All posts tagged 'Flying' - Page 10

Checklist for Flying Your Private Aircraft Internationally

The view leaving the East Coast from inside a Mooney

One of the most appealing benefits of owning your own aircraft is having the freedom to fly whenever and wherever you want to. Although sometimes you are limited by TFR’s or weather, you still have more freedom than the typical aircraft renter. Without having to deal with availability or tedious flying club paperwork, you are free to explore the skies more thoroughly. There are thousands of airports to explore in the US (Approximately 18,911 for those curious) and thousands more internationally. There are valuable skills you must learn in order to fly internationally, and it is certainly a challenge worth pursuing.

A good friend of mine recently flew with his family in their Mooney M20C to the Bahamas. After flying 210 nautical miles over open water, they landed at North Eleuthera Airport and took a boat to the tranquil and beautiful island of Spanish Wells and spent a week fishing, snorkeling, and relaxing. When you fly out of the U.S. you can explore exotic and interesting places in the world that many others do not have access to.

As I said before, flying out of the U.S. comes with its challenges. There is a lot of paperwork, planning, and in some cases extra gear for your aircraft involved. AOPA has a great series of guides for flying to specific international destinations. They have guides for the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Canada, Central America, Alaska, and Mexico. Pilots certainly have to reference these along with multiple other sources before leaving for their journey.

I have put together a list of a few of the major items you must have when flying internationally. This is not comprehensive, and a few international destinations have specialized legal information they require, but it will give you a good idea of what is to come if you choose to begin a flight plan out of the U.S.

1. Passports and legal Information. When you go through Customs and Boarder Protection, you will be asked to show all legal documentation as though you had flown in on an airliner. This is in addition to your usual flying legal documents. It is important to locate and carry your passport, pilot license, and medical certificate. All passengers must have a passport too, and any children flying without one parent must have a notarized statement of approval from the absent parent for the dates of the trip.

2. Paperwork for the aircraft. In addition to all of the paperwork required to operate an aircraft in U.S. airspace (Airworthiness certificate, registration, weight and balance, etc.) you must also have aboard a radio station license.

3. Charts You will have to seek out and purchase charts of the route you are flying. These foreign charts are similar in typography to their U.S. counterparts, but it is important to look over them and memorize features along the route of flight well before you depart.

4. Aircraft Insurance Certain aircraft insurance policies do not cover international flight. It is important to contact your insurer and discuss appropriate coverage. Proof of insurance that covers international flight is required to be carried aboard for certain destinations.

5. Radiotelephone Operator Permit You may remember vaguely from your Private Pilot Written exam that you need a Radiotelephone Operator Permit to fly outside of the U.S. Here is all the information you need to obtain one. Thankfully they are issued for the holder's lifetime.

6. Life Vest When flying over open water, you are required to have onboard a life vest or flotation device for each passenger. It is also recommended that you bring a life raft, but it is not legally required.

7. Sunscreen This one is certainly not legally required, but if you are traveling to a tropical destination such as the Bahamas or the Caribbean it is certainly recommended. Keep your skin safe to ensure that you get the most fun out of your vacation.

I hope that this article inspires you to look into the possibility of flying your private aircraft somewhere internationally. The new experiences are unbeatable and you will have fascinating stories to tell. Do you have any advice for pilots who are new to international flight? Let me know in the comments!

Pilots Bill of Rights 2: Medical Exemptions, Due Process & NOTAMs

Photo © Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr

In a move that is being applauded by the general aviation community, Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) last week introduced two new GA-friendly bills. The new laws– the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act and the Pilots Bill of Rights 2 (PBOR-2) - could have a significant impact on general aviation operations if they move through congress.

Sen. Inhofe successfully led the first Pilot’s Bill of Rights through Congress in 2012. PBOR-2 expands upon the pilot protections offered by the initial PBOR.

"The first Pilot’s Bill of Rights was a victory for the aviation community and made possible by the support of pilots and industry leaders across the nation," Inhofe said. "Since being signed into law, more issues facing the general aviation (GA) community have surfaced. The Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 addresses these concerns and builds on the success of my previous legislation."

Twelve sponsors, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), House General Aviation Caucus co-chair Sam Graves (R-Mo.), and a variety of industry stakeholders, such as AOPA, EAA, and GAMA, supported Sen. Inhofe’s Pilot Bill of Rights.

Mark Barker, President of AOPA, released this statement: "The introduction of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 is great news for the general aviation community and we are grateful to Sen. Inhofe for putting forward this legislation that would do so much to help grow and support general aviation activity. Pilots have already waited too long for medical reform, so we’re particularly pleased to see it included in this important measure. We will actively work with Congress to build support for this legislation that is so vital to the future of GA and the 1.1 million jobs that depend on it."

The General Aviation Pilot Protection Act was first introduced in 2013. The 2015 version intends to expand the medical exemption requirement for pilots, and the PBOR-2 addresses the same medical exemption requirements, along with a handful of other issues.

According to Sen. Inhofe’s website, highlights of the new bill will include the following:

  • Medical Certificate Exemption:
    Allows more pilots to operate without obtaining an aviation medical certificate. Under the new law, private pilots would be able to fly VFR or IFR in aircraft under 6,000 pounds, below 14,000 feet MSL, and under 250 knots.
  • Due Process:
    PBOR-2 will maintain the rights set forth in the first PBOR from 2012, and will extend those rights to all FAA certificate holders instead of just pilots. This means that maintainers, dispatchers and other certificate holders will also be granted due process rights along with the right to appeal an FAA decision through a merit-based trial in Federal Court.
  • Violation Transparency:
    The new bill will require the FAA to notify pilots of any pending enforcement action, as well as provide specific documentation.
  • Flight Data Accessibility:
    Under the new bill, pilots will be able to access data from contractors, including flight service stations, contract controllers and controller training programs in order to defend themselves from enforcement action.
  • Protection for Volunteer Pilots:
    PBOR-2 will establish a Good Samaritan Law to protect volunteer pilots from liability.
  • Protection for individuals performing federal tasks:
    PBOR-2 will establish liability protections for individuals performing federal tasks, such as designated examiners, medical examiners and airworthiness inspectors.
  • NOTAMs:
    PBOR-2 will require the FAA to develop a better NOTAM (Notice to Airman) system, and maintains that the FAA will not be allowed to bring about enforcement action on pilots until they complete the NOTAM Improvement Program

The FAA has 180 days to weigh in on the regulations. If the organization doesn’t respond, the bills will automatically become laws.

New Years Resolutions for Pilots

The sun is setting on 2014, and this is the time that most people feel reflective and contemplative over their past year. Perhaps they achieved all of their year’s goals, or they fell short of a couple. My theory has always been to try your hardest, and even if you fail you can feel good knowing you did all that you could.

I was writing down my goals for the upcoming year, and I realized that most of them had to do specifically with aviation. My list included earning my instrument rating, getting my tailwheel endorsement, and hosting at least one Ninety-Nines meeting. I began thinking about how a pilot could create a whole list of aviation resolutions in addition to their personal list. I decided to create a handy guide to some aviation resolutions and goals to inspire your planning for 2015.

Earn a New Rating/Endorsement – This one is fairly easy for a student pilot already viciously working their way towards their next certification, but perhaps even the casual Private Pilot should consider this for 2015. An Instrument rating or tailwheel endorsement can only serve to make you a safer and more proficient pilot. A year is plenty of time to earn either of those, and will they will give you a huge sense of accomplishment.

Log X Amount of Hours Have you been tearing up the skies with your frequent trips or has chair flying been the more of the reality for 2014? It could be time to set aside the time and money to get back into the air. This could also be a great incentive to get current again. Planning to fly a certain amount of hours a week or month could inspire you to start up the engine and...

Go Mountain Flying (fly somewhere new) – I say mountain flying because it’s something new and different that a lot of pilots haven’t tried yet. This could also mean exploring airports around you that you have not visited yet. One of my favorite flights was when I went to Georgetown (27K) airport with my boyfriend just to fly somewhere. When we arrived a girl happened to be there waiting for someone with her 4 dogs of different breeds. As soon as we walked in the FBO they saw us and got so excited. One dog kept slipping on the floor as he excitedly paced back and forth. We asked if we could pet them and spent a good 20 minutes just playing with these dogs. Exploring new places lends itself to chance encounters like this, and great stories to tell later on.

Purchase a New Airplane This might be more along the lines of a 5-10 year plan, but it is still worth mentioning! If you aren’t quite ready to shell out thousands of dollars, there are other things worth saving up for. A new headset, an updated kneeboard, or even a leather logbook cover are all good options.

Give Back – There are so many ways to give back in the world of Aviation. You could volunteer your skills to fly for an organization such as Pilots N Paws or the Volunteer Pilots Association. If you don’t have the resources to fly for them, consider giving a donation. I will be volunteering at Clark Regional Airport this summer when the Air Race Classic comes to town for a stop. There are a lot of opportunities out there and you never know what neat things you’ll see in aviation.

When I asked a dear friend what their aviation resolution was, they jokingly said it was to only have one forced landing a month. Whatever your plans are for 2015, I wish you the best of luck and want to encourage you to have fun and follow through. Happy New Year!

8 METAR Codes You’ve Always Wondered About

Aviation weather reports are pretty simple once you’ve been trained to read and interpret them, but the more often you fly, the more often you’ll see new and strange codes on METARs (aviation routine weather reports). Some of these are decoded below. A few of these are codes that you may have learned for your check ride but forgot about years later, and others are just plain rare or insignificant.

For more details on METAR codes and other aviation weather reports, check out the FAA advisory circular AC-0045-G, Aviation Weather Services. This particular advisory circular is very thorough, and even if you were previously educated on the codes below, you’re likely to learn a thing or two about Aviation Weather Services from this one.

Here are a few METAR codes that are commonly forgotten, misinterpreted, or never learned. How many do you know?

  1. BKN014 V OVC
    Most of us know that this means there’s a broken cloud layer at 1400 feet AGL. But what’s the ‘V’ mean? The ‘V’ here means that the cloud layer at 1400 feet is variable between broken and overcast. It’s a code that’s not that commonly seen.

  2. CIG 002 RWY11
    If you see the code above and there’s already a ceiling reported earlier in the METAR report, it means that there’s a second station on the field that’s also reporting visibility, and you’ll know this because the specific location will be included. This ceiling is only included if the ceiling at this second station is lower that otherwise reported in the METAR. Here, it means the ceiling is 200 feet at the ceilometer location near runway 11.

  3. SNINCR 2/10
    If the snowfall increases by one inch or more since the previous reported METAR, it’s indicated by ‘SNINCR’ followed by the amount. In the case above, the snow has increased by 2 inches in the past hour, and the total snowfall is 10 inches. This could be easily misinterpreted as a snow increase of 2/10 of an inch, so it's worth remembering.

  4. A01 and A02
    A01 and A02 are types of METAR stations. This code, which is often brushed aside as meaningless by some, distinguishes between a station with a precipitation discriminator (A02) and one without (A01).

  5. $
    The dollar sign at the end of a METAR indicates that the station has self-identified itself as needing maintenance. This one is pretty common, but not all pilots take the time to figure out what it means.
  6. TSB22RAB17GRB23
    This notation gives the time that special weather events began (noted by the ‘B’) and if they’ve ended, what time they ended (noted by an ‘E’). The text above means that thunderstorm began at 22 minutes past the hour, rain began at 17 minutes past the hour, and hail (GR) began at 23 minutes past the hour.

  7. PRESRR
    If the pressure rises or falls at a rate of 0.06 inches per hour, and the difference from the last reported pressure is 0.02 or greater, than the code PRESRR will be used, which stands for pressure rising rapidly, and the code PRESFR will be used to note pressure falling rapidly.

  8. PNO or CHINO LOC
    At the end of a METAR, you may often find an abbreviation ending with ‘NO’. These are most likely sensor status indicators. There are a few different possibilities for these sensor abbreviations. Above, PNO means that the "tipping bucket rain gauge" sensor isn’t working. ‘CHINO LOC’ means that the sensor for the secondary ceiling height indicator is not operating. As you can see, some of these aren’t necessarily intuitive, and will often require you to dig deeper to determine what they mean.

These are just a few of the commonly unknown METAR codes. There are many more, as you’ll discover by reading the advisory circular suggested above.

Which strange codes have you stumbled upon while checking the weather?

5 Winter Weather Hazards Pilots Should Pay Attention To


Photo: Scott Wright CCBY-SA 2.0

Winter has arrived early for some, with snow and ice abundant in northern parts of the country already! Cold-weather flying can bring smooth, calm air and great performance, but it can also bring ice and slick runways. If you’re an avid year-round flyer, then you’re probably familiar with the hazards associated with flying in the winter: cold engine starts, frost on the wings, structural icing, and slippery runways. Winter operations include preheating the aircraft, getting the frost off the wings before takeoff and avoiding icing conditions in aircraft that aren't approved for flight into known icing. There are even hazards involved with de-icing! Winter flying is enjoyable, as long as you stay ahead of these winter weather hazards:

  1. Cold engines
    If extremely cold temperatures, it’s wise to preheat the engine before flying. Besides sluggish oil, frost can build up on spark plugs and freezing cold temperatures can also cause instruments to freeze or be sluggish – all bad news for the airplane. Engine crankcases should also be inspected during the preflight to ensure there’s no icing due to vapors condensing.
  2. Frost
    Frost and ice found on your aircraft during the preflight can be removed. Frost and ice found during takeoff, not so much. Even a tiny bit of frost on the airframe can cause a significant loss of lift and the aircraft might stall at a lower-than-usual angle of attack. Never take off with frost on the aircraft!
  3. Icing

    As winter arrives and the freezing level gets lower and lower, pilots need to be prepared for structural icing. Without a properly equipped aircraft, pilots should stay out of areas where icing is forecast or likely. But sometimes icing occurs without notice, and it can occur rapidly. To stay out of trouble, make sure you always have an escape plan if flying in the clouds in cold weather. Ice build-up on the airframe causes loss of lift, increased drag and increased weight.

    If you enter icing conditions in an ill-equipped aircraft, your choices are to climb, descend or turn around. Much of the time, small aircraft will not have the performance to climb through a cloud layer, which is why it’s important to be able to gauge aircraft performance quickly if it’s reduced. It’s also very important to know where the cloud layers are. A pilot in a small airplane won’t want to try to climb if the cloud tops are at 30,000 feet. But if it’s a thin layer of clouds with, say, the base at 6,000 and the top at 7,000, you should be able to climb out of the icing conditions and get above the clouds.

    In most cases, you’ll want to turn around or descend below the clouds. And don’t forget that you can enlist the help of ATC and other weather services if you need assistance getting out of icing conditions.

  4. Runway condition
    During the winter, runways can be slick from frost or icy conditions, and they can also be wet from aircraft operating and winter vehicles removing snow. Know your aircraft’s performance and limitations with wet, snow-covered or icy runways, and make sure you give yourself plenty of extra landing space. Wet runways really do reduce landing performance.
  5. De-icing hazards
    It should go without saying that credit cards aren’t recommended for scraping ice off airplane windshields. But every year, I hear a story about this happening. Get the ice off the recommended way: A soft brush made for aircraft can get the snow off, and de-icing fluid can melt the rest. But de-icing procedures can be hazardous if you don’t know what you’re doing!

    Remember that melted ice can refreeze quickly, and you should always check flight controls and flaps, as well as hinges after de-icing, where water can drip and refreeze.

    De-icing fluid should always be handled with care. A quick check of wind direction before spraying will ensure you don't get Propylene Glycol in your eyes!

    Finally, make sure you’re using an appropriate chemical for your aircraft, and follow local airport procedures for de-icing areas and safety protocols.

Have your own winter flying tips to share? Let us know!

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