Clarifications in the 25 August 2011 Update to the AIM

FAA has published the 25 August 2011 update to the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM). This set of changes includes a couple of clarifications worth calling out for IFR pilots:

  • 1-2-3. Use of Suitable Area Navigation (RNAV) Systems on Conventional Procedures and Routes
  • 5-4-6. Approach Clearance

The change in section 1-2-3 reflects the content of a new advisory circular, AC 90-108 Use of Suitable Area Navigation (RNAV) Systems on Conventional Routes and Procedures (PDF), published on 3 March 2011. This AC describes in detail how you can use an IFR-approved GPS (subject to any limitations in the supplements to your AFM) as a substitute for courses and fixes defined by VOR, DME, LOM, and NDB navaids. It also describes limitations on using both basic and WAAS GPS equipment, in particular when flying the final approach course on an instrument approach.

The update to 5-4-6 clarifies ATC approach clearances, in particular:

e. The following applies to aircraft on radar vectors and/or cleared “direct to” in conjunction with an approach clearance:
1. Maintain the last altitude assigned by ATC until the aircraft is established on a published segment of a transition route, or approach procedure segment, or other published route, for which a lower altitude is published on the chart. If already on an established route, or approach or arrival segment, you may descend to whatever minimum altitude is listed for that route or segment.
2. Continue on the vector heading until intercepting the next published ground track applicable to the approach clearance.
3. Once reaching the final approach fix via the published segments, the pilot may continue on approach to a landing.
4. If proceeding to an IAF with a published course reversal (procedure turn or hold-in-lieu of PT pattern), except when cleared for a straight in approach by ATC, the pilot must execute the procedure turn/hold-in-lieu of PT, and complete the approach.
5. If cleared to an IAF/IF via a NoPT route, or no procedure turn/hold-in-lieu of PT is published, continue with the published approach.
6. In addition to the above, RNAV aircraft may be issued a clearance direct to an Intermediate Fix followed by a straight-in approach clearance.

FAA Issues Final Rule on Updates to 14 CFR Part 61

The FAA has issued a final rule that makes several important changes to 14 CFR Part 61, the regulations that govern the certification of pilots, flight instructors, and flight schools. The changes, which become effective 31 October 2011, include:

  • Allowing pilot schools to use internet-based training programs without requiring schools to have a physical ground training facility
  • Permitting the application for an instrument rating concurrently with a private pilot certificate
  • Revising the definition of “complex airplane”
  • Allowing the use of airplanes with throwover control wheels for expanded flight training
  • Allowing  the conversion of a foreign pilot license to a U.S. pilot certificate under the provisions of a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) and Implementing Procedures for Licensing (IPL).

Other changes require new proficiency checks for jet aircraft that require two pilots.

Here are some additional details about changes that affect typical general aviation pilots:

  • Complex aircraft: Aircraft previously defined as complex will continue to qualify for any application where a complex aircraft is required. This amendment simply adds the option to use a FADEC-equipped airplane with retractable landing gear and flaps for complex airplane training if the pilot chooses to do so.
  • The requirement in the final rule will not demand that the instructor have logged 25 hours of PIC flight time in a make and model of an aircraft that was obtained in aircraft having a throwover control wheel (i.e., older Bonanzas and Barons). The intent of the 25 hours in make and model that remains in the final rule is to ensure that the instructor has the proficiency and skill in that type of aircraft to safely provide instruction without the benefit of direct elevator and aileron control.

For detailed explanations of all the changes, see the summary of the new rules in the Federal Register.

A Guide to Essential Features of Microsoft Flight Simulator

A few years ago, I created a PowerPoint presentation to complement my book Microsoft Flight Simulator as a Training Aid.

“Using Flight Simulator Essentials,” which you can view below, explains key features and offers tips to help you get the most out of Flight Simulator. The presentation is one of the resources available on the Pilot Goodies page of my website. You can also find many (mostly) free aviation references on my Aviation Resources page. For more information about Microsoft Flight Simulator, visit the Flight Simulator page at my website.

Visualizing Holding Pattern Entries

Many IFR pilots struggle with holding pattern entries. They buy gizmos to solve the holding pattern puzzle, create custom hieroglyphs to sort out ATC instructions, or apply trigonometry to figure out the recommended entry for a particular hold. I’ve long preferred a visualization method that many instructors teach, and I’ve created a brief, self-paced PowerPoint presentation that takes you through the process step-by-step. This method helps you visualize a hold on the heading indicator or HSI. No math or drawing tools required.

You can download the PowerPoint show from the Pilot Goodies page of my website, or you can view it below.

Proposed redesign for NWS website (

The National Weather Service is proposing a design refresh of the NWS website You can preview the changes and comment (until September 12) here.

Most pilots have favorite weather-related websites and/or use third-party services such as NavMonster, ForeFlight, or WingX to collect and display reports and forecasts, but I still check the NWS sites for forecast discussions and other information.

The joys of personal aviation

Deborah Fallows, a linguist who is married to James Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, has posted a trip report about some of their flights together in their Cirrus SR22.

It’s a good read that may help introduce non-pilots into the joys of personal aviation.