Cockpit Casual–Ferrying Airliners

Here’s a link to the first video from Speedtape Films about Jet Test and Transport, a company that ferries airliners. Background is in a story from CNN, here.

How Far Outbound in a Hold?

When flying a charted old, such as a hold used in lieu of a procedure turn (HILPT), how far outbound do you need to fly?

Here’s an example: the RNAV (GPS) RWY 02 approach at Bremerton, WA (KPWT). The procedure includes a hold at ZOLGI, which is used as a course reversal unless ATC vectors you to final or you fly one of the charted feeder routes from SANDR or OLM. The outbound leg of the hold is 4 nm, a long distance to go in a typical light single unless you need more time to set up for the approach and landing. But if you’re flying the HILPT as a course reversal (not to hold for a delay), do you really need to fly out 4 nm before you turn inbound?

AIM 5−4−9. Procedure Turn and Hold−in−lieu of Procedure Turn provides come guidance:

The maneuver must be completed within the distance specified in the profile view. For a hold−in−lieu−of−PT, the holding pattern direction must be flown as depicted and the specified leg length/timing must not be exceeded. [Emphasis added]

That statement aligns with the “remain with 10 nm” notes common on approaches with procedure turns. It’s usually up to you when you begin the outbound turn, how long you fly away from the final approach course, etc., as long as you don’t end up too far from the fix named in the note.

With that in mind, when flying typical light GA aircraft, I often don’t fly the full length of the outbound leg of a HILPT if I’m using the hold only as a course reversal and don’t intend to fly additional laps.

For example, when flying the approach at KPWT In a C172 or similar airplane, I typically don’t need to drone out a full 4 nm from the fix before turning inbound–if we’re cleared “…Cross ZOLGI at 4000, cleared RNAV RWY 2 approach.”

But in a faster airplane or if I want more time to catch up with tasks, or if I want the autopilot to fly the procedure, I go out the full 4 nm.

This technique gets more definitive support from the an FAA letter of interpretation (Bill Young 2011–thanks to John Collins for the reference). Here’s the relevant passage from that letter:

In response to your fifth question, it is permissible, without specific ATC clearance, to shorten published outbound DME legs in a holding pattern as long as the issued holding pattern leg length is not exceeded. If ATC verbalizes leg lengths for either a charted or uncharted holding pattern, the pilot does have to obtain ATC clearance to shorten outbound legs to less than that which has been cleared. “When an ATC clearance has been obtained, no pilot in command may deviate from that clearance unless an amended clearance is obtained, an emergency exists, or the deviation is in response to a traffic alert and collision avoidance system resolution advisory.” See 14 C.F.R. 91. 123(a).

Flying an IFR Departure at Yakima

I recently flew the A36 Bonanza from Yakima, WA (KYKM) back across the Cascades to a fuel stop at Bremerton, WA (KPWT) just west of Seattle.

The weather was CAVU, but for practice I filed and flew an IFR flight plan, including a standard instrument departure from Yakima—the WENAS 7 SID.

I chose this departure to exercise the avionics in the A36—a Garmin GTN 750Xi navigator, Garmin G500 TXi PFD/MFD, and the GFC 600 autopilot.

The procedure, which requires only a VOR receiver and DME, highlights an often-overlooked use of DME arcs—departures. We typically think of DME arcs used as transition or feeder routes for instrument approaches.

The WENAS 7 begins with a turn to intercept the YKM 255 radial, which leads you to WENAS, a fix 9 nm from the YKM VOR. At WENAS, you join the 9-mile arc north-northeast bound. You follow the arc to intercept one of six airways by leaving the arc at the appropriate fix.

I planned to fly V298 northwest from Yakima and then turn westbound toward Seattle, so I filed the WENAS 7 SID with the PERTT transition. PERTT is a fix on V298, 23 nm northwest of the YKM VOR.

My airplane is equipped with VOR receivers and DME, but I can use the GPS capability of the GTN 750Xi to fly any departure based on navaids. That capability is described in AIM 1-2-3 and AC 90-108. That AC and the language in the AIM will be updated, probably in late 2021 or 2022 by the new AC 90-119. (For more information, see Draft AC 90-119 Performance-Based Navigation Operations.)

Using GPS increases my situational awareness and reduces my workload during the busy departure phase of flight.

To learn more about using RNAV systems while flying procedures based on navaids, see Using GPS on Conventional Procedures.

To fly the WENAS 7, I add the procedure to my flight plan. And my GFC 600 autopilot can fly the entire procedure, tracking the 255 radial to join the arc, then flying the curved track of the arc, and finally smoothly joining the airway at SELAH, then on to PERTT. The autopilot can also climb an indicated airspeed or at rate that I choose.

But flying this departure isn’t as simple as taking off and pressing buttons on the autopilot.

Yakima is on the eastern edge of the Cascade Range and flying west or northwest under IFR means you must meet a specific climb gradient, as shown on the chart.

Departing runway 27, you must meet a minimum climb gradient of 350 ft per nautical mile.

Pilots usually think of climbs and descents in rates of feet per minute, not gradients of feet per nautical mile. After all, we have vertical speed indicators that show rates. Most of us do not have an instrument in the panel that directly shows our climb gradient, which depends on the rate of climb and our current ground speed.

Planning to fly this departure requires determining the rate of climb you need to achieve to meet the minimum climb gradient, and that calculation includes factors such as the wind, your expected TAS and ground speed during the climb, and the rate of climb your airplane can achieve at its takeoff weight at the current density altitude.

The calculations involve the performance charts from the handbook for the airplane you fly and applying some basic math or using a table that the FAA publishes on the back inside cover the TPP.

The FAA table, or the equivalent published by Jeppesen, includes speeds and rates of climb that aren’t relevant to the aircraft that I fly, so I made a more focused version that I keep in a document binder in ForeFlight. The official tables also include rates of climb calculated to the nearest foot, which is a misleading level of precision. So my table, created in Microsoft Excel, associates each climb gradient, in 10-ft increments, with the corresponding rate of climb, rounded up to the nearest 100 fpm (using the MROUND function; the Microsoft Excel workbook is available here). That’s a value I can see on the VSI in the cockpit.

I also display the Climb Gradient “instrument” at the bottom of the map view in Foreflight. I don’t need to see groundspeed and other data already displayed in my panel, so I devote the ForeFlight Instrument Panel to other information. The ForeFlight Pilot Guide and the app show all the available “instruments” you can display at the bottom of the map.

The real-time display of my climb gradient—it’s also a display of the current descent gradient—is a great aid to situational awareness during IFR departures and while flying instrument approaches.

Join me for the remainder of the flight to KPWT:

FAA Explains the VOR MON Program

I’ve provided many updates on the FAA program to decommission about one-third of the VOR network in the Continental U.S. That VOR Minimum Operational Network (MON) will leave 589 VORs in operation by FY2030.

FAA recently hosted a webinar to update aviators on the program. You can watch the video below.

Here’s a link to the most recent update on the VOR MON:

Latest on VOR Decommissioning (May 2021)

See also:

  • Next Round of VOR Shutdowns
  • Update on VOR Decommissioning
  • FAA Releases List of VORs to be Shut Down
  • VOR Status–Another Update
  • Seattle to Pasco: A Scenic Flight

    Mostly clear skies—except for smoke from the many wildfires in the Pacific Northwest—tempted me to fly across the Cascades to show how quickly and dramatically the scenery changes during even a relatively short flight in this part of the U.S.

    This early morning takeoff from runway 32L at Boeing Field (KBFI) includes views of the Seattle skyline as I climb and turn southeast to join the V2 airway toward Ellensburg and then on to Pasco (KPSC), largest of the so-called Tri-Cities in central WA along the Columbia River.

    I explain how the CBAIN ONE RNAV departure works at Boeing Field, and I outline my planned route across the mountains into the arid south-central part of Washington state. Although the battery in the wingtip camera didn’t last for the entire trip, you still get a good view of the approach and landing at Pasco, which has become an increasingly busy passenger terminal for regional airlines.

    Two Views of an Instrument Approach

    An overnight surge of marine stratus into Seattle brought another opportunity to fly instrument approaches in IMC—even in mid-July.

    The video below shows the short hop from Boeing Field (KBFI) to Tacoma Narrows (KTIW) for the RNAV (GPS) RWY 17 approach almost to the published LPV minimums.

    The second video shows the same approach flown about a month earlier in mostly visual conditions. As I have noted before, it’s a good idea to have instrument students fly their first approaches in VMC, hood or Foggles off, so that they can compare the movements of the course and glidepath indicators with the view of the runway. They also see the terrain and obstacles along the approach path, which helps them understand the importance of remaining on the published courses and never going below the minimum altitudes as they descend.

    A Visual View of an Instrument Approach

    I always have instrument students fly their first approaches in visual conditions so that they can see how the displays in the cockpit correspond to the view outside.

    Ride along as I fly an RNAV (GPS) approach at Hoquiam, WA (KHQM), and observe how close you come to terrain and other obstacles while following the lateral and vertical guidance, and how, in this case, the autopilot maintains a steady track as it compensates for shifting winds.

    This video focuses on the cockpit displays and the view from the camera on the right wingtip. I flew this approach in VMC, and I haven’t included ATC communications or general cockpit views.

    You’ll also notice that I mark up charts to help me note important details during preflight planning and to guide me through procedure briefings in the cockpit.

    You can learn more about my method for annotating electronic charts in a separate video on my YouTube channel. I also have a video about briefing IFR procedures.

    Practicing Instrument Approaches in IMC

    I recently took advantage of solid IMC in the Seattle area to fly several instrument approaches. Flying in actual instrument meteorological conditions is different from practicing with a view limiting device (e.g., a “hood”), especially when the visibility beneath the clouds is limited.

    Ride along via the videos below as I depart Boeing Field (KBFI) in Seattle to fly the RNAV RWY 20 and ILS RWY 20 approaches at nearby Bremerton National (KPWT) and then return to KBFI via the ILS RWY 14R.

    Track of my practice flight.

    For more information about my techniques for preparing to fly instrument approaches, see Briefing IFR Procedures here at my blog.

    If you’re interested in my recommendations for reviewing and annotating instrument charts, see Annotating IFR Charts, also here at BruceAir.

    An IFR Flight: KBFI-KUAO

    Ride along on this typical IFR flight from Boeing Field (KBFI) in Seattle to visit Pacific Coast Avionics at Aurora, OR (KUAO), south of Portland. The video (link below) includes ATC communications and shows the rhythm of a typical IFR flight: Clearance, Takeoff and Departure, Enroute, Descent, and Approach.

    As you’ll see in the video, I filed a preferred route used for low-altitude IFR traffic between the Seattle and Portland areas. I also pass along tips for copying IFR clearances and ATIS/AWOS information.

    Leaving KBFI, I flew the NRVNA ONE departure, an RNAV procedure. At KUAO, I flew the RNAV (GPS) RWY 35 approach to get below a solid cloud layer that topped out at around 4000 ft.

    I hope you enjoy the views of cloud surfing along the way as I use the Garmin G500 TXi, GTN 750Xi, and GFC 600 autopilot.

    Video of the return flight from KUAO to KPWT (for fuel) is here.

    Departing IFR from a Non-Towered Airport

    Here’s a situation that often confuses new IFR pilots: How do you get a clearance and depart IFR from an airport that does not have an operating control tower?

    The short video below describes the process, using a real IFR departure from Bremerton National Airport (KPWT) west of Seattle.

    KPWT is a typical non-towered airport with Class E airspace to surface. Seattle Approach Control owns that airspace.

    That surface-based airspace means that if the ceiling and visibility reported on the AWOS are not at least 1000 ft and 3 sm, you can’t take off unless you’ve received an IFR clearance or a special VFR clearance (see 14 CFR §91.155  Basic VFR weather minimums). And as the FAA’s Baginski Letter (2012) and the regulation note, “The determination of visibility by a pilot…is not an official weather report or an official ground visibility report.”

    The video shows details such as checking the FAA Terminal Procedures Publication (in ForeFlight) for information about IFR departure procedures, including diverse vector areas, where applicable.

    You can find more information about IFR departure procedures, including IFR releases and clearance void times and diverse vector areas, in AIM 5-2-7, AIM 5-2-9, and the Instrument Flying Handbook and Instrument Procedures Handbook.

    For more information about contacting ATC when you’re on the ground at an non-towered airport, see FAA Completes ATC Phone Number Plan and the Chart Supplement here at BruceAir.

    A similar situation obtains when you are approaching to land at an airport with Class E airspace to the surface. If the reported weather isn’t at least basic VFR, you can’t cancel IFR or special VFR until you’re on the ground (see Canceling IFR here at BruceAir). The video below shows that procedure after a short IFR flight from Boeing Field (KBFI) to Bremerton (KPWT).