Apollo 11: Before eAPIS

Since May 2009, general aviation pilots departing from or flying into the U.S. must submit detailed information to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and receive permission to take off. The process, called eAPIS (Electronic Advance Passenger Information System), involves filling out forms online and waiting for what amounts to an email departure or arrival visa.

Space.com posted a funny item in 2009 about the return of the Apollo 11 crew from the Moon. As a joke, they filled out a customs declaration (see below) that noted the rocks and dust they were importing. Note also the health declaration:

“Any other condition on board that may lead to the spread of disease: To be determined.”


Rescuing Whiskey, an Australian Cattle Dog

 On October 18, I flew my Beechcraft Bonanza from Seattle to Nampa, ID to pick up Whiskey, an Australian Cattle Dog, who needed transport from a shelter near Boise to another dog rescue haven near McMinnville, OR that specializes in ACD.


The trip was on behalf of Pilots N Paws, an organization that connects animal shelters and general aviation pilots who volunteer to transport critters between shelters, foster homes, and their new people.

Whiskey was a good passenger. Secure in his traveling crate, he slept most of the way. I heard only a few yips when he seemed to figure out that we were approaching KMMV (ACD are clever dogs).

Here’s a link to the planned route of flight (KBFI-KMAN-KMMV-KBFI) as shown on a WAC chart at SkyVector.com:


And here are the basic data for the flight, captured by my Garmin GPSMap 396:



Takeoff (Z)

Landing (Z)

Flight Time (hrs)

Distance (nm)

Avg GS (kts)

KBFI KMAN 1435 1702 2.4 368 153
KMAN KMMV 1828 2024 1.9 314 165
KMMV KBFI 2115 2212 0.9 154 171

The actual flight track (a .kmz file which can you view with the Google Earth Plug-in for Firefox or in Google Earth) is here.

Aviation Forecast Discussions

Like many pilots, I start watching the weather days ahead of planned trips. Unfortunately, the Outlook Briefings offered by Flight Service Stations and other official sources of aviation weather are about as useful as the tips you get from financial advisors (or bookies).

I much prefer the National Weather Service forecast discussions prepared by local NWS offices. These descriptions of current and forecast conditions, including outlooks, offer forecasters’ analysis and opinions of what the various computer models and observations imply about upcoming weather.

The easiest way to see the aviation forecast discussions for areas that interest you is via the map at the Aviation Weather Center. Click a region on the map, and up pops the text of the latest discussion. Of course, you must supplement the discussion with official reports and forecasts, all of which are available at the Aviation Weather Center, the Aviation Digital Data Service, via DUATS, and from Flight Service Stations. You can find an extensive list of weather and flight-planning links on the Aviation Resources page at my Web site, www.BruceAir.com.

To learn more about weather briefings and tools available to pilots, see Aviation Weather Services (AC 00-45F), available as a free download (.pdf) from the NWS. The General Aviation Pilot’s Weather Guide is another excellent portal to weather information.

Use of Suitable Area Navigation (RNAV) Systems on Conventional Procedures and Routes

I often get questions about how and when a pilot can substitute a GPS receiver/navigator for ground-based navigation aids when flying under IFR. Fortunately, the latest update to the AIM (dated 25 August 2011) included revisions to section 1-2-3: Use of Suitable Area Navigation (RNAV) Systems on Conventional Procedures and Routes, specifically to clarify the use of RNAV systems (especially IFR-approved GPS units) as substitutes for ground-based navaids.

For information about a further change to this section of the AIM in 2016, see
Use of IFR GPS on Conventional Approaches and Use of GPS on Conventional Approaches (Update) at BruceAir. And for additional suggestions, see Setting the CDI on a Conventional Approach (The “Kill Switch”).

Note 1 of that section also explains that “Additional information and associated requirements are available in Advisory Circular 90-108 titled ‘Use of Suitable RNAV Systems on Conventional Routes and Procedures.'”

New AIM section 1-2-3 explains that:

…b. Types of RNAV Systems that Qualify as a Suitable RNAV System. When installed in accordance with appropriate airworthiness installation requirements and operated in accordance with applicable operational guidance (e.g., aircraft flight manual and Advisory Circular material), the following systems qualify as a suitable RNAV system:

1. An RNAV system with TSO-C129/ -C145/-C146 equipment, installed in accordance with AC 20-138, Airworthiness Approval of Global Positioning System (GPS) Navigation Equipment for Use as a VFR and IFR Supplemental Navigation System, or AC 20-130A, Airworthiness Approval of Navigation or Flight Management Systems Integrating Multiple Navigation Sensors, and authorized for instrument flight rules (IFR) en route and terminal operations (including those systems previously qualified for “GPS in lieu of ADF or DME” operations), or

2. An RNAV system with DME/DME/IRU inputs that is compliant with the equipment provisions of AC 90-100A, U.S. Terminal and En Route Area Navigation (RNAV) Operations, for RNAV routes. A table of compliant equipment is available [here] (Microsoft Excel worksheet. That worksheet lists details about the specific capabilities of various units (subject, of course, to any limitations in the AFM supplement for your aircraft).

For most GA pilots, only item 1 applies. “RNAV system with TSO-C129/ -C145/-C146 equipment…” basically means IFR-approved GPS units, either non-WAAS or WAAS-capable boxes.

The updated language in the AIM includes the following explanations:

Uses of Suitable RNAV Systems. Subject to the operating requirements, operators may use a suitable RNAV system in the following ways:

1. Determine aircraft position relative to, or distance from a VOR (see NOTE 5 below), TACAN, NDB, compass locator, DME fix; or a named fix defined by a VOR radial, TACAN course, NDB bearing, or compass locator bearing intersecting a VOR or localizer course.

2. Navigate to or from a VOR, TACAN, NDB, or compass locator.

3. Hold over a VOR, TACAN, NDB, compass locator, or DME fix.

4. Fly an arc based upon DME.

1. The allowances described in this section apply even when a facility is identified as required on a procedure (for example, “Note ADF required”).

2. These operations do not include lateral navigation on localizer-based courses (including localizer back-course guidance) without reference to raw localizer data.

3. Unless otherwise specified, a suitable RNAV system cannot be used for navigation on procedures that are identified as not authorized (“NA”) without exception by a NOTAM. For example, an operator may not use a RNAV system to navigate on a procedure affected by an expired or unsatisfactory flight inspection, or a procedure that is based upon a recently decommissioned NAVAID.

4. Pilots may not substitute for the NAVAID (for example, a VOR or NDB) providing lateral guidance for the final approach segment. This restriction does not refer to instrument approach procedures with “or GPS” in the title when using GPS or WAAS. These allowances do not apply to procedures that are identified as not authorized (NA) without exception by a NOTAM, as other conditions may still exist and result in a procedure not being available. For example, these allowances do not apply to a procedure associated with an expired or unsatisfactory flight inspection, or is based upon a recently decommissioned NAVAID.

5.  For the purpose of paragraph c, “VOR” includes VOR, VOR/DME, and VORTAC facilities and “compass locator” includes locator outer marker and locator middle marker.

I also have links to several useful resources about GPS and WAAS on my Aviation Resources page.

BruceAir’s Extra is Back in the Desert for the Winter

The aerobatic season for 2011 in Seattle is over, and I flew the Extra 300L from Boeing Field to its winter home at Boulder City, NV (KBVU) on September 28 (planned route here; if you have Google Earth plugin for Firefox, you can see the actual GPS track here). If you’re interested in an aerobatic ride or stall/spin/upset training in 2012, please check out my website (www.BruceAir.com) and contact me via email. Aerobatic rides and instruction will be available again next spring when the weather cooperates.

Note that aerobatic rides and training are not available at Boulder City. Although I visit Las Vegas often during the winter, my schedule varies, and I am not currently able to conduct commercial operations there. If you’re interested in an aerobatic ride or training in Las Vegas, I recommend that you contact Monarch Sky, based at Henderson (KHND). Monarch Sky has Extra 330LCs and and a Citabria available for basic and advanced aerobatic flights and training.

Safety Highlights Series for Popular Aircraft from AOPA Air Safety Institute

If you own or fly one of the following makes/models of aircraft, you may find it helpful to review the Safety Highlights series published by AOPA Air Safety Institute.

The list of free PDFs available from AOPA ASI includes:

  • Cessna 172 Skyhawk (PDF file—1,456KB)
  • Beechfcraft Bonanza/Debonair (PDF file—462KB)
  • Cessna 182 Skylane (PDF file—423KB)
  • Piper Cherokee and Arrow (PDF file—467KB)

I recommend these brochures to all customers who fly one of these models. They’re also good references for CFIs, especially during flight reviews. The pamphlets include summaries of common problems and accidents involving the specific models, sample test questions to help ensure that pilots are familiar with important information about the aircraft, and training guides.