Sample Western U.S. Flight Routes

Many pilots are curious about routes to fly on longer trips around the western U.S. and to/from the West to destinations like Oshkosh (home of EAA AirVenture).

I’ve flown around the West and to Oshkosh many times over the years, in a variety of aircraft–usually normally aspirated piston singles. I’ve organized routes that I fly regularly into a Microsoft Excel workbook, which you can download from my public AviationDocuments folder at OneDrive, here. Look for the file named BruceAirPreferredRoutes.

BruceAirRoutes-01

Each entry includes a basic description and:

  • Links to information about the departure and destination airports (at SkyVector.com)
  • An overlay of the route on a VFR chart at SkyVector.com
  • Basic statistics (distance, etc.)

BruceAirRoutes-02

The AircraftData tab (at the bottom of the worksheet window) contains basic information about the aircraft (e.g., KTAS and fuel burn) that link to the information in the main Routes tab. Edit the information in the AircraftData tab to match the data for the aircraft that you fly, and it will automatically populate the appropriate fields in the Routes tab, saving you the effort of manually filling in speeds, etc. for each route.

Keep in mind that these routes are general guidelines that may help you start planning trips in these areas. You should adjust them for the performance of the aircraft you fly, fuel stops, places you want to visit, terrain, and so forth. Obviously, weather and other factors (such as your personal preferences for leg lengths) also come into play.

 

Experimental Graphical Forecasts for Aviation

The Aviation Weather Center has released new Experimental Graphical Forecasts for Aviation, described by the AWC:

The Experimental Graphical Forecasts for Aviation are designed to provide meteorological information equivalent to the textual Area Forecast (FA) in a graphical format, as requested by the FAA. This product includes observations and forecasts valid for the continental United States that provide data critical for aviation safety, overlaid on high-resolution basemaps. Please note that the text-based Area Forecast is still being produced.

gfa_icing_with_annotations
A tutorial on the new forecast is available here.

As FAA noted in a recent draft revision to  AC 00-45H, Aviation Weather Services:

The FA contains weather information in a format originally developed in the 1950s. By design, it carries a character count limitation and is prohibited from describing instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions over the CONUS and Hawaii (reserved for Airmen’s Meteorological Information (AIRMET) and significant meteorological information (SIGMET)).

While the FA met aviation weather information needs for many years, today the National Weather Service (NWS) provides equivalent information through a number of better alternatives. Plans are to discontinue the six FAs covering the CONUS and one FA covering Hawaii, which will then be replaced by digital and graphical products produced by the NWS. No near-term changes are planned for the FAs for Alaska, the Caribbean, or the Gulf of Mexico. (Appendix E)

You can complete a survey about the new forecast here.

Drafts of New Aviation Weather Handbooks

FAA has issued drafts of new editions of AC 00-45H Aviation Weather Services and AC 00-6B Aviation Weather. (AOPA has background here; you can download PDFs of the draft ACs here [scroll to the bottom of the list]).

In the introduction to the draft of Aviation Weather Services, the FAA notes that:

In the past decade, access to aviation weather products has greatly improved with the increase of flight planning services and weather Web sites. The experience of listening to a weather briefing over a phone while trying to write down pertinent weather information becomes less tolerable when the reports are easily obtainable on a home computer, tablet computer, or even a smart phone. To see weather along your route using a graphic of plotted weather reports combined with radar and satellite is preferable to trying to mentally visualize a picture from verbalized reports.

Although most of the traditional weather products, which rolled off the teletype and facsimile machines decades ago, are still available, some are being phased out by the National Weather Service (NWS) in favor of new, Web-based weather information.

It is the objective of AC 00-45H to bring the pilot and operator up to date on new and evolving weather information and capabilities to help plan a safe and efficient flight, while also describing the traditional weather products that remain.

Online aviation weather information is easy to access, and so are references explaining the information. That is why AC 00-45H contains fewer illustrations and less detail for products available online. This AC will give an overview and direct the pilot where to find more weather information and explanatory details…

One of the major forthcoming changes is the elimination of most area forecasts (FA).

Here’s part of what Appendix E from the draft AC 00-45H says about FAs:

The FA contains weather information in a format originally developed in the 1950s. By design, it carries a character count limitation and is prohibited from describing instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions over the CONUS and Hawaii (reserved for Airmen’s Meteorological Information (AIRMET) and significant meteorological information (SIGMET)).

While the FA met aviation weather information needs for many years, today the National Weather Service (NWS) provides equivalent information through a number of better alternatives. Plans are to discontinue the six FAs covering the CONUS and one FA covering Hawaii, which will then be replaced by digital and graphical products produced by the NWS. No near-term changes are planned for the FAs for Alaska, the Caribbean, or the Gulf of Mexico.

These weather forecast products (described elsewhere in this document), to be consulted in lieu of the FA, together provide information similar to that found in the FA. The information often is in greater resolution and with the added benefit of graphical depiction. They include:

  • Significant weather (SIGWX) charts (see subparagraph 5.16),
  • Aviation forecast discussions (see subparagraph 5.19.1),
  • Terminal aerodrome forecasts (TAF) (see subparagraph 5.10),
  • AIRMETs (see subparagraph 5.2),
  • National digital forecast databases (see subparagraph 5.19.2),
  • Cloud top height forecast graphics (see subparagraph 5.19.3), and
  • Cloud layer products (see subparagraph 5.19.4).

Latest Update on VOR Decommissioning Program

The latest update from FAA on its plans to decommission VORs includes the following details:

  • Decommission approximately 30% (308) of the current 957 VORs by 2025
  • 74 VORs will be shut down during phase 1 (FY2016 through FY2020)
  • Another 234 VORs will be decommissioned during phase 2 (FY2021 – FY2025)
  • Of the 308 VORs to be shut down, 15 will be in the West, 162 in the central U.S., and 131 in the East.
  • 649 VORs will remain in operation after 2025, forming the minimum operational network (MON).

The goals established for the MON include allowing pilots to:

  • Revert from PBN to conventional navigation in the event of a Global Positioning System (GPS) outage;
  • Tune and identify a VOR at an altitude of 5,000 feet or higher;
  • Navigate using VOR procedures through a GPS outage area;
  • Navigate to a MON airport within 100 nautical miles to fly an Instrument Landing System (ILS) or VOR instrument approach without Distance Measuring Equipment (DME), Automatic Direction Finder (ADF), surveillance, or GPS; and
  • Navigate along VOR Airways especially in mountainous terrain where surveillance services are not available and Minimum En Route Altitudes (MEAs) offer lower altitude selection for options in icing conditions.

Progress will be slow initially. Only 5 VORs are to be shut down by September 2016. Another 4 navaids will be decommissioned by September 2017, followed by 4 more through September 2018. In 2019, FAA plans to shut down an additional 25 VORs, followed by 36 more in 2020.

Phase 2 begins in FY2021. A total of 234 VORs will be shut down through 2025.

You can read more details about the MON plan in the minutes of the 15-02 meeting of the Aeronautical Charting Forum.

 

Update to AC 61-98

FAA has published AC 61-98C: Currency Requirements and Guidance for the Flight Review and Instrument Proficiency Check. This document supplants the previous edition, published in 2012.

Most of the document appears to be an update to reflect changes to references and online resources. But instructors and pilots should note that the AC now recommends that pilots submit a form 8710-1 when they complete a flight review or instrument proficiency check.

1-8. AIRMAN CERTIFICATE AND/OR RATING APPLICATION.

a. Revised Airman Application Form. The FAA frequently updates FAA Form 8710-1, Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application, to meet the needs of the airmen certification process and the aviation community. CFIs, pilots, and stakeholders should note that the latest Form 8710-1 contains enhancements that include a new field for a flight review and another for IPC.

b. Flight Review and IPC. When a pilot satisfactorily completes a flight review or IPC, the applicant should provide, and the evaluating CFI should submit, a completed Form 8710-1 to the Airmen Certification Branch (AFS-760). The FAA does not require Form 8710-1 for a pilot’s flight review or IPC; however, the FAA strongly encourages all applicants and CFIs to follow this recommendation. An airman certificate application updates a pilot’s FAA record. Pilots should ensure that their data is current because up-to-date records benefit everyone. For example, a pilot’s total flight time and aeronautical experience determines insurance premiums. If a pilot loses his or her logbook, an FAA record is on file and available. Nevertheless, submitting Form 8710-1 for a flight review or IPC is optional.

c. Preferred Method. The preferred method for submitting an Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application is through the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) system. The FAA did not have the IACRA system updated at the time of this publication; but the latest Form 8710-1 iteration will soon be available in IACRA. IACRA is the web-based certification/rating application that guides the user through the FAA’s airman application process. IACRA validates data. It also uses electronic signatures to protect the information’s integrity and eliminates paper forms.

You can find the IACRA homepage at https://iacra.faa.gov/iacra/

You can find FAA Form 8710-1 online at http://www.faa.gov/forms/

 

List of Next VORs to be Decommisioned

FAA has published a list of the next VORs to be decommissioned as part of its plan to establish a minimum operational network (MON) of the ground-based navigation aids. The list is part of a news item at AOPA that explains the process.

Most of the 35 VORs on this list are in the eastern two-thirds of the continental U.S. Only one, ECA, is in the West, near Stockton, CA.

You can find more background the FAA’s plan to decommission VORs  at BruceAir, here.

 

New Edition of Instrument Procedures Handbook (FAA-H-8083-16A)

The FAA has published the 2015 edition of the Instrument Procedures Handbook (FAA-H-8083-16A). You can download the PDF from the FAA website here.

If you use ForeFlight on an iPad, the new edition should be the ForeFlight section of the Documents feature.

IPH-Cover

Here’s the summary of changes from the document:

This handbook supersedes FAA-H-8083-16, Instrument Procedures Handbook dated 2014, and contains substantial changes, updates, and reorganization. It must be thoroughly reviewed.

Chapter 1

  • This Chapter contains updated information and reorganization of important concepts and principles related to obstacle avoidance and departure planning. The presentation retains the same logical order as earlier versions, and includes updated graphics for clarity.
  • The section related to Surface Movement Guidance and Control System contains significant revisions to better reflect advancements in the way the system operates, as well as the Advisory Circulars published related to the subject.
  • The section related to Diverse Vector Areas (DVAs) contains significant revision reflecting policy changes.
  • Several subject matter areas and graphics discussed in this Chapter contain changes made in order to better align with updates and changes made to the Airman’s Information Manual (AIM).
  • Various editorial and graphics issues were addressed revised as appropriate.

Chapter 2

  • This Chapter contains various updates to Sectors and Altitudes, as well as various editorial changes throughout.
  • Several graphics were updated or changed as appropriate.

Chapter 3

This Chapter was updated with various editorial and graphics changes as appropriate

Chapter 4

  • This Chapter contains a significant number of changes and updates specific to the subject of Approaches:
  • Changed internet references related to on-line flight planning and filing.
  • Updated verbiage and information regarding Vertical Descent Angles (VDAs) and Visual Descent Points (VDPs).
  • Revised verbiage and illustration related to GLS approaches and associated minimums.
  • Added discussion regarding alerting functions that are part of the Performance-Based Navigation concept and associated systems.
  • Addressed changes to RNP approach naming convention issues.
  • Hot and cold weather altimetry limitations and their associated FAA-directed procedure implementation changes were addressed and discussed.
  • New information related to Terminal Arrival Areas (TAAs) was presented and discussed. This information now aligns with advances in the subject matter presented in the AIM.
  • Several updates were made regarding RNAV and GPS-based approaches in general, under several sub-sections. Associated graphics and illustrations updated.
  • Multiple changes were made to the section discussing ILS and parallel ILS approaches.
  • Several editorial and graphics issues were addressed as appropriate. While significant information was updated for this version, there are multiple policy changes pending that will be further changed or discussed in subsequent versions of this Handbook.

Chapter 5

  • This Chapter contains several editorial and graphics updates as deemed appropriate (fixed browser links, etc).

Chapter 6

  • This Chapter contains several editorial and graphics updates as deemed appropriate (fixed browser links, etc).

Chapter 7

  • This Chapter remains “Helicopter Instrument Procedures”and contains updated illustrations and graphics pertinent to information discussed within the Chapter.

Appendices

  • The Appendices in remain intact in this version. There are information and policy changes pending that, due to time constraints, will be addressed in subsequent versions of this Handbook.
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