responding to a TCAS interrogation, even if the threatening aircraft is not in radar contact with ATC. Still, the MRX won't see all aircraft. It won't see aircraft that are not transponder-equipped or if the transponder of the other aircraft is turned off. I've also noticed that the transponder replies of aircraft below and behind my aircraft seemed to be masked and the MRX might not detect those aircraft.

Here are just a few of the dozens of collision threats that the MRX alerted me to in the last two weeks.

Scenario #1

On an approach to a Class Delta airport, we were told to "circle east, enter right traffic, report downwind." Reporting on downwind, the tower controller (who sounded like a trainee) told us a Lancair was inbound from the Northeast on a right base. The MRX showed an aircraft 2 miles and 400 feet above us and, suspecting it was the Lancair, I looked to our left and saw the traffic. We adjusted our pattern, keeping our base turn tight. The newbie controller had her hands full since the Lancair was coming in hellbent for leather, but she handled it pretty well. She told the aircraft on final approach for the parallel runway to go around and switched the Lancair to the parallel runway.

Scenario #2

With a commercial candidate, we'd been getting traffic advisories while doing chandelles, lazy eights, and what not. Finished with our maneuvers, we advised the controller we were headed to Oakland for a practice approach. I took the controls while my candidate donned his view-limiting device, the controller gave us a new squawk and then apparently got busy arranging the handoff to the next sector. Thats when the MRX alerted us to traffic within 3 miles at the same altitude. I scanned left to right and saw a Bonanza at our three o'clock. Thing is, we were heading 220 at 4500 feet and the Bonanza was eastbound at 4500 feet - WAFDOF (wrong altitude for direction flight). I descended 300 feet and the Bonanza passed overhead, apparently oblivious to us. The controller never said a word, probably too busy arranging the handoff.

Scenario #3

Flying ground reference maneuvers near the Sacramento River Delta, the MRX announced traffic within 3 miles at the same altitude. A quick scan and we didn't see anything, so we climbed 400 feet. That's when we saw a helicopter pass right below where we had been at the altitude we had been flying.

The MRX is lightweight, so I keep it in one pocket of my kneeboard and I carry the lightweight power adapter in the other kneeboard pocket. A friend turned me onto Garmin's Temporary Adhesive Disks. These disks provide as a convenient way to temporarily mount the MRX securely and then remove it with no trace of residue when you're done. I use just a bit of a single disk, one dab on each corner of the MRX. A good way to store the unit so that it won't stick to my kneeboard is to simply wrap it in a small sheet of baking parchment. I've mounted and re-mounted the MRX several dozen times and the four dabs of Garmin adhesive disk have yet to lose their grip.

The last thing I'll say about the MRX, especially to those of you who think having and using such a device is overkill, is that the unit has a great side benefit. I mount the unit on the top of the glareshield of whatever plane I'm flying and when I hear the beep, I look up. This can be especially important in a glass cockpit instructional environment, where it's easy for both the instructor and student to get distracted by the pretty colors. And the MRX audible alert sounds much sooner than, say, the G1000's traffic alert.

We don't live in a frictionless universe, there's a lot more traffic out there than we can see, and I'm a firm believer in using every and all available tools and devices. All's fair in love, war, and traffic avoidance.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Making Waves

On Friday, I was up at 4am after going to bed at midnight. In the quiet darkness, I was reminded of my freight flying days, but there was no early show-time today. The goal was to stay awake until 10am for an Electro Encephalogram or EEG. I could eat breakfast, but no coffee was allowed.

My wife drove me to the hospital, we found the neurology department and we waited. Looking around the waiting room, I got the feeling that there were some seriously ill people there. Was I one of them? I was hopeful that this test would, if not give me a clean bill of health, at least rule out the things dreaded and dreadful.

The EEG technician's job was made easier by my choice of hair style, or should I say scalp style? She carefully measured my skull with a small tape measure, marking spots with a red pen that she assured me contained water-soluble ink. The character of the ink was the least of my worries. After several minutes of measuring, she began applying the electrodes - somewhere around 25 total.

Seated in a comfortable reclining chair in the darkened room, I began to drift off into a light sleep, vaguely aware of the light dab of gel and the press of each electrode as it was attached. One electrode was placed just below the orbit of each of my eyes to measure eye movement. Another was placed on chest to measure heart rate. Lastly, everything was held is place by a wrapping of a light, elastic gauze and the test began.

I opened and closed my eyes on command. With my eyes closed, I began the three minutes of deep breathing I was told to expect. The technician explained to me that the goal was to get me hyperventilated and what sorts of sensations I should expect - tingling around the mouth and in my fingers, lightheadedness. I wanted to tell her that as a flight instructor I was familiar with the effects of hyperventilation and other aeromedical factors, but just kept breathing.

With my eyes closed, an array of LEDs was placed near my face and at regular intervals it began flashing. The frequency of the flashing was slow at first, it would pause for several seconds, and begin again. Each time the flashing resumed, it was at a higher frequency, gradually increasing to a rapid, strobing pace. The flashing reminded me of sitting in an aircraft with the engine idling, facing west, awaiting takeoff into the setting sun. I thought about how it was discovered that some World War I pilots were susceptible to flicker-induced seizures and how leaving aircraft anti-collision lights on while flying in the clouds at night can induce vertigo.

The flashing stopped and it was time to take a nap. I wanted to sleep, but I heard the click-clack of shoes on linoleum tile in the hallway, the light tapping of the technician occasionally entering something into the computer, the sound of the the air moving into the room through the vents in the ceiling ... And then there was a tap on my shoulder. I had dozed off and the test was done.

As the electrodes were removed, one by one, I just wanted a good cup of coffee at Cafe Trieste. The technician told me to expect the results early next week. I couldn't mask my disappointment. I explained that I couldn't drive or work, even on a limited basis, until I had the results. She shrugged and then, as if telling me the latest gossip, she leaned forward, winked and whispered "It looks fine."

To my surprise, I received an email early Friday evening saying I could view new test results on line. I logged on and found a message for the neurologist. She had worked a bit late on a Friday to review the test and send me the words I wanted to read: "EEG normal, it's okay to drive ..."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Newspaper, Telephone, Flower

I found myself walking through the front door of my house at 5:30pm yesterday, not remembering where I'd been. In actuality, I'd just walked two blocks from the new circuit-training fitness center when I had done a trial workout. The thing is, I only remembered the first two-thirds of the circuit. I didn't remember walking home and a lot of other recent details were pretty fuzzy. A trip to the ER was clearly in order and my wife drove while I slowly downed a couple of liters of electrolyte. I felt light-headed and dopey, but slowly began to feel better.

I felt well enough to be dropped off at the entrance, to walk through the security screening by myself, and to tell the triage nurse my complaint: There were 15 minutes of the last hour of which I had no recollection. Even as the words were coming out of my mouth I couldn't believe I was saying them.

No offense to anyone out there who works in the health care profession, but I hate hospitals. I've watched my mom and two sisters slowly waste away in hospitals while the world shimmered just outside the window. Just being in a hospital gives me the creeps. Nevertheless, the ER staff was friendly, courteous, and on top of their game.

Within minutes I was hooked up to an EKG, breathing oxygen, and unsure what was going to happen next. A CT scan of my brain, a chest x-ray, an EKG, and preliminary blood tests revealed ... nothing. And I was feeling better and better as my sensorium became clearer. Within an hour, I felt like my old self, with one, new, sinking realization: The FAA medical certificate in my wallet was toast. It was like a switch had been thrown and I was no longer fit to be pilot-in-command. And it was clear that the ramifications of this event were lost on the doctor and staff.

After three hours, all subsequent tests had come back as "normal" and I went home with a diagnosis that really didn't seem like a diagnosis: Transient Global Amnesia. A rare syndrome that usually occurs in adults over age 56, TGA is idiopathic - the underlying cause is not known. The vast majority of people who experience a TGA episode have no recurrence in their lifetime. There are no long-term adverse effects, no course of treatment, no medications, nothing to do, no action to take. Understandably, the FAA doesn't like events for which there is no clear cause and getting a new medical certificate will require up to 2 years.

Yet for being so benign, experiencing a TGA is decidedly unsettling. It's odd to not remember part of your day and it's oh so easy to imagine that you must have some sort of serious disease - a brain tumor, vascular problem, the nightmare list goes on and on. You just have to trust that the EKG, CT scan, xray, blood tests all attest to your health. Of course, there are more tests.

Today I visit the neurologist after the appointment desk calls me at 8am, an amazingly prompt response since I was just in the ER last night. My wife drives me to the doctor's office, I register at the desk and have my blood pressure taken. The doctor arrives and she's friendly, but no-nonsense. She asks me, among other things, to repeat three words - newspaper, telephone, flower. She has me repeat them three times and says she'll ask me to repeat them again in a few minutes.

I count backward from 100 by 7. I spell "world" backwards and duplicate her drawing of two simple hexagons. I draw the face of a clock, including all the numbers and draw the hands showing 10 minutes to 8. I tell her where I am, the name of the building, the city, county, state and country. I tell her the date and day of the week, who's president and the past presidents going back three-plus decades, carefully distinguishing between George W. Bush and George H. W. Bush.

I touch my right thumb to my left ear. I follow her moving finger with my eyes. I stand with my eyes closed and my feet close together. I walk heel-to-toe. With my eyes closed, she draws the outline of numbers on my upturned palms and I tell her what the numbers are. She examines my retinae, tests my pupillary response to light, tests the strength of my muscles and all of my reflexes. I say "ahh," then squint, then smile on command. I'm anxious, but after several minutes, I still remember "newspaper, telephone, flower."

A few more tests need to be done, but two things are clear: I'm apparently healthy and my day-to-day life has dramatically changed. How will I earn a living? With whom will my students train now that they can't train with me? Three days ago I demonstrated flying an ILS approach down to minima to ATP standards in turbulence and 25 knot, gusting winds. Today, and for the immediate future, I'm grounded with many questions left unanswered.

Once again, the shimmering, fleeting quality of life comes clearly into focus.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Aviation Sitcom

During a recent email exchange with a pilot friend, we got to fantasizing about how TV might have been used to further interest in General Aviation. This all came about when he saw the 1970's paint scheme on an older twin that I've been flying and dubbed it "The Brady Bunch Plane." For those of you old enough to remember Sky King and Whirlybirds here are some ideas for re-tooling old TV shows so that they would pique the aviation interests of American TV viewers.

"My Favorite Pilot" - A socially awkward aviator tries to fit in with regular humans, enlisting the help of his understanding nephew.

"Have Twin, Will Travel" - Worn out from years of flying in Alaska, a grizzled pilot bounces from town to town, searching for the meaning of life and regular work.

"The Unflyables" - A situation comedy where two inept, inner-city A&Ps trade barbs while collecting junk planes, engines, and avionics.

"Drag Link" - Laconic, emotionless FAA inspectors search for poorly maintained aircraft so they can cite the owners - "Just the logbooks, ma'am."

"Twin Bonanza" - The Cartwright family travels throughout Nevada, trying to do what's good and right, but always forgetting to turn off their strobes while taxiing at night.

Now here's my challenge to you: If you caught the references to the original, old TV shows, perhaps you can think of some other parodies based on the fare that currently graces our airwaves.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fresh Perspective

A while back I wrote:
VFR charts use basically two colors and various types of shading to depict all possible airspace. And if you don't think pilots are confused, just sit in on one of the many flight reviews I give and you'll have more than enough evidence. Sure I complain, but here's just one constructive suggestion. For MOAs, Prohibited, Restricted, and Alert areas, NACO could just put the altitude depictions and the frequency of the controlling agency right next to the airspace depiction. That way, pilots won't have to remember an identifying number, unfold their sectional in flight, and look it up on another part of the chart. Who cares about the hours of operation for an area when you can just talk to the controlling agency and ask them if the area is hot?
Well the FAA hasn't changed the sacred VFR sectional and terminal area charts that most U.S. pilots use, but Jeppesen seems to think there's a market for improved VFR charts. They've begun introducing what they call VFR+GPS charts that have an easier-to-read layout and some nifty features. As of this writing the VFR+CPS charts are only available for selected areas in the U.S., but Jeppesen says they plan to cover all the major Class B areas within the next few months.

There isn't a VFR+GPS chart available yet for Northern California, so I purchased one that covers a particularly complicated area of airspace in the Southeastern U.S. that I flew through on my trip to the Caribbean back in June. The area around Eglin Air Force Base is pretty messy. I count about 6 restricted areas, one alert area, 2 military operation areas, several warning areas with a smattering of Class Delta and Charlie thrown in for good measure. When I transited the area en route from Lake Charles to Tallahassee, the FAA's depiction on the New Orleans sections was complicated enough that I decided to cut the Gordian knot and transited the area under IFR.

Compare the NACO representation with the new Jeppesen VFR+GPS Chart ... Now this is where I'd like to show you part of a Jeppesen VFR+GPS chart (marked "Do Not Use for Navigation" of course), but I'm unable to do so since their products are protected by copyright and they don't seem to want to respond to my request for permission to show an excerpt. Sigh ...

Nevertheless, I see several advantages with the Jepp VFR+GPS charts.
  • The background contrast is much better than what you see in the NACO charts. I've never been a big fan of light blue lettering against a background consisting of varying shades of green and yellow. The improved contrast certainly makes the Jepp charts easier to read.
  • TRSA, Class E, D, C and Class B are all labeled and have explicit depictions of the altitudes for each area.
  • Areas of controlled airspace that begin at the surface are shaded so they stand out.
  • Since all controlled airspace is explicitly labeled, you don't have to remember a particular color or shading to determine what type of airspace you're looking at.
  • The altitudes for restricted, prohibited, and other special use airspace are explicitly labeled.
  • If you've ever struggled to locate intersecting lines of latitude and longitude, the Jepp charts highlight these as bold red crosses.
  • Popular VFR reporting points, intersections, and waypoints are clearly depicted, making them easier to use for GPS navigation.
  • Instead of Minimum Elevation Figures that provide an obstruction clearance of 300 to 400 feet, the Jepp charts depict a much more conservative Minimum Grid Area Elevation that provide 1000 feet of clearance for obstructions below 5000 feet MSL and 2000 feet of clearance for obstructions above 5000 feet MSL.
Now for the downside.
  • Approach control frequencies are not depicted on the chart next to the associated airspace. Instead, you have to look on the back of the chart to find the particular Class C or Class B airspace and then determine the sector you are closest to before you can determine the frequency to use. I think this is a big oversight on Jeppesen's part because it forces pilots to engage in chart wrestling (having to unfold the chart and turn it over), which is a real safety concern for single-pilot operations.
  • The special use airspace table on the back of the chart I purchased does not list any frequencies for the controlling agencies. What's up with that?!
  • I would have preferred to see the altitude depictions for Restricted, Prohibited, Warning Areas, and MOAs be the same as for controlled airspace rather than use a different convention.
Overall, I think the Jepp VFR+GPS charts offer improved readability over NACO charts. And while these charts are a bit more expensive that their NACO counterparts, the Jepp charts will not be published on a regular basis. Instead, you'll need to visit the Jepp site or subscribe to their email chart updates and, one would assume, pencil in the changes on the chart yourself. Time will tell whether or not this will be a usable system of updating charts.

I have yet to see the VFR Area Charts that Jeppesen is producing. I'll wait until they publish these new charts for the SFO Class B area and then post another review. Who knows, by then Jeppesen might have responded to my copyright request. Overall, I say kudos to Jeppesen for trying to build a better mouse trap.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Marking Time, Part II

Following up on my previous post about LogTen Pro, I wanted to post my impressions on LogTen Mobile for the iPhone. By the way, I believe you can also use LogTen Mobile on the iPod Touch if you want these features but are locked into a mobile phone contract. I can't verify that claim as I haven't personally used LogTen Mobile on the iPod Touch.

LogTen Mobile lets you log your flight time on your iPhone and then sync it with the LogTen Pro logbook program for MacOS X. LogTen Mobile provides a subset of the features found in LogTen Pro, but it lets you enter all the pertinent data about a flight. Here's what you'll see first when you launch LogTen Mobile.

After initializing, LogTen Mobile will display the Flights screen. There are five categories of logbook data from which you can choose to display: Flights, Totals, Limits, Certificates, and Sync. To access one of these categories, simply tap on the icon at the bottom of most any LogTen Mobile screen.

I have smudged out some of the information and some of the remarks for reasons of privacy.

The Flights screen allows you to view currently logged flights, to edit a logged flight, or to add a new flight. You can choose how many of your recent flights you wish to store on your iPhone. Each line shows the departure and destination, the date, registration number, aircraft type, block out and in times, total time, and remarks.

I recommend setting your iPhone to 24-Hour time by launching Settings, selecting General, then Date & Time. If you plan to log block-out and block-in times as well as on and off times, a 24-hour time representation will make it much clearer to select the correct time.

To add a new flight, tap on the plus sign in the upper right corner of the Flights screen.

Next, you'll see a screen where you can choose to add a New Flight, enter the Next Leg (the departure will automatically be set to the last destination airport), enter the Return Trip (the departure and destination will be the inverse of your last flight), Duplicate the last flight, or Cancel and return to the Flights screen.

To add a new flight, just tap on New Flight and you'll see a screen where you can enter data about the flight as it becomes available to you. The flight data is broken down into basic categories that you can scroll through: Trip, Times, Takeoffs & Landings, Operations, Duties, People, and Notes. You can configure each section to display only the data that is important to your style of flying.

Tap on Aircraft ID and you'll see a list of the aircraft registration numbers that you used in previously logged flights, grouped by aircraft type. If you're adding a new registration number, just tap on the plus sign in the upper right corner. When you enter a new flight for an existing registration number, LogTen will automatically fill in the Hobbs Out and Tach Out times that you entered as Hobbs In and Tach In the last time you flew that aircraft. There is a minor bug is the Hobbs and Tach entry screens that requires an extra tap when entering the numbers, but that should be fixed in an upcoming release.

Tap on out and you'll see this screen allowing you to spin the wheels of the clock to set the desired time. This is where having your iPhone set to 24-hour time makes it much easier to ensure you've selected the correct time rather than seeing a mix of UTC in 24-hour format with your local time in 12-hour format.

Here are snaps of the rest of the New Flight screen, scrolling downward. You can configure each section to show as little or as much detail as you choose. Anywhere you see a green equals sign, you can tap on that sign to make that particular time equal to the total time.

Moving on, the other mains screens allow you to shown your flight experience grouped again by the simple categories Overview, Times, Takeoffs & Landings, Operations, and Custom. You can use LogTen Pro on the Mac to create a variety of custom categories for display.

The Limits screen is useful for pilots flying under Part 135 or 121 who need to track their duty limits for the last 24 hours, last 7 days, and the last 28 days. You can also create custom duty categories using LogTen Pro on the Mac. I wish I'd had this back when I was flying freight.

The Certificates screen lets you display all of the certificates you hold (the ones you entered in LogTen Pro), kind of a gee whiz feature I guess. To be truly useful, I wish this screen would display the date your received a particular certificate or rating.

The Sync screen is used when you want to synchronize the times you entered on your iPhone with your LogTen Pro logbook running on your Mac. Synchronizing is pretty easy. First, connect your iPhone to your Mac with the USB cable. If you're using iTunes version 8.X, iTunes will launch automatically when you connect your iPhone to your Mac. My procedure is to wait for iTunes to back-up my iPhone and synchronize my calendar and other data. Once iTunes is finished and displays the message that it's okay to disconnect my iPhone, I launch LogTen Pro. On you iPhone, select the Sync screen and tap Sync Now.

There are a few minor improvements that need to be made and from what I've seen so far, Noah (the developer of LogTen Pro and Mobile) is aggressively developing these two products and open to suggestions and bug reports. I've found LogTen Pro for MacOS X and LogTen Mobile for the iPhone to be quite useful and usable combination.

Should pilots trust an electronic logbook program? Since I migrated to using the LogTen suite, I have yet to log any time on paper. So I feel very comfortable going paperless (where I can). I do regular back-ups to my iDisk and CD-ROM, just to be sure. If you're ready to try LogTen Pro, just click here

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Charting a New Course

The new Northern California T-routes I wrote about a while back in April now appear on the NACO and Jeppesen IFR en route charts. For some pilots, this should be a welcome relief. Here's an email I received a while back:
I frequently fly IFR from S50 to KRHV. Just before SAC, they amend my filed plan (... V23 SAC V334 SUNOL) to "... depart SAC at hdg 157 and intercept the ECA 215 radial, then fly hdg 215 to CEDES". The first time they gave me this clearance, it was a curve ball, I got off GPS mode and navigated to CEDES using VORs (I could have used OBS, but didn’t bother). However, upon closer inspection, I realized that all they did was send me to MOVDD, then CEDES. So I wonder why they simply don’t clear me "... direct MOVDD direct CEDES". In the 3 times I have flown this route IFR, every single time, I got this funky clearance.

Assuming controllers have been briefed on T-routes and assuming they can determine when an aircraft is equipped for en route RNAV, this reader's amended clearance should simply be "cleared Sacramento, Tango 259, CEDES ..."

At least one ZSE controller told me a few months ago that they had not been trained on the use of T-routes and, at that time, were not assigning them in clearances even if specifically requested by pilots to do so. There are a bunch of aircraft out there equipped to fly T-routes and we can only hope the FAA will work out the training and procedural side of things.