Graphical Forecasts for Aviation

The Graphical Forecasts for Aviation tool at the Aviation Weather Center is now operational. It supplants the text Area Forecasts in the lower 48, plus it offers more information about current weather. AOPA has published more news about the swtich to the GFA here.

For more detailed information about the GFA tool, see this description (PDF) and this tutorial.

AWC-GFA-tool

ICAO Aircraft Type Designators

The FAA plans to switch all flight plans–VFR and IFR–to the ICAO format on June 5, 2017.

I’ve offered help on the most vexing problem for most pilots–the myriad codes for communications, navigation, and transponder equipment–here at BruceAir.

But long-time U.S. pilots also need to understand and use the proper ICAO type designators for the aircraft they fly. Most codes use four-characters; some use only three letters.

Some of the codes are the same as those used on the FAA domestic flight plan form, but many are different–sometimes surprising so.

For example, the ICAO designator for the Cessna 172 is C172.

But the ICAO designator for a fixed-gear turbocharged Cessna 182 is C82S.

Note that the ICAO designators don’t include hypens or other special characters. For example, the Beechcraft Debonair is BE33, not BE-33.

The easiest way to check the type designators for the aircraft you fly is via the web-based tool at the ICAO website, here. The flexible search feature quickly displays the designators assigned to aircraft by manufacturer, make-model name, and so forth.

You can also find the correct type designators in FAA order JO 7360.1B.

Flying without Paper Charts

I recently gave a presentation about flying RNAV procedures at the Northwest Aviation Conference. As usual, I asked how many pilots in the audience were using tablets like iPads in the cockpit. Most of the folks raised their hands. It’s astonishing how quickly the aviation community has adopted this technology.

Nevertheless, questions persist about the legality of “going paperless” in the cockpit, at least for typical GA pilots operating light aircraft under 14 CFR Part 91. Here are some key references to help you understand the rules and good operating practices.

The best background is in AC 91-78-Use of Class 1 or Class 2 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), which explains:

This advisory circular (AC) provides aircraft owners, operators, and pilots operating aircraft under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 91, with information for removal of paper aeronautical charts and other documentation from the cockpit through the use of either portable or installed cockpit displays (electronic flight bags (EFB).

The AC also notes:

This AC is applicable to instrument flight rules (IFR) or visual flight rules (VFR), preflight, flight, and post flight operations conducted under part 91, unless prohibited by a specific section of 14 CFR chapter I.

And it explains:

EFB systems may be used in conjunction with, or to replace, some of the paper reference material that pilots typically carry in the cockpit. EFBs can electronically store and retrieve information required for flight operations, such as the POH and supplements, minimum equipment lists, weight and balance calculations, aeronautical charts and terminal procedures…The in-flight use of an EFB/ECD in lieu of paper reference material is the decision of the aircraft operator and the pilot in command. Any Type A or Type B EFB application, as defined in [AC 120-76] may be substituted for the paper equivalent. It requires no formal operational approval as long as the guidelines of this AC are followed.

You can find further guidance on the FAA website here. And Sporty’s has a good overview of the topic here. For information about using iPads and the like on practical tests, see this item at AOPA.

If you fly IFR using an approved GPS navigation system, you can find additional guidance (and common sense advice) in documents such as the Operational Suitability Report for the Garmin GTN series navigators, published by the FAA in 2011, and available in the FSIMS system, here.

The following Type B applications were evaluated under this report:

(1) Chart capability is limited to Approach Charts, Standard Terminal Arrival Routes, Departure Procedures and Airport Diagrams. Access to the chart information is accomplished by touching the chart symbol on the screen home page. Scaling is accomplished by touching the plus or minus signs on the screen. Chart information is in standard chart layout, oriented in portrait view. It is possible to overlay an approach chart on the navigation display. Navigation Display Approach Chart overlays however, are always oriented so that North on the chart is at the top of the display. Caution should be taken when using this feature, as it can be confusing in some circumstances.

(2) En route charts are not available to view in the GTN 7XX series of units. Airways and associated navigation aids and intersection names are displayed on the navigation display but not in chart format. Because en route chart view is not available, operators will be required to have immediately accessible a suitable approved aeronautical information source of en route charts.

A typical installation includes a GTN 7XX paired with a GTN6XX. Since the GTN6XX series of navigator does not have chart capability a second GTN7XX with charts and an independent power source may be installed to provide the necessary backup. Another method of redundancy could be for the operator to carry an approved stand alone Class I, or Class II EFB device onboard the aircraft. Otherwise, a set of paper charts is required to provide chart redundancy.

In the case of a single unit installation, paper charts (including approach, departure and arrival procedure, airport diagram and en route charts) must be onboard the aircraft or an approved stand alone Class I, or Class II (with a suitable approved source of aeronautical data) device may be substituted for paper charts.

FAA Releases BasicMed Alternative to Third Class Medical

FAA has released the final rule (PDF here) that allows many pilots operating under 14 CFR Part 91 to act as pilot in command without a third class medical. The full docket for the rulemaking is at the Federal Register, here.

Most of the practical details about these new regulations, which FAA has labeled BasicMed, are also available in a new advisory circular, AC 68-1 Alternative Medical Qualifications.

This advisory circular (AC) describes how pilots can exercise student, recreational, and private pilot privileges in certain small aircraft without holding a current medical certificate. It outlines the required medical education course, medical requirements, and aircraft and operating restrictions that pilots must meet to act as pilot in command (PIC) for most Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 91 operations. This AC is intended to be used as a resource for pilots exercising the privileges described in section 2307 of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016. It is also intended to be a resource for state-licensed physicians who will be providing the required medical examination to those pilots.

AOPA also has many details and resources for pilots at its website, starting here.

The new rules are FAA’s response to The FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (PL 114-190) (FESSA), enacted on July 15, 2016. Section 2307 of FESSA, Medical Certification of Certain Small Aircraft Pilots, directed the FAA to “issue or revise regulations to ensure that an individual may operate as pilot in command of a covered aircraft” without having to undergo the medical certification process under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 67 if the pilot and aircraft meet certain prescribed conditions as outlined in FESSA.

Highlights

The new rule:

  • Revises 14 CFR § 61.23(c)(1) and adds new § 61.23(c)(3)
  • Adds a paragraph to § 61.113 Private pilot privileges and limitations: Pilot in command
  • Adds Part 68 REQUIREMENTS FOR OPERATING CERTAIN SMALL AIRCRAFT WITHOUT A MEDICAL CERTIFICATE

Pilots choosing to operate under these rules may:

  • Fly aircraft with up to six seats that weigh up to 6000 pounds. There are no limitations on number of engines or engine horsepower or type of landing gear.
  • Carry up to five passengers
  • Fly day or night under VFR or IFR
  • Operate up to, but not including 18,000 feet msl
  • Operate at speeds up to 250 KIAS
  • Operate only within the U.S.
  • Not operate for compensation or hire

Traffic Pattern Altitudes

At the October 26-27, 2016 meeting of the Aeronautical Charting Forum, FAA updated its plans to publish traffic pattern altitudes in the Chart Supplement (formerly the Airport/Facility Directory).

The latest recommendation is described here (PDF). Briefly, it proposes adding the following text to AIM 4-3-3 Traffic Patterns:

Unless a specific traffic pattern altitude is published in the Chart Supplement entry for the airport, it is recommended that propeller-driven aircraft enter the traffic pattern at 1,000 feet above ground level (AGL), and that large and turbine-powered airplanes enter the traffic pattern at an altitude of not less than 1,500 feet AGL or 500 feet above the established pattern altitude. A helicopter operating in the traffic pattern may fly a pattern similar to the airplane pattern at a lower altitude (500 AGL) and closer to the airport. This pattern may be on the opposite side of the runway with turns in the opposite direction if local policy permits.
 As part of the review of the issue, ACF members agreed that only TPAs that deviate from the recommended altitudes described above should be published in the Chart Supplement.

Another Update on VOR Decommissioning

At the October 26-27, 2016 meeting of the Aeronautical Charting Forum, FAA provided an update on its plans to decommission VORs as the aviation world transitions to performance based navigation (PBN) predicated on GPS.

The briefing on the topic included proposed new language for the AIM (PDF), scheduled for publication in 2017, to describe the minimum operational network (MON) of VORs that will remain in place as about one-third of the existing VORs are gradually shut down.

You can learn more about the plans to reduce the number of VORs at this blog, here.

The new text (still subject to final revision) will appear in AIM 1-1-3.VHF Omni-directional Range (VOR):

f. The VOR Minimum Operating Network (MON). As flight procedures and route structure based on VORs are gradually being replaced with Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedures, the FAA is removing selected VORs from service. PBN procedures are primarily enabled by GPS and its augmentation systems, collectively referred to as Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). Aircraft that carry DME/DME equipment can also use RNAV which provides a backup to continue flying PBN during a GNSS disruption. For those aircraft that do not carry DME/DME. the FAA is retaining a limited network of VORs, called the VOR Minimum Operating Network (MON) to provide a basic conventional navigation service for operators to use if GNSS becomes unavailable. During a GNSS disruption, the MON will enable aircraft to navigate through the affected area or to a safe landing at a MON airport without reliance on GNSS. Navigation using the MON will not be as efficient as the new PBN route structure, but use of the MON will provide nearly continuous VOR signal coverage at 5,000 feet AGL across the NAS outside of the Western US Mountainous Area (WUSMA). (There is no plan to change the NAVAID and route structure in the WUSMA).

The VOR MON has been retained principally for IFR aircraft that are not equipped with
DME/DME avionics. However, VFR aircraft may use the MON as desired. Aircraft equipped with DME/DME navigation systems would, in most cases, use DME/DME to continue flight using RNAV to their destination. However, these aircraft may, of course, use the MON.

1. Distance to a MON airport. Within the contiguous United States (CONUS), the VOR MON is designed to ensure that an airport that has an instrument approach that is not dependent on GPS, ADF, DME or radar is within 100 nautical miles of any location. These airports are referred to as “MON airports” and will have an ILS approach or a VOR approach if an ILS is not available. VORs to support these approaches will be retained in the VOR MON. MON airports are charted on low-altitude enroute charts and are contained in the Chart Supplement and other appropriate publications.

It is important to note that any suitable airport can be used to land in the event of a VOR outage. For example, an airport with a DME-recquired ILS approach may be available and could be used by aircraft that are equipped with DME. The intent of the MON airport is to provide an approach that can be used by aircraft without ADF or DME when radar may not be available.

2. Navigating to an airport. The VOR MON will retain sufficient VORs and increase VOR service volume to ensure that pilots will have nearly continuous signal reception of a VOR when flying at 5,000 feet AGL. A key concept of the MON is to ensure that an aircraft will always be within 100 NM of airport with an instrument approach that is not dependent on GPS. (See 1-1-8.) If the pilot encounters a GPS outage, the pilot will be able to proceed via VOR-to-VOR navigation at 5,000 feet AGL through the GPS outage area or to a safe landing at a MON airport or another suitable airport, as appropriate. Nearly all VORs inside of the US Western Mountainous Area (WUSMA) and outside the CONUS are being retained. In these areas, pilots may use the existing (i.e., Victor and Jet) route structure and VORs to proceed through a CPS outage or to a landing.

3. Using the VOR MON. In the case of a planned GPS outage (e.g., contained in a published NOTAM), pilots may plan to fly through the outage using the MON as appropriate and as cleared by ATC. Similarly, aircraft not equipped with GPS may plan to fly and land using the MON, as appropriate and as cleared by ATC. Note that, in many cases, flying using the MON may involve a more circuitous route than flying GPS-enabled RNAV.

In the case of an unscheduled GPS outage, pilots and ATC will need to coordinate the best outcome for all aircraft. It is possible that a GPS outage could be disruptive, causing high workload and demand for ATC service. Generally, the VOR MON concept will enable pilots to navigate through the GPS outage or land at a MON airport or at another airport that may have an appropriate approach or may be in visual conditions.

The VOR MON is a reversionary service provided by the FAA for use by aircraft that are unable to continue RNAV during a GPS disruption. The FAA has not mandated that preflight or inflight planning include provisions for GPS- or WAAS-equipped aircraft to carry sufficient fuel to proceed to a MON airport in case of an unforeseen GPS outage. Specifically, flying to a MON airport as a filed alternate will not be explicitly required. Of course, consideration for the possibility of a GPS outage is prudent during flight planning as is maintaining proficiency with VOR navigation.

Also, in case of a GPS outage, pilots may coordinate with ATC and elect to continue though the outage or land. The VOR MON is designed to ensure that an aircraft is within 100 nautical miles of an airport, but pilots may decide to proceed to any appropriate airport where a safe landing can be made. WAAS users flying under Part 91 are not required to carry VOR avionics. These users do not have the ability or requirement to use the VOR MON. Prudent flight planning by these WAAS-only aircraft should consider the possibility of a GPS outage.

The FAA recognizes that non-GPS-based approaches will be reduced as VORs are eliminated and that most airports with an instrument approach may only have GPS- or WAAS-based approaches. Pilots flying GPS or WAAS-eguipped aircraft that also have VOR/ILS avionics should be diligent to maintain proficiency in VOR and ILS approaches in the event of a GPS outage.

New Edition of Airplane Flying Handbook

FAA has published a new edition of the Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3B), the handbook that complements the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge and the Airman Certification Standards (and Practical Test Standards).

airplaneflyinghandbook-cover

The preface notes that:

The Airplane Flying Handbook provides basic knowledge that is essential for pilots. This handbook introduces basic pilot skills and knowledge that are essential for piloting airplanes. It provides information on transition to other airplanes and the operation of various airplane systems…This handbook is developed to assist student pilots learning to fly airplanes. It is also beneficial to pilots who wish to improve their flying proficiency and aeronautical knowledge, those pilots preparing for additional certificates or ratings, and flight instructors engaged in the instruction of both student certificated pilots. It introduces the future pilot to the realm of flight and provides information and guidance in the performance of procedures and maneuvers required for pilot certification.