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5 More Things ATC Wants You to Know

2 weeks ago we discussed the topic of tips from ATC. After surveying some air traffic controllers, they provided advice for talking on the radios and things they really dislike that pilots do.

Well, the feedback on this was so good I mentioned doing part two. So here it is! 

cockpit

1) Emergency

If you're ever in distress for any reason, tell your controller. They can't help if they don't know what's going on. Maybe you have an electrical issue and are having to pop some circuit breakers before you get to the next assigned task or it's as drastic as losing an engine. But whatever the reason, even if it's not yet a full-blown emergency and you need some assistance from ATC, don't be afraid to just let them know.

Sky

2) Pop Up IFR

If you need a pop-up IFR, also sometimes referred to as a local IFR request, just ask for it. Some pilots will advise never to do that because it adds extra workload to controllers having to take that information from you, put it in the system then give you clearance. Sure, it does take a little extra time to do that work, but if you think it'll jeopardize safety, then do it. ATC would rather take the time to give you that clearance than you try and stay VFR and get into trouble. It truly only takes a few extra steps and if they aren't busy it isn't that big of a deal. Just have required information ready to read off such as name, phone number, the color of your aircraft, souls on board, fuel remaining, etc.

3) Request on Check In

When you're en-route and have a switch off between frequencies, most pilots' first instinct is to check in and advise of any requests they want then and there. "Center N224JW flight level 320 requesting direct destination."

Believe it or not, in most cases on that first initial check in with the new frequency, you're likely still in the last sector's airspace. This means for your new controller, most requests have to be called in and coordinated before authorizing it. So if you check in, it's busy, and you want to help ATC out, wait a minute or two before calling back if the request isn't urgent and you're more likely to get it off the bat.

4) Approach Check In

Another check in tip! When you're checking in with approach, try and give them all the required information you know they'll ask for so they don't have to play 20 questions. "Approach, N10JM 17,000 descending via the GESSNER4 arrival, information foxtrot for ILS 13R." 

Here they don't need to ask if you've gotten the ATIS and they know what approach you're wanting so they can be ready for it. 

5) Expedite

If a controller asks you to expedite through an altitude and report your current level, they actually needed that like 5 seconds ago. Don't delay on the expedite or reading it back to them. Seems simple but the issue occurs pretty commonly and this is where both teams need to work together.

This concludes just about all of the main talking points that were sent in. If you have any questions for ATC, things you as a controller would like to add, or questions/comments in general, comment below or send it in to us! 

 

Scuba Skies—The Precautions to a Safer Experience

I was talking to a close friend a couple weeks ago and she was telling me all about her scuba diving certificates and the places she has dove. She has gone to the Keys of Florida and even some quarry sites in a few other states! This summer she has decided to take on a whole new course and pursue certifications beyond her Advanced Open Water (AOW) with Professional Diving Instructors (PADI) training. I definitely admire her drive for adventure and bravery to swim with sharks but shipwreck snorkeling might be the deepest I ever desire to go. If you are also someone who loves the thrills of scuba diving yet all things flying, let’s quickly review some safety rules before you mix these two hobbies. 

If you are the pilot or the passenger, both should allow sufficient time before flying after a scuba dive to allow the body enough time to rid itself of excess nitrogen absorbed during a dive. Not taking heed to these rules may result in decompression sickness due to evolving gases during altitude exposure.

Here’s what the regulations say:

Flight altitudes up to 8,000ft:

  • Wait at least 12 hours after diving without a controlled ascent
  • Wait at least 24 hours after diving with a controlled ascent

Flight altitudes above 8,000ft:

  • Wait at least 24 hours after any dive (controlled or uncontrolled ascent)

Let’s dive a little bit deeper into the topic. According to AC 61-107B:

“Scuba diving requires breathing air under high pressure”. There is a considerable increase in the amount of nitrogen dissolved into the body under these conditions. In other words, the body is nitrogen saturated. The greater the depth of the scuba dive, the more the body is saturated in nitrogen. Nitrogen is distributed throughout the body by the circulatory system. The AC continues to state that “as atmospheric pressure is reduced as a result of ascent, the equilibrium is upset. This results in nitrogen leaving the body by passing from the cells, to the blood, and then out through the respiratory system. If the nitrogen is forced to leave too rapidly because of a large partial pressure difference, bubbles may form, causing a variety of signs and symptoms”. These symptoms can include abdominal pain, pain in the ears, toothache, and severe sinuses if the person is unable to equalize the pressure changes. Yikes!

Let’s take the proper precautions for a safer scuba dive experience if you decide to fly soon after. Have you ever gone or plan to go scuba diving? Leave a comment below!

5 Things ATC Wants You to Know

Recently I conducted a survey of air traffic controllers from all over the U.S. to find what they want from pilots, instead of what pilots want from them for once. Some well-deserved attention finally! Their input was well…overwhelming. There’s a lot we could be doing better.

radar

1) Stop saying “blooooocked”

This is exactly how they worded it! When pilots key up to say this on frequency, it just clogs up the frequency. If you’re going to advise them they were blocked, make it short and quick. But most of the time there’s no need to say it. They already know. Controllers sometimes work multiple frequencies and when they say they’re on a landline, 90% of the time it means they were on the line with another controller trying to coordinate. So just be patient and key back up when they’ve had enough time to talk to them.

2) Nobody Likes Bad Weather

On bad weather days, good routes turn to bad routes quickly and things have to change to accommodate that. Neither controllers nor pilots like bad weather. Just because someone was able to make it through 5 minutes before you doesn’t mean it’s a good idea now, so just keep working with the reroutes and be patient. A lot goes on behind the scenes that we don’t see. When a controller is trying to work these reroutes as well, there are usually 3-4 coworkers talking to them at the same time and likely even a supervisor/manager behind them all trying to control the sector -- meaning it gets hectic.

3) VFR Flight Following

I’m sure we’ve all heard someone doing this on the radio before: requesting flight following and taking 30 minutes to do so. Check-in with your altitude and not just your call sign if you already have flight following from a previous controller. If you need it, the format should be a simple “center, N240MT with a VFR request” then later followed by your current location from an airport or VOR station and destination. Don't forget to acknowledge traffic calls as well! They may be often and annoying but try to acknowledge every few so ATC knows you're receiving them.

4) Speak Up

If you need a different clearance than you were given or aren’t sure about a clearance, let them know (again in a professional manner). We all make mistakes and controllers sometimes do too so it doesn’t hurt their feelings to question it. They also can’t see weather like we can so if a route assigned doesn’t work that well, you can advise and describe the weather to them too (approximate bases, altitude, diameter, etc.) so they can use that for future use.

5) Don't Lie About NOTAM's

It's understandable that sometimes you forget to listen to the latest ATIS and check the latest NOTAM's, but if you need them and don't have them, just ask. Most of the time controllers can just read them off to you. What can be an issue is saying you have them, then asking for an approach that's not in service (like an ILS localizer) or for a closed runway. 

I heard a controller playing a joke to catch pilots calling for a taxi without it recently telling them "and advise you have information Charlie" then following with "information November is actually current call me when you have it." The absolute best ground controller prank I've heard yet!

There will likely be a part 2 to this in the future because the survey had such good feedback, but these were the most discussed topics on there that needed to be touched on. Keep in mind we all want to work together for the same goal each day: to see every flight land safely. 

To B, or not to B -- The Basics of Class B Airspace in VFR Operations

VFR Mapping

You’re planning a route on a VFR sectional and come across an airport surrounded by class B’s solid blue circles. You know that class B is known for being the busiest and one of the most restrictive controlled airspaces. So what do you need to know about this airspace to navigate with confidence? Good question, here’s what you need to know.

Requirements/Limitations

  • ATC clearance (Ex. Skyhawk 099SP, cleared to enter the CLE Bravo)
  • Establish and maintain two-way communication prior to entering
  • Mode C transponder (within 30 nm, up to 10,000 msl)
  • Weather minimums
    • Visibility: Three statute miles
    • Cloud clearance: Clear of clouds
  • At least a private pilot certificate
  • Student pilot operations restricted
  • Speed restriction:
    • Inside the bravo: 250KIAS
    • Underneath the bravo: 200KIAS 

Your Level of Certification Matters!

According to FAR 61.95 if you are a student pilot you must have received both ground and flight training from an authorized flight instructor at that specific Class B airspace area in which you intend on operating within. You must also have received a logbook endorsed by your flight instructor who gave you the flight training, and the endorsement must be dated within the 90-day period preceding the date of the flight in that Class B airspace.

Remember! A major thing to keep in mind is that every Class B is tailored differently and may have different requirements. This being said, as a student pilot there are some Class B airspaces that regardless of FAR 61.95 do not permit operation due to high volume operations. These are:

  • Andrews Air Force Base, MD
  • (The William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport)Atlanta, GA
  • (General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport)Boston, MA
  • (Chicago-O'Hare International Airport)Chicago, IL
  • (Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Airport)Dallas, TX
  • (Los Angeles International Airport)Los Angeles, CA
  • (Miami International Airport)Miami, FL
  • (Newark International Airport) Newark, NJ
  • (John F. Kennedy International Airport)New York, NY
  • (LaGuardia Airport)New York, NY
  • (San Francisco International Airport) San Francisco, CA
  • (Washington National Airport)Washington, D.C.

Special Area, Special Training!

Some class B airspaces require more than just standard training. A very restrictive Class B I want to point out is DCA or Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. This airport requires all pilots to partake in special awareness training before operations under VFR within 60 nm of the DCA VOR/DME. This is due to close proximity to prohibit areas, restricted areas, and the capital building. If you’re interested in taking the training for free, visit www.faasafety.gov. The training takes approximately 40 to 45 minutes to complete. 

 

VFR Routes

This is one topic that is less known amongst pilots. There are published VFR routes for transitioning around airspaces such as class B that have been established by the FAA and industry initiatives. These routes are not used or intended to discourage VFR pilots from requesting clearance from ATC to operate within class B. They are simply designed to assist pilots in planning their flights into, out of, and around complex terminals and class B airspaces. The following routes established are VFR flyway, VFR Corridor, and class B Airspace VFR transition route. All pilots must continue to adhere to VFR rules and continue to see and avoid other traffic.

Figure 1: VFR Flyways (Depicted by blue arrows with designated altitudes to surface. An ATC clearance is NOT required to fly them. These routes will be depicted on TAC (Terminal Area Charts) if offered. Eventually, all TAC‘s will include a VFR flyway planning chart. The ground references are a guide to improve visual navigation.)



Figure 2: VFR Corridors (It does not extend down to the surface like a flyway but consists of a defined lateral and vertical limit, it’s a ‘hole’. Exercise extreme caution to avoid other VFR traffic using the corridor. Communication nor clearance is required with ATC.)

Figure 3: VFR Transition Routes (These routes are special flight courses depicted on a TAC that assists transitioning a class B airspace. These routes are designed to show pilots where to position their aircraft outside of or clear of the class B Airspace where they can expect an ATC clearance with minimal or no delay. ATC clearance and contact are required.) 

Many general aviation pilots find class B airspace intimidating and would prefer to avoid it completely. However, knowledge is power and I believe with the proper training, a pilot can learn to operate safely and competently within class B airspace. Even in the event of using a VFR route, understanding your options in and around a class B airspace permits and promotes safer operation. Once you get the hang of it, class B airspace isn’t too challenging but it does require your full attention and a bit of practice. 

10 Things You Need to Start Your Flight Training

Thinking about starting your flight training soon? That’s awesome! Pursuing your pilot certificates is an exciting and big accomplishment. Here are 10 things I highly suggest getting to kickstart your flight training.

Bose A20s Headset

1) Headset

The most popular headsets I’ve seen so far are David Clark and Bose A20’s. These headsets range from roughly $500 to $1100! I found a cheaper headset for $200 on Amazon and they have worked well for the past 2 years. If you buy from a lesser-known company or brand, look up the reviews and choose wisely. Don’t go too cheap. As they say, you get what you pay for. If you have the funds to go for high quality, do so. I’ve used the Bose A20 once and the quality is definitely worth the price in the long term.

2) Flight Bag

Pilot Flight Bag

What better way to carry your flight things around than a stylish flight bag? There is a wide range of flight bags out there with different compartments to satisfy your item holding needs. I would highly suggest that you start off with a smaller size. The picture of the flight bag above is the first one I bought. Over time you will begin to accumulate many things and it’s best to keep it simple and limit your bag size until you truly need something bigger. 

 

3) Knee Board 

Knee Board

Originally when I started my flight training I wasn’t sure how necessary it would be to get a kneeboard. I waited quite a while to get one but soon learned this is one item you should never forget to bring to every flight lesson. The answer is, VERY necessary! My flight school doesn’t let you start off with an IPad for cross countries, which means you're lugging around Nav logs, weight & Balance sheets, sectionals, chart supplements, etc. Do yourself a favor and get a kneeboard to keep all of your important planning papers organized! I currently use a King School Trifold iPad kneeboard and it’s the best ever! But if you wish to start with the metal single plate board, it’s also a really great one to use.

4) Logbooks

Logbook

Once you start logging flight time you need somewhere to put it! There are several different types of logbooks but the main purpose is to keep track of your flight time, sim time, endorsements, etc. Stay in FAR 61.51 (Pilot logbooks) compliance!

5) Red Flashlight

Red Flashlight

According to FAR 61.109 Aeronautical experience, “a person who applies for a private pilot certificate with an airplane category and single-engine class rating must log at least... 3 hours of night flight training in a single-engine airplane...” Night flying is so wonderful but takes a minute to adjust to. Certain procedures change a little but a major must-have is a red flashlight to equip you for successful night operations. A red light is used to preserve your night vision far better than white light. My personal suggestion is to buy at least two in the event one is damaged or stops working.

6) Foggles

Foggles

If we look back at FAR 61.109 it also states “ 3 hours of flight training in a single-engine airplane on the control and maneuvering of an airplane solely by reference to instruments.” In order to comply with this requirement, you're going to need a view limiting device such as a hood or Foggles. These simulate instrument conditions and direct your view to your instruments only instead of looking outside the flight deck.

7) Books, Charts, and Maps

Books Charts Maps

Here are a few books I would highly recommend looking into getting:

  • Private pilot Jeppesen
  • FAR/AIM
  • FAA Airplane Flying Handbook (digital or hard copy)
  • FAA Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (digital or hard copy)
  • Gleim Test Prep – Private Pilot
  • VFR Sectional
  • Your aircraft Information Manual
  • Valid Chart Supplement

8) E6B or electronic E6B flight computer

E6B Flight Computer

An E6B is a flight computer used for flight planning to help you calculate fuel burn, wind correction, time en route, and other critical items. While you are airborne, your E6B can be used to estimate fuel burn, calculate ground speed, and update the estimated time of arrival. 

9) FAA Medical

FAA Medical Certificate

An FAA medical is a must-have to start your flight training. There are three types of medicals you can get. 

1. First Class

2. Second Class

3. Third Class

Each class permits different operation privileges that you will soon learn in your training. Look for an AME (Aviation-Medical Examiner) in your area. I recommend that when you go to get a medical, get the highest class (1st class) medical to see the requirements the AME will expect to receive that medical.

10) Flight School for your needs!

Flight School Students

Are you ready to kick your flight training off? The flight school you pick will structure the foundation of your flight career. They will be your connections into the inner industry and your foundation for fundamental flight operations. You can go Part 61 or Part 141, they both have their advantages and disadvantages but it all depends on your learning needs.

Before you pick a flight school, look up the price of attendance/rentals, success rate if available, credentials of the school's instructional staff, aircraft fleet/on-site maintenance, and talk to current students (if permitted). These are all important steps to picking the best school for you.

Always remember that when you pick a flight school and flight instructor, the majority of the time their values on safety, checklist usage, and skill development will become your structure as a pilot. This can be a stressful decision to make but do your research and you will be just fine!

Best of luck starting your flight training! 

 

 

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