Draft Advisory Circulars: Flight Reviews, FIRCs, etc.

The FAA has published several draft ACs of interested to general aviation pilots and flight instructors. The documents are available for review and comment at the FAA website, here.

  •  AC 61-98C, Currency Requirements and Guidance for the Flight Review and Instrument Proficiency Check. This advisory circular (AC) provides information for certificated pilots and flight instructors to use in complying with the flight review required by Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 61, § 61.56 and the recent flight experience requirements of § 61.57. This AC is particularly directed to General Aviation (GA) pilots holding sport or higher grades of pilot certificates who wish to maintain currency and to certificated flight instructors (CFI) who give flight instruction to support such activities. This AC does not apply to training programs or proficiency checks conducted pursuant to 14 CFR part 121 or 135, nor to curriculums approved pursuant to 14 CFR part 142.
  • AC 61-83H: Nationally Scheduled, FAA-Approved, Industry-Conducted Flight Instructor Refresher Course. This advisory circular (AC) provides information and standards for the preparation and approval of training course outlines (TCO) for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved, industry conducted flight instructor refresher courses (FIRC) in accordance with Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 61, § 61.197(a)(2)(iii).

Two additional ACs, although directed primarily at air carriers, are nevertheless of interest to all pilots and instructors:

  • AC 120-UPRT, Upset Prevention and Recovery Training. AC 120-UPRT provides guidance to air carriers for the implementation of the new requirements in the Qualification, Service, and Use of Crewmembers and Aircraft Dispatchers (part 121 subpart N&O) final rule (provisions §§ 121.419, 121.423, and 121.427) to provide pilots with ground and flight training on upset. The AC also provides guidance for some of the flight instructor training requirements contained in §§ 121.412 and 121.414.
  • AC 120-109A, Stall Prevention and Recovery Training. The revision of AC 120-109 provides guidance to air carriers for the implementation of the new requirements in the Qualification, Service, and Use of Crewmembers and Aircraft Dispatchers (part 121 subpart N&O) final rule (provisions §§ 121.419, 121.423, and 121.427) to provide pilots with ground and flight training on stall prevention and recovery.

Podcast of Interview at Angle of Attack

Podcast of Interview at Angle of Attack

Chris Palmer, host of a podcast at Angle of Attack, recently interviewed me about PC-based simulations, scenario-based training, and aerobatics. The podcast is available at the link above.


ADS-B Advisory Services: Coverage Essentially Complete in Lower 48

According to the latest maps available from the FAA, the network of ground-based transmitters for ADS-B Broadcast Services (TIS-B and FIS-B) now provides coverage throughout the continental US.

Update: The FAA published a press release on April 14, 2014 announcing the completion of the ground infrastructure, which includes 634 radio stations.

The following diagram shows the locations of the operating transmitters as of late March 2014.


And here’s a diagram that shows the coverage provided by the network. Note that these service volumes assume you are high enough to receive the broadcasts, typically at or above about 1,500 feet AGL, depending on your distance from a transmitter.


Here’s an FAA video that describes ADS-B Broadcast Services.

Changes in Stall/Upset Training

Aviation Week & Space Technology recently published an interesting article about changes in stall/upset training for pilots of transport aircraft. A video (see below) complements the story, which emphasizes immediate reduction in angle of attack first—before correcting bank angle or adding power.

The training standards before 2012 unwittingly led to stall recovery success in terms of lost altitude rather than the need to reduce angle of attack and aerodynamic load on the wing by immediately pushing the elevator control forward—the universally accepted solution to stalls that had been ignored in training.

That’s a point I’ve made in several posts here and in the video demonstrations on my YouTube channel (see, for example, this video of stalls in a Beechcraft Bonanza).

From Aviation Week

New Digital Chart Format from FAA

FAA AeroNav Products is transitioning to a new method of producing its digital charts. Details are available here.

UPDATE (1/30/14): Based on productive feedback from our chart users, we have further improved the rendering of our raster chart samples. Type and features appear clear and crisp with improved edge definition. Compressed file sizes are generally unaffected, while uncompressed file sizes are much smaller.

VFR Charting has greatly improved its digital-Visual Chart (d-VC) process and we are excited to give our users an opportunity to see the new product before full implementation. Instead of using scanned chart images, the new d-VC is created directly from our digital files, resulting in a crisper and brighter image with improved georeferencing.

The new files are of the same type and format as the old files. Each .zip file contains a TIF, geospatial (.tfw), and metadata (.htm) file. However, Sectional Charts will no longer be divided into a north and south half. The entire chart will be contained within the TIF. Additionally, the resolution of the TIF is improved to 300 dpi.

We are allowing our users to view and test the new product. However, we will continue to supply the existing d-VC files through the 6 MAR 2014 chart cycle. Please see the Sample Sectional (ZIP) file provided.

Your feedback is very much appreciated. Please send any comments, questions, or concerns to 9-AMC-Aerochart@faa.gov.

This excerpt from the Seattle sectional shows the new format.


A New Way to Open and Close VFR Flight Plans

I recently ferried a C182 from Boulder City, NV to Boulder, CO (route at SkyVector here).

This a was VFR trip with the airplane’s new owner (who hadn’t flown in more than 30 years–talk about getting back into flying), and, based on previous experience flying the route, I knew that for much of the trip we’d be in poor radar/communications coverage at 9500 MSL. It was a good opportunity to try the new EasyActivate and EasyClose features available via Lockheed Martin Flight Services (video below).

Now, I know the arguments about the value of filing VFR flight plans, and like many pilots, I rarely file VFR flight plans. Contacting FSS to open a VFR flight plan, especially when departing busy airspace, can be cumbersome, and even with cell phones, calling FSS at the other end and navigating the prompts/menus to close a flight plan with a briefer can also be pain.

But on long trips like this one, across sparsely populated areas and in a new airplane, I like having backup for SAR. For that purpose, I filed a detailed route (see above) and stuck to it. (I did pick up flight following on the leg from KAEG–necessary to get through the ABQ Class C and to deal efficiently with the airspace around Denver.)

This new feature is handy. File your VFR flight plan directly with L-M (not DUAT or DUATS) and select the appropriate options. About 30 minutes before your ETD, you’ll get an email or text message with a link to open the flight plan. When you’re ready to go, click/tap the link. You’ll receive a confirmation.

About 30 minutes before your ETA, you’ll get another message from L-M with a link to close the flight plan. After you land, click/tap the link, and almost immediately you’ll receive a confirmation.

No menus. No waiting to talk to a briefer over a scratchy connection. And with the reminders, less risk of forgetting to close a VFR flight plan.

Given that many of my flights involve trips into the wide open spaces of the West, often in airplanes that either aren’t equipped or suitable for IFR, I’m going to take advantage of this new way to use VFR flight plans.

MH370: For the Conspiracy Theorists


The latest developments in the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, including suggestions that Boeing 777-200 may be been stolen and landed on a remote island, have catalyzed conspiracy theories, from alien abduction and a reboot of Lost to a skein of scenarios involving terrorists.

The frenzy led me to an obscure book in my personal library, Thirty Seconds Over New York, published in English in 1970. The short novel, originally written in French by Robert Buchard in 1969, tells of a plot by “a fanatical Chinese colonel to provoke total war by penetrating America’s billion-dollar defenses and dropping a nuclear bomb on its largest city.”

In the days before President Nixon visited China, the book was blurbed as “An exciting and terrifying novel of suspense in the tradition of Fail-Safe and Seven Days in May.”

The scheme involves using a stolen Boeing 707 painted in the livery of TWA, which shadows the real TWA Flight 811 from Rome to New York, and then takes its place over Newfoundland. The airliner is full of unwitting Chinese operatives posing as passengers.


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