Aviation Safety Aviation Articles

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 :)

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. 

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.

Part 91 vs Part 135: What Are the Biggest Differences?

Let's talk Part 91 vs Part 135. These are two completely different worlds, like day and night.

Part 135 is highly structured and very similar to the 121 airline world, versus part 91 where things aren't as structured but you have less privileges. Let's dig into some of the biggest differences.

1) Ownership Operations

As an aircraft owner you absolutely cannot charter out your plane to people for the purpose of making money. If you buy a plane and want to make money off of this to use as an investment, then it should be used for the purpose of flight instruction. Can your friend fly it on a trip and pay you all expenses plus $600 so you have something to pocket? NO.

But what if they pay you in cash? I include this because as a CFI I get lots of questions about loopholes to regs. Paying cash isn't a loophole, it's still illegal. Whenever you encounter situations like this and think it may or may not be illegal, think of it like this: what if the aircraft crashes or has an incident and the FAA begins asking questions? will you be able to confidently explain everything about the flight to them and not have anything to worry about? If the answer is no, don't agree to the flight until you consult someone highly knowledgable in the regs and are 100% confident the situation you are faced with is legal.

-Remember that you can submit questions about regulations to the FAA and they will write back. It will take weeks to months but is a highly resourceful tool.

If you're looking into try to offset costs/generate revenue from your aircraft look into putting it on a 135 certificate! There are several different types of certifices you can apply for through this FAA 135 General Information Link. Also read Starting a 135 Operation by the NBAA to help guide you through this too. 

2) Flight Operations

This list goes on and on for this subpart in the FAR/AIM but I'll highlight a few. 

-Oxygen Requirements

In Part 91.211 for an unpressurized aircraft, like a Piper Saratoga for example, pilots are not required to wear oxygen until passing 12,500 feet MSL. From 12,500 ft - 14,000 ft if there longer than 30 minutes than a mask is required, or any altitude past 14,000 a mask must be worn at all times. 

With 14 CFR 135.89 the 30 minute duration period is brought down to 10,000 ft - 12,000 ft and now must be worn continuously past 12,000 ft rather than 14,000 ft. Therefore, the regulations are more strict in Part 135. But remember that 135 is given more priviliges including generating revenue, so it makes sense!

The requirements for a pressurized aircraft are more strict in 135 versus 91 as well. 

3) IFR Takeoff, Approach & Landing Minimums

As an instrument pilot, these are VERY important to know. Your minimums are going to come from 14 CFR 91.175 and 14 CFR 135.225. These are linked because there is a lot to these regulations to know that need to be read from the primary source itself. 

-What are standard takeoff minimums? The quick and easy answer for 135/121 operations is 1 statute mile visibility for one or two engines, or 1/2 mile for three or more engines. 

-Are there takeoff minimums for part 91? A quick answer again for this....no. You can legally takeoff zero/zero unless you've been assigned and accepted a SID. But a smart pilot won't do this, so read further into your regs.

Note that when it comes to minimums, visibility is always prevailing. When I break out of a low ceiling, can I see a deer crossing the runway? Yes. Because I can see now! What if visibility is poor? Maybe not. You don't just "break out" of visibility like you break out of clouds. 

Approach minimums: You may not begin an instrument approach unless the airport has an approved weather facility AND the latest weather is above minimums. A loophole to this is eligible on-demand can begin the approach without an approved weather facility if the alternate has one and have an approved altimeter setting. If you are shooting the approach and weather deteorates below minimums, you can only continue under certain circumstances such as if you're beyond the final approach fix. Otherwise, you have to go around. 

These 3 bullet points are just 3 key differences between the Part 91 and Part 135 world. There's various other regulations that should be thoroughly looked over as well if you're transitioning from one operation to the other in order to not only stay legal but remain proficient.

Questions or comments? Confused by any of the regs in either of these parts that you'd like broken down? Write to us below! We always enjoy feedback from readers. 

Cheers to 2021 and Happy New Year from everyone at Globalair.com!

Understanding Thunderstorms & How to Fly Around Them

There's no doubt about it, thunderstorms are a big threat to aviators. Next to hurricanes and tornadoes, they can seem as if they're the lesser issue to worry about of these. Pictured below is a photo of one of the planes out of KLCH after Hurricane Laura hit last month. Flying into or near a thunderstorm can actually be just as devastating. 

-A side note, Lake Charles has faced a lot of devastation in the aftermath of the storm. Not pictured was a PC 12 that was upside down and absolutely destroyed. Almost all of the hangars were taken out and the airport had a lot of wreckage left behind. If there is any way you can help the locals there by donating supplies or evening bringing hot meals it is much appreciated. We flew supplies over as a relief effort and some lost everything, even now people there are looking at weeks without power.

However, we face thunderstorms more commonly than other types of dangerous weather phenomena, so let's talk about them.