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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.                                                      RNAV GPS Chart
  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.
    RNAV RNP Chart
    - 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!

Airplane Cockpit

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.

Learjet 60XR Cockpit

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.

Parachute Jump Area

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.

 

 

How to Handle Emergencies in IMC

Happy Valentines Day from everyone at Globalair.com! We hope this week's post finds you in good standing and staying warm this time of year :)

Wing Tip of Piston Aircraft

I am writing this post for two reasons:

1) This time of year is when IFR, including low IFR, tends to move in more often

2) I had a friend lose all 3 gyro instruments in IFR with thunderstorms nearby and moderate turbulence too, so we discussed all the aspects of the incident and what could have been handled/prepared for better

Flying IMC is no joke, but especially when you're flying it in smaller older model planes that tend to have a lot of recurring maintenance issues. A small issue can quickly turn into a big problem if not handled correctly. 

So the best way to handle in-flight emergencies IMC? Prepare for them.

As previously mentioned, in GA flying it's the older model planes that things are more likely to break and put you in a bad situation. Especially if you have a 6 pack versus a glass cockpit. This doesn't mean that glass cockpits are foolproof, but usually, when you have a failure it's easier to recognize. A perfect example of this is having a loss of the attitude indicator and heading indicator. In the traditional 6 pack, this most commonly happens due to a vacuum system failure.

You have to be watching your instruments closely to see one of the visual cues:

-tumbling on the heading indicator

-lack of movement on the attitude indicator

-small red off flag indicating instrument failure

-loss of vacuum suction on the vacuum gauge

You can still have a gyroscopic failure aside from a vacuum system issue. In fact, there's no vacuum system in a glass cockpit and it is still possible to lose these. 

When an instrument is no longer reliable in a glass cockpit, the screen will display a large red X over it to indicate the failure. 

But then there's always the argument, what if I lose my entire PFD? Now you've completely lost everything. It's very rare, but it's possible. 

Here's the best solution I've come up with: buy 2 literal life-saving devices

Foreflight Pro Plus package (subscription a step up from the basic $99 package) and a Stratus or a Sentry. The stratus and the sentry are similar devices, the sentry is just about $300 cheaper. What both of these do is you program them when you turn them on in the plane and set them somewhere, and they'll connect to the Foreflight synthetic vision. While this isn't legally reliable, it is a LOT better than nothing when having a lost of instruments. 

Foreflight Pro iPad App

In the incident with my friend, they actually got into a graveyard spiral and LIVED. All 3 gyros stopped working and they lost 2400 feet in less than 20 seconds. As they heard the air speeding up over the wing they started to take out power and bring the nose up and luckily broke out of a 400-foot ceiling just in time. At this point, they got a contact approach and just landed at the nearest airport under priority landing.

How they're still alive is a miracle, but this all could have been avoided if they had synthetic vision as a backup. 

Another good way to be prepared is to know your plane. Have those emergency procedures and a game plan memorized so you're ready to act when something goes wrong. IMC is the worst time for something to go wrong. Imagine a scenario such as an engine failure, where are you going if you can't see? Always have an idea where you're at so you can see if there's an airport to spiral over or any major highways as well. Synthetic vision can still help with this too. 

There are endless scenarios of what can go wrong, from small inconveniences to life-threatening issues. It's best to always be on your toes ready for anything. 

Do you have any personal stories of flying IFR and having an in-flight emergency? Any tips to share too? Feel free to share below.

How to Prepare for 121/135 Training

Hey readers and welcome back to the Globalair.com website! Writing this hoping that everyone had a good January and good start to 2021.

 Back in November I went to my first official jet training at SIMCOM in Orlando and honestly had no idea what to expect. I already had a type in the Citation II so my first time was for recurrent training, which was kind of intimidating but VERY VERY insightful. 

I definitely could have prepared myself better, so I came up with some tips I wish I would have known and even advice my instructor gave me for a better experience next time. 

SIMCOM Training Supplement

First thing is know the plane you're training on before you get there. There's only so much time to study before your check ride (if you have one) so you might as well get a head start. Don't leave everything to the time that you're there. 

Memory items and limitations are 90% of the oral part of your ride and will also be expected to have memorized when you jump in the sim. If you don't know these items, you don't know your aircraft. So if your training facility sends these before you arrive, take FULL advantage of that. 

The next steps will depend on how long you're there. Are you there for a quick 3 day recurrent or a full 14-21 day initial? 

For recurrent, as previously stated you should know your aircraft before you get there. Know the memory items & limitations, performance factors, and especially how all the systems operate. Questions like what's on the emergency bus, what triggers a master caution light, what happens when the bottle armed push light comes on etc WILL be asked. 

If you're there for initial, take everything your instructor teaches you (meaning take thorough notes) and study what you learned each night back at the hotel. Don't waste each evening watching tv, study as much as you can. You should be studying 2-3 hours after class each day to truly retain everything. 

If you need to practice your memory flows, utilize the cockpit poster. Set it up on your hotel room wall and you can especially run through memory items while using this. It will bring your level of knowledge past the rote level (just memorizing the steps) to correlation towards applying to a real application for if you actually had to use them in an emergency. 

I'd recommend to spend the first 2 hours studying all the new knowledge you learned for that day, and the last hour reviewing flows with the poster.Citation II Instrument Panel

The absolute best piece of advice I took advantage of is to transfer all of your handwritten notes to the cockpit poster too. It helps you apply it in a real world application and will help so much when you jump in the actual cockpit.

The last piece of advice I can give....don't forget to take time to relax. Training is a lot of work, ESPECIALLY if you're there longer than recurrent. Any initial rating will be exhausting. 8 hours of ground and flying and absolute knowledge dump? That deserves time off after a few days. So take the weekends or 2 nights each week to study just 20 minutes then go enjoy yourself. Remember this is important because it's also possible to burn yourself out and any studying after that no longer becomes beneficial, it's then just a waste of your time. 

Don't forget to keep thorough training records and you can log all of that ground and sim time! It's good for currency purposes (obviously) but also valued by future employers. Our FAA Logbook is perfect to help you do this, and you can expect some new features in the future as we continue to develop it!

What kind of tips and advice do you have for training? Comment below!

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