All posts tagged 'Weather'

Pilots: Are You Forgetting These Preflight Tasks?


One of the benefits for pilots in the general aviation world is the ability to just "pick up and go" on a moment’s notice. General aviation, including business aviation, is less regulated than charter or airline operations. As such, the preflight preparation involved in a general aviation flight can often be quick and dirty, and familiar flights might only include a brief check of the weather and a quick walk-around of the aircraft.

Pilots are required by federal aviation regulation, specifically FAR 91.103, to become familiar with certain elements of preflight planning. There’s even an acronym – NWKRAFT – meant to help pilots remember the required items they must become familiar with before flying. The required preflight knowledge, and the meaning of the letters in NWKRAFT, include:

  • NOTAMs
  • Weather
  • Known ATC Delays
  • Runway lengths
  • Alternates
  • Fuel Requirements
  • Takeoff/Landing Distances

It’s easy for pilots to become so familiar with their routes and aircraft that they feel that they don't need to perform anything more than these required items to conduct a safe flight. But in addition to the basic requirements, there are a few other preflight items to consider. If you aren’t already incorporating these items as part of your preflight planning and preparation, consider adding them. After all, FAR 91.103 also states that pilots must become familiar with all available information prior to the flight. And isn't it just better to be prepared?

Winds aloft:
Although this one can be coupled with the generic requirement for checking the weather before a flight, the winds aloft are particularly important for those operators who hope to save fuel. Choosing a cruise altitude based on winds aloft can help save fuel, and alternatively, a quick check of the winds can also prevent you from running into a fuel shortage situation.

GPS NOTAMs and RAIM:
If you’re using GPS as a primary navigation aid, then you should be sure to get GPS NOTAMs from flight service before your flight. Approaches go well as long as they’re predictable. Losing GPS would be a bad day for any pilot that relies on it. It probably won’t happen, but a quick check of the NOTAMs and RAIM availability will ensure that it’s even less likely.

Fuel
The regulations require pilots to have enough fuel reserves for safe operation. But while you’re planning, you’ll want to scope out your fuel options, including where to find the cheapest fuel along your route (try MaxTrax) or which FBOs will take your fuel card (look them up in our Airport Resource Center). It’ll make it easier on everyone if you know ahead of time which FBO you want to use and if the FBO will honor your fuel card.

Pilot/crew currency
Don’t forget to check for your own currency requirements. Obviously, you’ll want to make sure you’re IFR current before flying in IMC or on an IFR flight plan, but don’t forget about the other currency requirements, like the flight review, and day and night requirements for carrying passengers, when applicable.

Avionics currency requirements
Along with your own currency, you’ll want to make sure your avionics are up to date. Your GPS database should be current for IFR flight, and your altimeter, pitot-static system, and transponder should be inspected every 24 calendar months. And don’t forget your VOR – the VOR needs to be checked every 30 days for IFR flight.

Local ops:
Bird conditions, noise abatement procedures and local airport and runway information should not be ignored during the flight planning process. (Did you know you can check the bird strike risk for major airports and routes on the Avian Hazard Advisory System website?)

TFRs:
Always check temporary flight restrictions before you fly. If you haven’t been surprised by one yet, you will be at some point. You can check them in a variety of ways, but online and through flight service stations are the most common.

Weight & Balance
Pilots who only fly one airplane become adept at doing weight and balance calculations for that aircraft in their minds, but when the load is heavier than usual or the flight is going to operate with different passenger or baggage loads than normal, nothing substitutes for an actual weight and balance calculations. Make sure you know the aircraft limits, as well as how the aircraft will perform when heavy.

Airport/FBO Operating Hours
Sometimes it’s the simple things that escape us, like whether or not the airport or FBO will be open when our flight arrives. It might not matter at times, but if you need fuel, restrooms or something to eat when you get there, you might want to double check the operating hours. In addition, it never hurts to call ahead and make sure there is ramp space available. This is especially important for larger aircraft at small airports.

Have preflight planning tips of your own? Share them with us in the comments!

NTSB: Pilot Action, Icing Led To NJ Plane Crash

Article By: David Porter
FMI: bigstory.ap.org

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A pilot's inability or reluctance to fly quickly enough out of icing conditions led to a fiery plane crash on a New Jersey highway median that killed all five people aboard, a federal report published Thursday concluded.

The December 2011 crash claimed the lives of pilot Jeffrey Buckalew, an investment banker; his wife and two children, and Rakesh Chawla, a colleague at New York's Greenhill & Co. Buckalew was the registered owner of the single-engine Socata TBM 700 and had more than 1,400 hours of flight time, according to the report.

The plane had just departed Teterboro Airport en route to Georgia when it began spiraling out of control at about 17,000 feet and crashed on a wooded median on Interstate 287 near Morristown. No one on the ground was injured. Wreckage was scattered over a half-mile area, forcing the closure of the busy roadway for several hours.

The National Transportation Safety Board report concluded that while Buckalew had asked air traffic controllers to fly higher and out of the icing conditions, he may have been reluctant to exercise his own authority to do so, or may have been unaware of the severity of the conditions.

The NTSB attributed the cause of the accident to "the airplane's encounter with unforecasted severe icing conditions that were characterized by high ice accretion rates and the pilot's failure to use his command authority to depart the icing conditions in an expeditious manner, which resulted in a loss of airplane control."

According to the report, an air traffic controller advised Buckalew of moderate icing from 15,000 to 17,000 feet, at which point Buckalew responded, "we'll let you know what happens when we get in there and if we could go straight through, it's no problem for us." The controller then directed him to climb to 17,000 feet.

When the plane reached 16,800 feet Buckalew reported light icing and said "a higher altitude would be great." Seventeen seconds later, he said the plane was experiencing "a little rattle" and asked to be cleared to go to a higher altitude "as soon as possible please."

The controller coordinated with a controller in an adjacent sector and, 25 seconds later, directed Buckalew to climb higher. Within about a minute the plane had reached 17,800 feet and then began an uncontrolled descent.

Ice can form on airplanes when temperatures are near freezing and there is visible moisture, such as clouds or rain. The ice adds weight to an aircraft, and rough accumulations known as rime interrupt the flow of air over wings.

Numerous pilots had reported icing conditions in the area around the time of the accident, including at least three flight crews that characterized the icing as severe, according to the report. One pilot told NTSB investigators his wing anti-icing system "couldn't keep up" with ice accumulation of as much as 4 inches that had developed over a span of five minutes.

Pilots are required to fly under the direction of air traffic controllers but federal regulations allow for some deviation in emergency situations. The NTSB report quotes a part of the Federal Aviation Regulations that reads, "in an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the pilot in command may deviate from any rule of this part to the extent required to meet that emergency."

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