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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.

Aerobatic1

Notice what the wingtips say:

AerobaticWingTips

UnusualAttitudes


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: Class C Airspace Requirements

FAA Airspace

It's Tuesday again, and that means another installment of Testing Tuesday at Smart Flight Training!

I hope these question and answer sessions are helpful for you, but I'll be honest: I'm doing these for myself, too. I needed to continue to work on my CFII (Certificated Flight Instructor - Instrument) knowledge, and this seems as good a place as any to make sure my knowledge is strong as I move closer to that goal that, I'll admit, I've already missed the deadline I set for myself.

With that said, let's get on to today's question:

What minimum aircraft equipment is required for operation within class C airspace?

  1. Two way communications and Mode C transponder
  2. Two way communications
  3. Transponder and DME




Click here to display the answer...

Well, hopefully this Testing Tuesday post was helpful. This was a question I myself missed when I was originally studying for my Instrument Rating knowledge test, so it was good to review this and make sure I don't miss it again and can teach it to my future instrument students accurately and well.

Please let us know what you think about our Testing Tuesdays, and let us know if you have a question you would like answered - maybe something you missed on your own knowledge tests along the way, or something you were asked during the oral portion of a checkride. Let's make this more social, more interactive, more interesting! Try to stump me, try to stump the rest of my readers! You shouldn't have much trouble stumping me, but my readers are smart, so that will not be an easy task!


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

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MH370 – How do you LOSE a Boeing 777?

Malaysia 777

A Boeing 777 is not exactly a small aircraft.  I've been known to forget where I parked my car in the lot when I leave the grocery store and walk around like a fool until I find it.  I could somewhat understand that situation with a Cessna 172, as it is not much bigger than a car.

But a 777 is.  This kind of aircraft seats from 301 to 440 people (my car seats 5). So by that statistic alone, a 777 is equivalent to between 60 and 88 Volvo V70XCs.  A 777 holds 45,220 gallons of fuel - I regularly put 15 gallons of gas in the Volvo, so a 777 is equal to more than 3000 of them by that metric.  Last but not least, a 777 weighs up to 656,000 lbs. My Volvo, well, actually, sometimes I think my Volvo weighs that much, too, so this is probably not the best comparison.

I'd say that it ought to be impossible to "misplace" a Boeing 777, but I have seen firsthand that it is absolutely possible to "lose" large business jets. In the six years I worked at [large business jet company], I personally received calls from FBOs telling us one of our jets was "in the back of the hangar" and had been there for weeks (or months).  At a completely different airport than our top-of-the-line, proprietary software told us it was. So I know it is possible to lose a jet - probably even a 777.  But eventually they are found.

But let's get down to the meat of the MH370 mystery, shall we? A 777 on a filed flight plan and in fine weather suddenly turns off the planned route, then disappears off radar. All about 40 minutes into the flight. This is pretty much all we really know.

But what we know and what we speculate are mutually exclusive, aren't they?

Unfortunately, since the horrors that occurred on September 11, 2001, the first thing on everyone's mind is "terrorism." And that is not necessarily the worst thing.  The world changed on September 11, 2001, and we all have to look at events through that new frame. Karlene Petitt wrote an incredibly popular blog post about her speculation that the crew was compromised, possibly by the travelers using stolen passports, and that the captain or co-pilot heroically pushed the nose over and sacrificed the aircraft and all on board to the depths rather than allow MH370 to be used as a weapon.

This is not an uncommon thought, and very well might be the case.  But if, indeed, that were the case, why haven't we found the remains yet?  Wouldn't the pilot have done so as soon as he knew the terrorists were onboard and attempting to take control of the airplane? That would have been right around the time of the turn off course, and that area has been scoured already, hasn't it?

Another theory is Mark L. Berry's - who says he is "worried that the first terrorist-controlled weapon of mass destruction (maybe biological, maybe chemical, maybe nuclear) is now being married with the Boeing 777 in some remote airfield."  His theory is that the terrorists were successful in comandeering the aircraft, and that they flew it somewhere within seven hours or so to allow it to be loaded up with weapons of some sort so that the plane can be used as a weapon itself, a la 9/11/01, only with explosives on board instead of unwitting passengers, causing potentially much more destruction.

Eric Auxier (Cap'n Aux) uses Occam's Razor to come to another, less paranoid and more likely explanation: Lithium batteries now known to be on board being shipped overheat and catch fire in the forward cargo bay, burning the avionics bay and causing a mass communication/electronics failure, and possibly an explosive decompression and explaining the turn off course. In the end, he believes the plane flew on autopilot (until autopilot failed along the rest of the avionics), and the plane simply continued on that heading (approximately) until it ran out of fuel and ultimately crashed in the ocean.

I tend to lean toward the more likely mechanical failure, such as Cap'n Aux describes.  Some sort of fire engulfes the avionics and cockpit, incapacitating the pilots, who were able to start emergency procedures and turn toward the nearest safe haven (Palau Langkawi - a 13,000 foot runway with an approach over water and no significant obstacles) before being overcome with smoke or fire or both.  Regardless of the cause or source of the fire, the results are the same: electronic/avionics failures, and an airplane essentially flying itself until fuel ran out and it crashed.

Similar crashes, while not common, are certainly not unheard of.  The fairly recent (in aviation terms) crash of Payne Stewart's Learjet in October of 1999 comes to mind - the plane lost cabin pressurization, the crew was incapacitated due to hypoxia (for some reason, they did not - or were not able to - don their oxygen masks), and the plane flew on its last heading until running out of fuel and crashing.  In the case of the Lear in 1999, there was no fire so avionics remained functional, but think if there was a fire first - the first thing you do as a pilot if electrical fire is even suspected is TURN OFF ALL ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT!  Yes, this means comm, transponder, etc.  If, subsequently, cabin pressure is lost, now you really have two emergencies on your hands, with different checklists and different priorities, but neither more or less dangerous in your situation.  What do you do? With smoke, fire, or depressurization, you have a precious few seconds to get those masks on before you might not be functional - and with multiple emergencies, that slight confusion or pause to prioritize might have been all that was necessary to bring this situation to fruition.

Maybe it's my overriding hope and faith in humanity that makes me lean toward to the mechanical failure / fire possibility before I seriously consider terrorism - or maybe it's my fear of the latter as a possibility - but I hope it was simply a failure of systems in what is an incredibly, almost impossibly complex piece of equipment that is a Boeing 777, and not a conspiracy to hijack one of the largest airliners of the current day for use as a weapon (successfully or not), even though I know full well there are people in the world whose mission in life is to sow and breed fear in others.

Just the fact that our minds immediately consider that as a likely option means that the terrorists on September 11, 2001 have won in instilling that fear in our lives. At least a little. And that is not okay.

Tailwinds,

Andrew

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Loss of Control (towers)?

Airport Control Tower at Sunset

Photo credit: NeallePage

Okay, so I may be a little late to this party, but mainly it was because I had my boots on the ground, actaully doing some politics about it instead of posting about it here, but I think I have mostly done all that I can on the subject for now, and can take a minute to post about the situation...Did you know that many airport control towers are not FAA-run control towers?  It's true.  Many control towers around the USA are "contract" control towers, meaning that the FAA does not run them, nor are the controllers FAA employees.

"So what?" you may ask.

Here's what - due to the "sequester" (and I'm not about to get into the politics of left vs. right, Democrat vs. Republican, conservative vs. liberal - all have had a hand in this SNAFU, thank you very much), the FAA is being asked (forced) to cut over $600 million (something like $637,000,000.00).  So as part of that mandate, they are planning on closing 149 contract towers across the country.

If you are a part of (or even just interested in) aviation, these control tower closures affect you - they are all over the US, including two airports in my neck of the woods - KOSU (Don Scott Field - Ohio State University Airport) and KTZR (Bolton Field).  Want to know which airports will be affected where you are?  Click here for a list of towers to be closed.

In a nutshell, airports in 38 states will be affected by the control tower closures.  Here's the breakdown by state:

  • Alabama - 2
  • Arkansas - 2
  • Arizona - 4
  • California - 11
  • Connecticut - 6
  • Florida - 14
  • Georgia - 5
  • Iowa - 1
  • Idaho - 4
  • Illinois - 5
  • Indiana - 2
  • Kansas - 5
  • Kentucky - 2
  • Louisiana - 1
  • Massachusetts - 5
  • Maryland - 5
  • Michigan - 3
  • Minnesota - 2
  • Missouri - 2
  • Mississippi - 5
  • Montana - 1
  • North Carolina - 5
  • New Hampshire - 1
  • New Jersey - 1
  • New Mexico - 2
  • New York - 2
  • Ohio - 3
  • Oklahoma - 4
  • Oregon - 4
  • Pennsylvania - 3
  • South Carolina - 3
  • Tennesee - 2
  • Texas - 13
  • Utah - 2
  • Virginia - 1
  • Washington - 5
  • Wisconsin - 8
  • West Virginia - 3

Let me give you the backstory:

In early March 2013, the FAA stated that they were going to close 173 contract towers across the country, and gave less than a month for airports and affected citizens to voice their opinions.  MANY of the airports on the list, and many pilots and other aviation aficianados submitted concerns - not only to the FAA, but also to their representatives in congress.  I, myself, emailed my own congressperson, and also the two who represent the OSU airport area, as they (and their constituents) would be directly affected by the control tower closures.

I got a response back from one of them, as of this writing.  It was pretty "form letter" and didn't say much.  Pretty much what I've come to expect from any of our "representatives."  So who knows whether it did any good, but I certainly felt better having done it.

These towers were scheduled to start closing on April 7th, 2013, and as that date drew closer, the number of towers scheduled to close started to shrink, and ultimately landed at 149 (which is where it still sits today).

On April 5th (the Friday before the closures were scheduled to start, the FAA announced that they would "delay" the closures until June 15th.

And welcome to the present day - in a little over a month, all of the airports above, which currently have control towers at least part-time, will no longer have control towers, making all of the airports "non-towered" fields.

Now, this sounds scary, but it isn't in general.  Many (if not most) of the airports on the above list are probably non-towered fields part of the time anyway (Bolton Field in Columbus, Ohio, for instance, only has tower service from 7:30am to 7:30pm).  Additionally, a large number of them are probably single-runway, making them easy to understand and use with no assistance from Air Traffic Control (again, Bolton comes to mind).  Pilots are trained to communicate, use staandard procedures, and be vigilant for other aircraft both on the ground and in the air at non-towered fields anyway.  We all know how to operate into and out of these kind of fields safely.

That said, many (if not all) of these airports are used as "relievers" for larger, busier airports (both Bolton and Don Scott (OSU) are relievers for Port Columbus, and Cuyahoga County is a reliver for Cleveland Hopkins).  Without  a control tower, some pilots may choose to go to the larger airport so that they can get ATC service all the way to the ground (and even on the ground from ground control). Some of this might be simply for convenience, but in other cases it may be that these airports will lose some instrument approaches due to the tower no longer providing service, meaning in inclement weather, pilots may HAVE to go to the busier airports - at best causing more congestion; at worst causing safety issues due to the mix of aircraft capability and pilot experience!

Additionally, I would guess that at least a few of these airports are just simply too complicated to safely be used as a non-towered airport - I'll point to OSU airport.  This airport has 4 runways (meaning aircraft can take off and land in as many as 8 different directions).  Pick any one of these runways, and it intersects with a minimum of two of the other runways (two of the runways intersect with all three of the others!).  I can't speak for other pilots, but given the choice of other airports, I would go elsewhere.  Unfortunately, as an instructor out of this airport, I may not have any choice in the matter!

So what can we do?  Just sit and wait for the FAA to shut these towers down?

Absolutely not!  If you are concerned about this, or are directly affected, or just want to make people aware, write your representative(s)!  Call your local news station (radio, TV, or both)!  Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper(s)!  Join (or get more directly involved in) an aviation interest group like EAA or AOPA (among others).  Make your voice heard!  Get more people involved in aviation - take a friend or a family member flying.  Not a pilot?  Start taking lessons, or go on an intro flight, or call up your pilot friend and give him/her a reason to go up with you!  Go get a $100 hamburger (maybe take a reporter with you, or your representative)!  There are a million ways to support aviation, not the least of which is to be active in the industry - even if it is just to take your kids to watch the planes take off and land.

Let Michael P. Huerta (the FAA Administrator) know how you feel about the tower closures.  Write him a letter personally:

FAA Headquarters
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20591

I'm not a wild-eyed revolutionary by any means (at least not anymore), and I understand the concern about our spending here in the United States.  I know that there is a LOT of waste in the government.  But any kind of forced cutting of programs and departments without really looking at the consequences is a bad move, in my opinion.  It means knee-jerk reactions that will have unintended, possibly disastrous results.  And I'm not just talking about the FAA, but in all other aspects of our government as well - military, social, environmental, business, etc.  This kind of thing takes planning and research, and a "time-bomb" such as the sequester is completely the wrong way to go about it.  Unfortunately, reality doesn't win elections - exaggerated issues and posturing do.  Let's change THAT, right after we get this control tower thing figured out...


Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor in Columbus, Ohio - and he WILL delete any strictly political comments that do not add value to the discussion. You've been warned.

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Phraseology: Make Short Approach

So you're flying into a towered airport. You've been listening to other traffic and their clearances, and you hear that there is another aircraft on an 8-mile final, and you are abeam the numbers on downwind.

What are you thinking? Are you going to have to extend your downwind? Man, that will put you WAY out farther then you normally like for flying the pattern... Can the guy on final do a 360 to give you space? SOMETHING has to give, or you'll end up trying to share the same space at the same time - never a good thing.

Just then, you hear tower: "November two-one-six-five papa, cleared to land runway one-two, make short approach."

What!?!

"Make short approach" simply means that tower wants you to cut your downwind short and turn early for your base leg (see our traffic patterns post for more information). Air traffic control generally assumes that you will cut your normal distance between the numbers and your base leg in half, but depending on your aircraft, the runway length, etc, you could "make short approach" immediately abeam the numbers or even further down the runway.

You might hear ATC ask you to "tighten your approach" instead of saying "make short approach." Also, a non-standard statement, but still one you might hear, is "direct to the numbers." ALternatively (or in addition to) any of the above phrases, ATC may also ask you to "keep your speed up," which is self-explanatory, and is another way for ATC to keep safe spacing between aircraft on approach.

The important things to keep in mind when you are asked by air traffic control to make short approach are:

  1. you will need to descend at a steeper angle than normal, meaning that your airspeed will be higher than you'd like if you are not prepared and planning ahead for that (get power out and flaps in earlier than normal to compensate).
  2. you may need more runway than you normally use
    • because of your higher airspeed from a steeper descent (see above)
    • because you may touch down further down the runway than normal
  3. there is traffic behind you, probably only within a few miles, so you'll want to clear the runway as soon as possible - don't loiter!

Above all, ALWAYS keep in mind that you are the pilot in command (PIC) - if you don't believe that you can do what ATC is asking you to do safely, don't do it! Tell them you are unable, and that you would rather do a 360, or a 270 to base, or extend your downwind. Never, ever put yourself in a situation where you are uncomfortable or unsafe, even if ATC has requested it of you.

Think of the radio as an inflight, electronic suggestion box... but not the boss. That would be you. Act like it.

Start the below video at about 1:37 to really see the "approach" being shortened...


Have you ever been asked to make short approach? How did you handle it? Did you do it? Did you request an amended clearance from ATC? What do you think about short approaches in general?

Andrew C. Hartley is a Certificated Flight Instructor in Columbus, Ohio.

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