Aviation Safety - Page 3 Aviation Articles

Ready to File a Flight Plan? Here’s What You Need to Know!

              Flight Planning

What is a flight plan? A flight plan is pretty much the product of thorough flight planning that the pilot is responsible to do before every flight. There are certain flight plans though that require you to file them to FSS so that ARTCC can process the information for route sequencing. This precise planning, in other words, provides written intentions to ATC outlining their (the pilots) intended plan of flight.

There are five types of flight plans—VFR flight plan, IFR flight plan, composite flight plan, defense VFR flight plan, and International flight plan. Today, we will be discussing the two flight plans primarily used—VFR and IFR flight plans. If you are interested in learning more about composite flight plans, defense VFR flight plans, and International flight plans, check out AIM 5-1-6 through 5-1-9.

Even though filing VFR is not necessary unless you plan to fly through an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), there are still benefits to it. It’s purpose is to activate search and rescue procedures in the event that your flight plan is not closed 30 minutes after your proposed time of arrival. This is why it is very important to remember to always close your flight plan as soon as it is safe to do so!

         Filing Flight Plan

Your IFR flight plan works a little bit differently. Before you enter into IMC conditions that lower visibility below VFR (1000 ft ceilings and 3SM) or entering Class A airspace you must file a flight plan to FSS. It is recommended that the pilot file their IFR flight plan at least 30 minutes prior to estimated time of departure to preclude possible delay in clearance received from ATC. If nonscheduled operators are conducting an IFR flight above Flight Level (FL 230) they are asked to voluntarily file their IFR flight plan 4 hours prior to Estimated Time of Departure (ETD) to allow the FAA to provide traffic management and routing strategy. Be sure to pay close attention to the clearance you are given! If you are on the ground at your controlled departure airport contact clearance deliveries frequency to receive your clearance. (REMEMBER the acronym CRAFT)

  • Clearance Limit
  • Route (Via route, via direct…, via radar vectors)
  • Altitude 
  • Frequency
  • Transponder Code

In the event that your airport is uncontrolled, there’s still a way to open it before you get into IFR conditions. Take note that the methods in which you can open your flight plan, are similar to the ways you can close your flight plan.

OPEN FLIGHT PLAN                                                                               

  • Contact Clearance Delivery via frequency on the ground
  • Call FSS via 1-800-WX-BRIEF or radio frequency (On the ground or in the air)
  • Call your local tower controller (On the ground or in the air)
  • Open with Electronic Devices (ForeFlight, FLTPlan Go, etc.) 

CLOSE FLIGHT PLAN 

  • If your at a controlled field, the tower will close it upon your landing
  • As long as you can guarantee you are in VFR conditions, can maintain VFR altitudes for involved airspace, and can remain in VFR conditions all the way to landing, you can close your flight plan in the air (Via approach controller or FSS).
  • Once we land at a uncontrolled field, you can close your flight plan via FSS or controlled tower of local region.
  • Close with Electronic Devices (ForeFlight, FLTPlan Go, etc.)

  Flight Plan

Which way do you prefer to open and close your flight plans?

 

 

ATC, ATCT, TRACON, ARTCC -- Who are We Talking to and Why?

AirTrafficControl

ATC (Air Traffic Control) is a really big part of the safe operation of a flight. Even though their goals are similar, ATC assists pilots in different phases of reaching their destination utilizing different specialties and methods. So, who are we talking to and why?

What Does Air Traffic Control Do?

  • The controller’s responsibility is to provide a safe, orderly, and expeditious flow of air traffic
  • Provide safety alerts to aircraft
  • Properly sequence aircraft while ensuring that traffic remains a safe distance from each other

Where do ATC controllers Work?

Controllers work in three different specializations:

(1) Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT)

  • They have windows! ATCTs monitor aircraft that are on the ground or airborne within 5 miles of the airport. Due to the close proximity and range of service, these controllers use line of sight to help aid in the safe flow of traffic.
  • They even have light guns to serve as another means of communication with airborne or ground-based traffic.

ATC Light Gun Signals

  • Clearance delivery— Clears a pilot to fly a specific predetermined or amended route
  • Ground control— provides pilots with taxi instructions to or from the active runway
  • Local control—they are responsible for controlling aircraft that are prepared for departure or approach (“Cleared for takeoff Runway… or cleared for landing runway…”). They are usually referred to as just ATC.

  (2) Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON)

  • They once used large vacuum tube radar scopes to watch dots (aircraft) transition across the screen via the radar line of sight. 

Terminal Radar Approach Control

  • They provide en-route air traffic services to low altitude aircraft VFR or IFR flight plans.
  • TRACON controllers have airspace of a 50-mile radius centered at the primary airport usually from the surface to approximately 10,000 ft.

(3) Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC or “Center”)

  • A Center does not have to be at or even near an airport. They are usually in less populated or more rural areas. There are 21 centers across the United States. The responsibilities of a TRACON controller and ARTCC are similar. They both provide air traffic services to aircraft, but more specifically ARTCC provides services for flights operating at high altitudes on IFR flight plans during an en-route phase of flight. According to the FAR/AIM Pilot/Controller Glossary, it states that “when equipment capabilities and controller workload permit, certain advisory/assistance services may be provided to VFR aircraft.”
  • Several hundred controllers controlling several million square miles of airspace.
  • Usually from 11,000 ft to the edge of outer space (60,000 feet)!

Trivia Question: Why aren’t ARTCC’s Located near an airport? Provide your answers in the comments below!

Understanding Departure Procedures and its Two Different Types

I look back to a year ago and remember the lessons I was covering in my instrument training— Fight instruments, Nav-aids, system limitations, etc. We, my flight instructor and I, had not quite reached the point of learning the full details of instrument approach plates, departure procedures, arrival routes, etc. When we did discuss it, it was a lot of terms and concepts to learn. Instrument flying has a great deal of information essential to safe IFR operation, including its many different plates and procedures. Generally, when you are training for your instrument rating, you tend to spend most of your time focusing on holds and instrument approaches and not nearly as much time with the encompassing factors associated with IFR departures.  

Let’s take a closer look at DP’s (Departure Procedures) and the two different types— ODP’s (Obstacle Departure Procedure) and SID’s (Standard Instrument Departure). 

To understand the importance of departure procedures, there are a few standards that need to be recognized. According to the U.S. standard for TERPS (Terminal Instrument Procedures), there is a specific obstacle clearance that must be maintained. Your aircraft must climb at least 200 Feet Per Nautical Mile (FPNM). This is determined through an observed obstacle penetration slope of 152 FPNM. If an obstacle does not penetrate the 200 FPNM climb gradient, the pilot has a minimum obstacle clearance of 48ft.

Side Note* the 152FPNM is the 40:1 ratio often referenced. 1 nautical mile is roughly 6067 feet, therefore 6067/152 = 39.9 or 40 to 1.

When obstacles penetrate that 40:1 obstacle slope, this can increase your required climb gradients as well as none standard takeoff minimums. ODP’s (Obstacle Departure Procedures) are created by the NFPO (National Flight Procedures Office) to ensure requirements are put in place to maintain sufficient obstacle clearance. ODP’s can be published either Textually or graphically. Do not be confused in that SID’s are only graphical (but may have text on them).

Highlighted in red is an example of a textual ODP. In the TPP, it is easy to confuse the ODP section with the “takeoff Obstacle Notes”. These are not the same thing. Takeoff Obstacle Notes are “low-close in obstacles” that are less than 200 ft above the departure end of the runway (DER) as well as within 1NM of the end of the runway. These do not require greater take-off minima. It is the pilot’s responsibility to see and avoid these obstacles.

Highlighted in yellow is a notable feature of graphical ODP’s that differentiate them from SID’s. On the plate, it will state OBSTACLE. Graphical ODP’s have identifiers (Ex. DRAKE2.DRK) which allows them to be filed during your IFR flight plan, while textual ODP’s can not.

Lastly, SID’s (Standard Instrument Departures) require an ATC clearance prior to flying the route. They are used to increase efficiency by expediting traffic flow and alleviating some pilot/controller workload. These are often seen at larger airports where congestion is high. If you received clearance from ATC via the SID, you are automatically cleared for the ODP. But if you are cleared for an ODP, that does not mean you are cleared for the SID. You have to make sure before accepting a SID, that your aircraft can perform to required climb gradients. If it can not meet requirements, put “No SID” in your remarks section of your flight plan.

There are two main types of SID’s — Vector and pilot navigation SID’s.

Vector SID— ATC will provide radar vectors right after takeoff and will continue until you reach your fix charted or an assigned route. As you can see here on the MEADOW FOUR, common to vector SID’s they do not have transitions or departure routes to follow. Depending upon your route of flight, after you follow the initial directions (heading and altitude) ATC will vector you via a Nav-aid in the direction of your flight. 

Pilot Navigation SID— have a set of instructions for every aircraft to follow a particular route. You may see two or more transitions listed on this form of SID. As you see here on the KKIDS ONE it has a visual (graphical or plan view) section and a textual description. This confuses a lot of people because SID’s are only graphical. Textual descriptions simply re-iterate what the graphical depicts but in some simple transitions textual descriptions will not be included. 

Departure Chart

Talk to us: If you have personally flown departure procedures, what was your experience with them? 

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.

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!

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