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Before You File A Part 16 Complaint Against An AIP Airport Sponsor, Make Sure You Try To Settle.

Airport owners or operators (“Airport Sponsors”) who receive federal grant funds under the federal Airport Improvement Program (“AIP”) must agree to certain obligations and conditions.  These obligations and conditions are commonly referred to as “Grant Assurances.” Sometimes an airport tenant may end up in a dispute with an Airport Sponsor if the tenant thinks the Airport Sponsor is not complying with certain Grant Assurances and harming the tenant.

Some of the most commonly disputed Grant Assurances include Grant Assurance 19 (Operation and Maintenance), Grant Assurance 22 (Economic Non-Discrimination), Grant Assurance 23 (Exclusive Rights), Grant Assurance 24 (Fee and Rental Structure), Grant Assurance 25 (Unlawful Revenue Diversion), and Grant Assurance 29 (Airport Layout Plan).

If a dispute arises, an airport tenant has options for pursuing a complaint against the Airport Sponsor.  However, the tenant should use reasonable efforts to try and resolve the dispute with the Airport Sponsor.  Not only is this a good business practice, but it is also a requirement if the dispute can not be resolved and a formal complaint to the FAA is needed.

Making A Complaint

An airport tenant who believes an Airport Sponsor has violated one or more of the Grant Assurances (the “Complainant”) may make a complaint to the FAA. The FAA will then investigate and, if the FAA finds non-compliance, the FAA may take enforcement action.

Informal Complaint.   Under 14 C.F.R. Part 13, a Complainant may make an informal complaint to the appropriate FAA personnel in any regional or district office, either verbally or in writing. The FAA will then review the complaint, investigate as needed, and determine whether (1) FAA action is warranted, or (2) if it appears that the airport sponsor is violating any of its federal obligations.

Formal Complaint.     If the matter is not resolved to the Complainant’s satisfaction, the Complainant may file a formal complaint with the FAA under 14 C.F.R. Part 16. And as the reference implies, this type of complaint involves a more involved and lengthy procedural process.  It also takes significantly more time before the FAA decides whether a violation has occurred.

Informal Settlement Efforts

Before a Complainant may file a formal complaint, 14 C.F.R. § 16.21 requires the Complainant to initiate and engage in good faith efforts to resolve the disputed matter informally with those individuals or entities the Complainant believes are responsible for the noncompliance. These efforts may include common alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation, arbitration, or the use of another form of third-party assistance.

Additionally, the FAA Airports District Office, FAA Airports Field Office, FAA Regional Airports Division (responsible for administering financial assistance to the airport sponsor), or the FAA Office of Civil Rights are available, upon request, to try to help the parties resolve their dispute informally. Efforts to resolve the dispute informally are mandatory.

When the Complainant files a formal complaint, 14 C.F.R. § 16.27 requires the Complainant to certify that: “(1) [t]he complainant has made substantial and reasonable good faith efforts to resolve the disputed matter informally prior to filing the complaint; and (2) [t]here is no reasonable prospect for practical and timely resolution of the dispute.”

Although neither the FAA nor the regulations require a specific form or process for informal resolution, the Complainant’s certification must include a description of the parties’ efforts, which must be relatively recent prior to the filing of the complaint.

If the Complainant fails to make the certification, does not sufficiently describe the settlement efforts, or if the parties did not engage in informal settlement efforts, the FAA will dismiss the Complainant’s complaint.  Although the dismissal will be without prejudice, the Complainant will then be required to refile the Complainant’s complaint with the required certification.

Conclusion

If you are an airport tenant in a dispute with an AIP airport sponsor, you have options available to you for resolving the dispute.  As is often the case in disputes, the parties’ mutual settlement of the dispute is preferable and encouraged.

So, it usually a good idea to engage in settlement negotiations early.  And if the matter is not settled, you should be able to document the settlement efforts in which the parties engaged.  That way if a formal Part 16 complaint is required, you will have what you need to certify your informal settlement efforts and avoid dismissal of your complaint.

The Ins and Outs of Picking an Alternate Airport

You are planning your IFR flight but your destination airport is forecasting 1,000-foot ceilings with three statute miles due to a thunderstorm in the vicinity. According to FAR 91.169,

 

  • For aircraft other than helicopters. For at least 1 hour before and for 1 hour after the estimated time of arrival, the ceiling will be at least 2,000 feet above the airport elevation and the visibility will be at least 3 statute miles”.

You conclude that your best decision would be to file an alternate airport. Which one do you choose? Here are a few tips to think about in picking the right alternate airports for your IFR flight plan.

What type of storm is it and what direction is it moving?

Believe it or not, knowing the type of storms in the vicinity could be very important to your alternate airport. A few different storm types include single-cell, multi-cell, supercell, frontal thunderstorms, and squall lines. Particular traits such as the duration of the storm, how fast it moves, the environmental instability that will support vertical development, and the length of the storm are all factors to consider. The last thing you want to do is pick an alternate airport that is in the direction of the moving storm. The regulations suggest that you remain 20 NM away from the storm as hail, lighting, and other factors could put you in greater danger.

Does this alternate airport have precision, non-precision, or no instrument approaches?

Depending upon the type of approaches available at the alternate airport, you need to ensure you have the minimum weather at the estimated time of arrival. For an airport with a precision approach procedure, you need a minimum ceiling of 600 feet and two statute miles of visibility to file it. For a non-precision approach procedure, you need a ceiling of 800 feet and two statute miles of visibility. Lastly, for an alternate airport without an instrument approach available, the ceilings and visibility minima must allow you to descend from the MEA, approach, and land under basic VFR conditions. In some cases, the 200 feet of lower guidance from a precision approach can be the determining factor of if you can land or not. Choose an airport that will give you the best chance at landing. Be careful to observe nonstandard alternate minimums and if that airport can be used as an alternate altogether.

Fuel on board (FOB) and other factors that will affect your alternate choice.

It is important to pick an alternate airport that allows you to fly to the first airport of intended landing, fly from that airport to the alternate airport, and still fly after for 45 minutes at a normal cruising speed. Make sure to calculate FOB because the airports that will permit you the diversion may be specific to the aircraft’s performance.

Additionally, look at your alternate airport’s runway surface type, lengths, slope, and services provided. Calculate runway takeoff and landing distances for that airport and assure that your calculations are feasible for your payload and aircrafts specific performance. Do remember that your airfield conditions (wet runway) will adversely affect your landing and takeoff distances. The slope of the runway can also provide benefits and disadvantages to your performance. Just remember that for the most favorable performance, you want to takeoff downhill and land uphill. Lastly, make sure to choose an airport that provides you with necessary services such as fuel, hangar space, maintenance, etc.

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing an alternate airport. One thing to remember is by taking time to consider several different factors in picking a good alternate during your preflight planning, you can establish early threat and error management before you are airborne. Stay ahead of every flight!

Refreshing Your Knowledge on RNAV/GPS Approaches

It's beginning to reach that time of year where we transition into Spring, meaning one really important thing:

Low IFR. 

Not that we don't experience low IFR throughout other seasons, but as we transition into warmer temperatures, the temperature/dewpoint spread likes to stay close. This is especially true for nighttime and early mornings until the sun comes out and burns everything off. So now is the perfect time to read up on approaches and make sure you're ready for it!

Specifically, RNAV/GPS approaches. Thanks to the invention of WAAS (wide area augmentation system), these GPS approaches are becoming more common.

GPS approaches are also highly accurate because they require something called RNP-required navigational performance. RNP means that the needle when centered for the course is within .3nm of runway centerline 95% of the time. So next to an ILS approach, GPS approaches can get you some pretty low minimums. 

When it comes to understanding GPS approaches, there are a lot of terms and acronyms to know that can be confusing at first. Understanding them, however, makes for a better IFR pilot! So let's discuss and break these down:

  1. DME: you've probably already heard and remember this term but if not here's a refresher. DME stands for distance measuring equipment. Notice at the bottom of the KHOU chart above categories you see numbers in nautical miles, there's your DME! So you can also identify each fix by their distance.                                                      
  2. LP: Localizer performance. Remember earlier we talked about WAAS? Well, this requires WAAS and is a mode independent of LNAV AND LPV. The above plate doesn't depict it but it would be the equal counterpart of having localizer only on an ILS approach. Higher minimums but still more sensitivity as you reach closer to the runway area. 
  3. LNAV/VNAV: This is more commonly seen than LP. It has higher minimums than LPV but can still bring you in pretty low on an approach with great accuracy (you won't break out 30 degrees off the centerline). What you should understand about this is it is horizontal and vertical guidance down to minimums. They however are not flown down to an MDA, but a decision altitude. Meaning look outside at this altitude and decide if you're landing or not! The quicker you can reach this (while still being stable), the better. Don't forget to also take a look at baro-VNAV temperature notes. This can raise minimums and get you in a pickle if not adhered to as your airplane has to abide by these corrections (I say get in a pickle...the possibilities of what can happen can truly be unsafe). 
  4. LPV: my favorite type of GPS approach minimums. LPV stands for localizer performance with vertical guidance. In reality how I picture this is it is the next best thing to an ILS approach, but still NONPRECISION. But why is it nonprecision? Well LPV minimums are the lowest of all GPS mins and you must have WAAS onboard. Unlike a localizer, the sensitivity does not increase as you become closer to the threshold. Instead, it caps to linear scaling 700 feet wide AT the threshold but will not become any narrower. They are very operationally similar to an ILS and are flown to a DA just like LNAV/VNAV, but are far more economical because no navigation infrastructure is required at the airport.
  5. Baro-VNAV: and here's one of my least favorite types of GPS approaches. This stands for barometric vertical navigation (that's a mouthful). From what we mentioned earlier, it can constitute for sticky situations if not compensated for. Think of your pitot-static system when you think of baro-VNAV, because that's exactly what it relates to. It uses approach-certified baro-altitude information from the pitot-static system and air data computer to register the vertical guidance.

    - Pictured is a circled noted area on the RNAV 35L Z approach into KOKC. Notice how it gives you temperature restrictions that make the procedure NA? That means don't even try it. 
  6. GBAS: last but not least is ground based augmentation system. GBAS does what is called "augment" the GPS, meaning it provides corrections and improves navigation. This is very much a precision approach. You will also see this termed as GLS, which the FAA uses as GBAS landing system. You likely have never heard of GBAS or shot a GBAS approach, and this is because it is only in use by several airlines around the world. The way it works is by using a 5-digit channel (similar but don't get it confused with WAAS) to tune into the FMS for better accuracy. 

 There are a few other terms this post does not cover, examples including LNAV+V or APV type procedures. There is a lot to know about RNAV/GPS approaches but this covers the most commonly used and also the most commonly covered on instrument check rides. Stick around for a post in the future digging into the rest of this information. The more educated we are, the safer instrument pilots we become.

 

Note: all information here was derived from the AIM and FAA published instrument handbooks. These are subject to change over time so please ensure you keep your materials updated!

Transitioning Into Bigger Jets: What to Expect

A few weeks ago we did a post on how to prepare for 121/135 training, aka having to go to a training facility to do ground and sim training and pass a check ride at the end. We talked about tips for how to prepare, how to study and even what to study (biggest things to focus on). This week we're building on that foundation!

So let's start with the basics. Transitioning into bigger faster airplanes does not happen overnight. Studying over a period of time and making sure you're adequately prepared for your check ride that will eventually come up is the best strategy.

1) Memory Items & Limitations:

Same thing I wrote about last post: know your memory items and limitations BEFORE you even get to the training facility. This includes knowing max airspeeds and stall speeds. This will help for your first situation in handling the aircraft. You should have flash cards or an AFM with a limitations chapter & procedures tabs where you can find these items. Studying the AFM as well helps understand why these are memory items and in turn can help you memorize them

2) Don't Fly with Max Thrust Until You're Ready

This is a simple trick, and yet it's one of the most important. If you're jumping in the sim or airplane to fly for the first time, don't get overexcited about it! Sure it's exciting to get to go faster, but with "great speed comes great responsibility." That's a quote I just made up but there is a lot of truth to it!

After you takeoff, pull the power back

When you're cruising and having to fly a complicated clearance or getting ready for an approach, pull the power back as much as you're allowed

Giving yourself more time to set up and not having to rush through the flight generates less room for mistakes. 

3) Use the Autopilot Accordingly

Learn how the autopilot on this plane works: do you have FLC mode? VS? Any VNAV or APPR mode along with NAV? 

As soon as you have it available, click the mode you want and activate it. And if autopilot transfer is a mode on it then MAKE SURE it's selected to the side that is flying.

During training before you have a check ride or before a critical time, mess around with hand flying and no autopilot. I even shot an approach on the standby instruments without a PFD to see how sensitive the controls and power inputs are. This all just builds into better skill.

4) Learn How Your Thrust Levers/Throttles Work

I add this note in because not all levers have the same sensitivity. For example the Citation II takes some work, you have to use a little muscle to move them forward or backward. This is juxtaposed to the Learjets, where 1cm of movement changes N1 by 8%. Just getting a feel for how they work in your plane will be the first biggest step in flying well. 

Remember during your transition to take your time learning things to learn them thoroughly and to ask questions often. Sometimes learning an aircraft with more power can be frustrating and have you doubt your flying skills. Just know it takes time and will come. Fly safe and fly smart!

Questions/comments below

Finding & Avoiding Parachute Jump Areas

Parachute jump areas: they're not the most common area you typically fly threw unless you do a lot of low flying or are a jump pilot. We learn about them a lot during private training then don't seem to talk about it much after that. They seem pretty simple to fly around, but there's a couple extra things to know to help you avoid it and stay safer.

Last week a friend called me and asked "hey, you're a CFI. Is it illegal to fly through a parachute jump area?"

Well the simple answer is no. He was pipeline flying along his usual route and noticed he went through a parachute jump area. Because he was monitoring frequency he heard another pilot call him up and become upset at him for flying through the area. After landing this other pilot threatened to record his tail number and turn him in for careless and wreckless operation. Does this other pilot have a case? Was the pipeline pilot in the wrong? I'm sure simple things like these happen more often than you think. So let's dig into it.

In the last article we discussed ForeFlight and how great of a tool it is. Pictured above is a parachute jump area charted in Galveston, Texas from the Foreflight VFR Sectional screen. Aside from published Parachute Jump Area NOTAM's programs like ForeFlight will also display active jump areas as a caution to pilots flying through. They also include a frequency to monitor as to help find when the jump pilots are going to be releasing skydivers- ATC must legally be notified 5 minutes prior to drop. In a non-towered area ATC has to be notified no more than 24 hours and no less than 1 hour from flying time. It's always a good idea to pick up Flight Following so you can listen to these interactions when they're getting close to drop. 

With all of this being said, was the pilot flying pipeline illegally operating? This is a tricky question because it depends on a lot of factors, but in this case it was not. The frequency was being monitored, the drop zone was 5 minutes out from drop and was clear at the time, and as a pipeline pilot it was part of his job to fly that route. The advice I gave was to file a NASA report from the Aviation Safety Reporting System. A lot of pilots call this the get out of jail free card. In the case of any incidents (cases where illegal crimes did not take place and no person was injured) they can help to avoid action being taken against a pilot. This is a perfect situation. Careful action was taken not to penetrate an active drop zone, but a disgruntled pilot still threatened to file a report. Now both sides of the story can be taken. 

When it comes to avoiding parachute jump areas, simply know where you're flying and what will be along that route. Avoid the area if you can, if you can't then check into the appropriate listed frequency so you never accidentally fly through falling skydivers. This would be the worst case scenario.

Remember a safe pilot is one who is prepared! Questions or comments? Write to us below this article.

 

 

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