Archives for June 2014

Testing Tuesday: IFR Lost Communication Procedures

Scary Headset

Losing communication capabilities is nerve-wracking in VFR conditions, but is relatively straight-forward if you can see where you are going, even if where you are going is controlled airspace - though under VFR you can very easily go to a non-towered airport without talking to anyone and no one would really even know the difference (you might annoy other pilots in the pattern, but you would be perfectly legal). Towered airports can still communicate with you via light signal - you do have those light signals memorized for the checkride right? And if you are post-checkride, you have a cheatsheet on your kneeboard or pasted to your instrument panel, correct?

That said, under IFR, lost communication is a situation that might require a change of underwear upon reaching your destination - how the heck are you supposed to know what you are expected to do if air traffic control can't give you vectors and altitudes?

This Testing Tuesday, we have a question that you will definitely hear on your IFR checkride's oral exam:

What are you expected to do on an instrument flight when two-way communications has been lost?

Click here to display the answer...

Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor and commercial pilot in Columbus, Ohio.

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Testing Tuesday: IFR Flight Plans

Smart Flight Training posts a question (and an answer) you might find on an FAA Knowledge Test or during the oral portion of a checkride each Tuesday.

Today's question is about IFR flight plans and when they are required.

When is an IFR flight plan required?

  1. When less than VFR conditions exist in either class E or class G airspace and in class A airspace.
  2. In all class E airspace when conditions are below VFR, in class A airspace, and in defense zone airspace.
  3. In class E airspace when IMC exists or in class A airspace.

Click here to display the answer...

Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor and commercial pilot in Columbus, Ohio.

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Testing Tuesday: Instrument Interpretation (HSI)

Oh, the HSI.

This instrument, also known as the Horizontal Situation Indicator, is a nightmare if you haven't actually used it. From what I have heard, once you have used one and understand it, they are fantastic. I've talked to pilots who say they won't even fly an airplane that doesn't have one.

In the answer explanation we'll get into some tricks on answering the questions related to the HSI, but also some tricks on how to visualize the HSI and unserstand better what it is telling you - so that you don't need the "answering the question" tricks because you actually understand what the instrument is telling you!

Once again this week we have a question that I missed while studying for my FAA Instrument Rating knowledge test. And here it is:

(Refer to Figures 98 and 99, below) To which aircraft position does HSI presentation "B" correspond?

  1. 9
  2. 13
  3. 19

FAA Instrument Knowledge Test Figure 98

FAA Instrument Knowledge Test Figure 99

Click here to display the answer...

So there you have it! I hope this post has shed a little light on the mysterious HSI - I know I understand them better after trying to explain them here. Hopefully I won't miss this question the next time I see it on an FAA knowledge test!

Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor and commercial pilot in Columbus, Ohio.

Testing Tuesday is a regular installment, each Tuesday, on the Smart Flight Training Blog. I post these in the hopes that they will help you be more prepared the next time you meet with your flight instructor, since preparation will save you both time and money during your flight training. I also post these because - I'll be honest - it is helping me prepare for the CFII certificate, which I am currently working toward. Two birds, one stone, right?

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AOPA Indianapolis Fly-In Escapades

Me in a Corvalis

Last weekend, I flew with two of my students to the Indianapolis AOPA fly-in. It was the first large-scale fly-in that I have actually flown myself to.

My dad and I used to fly in to pancake breakfasts when I was little, but I don't really remember them well, and they were very small compared to these AOPA regional fly-ins.

But I knew, somewhat, what to expect. We were coming in from the east, and leaving Columbus, Ohio meant that navigation would be easy - turned out that the NOTAM said that incoming traffic from the east should arrive over Interstate 70 and follow it pretty much right to the downwind for runway 7, which happened to be the runway in use that day. It was also CAVU (ceiling and visibility unlimited) all day. Pretty much a perfect day for the fly-in to happen!

Aluminum Overcast

We flew out of Bolton Field (KTZR), one of the airports I instruct out of. Interstate 70 runs right through downtown Columbus, and you can pick it up upon departing Bolton almost immediately. So we did! We got flight following as soon as we had cleared Bolton's class D airspace, and climbed to 6,500 feet for our westbound trip to Indy Regional (KMQJ). I was a little on edge right from the start, knowing that we were flying in the morning of the fly-in, and that that would probably be the busiest time to arrive all day.

I told both of my students that I would need their eyes, and that traffic would be pretty heavy the closer we got to Indianapolis. I'm not sure they believed me at first... but by the time we got within a few miles of the airport they sure did! One sat in the back of the Cessna 172 we rented, and the other sat in the left seat, with me in the right. In the back, my student tapped me on the shoulder and raised the number of fingers of the planes she had in sight behind us in the "conga line" over I-70. I think she had up to four by the time we were entering downwind.

P-51 Mustang

KMQJ is a non-towered airport, so we were on our own from about 30 miles out when Columbus Approach said "Radar Contact terminated, squawk VFR." This was prior to reaching a rest area on I-70 just west of Richmond, IN. Which I thought was an interesting idea - I have a hard enough time not missing Rest Areas when I'm in the car and need to pee. Good luck identifying one from above when everyone else in the sky is also converging on the same spot at the same time - or so it felt like.

The CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency) was pretty much lit up at all times from the time I switched over from Columbus Approach until we flipped the avionics master off for shutdown. I felt sorry for any other non-towered field that shared the frequency... they weren't getting a chance to say much that day. It was also hard to determine who was where any given time. I heard calls saying "I think I'm number 5 on final," and numerous "somebody on base cut off my final, going around" calls.

Organized chaos. Without as much organization as you would hope.

Nice and Shiny

The NOTAM called for anybody coming in from the east to turn right base upon reaching a "split" in I-70 about two miles from the approach end of runway 7. Which we did. And immediately upon doing so, saw a plan on final right in front of us. No problem - they'd be out of the way by the time we got to the extended centerline for final. We also noticed about 3 more planes ahead of that one. That's four (count 'em) planes on final within about 2 miles of the field. Busy.

But more importantly, we also saw at least three more planes BEHIND the one in front of us - "uhhh - I think I'm number 7 for the runway of the same number." Yikes. We couldn't find a gap to squeeze into, so I made a steep left turn and extended my downwind a little further, trying to communicate what I was doing at the same time.

Pilot Musicians Plane

We ultimately found a gap, made our turn, and ended up on final for 7. As we got closer, the S-Turns started. I had 10-degrees of flaps in, and started s-turning myself to make space, or at least not loase any space, between us and the plane in front of us - a low-wing something-or-other. Others behind us were s-turning as well, but we ultimately touched down behind the low-wing, who I thought was going to make the first turn-off (allowing me to land longer and give space to the plane behind me), but it didn't. It rolled right past, where, as I followed with my eyes, noticed there was at least one more plane on the runway in front of him. So by the time I touched down, there were three of us still on the active runway.

I know at Oshkosh they land three at a time on the same runway, but in my head I'm thinking "runway incursion." I'm also thinking - that guy behind me is probably close, too... and I had not added any more flaps - I was still at 10-degrees. So The lading was pretty good, until I decided I HAD TO MAKE THE FIRST TURNOFF and get off the runway ASAP - because of the guy in front of me who I thought should already be off, and also because someone was landing behind me and I wanted to clear the way.

BRAKES. SQUEAL. LEFT RUDDER. BACK ELEVATOR. TAXIWAY QUICKLY PASSING. And into the grass we went, right between to runway lights, JUST BARELY past the taxiway. Then slowly, embarassingly, taxiing back onto the taxiway, between two taxiway lights. Missed it by 10-15 feet at most. Never lost control of the aircraft at all, but definitely a bad judgement call to try to make that taxiway with everything else happening so quickly. But everything else happening so quickly was also WHY I made the call to try to make the first taxiway. A catch-22 if ever there was one.

Student in Corvalis

I take some solace in the fact that I was certainly not the only one to have a bit of an issue coming into the fly-in. I heard about a Cirrus landing nosewheel first and smoking the tire a good length of the runway, and somebody else locking up their mains with heavy braking upon touchdown. I actually saw someone level off on final and fly OVER the person landing in front of them, and then landing in front of them anyway instead of going around (WHAT!?!). Yeah - that happened. But this is a learning experience, right? That day, it was a learning experience even for the teacher - and I hope my students learned something, too. We talked about it even on the taxi to parking immediately after, and I knew before I even rolled into the grass that I should have braked straight ahead and let the folks behind me decide whether to land or go-around.

Heck - If I thought the plane in front of me was too close, *I* should have gone around. But hindsight is 20/20 - in the heat of the moment, it was get on the ground and get out of this mess of traffic up here. Alternatively, we could have gone to the alternate airport and taken the shuttle in to the fly-in. Which is what I HIGHLY suggest you do if you are flying in the morning of. I certainly will next time.

Student with plane

Other than a learning opportunity and some slightly bruised pride, the fly-in was a TON of fun. My students and I learned about unusual attitudes (code for aerobatics) and attended a session on communications with Air Traffic Control (ATC). We also got to see some incredible airplanes, meet some interesting people, and learn about some fantastic organizations. And we got to fly in. How cool is that?

Below are some more pictures from the day - me and my students, in and around airplanes. Just can't beat that.


Notice what the wingtips say:



Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor and commercial pilot in Columbus, Ohio. This was his first (and hopefully last) excursion into the grass (other than at a soft field airport).

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Testing Tuesday: Transitioning from VFR to IFR on a Composite Flight Plan

VFR-IFR Transition

Last week's Testing Tuesday post was one of the questions on my Instrument Knowledge test that I had missed while I was studying for the exam. It was one that, this time around, I answered correctly (I always attempt to answer the question before I post it here). Here is one that I answered wrong before, and answered wrong AGAIN before deciding to post it on Smart Flight Training (how embarrassing!). But that's the point, right? Expand our knowledge together and admit our mistakes and missteps in the hope that other pilots will learn from us without having to make the same mistakes we did. After all, there are plenty of mistakes to go around!

On to today's question:

What is the recommended procedure for transitioning from VFR to IFR on a composite flight plan?

  1. Prior to transitioning to IFR, contact the nearest FSS, close the VFR portion, and request ATC clearance.
  2. Upon reaching the proposed point for change to IFR, contact the nearest FSS and cancel your VFR flight plan, then contact ARTCC and request an IFR clearance.
  3. Prior to reaching the point for change to IFR, contact ARTCC, request your IFR clearance, and instruct them to cancel the VFR flight plan.

Click here to display the answer...

Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor and commercial pilot in Columbus, Ohio.

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