Flying Aviation Articles

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! 

 

To B, or not to B -- The Basics of Class B Airspace in VFR Operations

VFR Mapping

You’re planning a route on a VFR sectional and come across an airport surrounded by class B’s solid blue circles. You know that class B is known for being the busiest and one of the most restrictive controlled airspaces. So what do you need to know about this airspace to navigate with confidence? Good question, here’s what you need to know.

Requirements/Limitations

  • ATC clearance (Ex. Skyhawk 099SP, cleared to enter the CLE Bravo)
  • Establish and maintain two-way communication prior to entering
  • Mode C transponder (within 30 nm, up to 10,000 msl)
  • Weather minimums
    • Visibility: Three statute miles
    • Cloud clearance: Clear of clouds
  • At least a private pilot certificate
  • Student pilot operations restricted
  • Speed restriction:
    • Inside the bravo: 250KIAS
    • Underneath the bravo: 200KIAS 

Your Level of Certification Matters!

According to FAR 61.95 if you are a student pilot you must have received both ground and flight training from an authorized flight instructor at that specific Class B airspace area in which you intend on operating within. You must also have received a logbook endorsed by your flight instructor who gave you the flight training, and the endorsement must be dated within the 90-day period preceding the date of the flight in that Class B airspace.

Remember! A major thing to keep in mind is that every Class B is tailored differently and may have different requirements. This being said, as a student pilot there are some Class B airspaces that regardless of FAR 61.95 do not permit operation due to high volume operations. These are:

  • Andrews Air Force Base, MD
  • (The William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport)Atlanta, GA
  • (General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport)Boston, MA
  • (Chicago-O'Hare International Airport)Chicago, IL
  • (Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Airport)Dallas, TX
  • (Los Angeles International Airport)Los Angeles, CA
  • (Miami International Airport)Miami, FL
  • (Newark International Airport) Newark, NJ
  • (John F. Kennedy International Airport)New York, NY
  • (LaGuardia Airport)New York, NY
  • (San Francisco International Airport) San Francisco, CA
  • (Washington National Airport)Washington, D.C.

Special Area, Special Training!

Some class B airspaces require more than just standard training. A very restrictive Class B I want to point out is DCA or Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. This airport requires all pilots to partake in special awareness training before operations under VFR within 60 nm of the DCA VOR/DME. This is due to close proximity to prohibit areas, restricted areas, and the capital building. If you’re interested in taking the training for free, visit www.faasafety.gov. The training takes approximately 40 to 45 minutes to complete. 

 

VFR Routes

This is one topic that is less known amongst pilots. There are published VFR routes for transitioning around airspaces such as class B that have been established by the FAA and industry initiatives. These routes are not used or intended to discourage VFR pilots from requesting clearance from ATC to operate within class B. They are simply designed to assist pilots in planning their flights into, out of, and around complex terminals and class B airspaces. The following routes established are VFR flyway, VFR Corridor, and class B Airspace VFR transition route. All pilots must continue to adhere to VFR rules and continue to see and avoid other traffic.

Figure 1: VFR Flyways (Depicted by blue arrows with designated altitudes to surface. An ATC clearance is NOT required to fly them. These routes will be depicted on TAC (Terminal Area Charts) if offered. Eventually, all TAC‘s will include a VFR flyway planning chart. The ground references are a guide to improve visual navigation.)



Figure 2: VFR Corridors (It does not extend down to the surface like a flyway but consists of a defined lateral and vertical limit, it’s a ‘hole’. Exercise extreme caution to avoid other VFR traffic using the corridor. Communication nor clearance is required with ATC.)

Figure 3: VFR Transition Routes (These routes are special flight courses depicted on a TAC that assists transitioning a class B airspace. These routes are designed to show pilots where to position their aircraft outside of or clear of the class B Airspace where they can expect an ATC clearance with minimal or no delay. ATC clearance and contact are required.) 

Many general aviation pilots find class B airspace intimidating and would prefer to avoid it completely. However, knowledge is power and I believe with the proper training, a pilot can learn to operate safely and competently within class B airspace. Even in the event of using a VFR route, understanding your options in and around a class B airspace permits and promotes safer operation. Once you get the hang of it, class B airspace isn’t too challenging but it does require your full attention and a bit of practice. 

10 Things You Need to Start Your Flight Training

Thinking about starting your flight training soon? That’s awesome! Pursuing your pilot certificates is an exciting and big accomplishment. Here are 10 things I highly suggest getting to kickstart your flight training.

Bose A20s Headset

1) Headset

The most popular headsets I’ve seen so far are David Clark and Bose A20’s. These headsets range from roughly $500 to $1100! I found a cheaper headset for $200 on Amazon and they have worked well for the past 2 years. If you buy from a lesser-known company or brand, look up the reviews and choose wisely. Don’t go too cheap. As they say, you get what you pay for. If you have the funds to go for high quality, do so. I’ve used the Bose A20 once and the quality is definitely worth the price in the long term.

2) Flight Bag

Pilot Flight Bag

What better way to carry your flight things around than a stylish flight bag? There is a wide range of flight bags out there with different compartments to satisfy your item holding needs. I would highly suggest that you start off with a smaller size. The picture of the flight bag above is the first one I bought. Over time you will begin to accumulate many things and it’s best to keep it simple and limit your bag size until you truly need something bigger. 

 

3) Knee Board 

Knee Board

Originally when I started my flight training I wasn’t sure how necessary it would be to get a kneeboard. I waited quite a while to get one but soon learned this is one item you should never forget to bring to every flight lesson. The answer is, VERY necessary! My flight school doesn’t let you start off with an IPad for cross countries, which means you're lugging around Nav logs, weight & Balance sheets, sectionals, chart supplements, etc. Do yourself a favor and get a kneeboard to keep all of your important planning papers organized! I currently use a King School Trifold iPad kneeboard and it’s the best ever! But if you wish to start with the metal single plate board, it’s also a really great one to use.

4) Logbooks

Logbook

Once you start logging flight time you need somewhere to put it! There are several different types of logbooks but the main purpose is to keep track of your flight time, sim time, endorsements, etc. Stay in FAR 61.51 (Pilot logbooks) compliance!

5) Red Flashlight

Red Flashlight

According to FAR 61.109 Aeronautical experience, “a person who applies for a private pilot certificate with an airplane category and single-engine class rating must log at least... 3 hours of night flight training in a single-engine airplane...” Night flying is so wonderful but takes a minute to adjust to. Certain procedures change a little but a major must-have is a red flashlight to equip you for successful night operations. A red light is used to preserve your night vision far better than white light. My personal suggestion is to buy at least two in the event one is damaged or stops working.

6) Foggles

Foggles

If we look back at FAR 61.109 it also states “ 3 hours of flight training in a single-engine airplane on the control and maneuvering of an airplane solely by reference to instruments.” In order to comply with this requirement, you're going to need a view limiting device such as a hood or Foggles. These simulate instrument conditions and direct your view to your instruments only instead of looking outside the flight deck.

7) Books, Charts, and Maps

Books Charts Maps

Here are a few books I would highly recommend looking into getting:

  • Private pilot Jeppesen
  • FAR/AIM
  • FAA Airplane Flying Handbook (digital or hard copy)
  • FAA Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (digital or hard copy)
  • Gleim Test Prep – Private Pilot
  • VFR Sectional
  • Your aircraft Information Manual
  • Valid Chart Supplement

8) E6B or electronic E6B flight computer

E6B Flight Computer

An E6B is a flight computer used for flight planning to help you calculate fuel burn, wind correction, time en route, and other critical items. While you are airborne, your E6B can be used to estimate fuel burn, calculate ground speed, and update the estimated time of arrival. 

9) FAA Medical

FAA Medical Certificate

An FAA medical is a must-have to start your flight training. There are three types of medicals you can get. 

1. First Class

2. Second Class

3. Third Class

Each class permits different operation privileges that you will soon learn in your training. Look for an AME (Aviation-Medical Examiner) in your area. I recommend that when you go to get a medical, get the highest class (1st class) medical to see the requirements the AME will expect to receive that medical.

10) Flight School for your needs!

Flight School Students

Are you ready to kick your flight training off? The flight school you pick will structure the foundation of your flight career. They will be your connections into the inner industry and your foundation for fundamental flight operations. You can go Part 61 or Part 141, they both have their advantages and disadvantages but it all depends on your learning needs.

Before you pick a flight school, look up the price of attendance/rentals, success rate if available, credentials of the school's instructional staff, aircraft fleet/on-site maintenance, and talk to current students (if permitted). These are all important steps to picking the best school for you.

Always remember that when you pick a flight school and flight instructor, the majority of the time their values on safety, checklist usage, and skill development will become your structure as a pilot. This can be a stressful decision to make but do your research and you will be just fine!

Best of luck starting your flight training! 

 

 

Flight Training — Same Fleet Avionics or Multiple Avionics Systems?

Aircraft Avionics

What type of avionics did you use during your flight training? One aspect that I have found to be very difficult for many students during their flight training is the use of avionics and automation management. Personally, the automation in our fleet at BGSU consists of Warriors with G500 Garmin 650, Avidyne with Garmin 430, Steam gauge with Garmin 430, Archers with Glass panel G1000, and Seminoles with Glass panel G1000 with autopilot. It is the university's plan to consolidate their fleet to an all Archer G1000 and Seminole G1000 fleet. So the question at hand is this: is fleet variation a benefit or disadvantage?

Hazard Consideration

  • Challenges (variation consistency and understanding)
  • Technical knowledge
  • Proficiency across avionics
  • Mode awareness
  • Expectation Bias
  • Pilot & Aircraft Experience level
  • Depth of knowledge/ familiarity
  • Situational awareness
  • Environment
  • Conditions of flight: Dual/Solo, Day/Night, IFR/VFR

Garmin 430’s are not WAAS equipped. Therefore, during instrument training, you can only use non-precision approach minima (Ex. LNAV). Garmin 650’s are WAAS equipped therefore during instrument training, you can use precision approach minima (Ex. LPV). For your Garmin avionics (650’s and 430’s) with dual GPS you can disconnect the “Cross-Fill” option and overlay two approaches. G1000 you are not given the option to disconnect the “Cross-Fill” option, therefore dual GPS overlaying isn’t an option. Different avionics have sometimes very different functions as well as ways to program.

Solution Consideration

  • Fleet continuity
  • Differences training
  • Aircraft equipment guide
  • Avionics supplements and online simulation tools
  • Initial and recurrent instructor Standardization
  • Flight simulator training
  • Emergency procedures training

Piston in Flight

I have always personally loved the challenge posed by learning different avionics. With some of the steam gauges, you can practice NDB approaches and learn firsthand compass errors. These are all things G1000’s don’t have. But I do actively see possible risks and importance to mitigation. As you all know, safety first is a must!

 Anthony Foxx, the U.S. Transportation Secretary stated in an FAA compliance policy that “Aviation is incredibly safe, but continued growth means that we must be proactive and smart... to detect and mitigate risk.” Establishing “proactive behavior” is about controlling a situation through progressive mitigation rather than responding after something undesirable has happened. Proactivity is not just for pilot risk mitigation but for community wellbeing. As for pilots in all levels of training, safety is a decision and a shared mindset that must be trained and maintained. 

Here are a couple of takeaways to think about.

  1. Fly the airplane… Aviate, Navigate, Communicate, then and only then automation. How can automation assist me? Do not let it degrade performance further.
  2. Make sure your habit formation in your training environment, is constantly improving and growing stronger.
  3. Maintain a high level of proficiency. You will get out of it what you put into it. Challenge yourself to understand the avionics and automation you are using.
  4. Lastly, Be the PIC! You are the final authority and the keeper of safety for that flight. Prepare and gain understanding accordingly for safe operation.

What do you think? Should there be the same fleet avionics or multiple avionics systems in a flight training environment?

Basic Math Behind Radar Tilt

There's no doubt about it: as we get into summertime, we're transitioning into the fun game of dodging storm cells. 

The air is hotter and more unstable and quickly builds into convective-type clouds that keep rising into the troposphere, next thing you know you have pop-up thunderstorms everywhere. The job gets especially fun as they grow into squall line thunderstorms. The best way to stay safe in these situations is to plan ahead, always have a backup plan, let ATC know what you need, then cooperate with them, and know how to use your radar.

Clouds in the Sky

Each radar is slightly different from the other but for the most part, they work very similarly. The first step to knowing how to tilt your radar is knowing how long your antenna is. The length corresponds to the beam it puts out. For example, a 10-inch antenna puts out a 10-inch beam, 12 inches has 7.9 degrees, 18 inches has 5.6 degrees and lastly, 24 inches has 4.2. So as the length increases, the beam degrees decrease.

If you happen to know the width of your beam in degrees then you can figure out your tilt with a little math. This photo and mathematical formula from Code 7700 explains it simply using the G450 as an example, where they have the 24 inch 4.2 degree beam:

Beam Width Gulfstream G450

So at 45,000 ft, it would take 100nm to paint the edge of the ground clutter, and tilting the beam to 2.1 degrees would point it at level flight. 

While it can sound a little confusing at first, using this formula and adjusting the tilt at the same time will help you adjust to being able to tell when you have the radar set how you want and when it needs to be readjusted. A good practice is to always use your radar while you're trying to learn it, even to see terrain rather than the weather. Most would recommend whether you're in the Texas flatlands or near high terrain in California that it's good to have your terrain feature on. 

Weather Radar on Map

Something else I like to do to double-check I have the tilt on an accurate setting is to see if I have service/wifi onboard like this G450, open up that Foreflight radar (or your most trusted radar app, also highly recommend MyRadar). After all, two is better than one!

The last tip, but most definitely not least to trust your onboard radar, is if you're VMC, simply look outside. Night or daytime, you can see lightning and guestimate where that cell is in relation to you. If you're not sure how close it is, take a 10-degree deviation off course to feel safe. ATC 99.999999% always approves deviations for the weather. They want you to land safely just as much as you do. 

Hope everyone is ready for the summer flying season to take place! Remember to be knowledgeable, be safe, and download the BuyPlane app. Safe flying everyone. 

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