New Aviation Data and Charts: What’s Changed?

Before the advent of the iPad and similar tablets, aviators used paper charts. Most instrument-rated pilots subscribed to charts published by Jeppesen, and updates, in distinctive yellow envelopes, arrived in the mail every two weeks. Updating the approach charts and associated information meant pulling out one or more thick binders and manually tearing out the old sheets and replacing them with new “plates.”

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That manual update process was time-consuming and prone to errors–a chore often left to downtime at the airport. Now, most pilots, from airline captains to students, have adopted electronic charts, at least for some operations. Increasing numbers of us have gone paperless, a practice allowed by the FAA under several guidance documents. For non-commercial operators, the most relevant document is AC 91-78 Use of Class 1 or Class 2 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB).

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The old manual update method had one virtue, however. You handled the new charts, and you could easily see which procedures had been canceled or updated. New procedures were also obvious.

Downloads of new charts to an iPad update the information quickly and accurately, but you can’t easily determine which charts have changed.

The FAA does offer tools to help you discover what’s new with each data cycle.

For example, the Advanced Search page at the AeroNav Products website is an interactive way to find new or changed terminal procedures (IAPs, SIDs, STARs, etc.) for IFR flying.

FAA-TerminalProcedureSearch

You can search for procedures added, changed, or deleted in the current cycle or the next updates to be published. Narrow a search by the volume (Northeast Vol. 1, Southwest Vol. 2, etc.), state, or city in which the airport(s) you’re interested in are listed. You can also search for specific a specific airport by typing its ID or name.

The PDF compare option displays the two latest versions of a chart with highlights that mark what’s changed.

PDF-compare

Looking Ahead: Procedures in Development

To learn about instrument procedures that are under development, visit the IFP Information Gateway, where you can search for airports by name, ID, or city. The page displays details about forthcoming changes to existing procedures and information about procedures that are under development, including preliminary charts.

VFR Chart Updates and Bulletins

To review changes to VFR charts, see the VFR Chart Update Bulletins page, where you can download PDF summaries of late changes to and errors on published charts.

VFR-Bulletins

Logging Instrument Approaches as a Flight Instructor

Aspen 1000I recently acted as a flight instructor for a customer who is learning new avionics (especially an Aspen Evolution PFD and a Garmin GTN750) recently installed in his 1970s vintage Cessna Turbo Centurion (T210).

For more information about logging flight time, see this item here at BruceAir.

Typical autumn weather prevailed in Seattle, so we conducted the entire flight under IFR, and we were in the clouds for most of the 1.5 hour flight. The owner flew two ILS approaches and one RNAV (GPS) procedure with LPV minimums. We also flew a hold-in-lieu of a procedure turn (see AIM 5-4-9).

Now, IFR pilots generally must meet the requirements of 14 CFR 61.57(c) to maintain their IFR currency. That regulation states:

…(c) Instrument experience. Except as provided in paragraph (e) of this section, a person may act as pilot in command under IFR or weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR only if:

…Within the 6 calendar months preceding the month of the flight, that person performed and logged at least the following tasks and iterations in an airplane, powered-lift, helicopter, or airship, as appropriate,…

(i) Six instrument approaches.

(ii) Holding procedures and tasks.

(iii) Intercepting and tracking courses through the use of navigational electronic systems.

The question, often asked, is whether I, as the flight instructor, can log the approaches flown by the owner. FAA issued a legal interpretation on this specific issue in 2008. (You can search the FAA website for legal interpretations here.)

The 2008 letter states in part:

Am I correct in understanding that a CFII may log approaches that a student flies when the approaches are conducted in actual instrument conditions? Is there a reference to this anywhere in the rules?

Ref. § 61.51(g)(2); Yes, a CFII may log approaches that a student flies when those approaches are conducted in actual instrument flight conditions. And this would also permit that instructor who is performing as an authorized instructor to “log instrument time when conducting instrument flight instruction in actual instrument flight instructions” and this would count for instrument currency requirements under § 61.67(c).

The letter elaborates by noting that:

The FAA views the instructor’s oversight responsibility when instructing in actual instrument flight conditions to meet the obligation of 61.57(c) to have performed the approaches.

Although the letter does not specifically address the other requirements for IFR currency–holding procedures and tasks and intercepting and tracking courses through the use of navigational electronic systems–the reasoning of the interpretation seems to support allowing an instrument instructor also to log those tasks when the aircraft is operating in actual IMC.

‘Any traffic in the area, please advise…’

During my most recent visit to KBVU, I heard many commercial operators again using variations on the old “Any traffic in the area, please advise” phrase that has long been the bane of operations at non-towered airports. It seemed, for a while at least, that aviators had shunned that practice.

KBVU-01

I understand that those who use the statement in its several forms think they’re being helpful and safety conscious, but in fact, the opposite is true. It doesn’t help—it clutters the frequency, leads to squeals when several pilots respond simultaneously, and gives the announcer a false sense of security if no one replies. In recognition of those facts, AIM 4-1-9 Traffic Advisory Practices at Airports Without Operating Control Towers proscribes its use:

g. Self-Announce Position and/or Intentions
1.  General. Self-announce is a procedure whereby pilots broadcast their position or intended flight activity or ground operation on the designated CTAF. This procedure is used primarily at airports which do not have an FSS on the airport. The self-announce procedure should also be used if a pilot is unable to communicate with the FSS on the designated CTAF. Pilots stating, “Traffic in the area, please advise” is not a recognized Self-Announce Position and/or Intention phrase and should not be used under any condition.

The authors of the AIM rarely go out of their way to disapprove of a particular practice (short of something that conflicts with one or more regulations). That this edict was added attests to the fact that the practice had become common, wasn’t helpful, and needed to be corrected through a specific mention in the AIM.

Announcing your position and intentions per the AIM and other guidance, such as ACs and the FAA training handbooks, effectively alerts other pilots to your presence. “Please advise” is redundant. Those who perceive a conflict will reply as necessary.

If you are listening and looking out as you approach and operate in the traffic pattern, you’ll get the picture of what’s going on. Traffic in the area, please advise, in any form, is counter-productive noise.

Consider the following:

Next time you’re at the airport diner with several of your flying friends, try the following experiment. Assume the winds favor runway 27 at a non-towered airport. Fred, you’re on upwind. Mary, you are at midfield on downwind. Sue, you’re about to turn from base to final. Mike, you’re six miles out planning a straight-in approach. Tom, you’re 8 miles out to the southeast. And you, tuning the CTAF from 10 miles south, announce your position and ask any traffic to advise. See what happens around the table. What do you expect everyone else to say? Who decides who talks first and who follows, in what order? What do they say that they wouldn’t otherwise say as they reach one of the recommended reporting positions? What information wouldn’t you get by following the recommended procedures, completing your pre-landing checks so you can look out the window, monitoring the frequency, and making your reports as recommended in the AIM, ACs, etc.? As for the AIM being non-regulatory…see this item.

Of course, none of this is intended to discourage pilots from using plain-language, common-sense phraseology to sort out confusion and potential conflicts. Even when talking directly to ATC, sometimes it’s necessary to depart from the official phrasebook to make sure everyone mutually understands what’s going on.

Helpful Resources

Upset Recovery Exercises

The video below shows a series of practices I use with students in my stall/spin/upset recovery course. They fly modified barrel rolls to become familiar with all-attitude flying, to fly the airplane through its speed range, and to develop G-awareness. Next, we fly the same maneuver, but we deliberately stall the airplane at the top of the loop/roll, first in coordinated flight, then in skids and slips. These practices show the student what happens during botched maneuvers and they’re also great practice should they ever experience an upset due to wake turbulence, disorientation, or other factors. Students also learn about accelerated stalls in the vertical–the effect of abruptly increasing angle of attack, even when diving toward the ground.

You can find more videos at my YouTube channel, BruceAirFlying. The Stalls and Spins playlist focuses on those exercises.

To learn more about making aviation videos, see Aviation Video Tips.

Videos: Quick Takes on Aerobatics

I recently created several short videos that highlight specific aerobatic maneuvers that I demonstrate during rides and instruction in the Extra 300L. Here are few; you can find more at my YouTube channel, BruceAirFlying.

To learn more about making aviation videos, see Aviation Video Tips.

Hammerhead

Slow Roll

Four-Point and Aileron Rolls

Inverted Flight

Flight Information Service (FIS-B): Weather and Info in the Cockpit

Like many pilots, I have long used portable GPS navigators with SiriusXM aviation weather to display NEXRAD, weather reports and forecasts, and TFRs in the cockpit. Having regularly updated (if not truly real-time) information about the weather has been a boon to safety and efficiency, making strategic decisions about weather-related diversions and other changes to the original plan for a flight much less cumbersome.

The introduction of aviation apps for the iPad and other tablets and the completion of the ADS-B ground infrastructure has more pilots using the free Flight Information Service (FIS-B) products that can be integrated into products such as ForeFlight, WingX, FlyQ, and Garmin Pilot–provided you have an ADS-B receiver, such as the Stratus, Garmin GDL 39, or Dual XGPS170, among others.

(SiriusXM has announced a new, stand-alone receiver for its subscription services. It works with the iPad and a dedicated app. Details here.)

SiriusXM and FIS-B: What’s different?

If you’re switching from the satellite-based weather and information services to FIS-B products, it’s important to understand several key differences between the information each provides, and the limitations of the FIS-B services, especially for typical general aviation pilots operating below the flight levels who want to check the weather more than 375 nm ahead.

Of course, it’s also important to understand that SiriusXM information is available even on the ground, assuming the antenna has a clear view of the sky. FIS-B services, based on line-of-sight transmissions from ground stations, typically are available only after you climb at least above pattern altitude; higher minimums often apply. You can view a map of and learn more about ADS-B coverage here.

First, the set of weather reports and forecasts available via FIS-B doesn’t include all of the products from SiriusXM (depending on the subscription plan you choose).

FIS-B includes the following text reports (see AIM 7-1-11):

  • Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) and Special Aviation Report (SPECI)
  • Pilot Weather Report (PIREP)
  • Winds and Temperatures Aloft
  • Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF) and amendments
  • Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) Distant and Flight Data Center

FIS-B includes the following products in both text and graphic forms:

  • Airmen’s Meteorological Conditions (AIRMET)
  • Significant Meteorological Conditions (SIGMET)
  • Convective SIGMET
  • Special Use Airspace (SUA)
  • Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) NOTAM

FIS-B also displays graphical regional and national NEXRAD composite reflectivity information.

Update Schedules

AIM Table 7-1-1 FIS-B Over UAT Product Update and Transmission Intervals shows the intervals at which fresh information is transmitted via the ADS-B network.

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Look-Ahead and Altitude Tiers

To avoid overloading the ADS-B transmitters, the amount of information sent to aircraft depends on the altitude of the receiver. The altitude tiers are described in AIM Table 7-1-2 Product Parameters for Low/Medium/High Altitude Tier Radios:

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Figure A-2 in AC 00-63A defines the altitude tiers:

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Most of us flying normally aspirated, piston aircraft fit into the medium altitude tier, which means that some information (e.g., METARs and TAFs) is available only when the reporting airport is within 375 nm of our present position.

The advisory circular notes that:

Pilots need to consider the performance of the aircraft as well as the update rate for a specific product. For example, a pilot of a light twin aircraft, flying at a medium altitude with a tailwind could easily have a ground speed in excess of 200 knots. Thus, traveling at over 3 NM per minute, a pilot may not have enough time to receive and decipher a pop-up TFR based on the 100 NM look-ahead and a 10-minute transmission interval.

Future FIS-B Products

AC 00-63A notes that FAA plans to add five new FIS-B products “in the next few years.” These products include:

  • Lightning. Graphical representation of each lightning stroke in a past 5-minute period.
  • Turbulence NOWcast. Two-kilometer resolution grid containing an eight-value turbulence intensity scale in each grid cell. The intensity scale depicts a weighted average turbulence for flight levels (FL) of 10,000 ft and above.
  • Icing NOWcast. Two-kilometer resolution grids, where each grid represents one of the eight 3,000 ft ranges from FL 030 to FL 240. Within each grid, each grid cell contains the four-value icing indication and the presence or absence of Supercooled Large Drop (SLD) formation.
  • Cloud Tops. Two-kilometer resolution grid indicating the altitude of the cloud top to an accuracy of 3,000 ft, ranging from FL 030 to FL 480.
  • One-Minute Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS). More frequent updates of METAR-formatted information.

More Information and Key References

You can find detailed information about FIS-B in the following key references:

In June 2012, NTSB released a Safety Alert about the limitations of NEXRAD displays in the cockpit.

AOPA ASI offers a free online course, IFR Insights: Cockpit Weather, to help you learn more about datalink weather.

Simulating Partial-Panel with a G500/G600

I schedule an annual instrument proficiency check before the Pacific Northwest skies turn gray as fall arrives. The tasks that you must accomplish to complete an IPC are outlined in the practical test standards for the instrument rating and in an appendix to Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC) Guidance, published by FAA.

Instrument Proficiency Check. 14 CFR part 61, section 61.57(d), sets forth the requirements for an instrument proficiency check. The person giving that check shall use the standards and procedures contained in this PTS when administering the check. A representative number of Tasks, as determined by the examiner/instructor, must be selected to assure the competence of the applicant to operate in the IFR environment. As a minimum, the applicant must demonstrate the ability to perform the Tasks as listed in the [chart below]. The person giving the check should develop a scenario that incorporates as many required tasks as practical to assess the pilot’s ADM and risk management skills during the IPC. See Appendix 2 for IPC AATD Credit Table. (FAA-S-8081-4E with Changes 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5)

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As you can see, the required items include VII–Emergency Operations, Task D: Approach with Loss of Primary Flight Instrument Indicators. The notes for that task in the PTS specify that the pilot, “Demonstrat[e] a non-precision instrument approach without the use of the primary flight instrument using the objectives of the non-precision approach Task (Area of Operation VI, Task A).”

In an airplane with conventional instruments (the so-called steam gauges), the instructor covers the attitude indicator with a suction cup, business card, or sticky note.

Like many pilots, however, I’ve updated my instrument panel. It now features a Garmin G500 electronic display that replaces six traditional primary flight instruments (airspeed indicator, attitude indicator, altimeter, vertical speed indicator, heading indicator, and turn coordinator). I have a backup attitude indicator, ASI and altimeter in the self-contained Mid-Continent SAM.

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Now, avionics manufacturers and the FAA have advised against pulling circuit breakers to simulate failures of electronic displays the behind-the-scenes gizmos that drive them (e.g., attitude-heading reference systems). Plastering expensive displays—especially touch-screens–with sticky notes isn’t a good idea. So, how to simulate the failure of the PFD (the left side of the G500)—or, indeed the entire GDU 620, the two-panel display that shows the flight instruments and a map?

For more information about using CBs to simulate failures, see Garmin’s G1O00 Guide for Designated Pilot Examiners and Certified Flight Instructors. That document notes in part:

Cessna does not recommend pulling circuit breakers as a means of simulating failures on the Garmin G1000. Pulling circuit breakers—or using them as switches—has the potential to weaken the circuit breaker to a point at which it may not perform its intended function. Using circuit breakers as switches is also discouraged in Advisory Circulars 120-80, 23-17B, and 43.13-1B. Additionally, a circuit breaker may be powering other equipment (such as avionics cooling fans) that could affect the safe operation of other equipment.

For the map side, it’s easy—select a page that shows, say, A/FD information or one of the AUX pages. They’re useless as references during an approach.

After much deep thought, I came up with the following solution for the PFD side: A piece of cardboard taped above the display. Here’s the item lying in wait in the holder that I use for my iPad.

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And here it is in place, covering most of the PFD.

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Inelegant to be sure. I’ll trim it to size next time. But it’s simple, non-destructive, cheap, and easy to put in place and remove. In a aircraft used primarily for training, I’d consider a strip of Velcro above the PFD.

If you wanted to “fail” just the attitude indicator and leave the ASI, altimeter, VSI, HI, CDI, bearing pointers, and other information visible, you could trim the cardboard so that it covers only the AI portion of the PFD.

Today, however, I wanted to simulate a complete failure of the GDU 620 to see how well I could fly an approach using the SAM and the navigation information on the GTN750 and the chart on my iPad. Per the PTS, I was flying a non-precision approach, so I didn’t need a glideslope indicator.

To set up descents on each segment of the approach, I applied the Pitch+Power+Configuration=Performance equation, knowing that at a specified power setting and pitch in a given configuration (flaps and landing gear positions), I would descend at approximately 600 fpm at a stable airspeed. Tracking the courses was a bit more difficult than when using the HSI, but this was a simulated emergency, so I used all available sources, including the depiction of my airplane on the GTN750 moving map and the approach chart displayed (via ForeFlight) on my iPad. By making small, coordinated turns based on the SAM, I never wandered more than about a dot off the centerline of any segment of the approach. The graphical information made meeting altitude restrictions easier. And the trend vectors that show how your current track relates to the required course were also a big help in making smooth, small heading changes.

I plan to use this high-tech failure simulator in the future when I practice flying instrument procedures (in VMC, of course) to maintain my proficiency. Note that this device would also work well in ATDs and FTDs that feature glass cockpits.

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