All posts tagged 'IFR'

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!

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.

3 Rare Symbols on Instrument Approach Charts, and Why You Should Know Them

Alright guys, I'm studying for CFII lately (which by the way I hate studying for check rides) and have gotten to the stage of practicing teaching approach charts.

I noticed in doing practice group sessions with students that everyone knows how to read the basic things like localizer frequency, final approach fix, missed approach instructions etc...the IMPORTANT stuff. The meat and potatoes of the approach. But you HAVE to know how to read EVERYTHING on that approach chart to be a good instrument pilot. 

Another reason you need to know how to break that approach chart down is because it factors into your plane performance-can you accept the approach along with missed approach instructions? This is something to keep in mind as well with departures. In instrument training you're likely flying something like a Cessna 172 where you don't usually accept SID's or even look at any "complicated" (so to speak) approach charts. So let's talk about 3 different symbols on approach charts that I find are commonly not taught/known.

1) VDP

VDP stands for visual descent point. It's not found on ALL approach charts but more instead on straight-in approaches to specific runways. If the approach chart has one, what this means is you should not descend below the MDA prior to this point. 

To be specific, it's the bold V circled on this chart from Telluride, Colorado. Check out the terrain in this area...might be important to know what this V means!

2) Maltese Cross

The circled "lightning bolt" pointing to ROVEZ on the RNAV 30 for KBPT is the maltese cross for this approach. It indicates the final approach fix on a nonprecision approach. Its purpose is to point out where the final approach segment begins. 

3) Cold Weather Corrections

Cold weather corrections are important to know to ensure that you're flying at the corrected altitude. If the system isn't operating to automatically compute this then it has to be done by hand by the corrections chart on page 5-19 of the Digital Terminal Procedures Supplement (pictured beneath the approach chart). 

In addition to this post, you may see some new blogs written on our blog page by our newest writer Nicole Lund! Nicole wowed us last year with an awesome scholarship application and proceeded to have very well written blog posts throughout the year with interesting topics & experiences. One of her craziest stories is she had an engine failure on a solo xc as a student pilot and had to land in a nearby field. A few days later, she was back flying and so was the plane because she was able to set it down without any damage (except for whatever caused the failure). Imagine getting that phone call as an instructor....

SO congrats Nicole and welcome to the team! 

Thanks for reading, hopefully these charts help point out some rare symbols for you to stay proficient on!

Questions or comments? Post below! 

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!

7 Reasons an Instrument Rating Will Make You a Better Pilot


Photo: N. Tackaberry/Flickr-CC BY-ND 2.0
Getting an instrument rating means you’ll be able to fly in the clouds and you won’t be stuck on the ground as much because of bad weather. But an IFR rating also comes with a few other advantages. Here’s why getting an instrument rating will make you a better pilot:

  1. You’ll become more accurate.
    There’s no doubt that accuracy improves with instrument flight. In order to remain safe while in the clouds, you have to stay on your altitude and heading. Deviations become much more of a safety hazard when you can’t see the ground below you or other aircraft flying around you. During your IFR training, you learn to fly more precisely, staying on your assigned altitude, heading and airspeed, or making exact pitch and power changes for, say, a precise 500 foot-per-minute climb. These skills will transfer over to your VFR flying, too.

  2. Your preflight planning will be better.
    Preflight planning is always important, but when you introduce low ceilings and fog into the equation, planning is done with a whole new outlook. IFR flight presents new challenges like icing hazards, holding procedures and traffic delays, and it’s more important than ever to be prepared for fuel stops, flight plan deviations and alternates.

  3. You’ll learn more about your airplane’s instruments and technology in general.
    In-depth familiarization with your aircraft’s instruments is one of the challenges of the IFR rating. You’ll not only need to know how these instruments work, but you’ll become familiar with what to do in case of instrument failure. The extra knowledge of autopilot systems and GPS technology will come in handy for flying in different environments, both VFR and IFR.

  4. You’ll always be ‘two steps ahead’.
    Any instrument student knows that part of IFR training is transforming your mindset from real-time flying to being at least two steps ahead of the airplane. Being ahead of the airplane is necessary for instrument flight, as there are numerous things going on and you’ll need to react quickly. Planning for the next two or three steps will become second-nature to you, and before you know it, you’ll be using this mental trick all the time – even for non-aviation tasks!

  5. You’ll be more prepared for inadvertent flight into IMC.
    Flying in the clouds is safe when it’s predictable, and when on an IFR flight plan. But there are times when you might find yourself in less-than-VFR conditions without intending to be, like at night, when the clouds roll in sooner than predicted, or if it’s tough to see the horizon in rain or hazy conditions. An instrument rating will greatly increase your chances of remaining in control of the aircraft should you encounter an inadvertent flight into IMC condition.

  6. You’ll be better at finding traffic in the area.
    As a VFR pilot unfamiliar with IFR operations, it’s difficult to know where exactly another aircraft is when the pilot reports "localizer inbound" or "on the 7 mile arc." With an instrument rating, you’ll finally be aware of the exact locations of all of these other aircraft in the local area, improving your situational awareness and collision avoidance capabilities.

  7. You’ll become more skilled at noticing and predicting the weather.
    IFR training gives pilots a really thorough look at weather theory and weather reports. As you gain experience flying in IFR conditions, you’ll get much better at recognizing hazardous weather like icing, thunderstorm activity and frontal passages. This proves to be valuable knowledge to have during any flight, of course, and as a bonus you might also become the go-to guy for weather reports and forecasts among your family and friends.

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