All posts tagged 'Pilot'

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! 

 

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

Best Headsets for Your Money in 2021

Well well well, the article we've all been waiting for: how to buy a decent headset without breaking the bank!

Future tip, everything in aviation breaks the bank. Run away while you still can ;)

1) Bose QC35 & NFlight Mic

Looking for some Bose A20's without the price tag? Well, here you go. These headphones are very similar. By buying the Bose QC35 ii and the NFlight Nomad Aviation Microphone, you get the benefit of having normal headphones that double as a headset for about $500, half the price of the A20's! With this, you get noise-cancelling and professional microphone quality. And don't worry, if the headphones die, the microphone still works so you're not left with dead comms. But here's the downside:

  1. this headset is not TSO'd for those who are required to have it for work
  2. the microphone disables Bluetooth when plugged in

HOWEVER, both of these are fixable. You can make this TSO'd by purchasing the NFlight Nomad with David Clark Microphone instead for a higher price than the regular Nomad Pro. Any purchases through NFlight Mic are refundable within 30 days and have a lifetime warranty in which the company will replace the mic attachment, even if the damage is due to abuse. You can also get your Bluetooth back by buying a 3rd piece that costs less than $8. Because the mic disables Bluetooth when plugged in, the Apple Headphone Jack Adapter can plug into the mic box then into your phone and now you get music back in flight!

While the Bose headphones and NFlight Mic have the most popular reviews, you don't have to use these exact brands. A similar company called UFly Mike makes these microphone attachments and also has quality customer service. These microphones are approved to work on any headphones that have a 2.5mm auxiliary audio output. A technical specification says they "can also be easily converted to be compatible with headsets with 3.5mm auxiliary audio inputs with the use of a 2.5mm-to-3.5mm adapter. Popular headsets with a 2.5mm-to-3.5mm adapter:  Sony 1000XM2 and 1000XM3" so you have a range of options depending on what you may already own!

2) David Clark H10-13.4

Okay, first and foremost you can never go wrong with David Clark. The DC H10-13.4 model is your basic and best flight training headset, I won't be convinced otherwise. If you're on the hunt for a headset that will:

  • last forever
  • is comfortable to wear for hours
  • has a good cable length
  • has a foam cushion for the top of your head
  • come from a company with great customer service
  • offers excellent sound quality

then this is the headset for you. Given this does not offer Bluetooth or noise-cancelling, but now you don't have to worry about replacing batteries. Almost no maintenance is ever needed (although I'd recommend cleaning the earpads after a sweaty flight for hygiene purposes). Every time you're ready to fly, just grab this and go. The link attached for this one (in the above paragraph) includes a headset bag which is a must-have. It has different zippers to hold your medical, certificates, photo ID, and whatever else you need. 

For flight training students needing a headset that is cheap but won't break every 6 months, I recommend this every time. In fact, almost all of my students have purchased this exact model and love it. 

3) FARO Stealth Audio Link

Disclaimer: this one isn't a full-on headset. This is a product advertised by Sporty's that can convert any headset -- any brand, passive or active noise reduction -- to a Bluetooth headset. While I've used David Clark's and the NFlight mic conversion, I haven't had the ability to try this out. It's on the to-do list to order and review soon! 

So far the FARO Stealth Audio Link has 4 out of 5 stars with multiple reviews. The downside it seems is the cables can be kind of bulky and it needs improvement on the squelch transmission. But overall you get Bluetooth capability on older headsets that didn't have it installed and it pairs easily with your phone. 

4) FARO Stealth 2 Passive Headset

Last but not least! I had a student send this to me recently and decided to look into it because I was intrigued. This is a basic headset that offers good sound quality but also Bluetooth for less than $250. The FARO Stealth 2 Passive Headset offered through Sporty's is kind of new to the market.

Tested by multiple CFI's (even during covid having to wear a mask), feedback said the Bluetooth sound quality is great and the mic picks up sound easily. What this headset lacks is noise-canceling, which if you're flying GA then do you really need it? Not all small planes are super loud and it's good to be able to hear the engine the entire flight so you can detect if it's trying to tell you something is wrong. This headset may be best for pilots building time and doing longer flying days who aren't looking to spend a lot of money. 

Looking for any other Pilot Supplies? Click on that link and check out our directory of tons of pilot supplies ranging from "A Cut Above" uniforms to aviator sunglasses and, of course, headsets!

Best of luck in your search for a new headset! Questions about any of these or have a headset you'd like to see added to this post? Comment below. 

3 Planes to Add to Your Christmas List

1) Cessna 182 on Floats

Seaplane ratings are one of the least sought after ratings by pilots. They're usually not needed to pursue most professional careers, so if people don't need to spend money on them, they just don't!

They're most popular in places like Florida and Alaska where the landscape is better suited for the aircraft type.

Some of the most fun planes to fly on the water are a Cessna 182 or a Piper Super Cub on Floats.

Even cooler is the Icon, specifically the A5 model. There are lots of different planes that are fun to fly on the water, but my favorite has to be the Piper Super Cub of these 3 listed.  

2) Cirrus SR22

I'm quoting one of my country coworkers when I say this (so read it in a southern accent): the SR22 is the 'cat's meow' of general aviation. It truly cannot get any better than this. Cirrus set out to design something highly aerodynamic that, while even being a high weight, has a long glide range and fast TAS. 

Cirrus are high-quality aircraft. Usually, they come with a hefty price tag, but they're worth every penny. 

Butterfly doors, a certified parachute, and spring-loaded controls as its own rudder gust lock system give it unique qualities. But the best thing is it's just an easy plane to fly. While being a sleek plane, the checklists are still simple and operating procedures are easy to understand -- there's nothing in the systems that's entirely different from something like a C172. You might have to learn FADEC or adjust to flying a constant-speed prop without having a manifold pressure lever, but most pilots get the hang of things in 2-3 flights. 

3) Diamond DA 62

Well, do I need to say anything after you look at this picture? The DA 62 is without a doubt my favorite multi-engine general aviation type aircraft. 

This is like the SR22: easy to fly, has great maneuverability, and is again the "cat's meow" of flying! While the cirrus is easily a favorite single-engine piston type plane, this is the gold medalist of the multi-engine world (outside of turbojets). For those shopping for a plane that has good economic fuel burn but also has good speed to make it to different destinations across the states within a day: THIS.IS.IT.

I can't say it enough, you don't want to miss out on flying this plane! A single flight in these makes a multi-engine ticket worth it.

Any other ideas on planes to ask Santa for this year? There are always lots of fun aircraft to fly that are easily forgotten or not flown as much but are still such a blast. 

Stay tuned and let us know what you guys get for Christmas! It's always fun to see what pilots around the world get as gifts; unique people make for unique presents.

End of content

No more pages to load