The Empty Skies

A friend flying a 747 across the Atlantic from South America to Germany received this message from New York Oceanic control.

Avionics Flow Check

Here’s my latest tip for Pilot Workshops: The Avionics Flow Check.

It’s a simple way to ensure that you’ve configured the avionics before each important phase of flight. The video below shows a before-takeoff avionics flow.

Sharing Expenses: New AC

FAA has published AC 61-142 Sharing Aircraft Operating Expenses in Accordance with 14 CFR § 61.113(c), guidance that should help pilots understand the circumstances under which they can share the direct operating costs of a flight. This AC seems largely to collect and organize previous guidance from FAA legal interpretations and court decisions (see especially the Flytenow case), making it easier to understand key concepts. The AC also provides several specific examples to illustrate how the definitions and limitations in the regulations apply to real-world scenarios.

You can download the PDF of the new AC at the FAA website, here.

First, the AC explains that:

This AC applies to pilots exercising private pilot privileges who wish to share the costs of operating an aircraft during a flight with passengers. Specifically, this AC applies to those pilots sharing expenses under part 61, § 61.113(c) and broadly applies to those pilots operating under other part 61 expense-sharing provisions, including §§ 61.101 and 61.315….As a general rule, private pilots may neither act as PIC of an aircraft for compensation or hire nor act as PIC of an aircraft carrying persons or property for compensation or hire…Section 61.113(b) through (h) contains seven exceptions to the general prohibition against private pilots acting as PIC for compensation or hire referred to in paragraph 6.1 above. This AC primarily discusses the expense-sharing exception contained in § 61.113(c), which permits a pilot to share the operating expenses of a flight with passengers provided the pilot pays at least his or her pro rata share of the operating expenses of that flight. Those operating expenses are limited to fuel, oil, airport expenditures, or rental fees. The § 61.113 exceptions also apply to ATP Certificate and Commercial Pilot Certificate holders who are exercising private pilot privileges.

Section 7 EXPENSE SHARING UNDER § 61.113(c) of the AC explains several important concepts related to the regulations. For example:

7.1 Sharing Expenses. A private pilot may not pay less than the pro rata share of the operating expenses of a flight with passengers, provided those expenses involve only fuel, oil, airport expenditures, or rental fees. A pilot exercising private pilot privileges who accepts any reimbursement that exceeds the pilot’s pro rata share of the operating expenses of a flight would be paying less than the pilot’s pro rata share, and thus would be violating the limits of the expense-sharing provision of § 61.113(c). Additionally, § 61.113(c) permits reimbursement of expenses only from the passengers on the flight.

7.1.1 A pilot exercising private pilot privileges may share expenses with passengers within the constraints of § 61.113(c). However, the pilot cannot conduct any commercial operation under part 119 or the less stringent operating rules of part 91 (e.g., aerial work operations, crop dusting, banner towing, ferry or training flights, or other commercial operations excluded from the certification requirements of part 119).

7.1.2 Pilots must be aware that, unless an exception applies, any operation that meets all the elements of common carriage—i.e., (1) the holding out of a willingness to (2) transport persons or property (3) from place to place (4) for compensation or hire—is subject to part 119 certification and must be conducted under the regulatory provisions of part 121 or 135.6. Therefore, private pilots who want to share expenses under § 61.113(c) must not “hold out” to the public or a segment of the public as being willing to furnish transportation to any person who wants it. Holding out is discussed in more detail in paragraph 10.

7.1.3 Furthermore, a private pilot cannot avoid the compensation component of common carriage by relying on the narrow expense-sharing exception to the general prohibition against private pilots acting as PIC for compensation or hire. For this reason, in assessing whether a particular operation involves common carriage, the FAA has consistently interpreted § 61.113(c) to mean that a private pilot have a common purpose with his or her passengers and to have his or her own reason for traveling to the destination.7 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed this interpretation and recognized the FAA’s “common purpose test” as a limitation on the expense-sharing provision of § 61.113(c).

Section 8 discusses the FAA’s broad interpretation of “compensation”:

8.1 Explanation of Compensation. Compensation is the receipt of anything of value that is contingent on the pilot operating the aircraft; i.e., but for the receipt of the compensation, the pilot would not have taken that flight. Compensation does not require a profit, profit motive, or the actual payment of funds. Reimbursement of expenses, accumulation of flight time, and good will in the form of expected future economic benefits can be considered compensation. Furthermore, the pilot does not have to be the party receiving the compensation; compensation occurs even if a third party receives a benefit as a result of the flight.

Section 9 discusses another key phrase, “common purpose,” and it includes several scenarios.

9.1 General. As previously stated, the FAA has consistently interpreted § 61.113(c) to mean that a private pilot have a common purpose with his or her passengers and have his or her own reason, other than the receipt of compensation for the flight, for traveling to the destination. The existence of a bona fide common purpose is determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the facts and circumstances of each individual case.

9.2 Destination. In assessing whether a pilot is operating consistently with the expense-sharing provision, the FAA considers whether the pilot has his or her own reason for traveling to the destination. When the pilot, not the passenger, chooses the destination, it suggests that the pilot is not simply transporting passengers for compensation. The common destination satisfies the common purpose test even if the pilot and the passengers have different business to conduct at the destination. For some time, the FAA has indicated that, in order for a common purpose to exist, the pilot must have his or her own personal need to fly to that destination, i.e., his or her own particular business to conduct at the destination. Therefore, when the pilot has no particular business to conduct at the destination or the flight is only for the purpose of transporting passengers, no common purpose exists. The common purpose test can be stated as “but for the receipt of compensation, the pilot would not have taken that flight.”

In the age of the web (and with attempted startups like Flytenow), the concept of “holding out” has assumed new importance, and Section 10 of the AC provides detailed guidance and examples of scenarios that may violate the letter or spirit of the regulations:

10.1 General Discussion. It is important that private pilots who want to share expenses do not “hold out” to the public, or a segment of the public, as willing to furnish transportation to any person who wants it. When an operator meets all the elements of common carriage, he or she cannot operate under the expense-sharing exception of § 61.113(c) and, unless an exception applies, needs to hold a part 119 certificate and operate these flights under part 121 or 135. Common carriage is defined as (1) a holding out of a willingness (2) to transport persons or property (3) from place to place (4) for compensation or hire. When a private pilot wants to share expenses under § 61.113(c), three of the four elements of common carriage are already met; i.e., the pilot is transporting persons or property from place to place for compensation or hire. The remaining element is whether the pilot is “holding out a willingness” to do so.

10.2 What Constitutes Holding Out? “Holding out” is accomplished by any means that communicates to the public that a transportation service is indiscriminately available to the members of that segment of the public that it is designed to attract. There is no specific rule or criteria as to how holding out is achieved. Instead, holding out is determined by assessing the available facts of a specific situation. Advertising in any form raises the question of holding out. Historically, pilots have been found to be holding out when advertising services via rolodex, brochures, newspapers, magazines, telephone directories, posters, and website/internet postings…

10.2.2 The FAA distinguishes between offering expense-sharing services to a wide audience and to a limited group because holding out to the public may suggest to unsuspecting passengers that the pilot has met the higher regulatory requirements to carry passengers. Absent this limitation on holding out, an unsuspecting passenger may unknowingly assume the safety risks of flying in aircraft flown by pilots who lack the training, experience, and operational oversight that the FAA requires of operators that conduct common carriage…

10.2.3.3.1 Websites. Given the expansive reach of the internet, the FAA would consider a posting of a flight on a website accessible to the general public, or a segment of the general public, to be holding out. In this example, the website is designed to attract a broad segment of the public interested in transportation by air. Any prospective passenger searching for flights could access the website, sign up, search for flights, and readily arrange for travel via the website. Therefore, pilots advertising flights on the website would be deemed to be holding out…

10.2.3.3.2 Social Media. Posts on social media pages are subject to the same limitations as any other form of solicitation for expense sharing. Therefore, to avoid being considered to be holding out, a pilot would need to be reaching out to a defined and limited group comprised of people with whom he or she has an ongoing, pre-existing relationship apart from expense sharing.

Equipment Required Notes on IFR Procedure Charts

FAA and members of the aviation community have almost completed a long process for updating the equipment required notes on IFR charts. In particular, FAA is consolidating and adding detail about performance based navigation (PBN) requirements.

For background on this topic, see New Equipment Required Notes and the topic 13-02-312: Equipment Requirement Notes on Instrument Approach Procedure at the Aeronautical Charting Meeting.

But FAA still hasn’t clearly addressed the confusion that many pilots have about when and how an IFR-approved GNSS (i.e., a “suitable RNAV system” as described in the AIM and various ACs–specifically, AC 90-100, paragraph 7) supplants the need for conventional avionics, such as DME and ADF.

For example, see the KBEH ILS or LOC RWY 28 approach chart.

The equipment notes say that RNAV-1 GPS (i.e., either a non-WAAS or WAAS GNSS) is required to fly the procedure. A second note says that DME is required if you fly the LOC-only procedure, a non-precision approach to an MDA with a missed approach point identified by a DME fix. Other waypoints along the final approach segement include WESUG and the visual descent point (VDP), each defined as a DME fix.

The notes seem to imply that if you fly the LOC-only version of this procedure, you must have DME. That is, if you have an IFR-approved GNSS, you must also have DME to fly the non-precision version of the procedure—you can’t use GNSS to substitute for the DME requirement unless you have a second GNSS that you can use to load the I-BEH localizer as a fix to provide distance information from the location of that DME transmitter. But that interpretation would make it impossible for most new aircraft (which don’t typically come with DME) or aircraft retrofitted with GNSS avionics and no DME to fly the LOC approach.

If you load that procedure into an IFR-approved navigator such as the Garmin GNS 750, the flight plan includes the following fixes:

You can use the distances shown relative to the FAF and the RW28 MAP to determine your along-track distance (ATD) to the VDP and the MAP, as described in the AIM and other references. You don’t need DME to identify the key fixes (and VDPs aren’t included in databases, so you must use ATD, either from a GPS or DME, to determine your position relative to a VDP).

Both AIM 1−2−3 Use of Suitable Area Navigation (RNAV) Systems on Conventional Procedures and Routes and AC 90-108 (it has the same title as the AIM paragraph) state:

Use of a suitable RNAV system as a Substitute Means of Navigation when a Very−High Frequency (VHF) Omni−directional Range (VOR), Distance Measuring Equipment (DME), Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN), VOR/TACAN (VORTAC), VOR/DME, Non−directional Beacon (NDB), or compass locator facility including locator outer marker and locator middle marker is out−of−service (that is, the navigation aid (NAVAID) information is not available); an aircraft is not equipped with an Automatic Direction Finder (ADF) or DME; or the installed ADF or DME on an aircraft is not operational…

NOTE−

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

That guidance apparently is too subtle. AOPA has flagged this issue at least three times in written comments to FAA about the PBN requirements box. As an AOPA representive confirmed, “It is not necessary to add a ‘DME required’ note if RNAV-1 GPS is also required to fly the approach.”

AOPA has more information on this topic here and in a fact sheet.

FAA is aware of the confusion current notes cause, and my contacts at AOPA are checking with FAA to see if the agency is making progress on clarifying the language used in the notes and guidance such as the AIM and ACs.

AIM Update: Approach Categories

FAA has released the January 30, 2020 update to the AIM. (Link to PDF and HTML editions here. You can read the explanation of changes here.)

The update includes several items of interest to IFR pilots, but one is of particular note here:

5−4−7. Instrument Approach Procedures
This change provides pilots with additional options when it is necessary to conduct an instrument approach at an airspeed higher than the maximum airspeed of its certificated aircraft approach category. It explains the flexibility provided in 14 CFR and emphasizes the primary safety issue of staying within protected areas.

Here’s the new text in that section:

a. Aircraft approach category means a grouping of aircraft based on a speed of Vref at the maximum certified landing weight, if specified, or if Vref is not specified, 1.3Vso at the maximum certified landing weight. Vref, Vso, and the maximum certified landing weight are those values as established for the aircraft by the certification authority of the country of registry. A pilot must maneuver the aircraft within the circling approach protected area (see FIG 5−4−29) to achieve the obstacle and terrain clearances provided by procedure design criteria.

b. In addition to pilot techniques for maneuvering, one acceptable method to reduce the risk of flying out of the circling approach protected area is to use either the minima corresponding to the category determined during certification or minima associated with a higher category. Helicopters may use Category A minima. If it is necessary to operate at a speed in excess of the upper limit of the speed range for an aircraft’s category, the minimums for the higher category should be used. This may occur with certain aircraft types operating in heavy/gusty wind, icing, or non−normal conditions. For example, an airplane which fits into Category B, but is circling to land at a speed of 145 knots, should use the approach Category D minimums. As an additional example, a Category A airplane (or helicopter) which is operating at 130 knots on a straight−in approach should use the approach Category C minimums.

c. A pilot who chooses an alternative method when it is necessary to maneuver at a speed that exceeds the category speed limit (for example, where higher category minimums are not published) should consider the following factors that can significantly affect the actual ground track flown:

1. Bank angle. For example, at 165 knots ground speed, the radius of turn increases from 4,194 feet using 30 degrees of bank to 6,654 feet when using 20 degrees of bank. When using a shallower bank angle, it may be necessary to modify the flight path or indicated airspeed to remain within the circling approach protected area. Pilots should be aware that excessive bank angle can lead to a loss of aircraft control.

2. Indicated airspeed. Procedure design criteria typically utilize the highest speed for a particular category. If a pilot chooses to operate at a higher speed, other factors should be modified to ensure that the aircraft remains within the circling approach protected area.

3. Wind speed and direction. For example, it is not uncommon to maneuver the aircraft to a downwind leg where the ground speed will be considerably higher than the indicated airspeed. Pilots must carefully plan the initiation of all turns to ensure that the aircraft remains within the circling approach protected area.

4. Pilot technique. Pilots frequently have many options with regard to flight path when conducting circling approaches. Sound planning and judgment are vital to proper execution. The lateral and vertical path to be flown should be carefully considered using current weather and terrain information to ensure that the aircraft remains within the circling approach protected area.

The Value of Upset Recovery Training

Mac McClellan recently wrote a provocative article, “Why Upset Training Just Doesn’t Work” for Air Facts, an online aviation journal. Mac was the long-time editor of Flying Magazine. His arguments against URT, however, rang hollow to me and other aerobatic pilots and instructors, and the International Aerobatic Club asked some of us to respond.

My rebuttal, “VALUE OF URT,” is on the IAC website, here. That article includes links to several incidents that support my argument, and to several videos on my YouTube channel that illustrate key points.

A video that demonstrates recoveries from inverted.

I also addressed URT in an article in the November 2017 issue of AOPA Flight Training magazine: The Right Formula.

New T-Routes in the PNW

FAA added several new T-Routes in the Pacific Northwest on January 30, 2020, and other routes there and throughout the U.S. were expanded.

T-routes are described in AIM 5−3−4. Airways and Route Systems and elsewhere in the AIM, ACs, and other documents. They are low-altitude RNAV routes (shown in blue on enroute charts) similar to the victor airways based on VORs, but T-routes require GNSS and are available to aircraft with a suitable RNAV system–viz., an IFR-approved GPS. T-Routes originally were intended to provide efficient paths for IFR traffic through busy Class B airspace (see this briefing from AOPA), but as FAA shifts from VOR-based navigation to PBN, T-routes are becoming more common throughout the national airspace system.

For example, here’s a segment of T268 (click the preceding link to see the route at SkyVector.com), a new route from the Seattle area across the Cascades to Spokane, WA and beyond.

T268 from Seattle to Spokane

This new route closely parallels the V2 airway, but because it can zig and zag a bit around high terrain, it offers lower MEAs, which can be helpful when avoiding ice. Compare the GNSS-based MEAs (in blue) below with the MEAs for the VOR-based V2 airway.

Another section of T268 provides an efficient route from the area around Paine Field (KPAE) north of Seattle east across the Cascades while remaining clear of the increasingly busy airspace that surrounds Seattle.

Another excellent example of how a T-route can offer advantages over VOR-based airways is the stretch between the Redmond-Bend area in Oregon south toward Reno and Las Vegas.

A segment of T274

The new T274 closely follows V165, but well-placed bends allow the MEA to drop, for example, from 14000 ft to 10100 ft. That’s potentially a big help, both for avoiding icing and for reducing the need for oxygen.

Compare the MEAs for the T-route and victor airway

If you fly IFR and haven’t closely reviewed the low-altitude enroute charts recently, take another look. You may find new T-routes that give you new options in the areas where you fly.

FAA publishes T-routes and other changes to airspace in the Federal Register. You can find the complete list of the January 2020 changes here.