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.

 

FAA Updates Two Handbooks

FAA has released updated editions of two key handbooks for pilots and flight instructors.
The new version of Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (FAA-H-8083-25B) is a key reference for pilots training for the private pilot, commercial pilot, and flight instructor certificates.

You can find free PDFs of these handbooks and other FAA training manuals on the FAA website here and here.

PHAKCover

The Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge provides basic knowledge that is essential for pilots. This handbook introduces pilots to the broad spectrum of knowledge that will be needed as they progress in their pilot training. Except for the Code of Federal Regulations pertinent to civil aviation, most of the knowledge areas applicable to pilot certification are presented. This handbook is useful to beginning pilots, as well as those pursuing more advanced pilot certificates.

The Weight & Balance Handbook (FAA-H-8083-1B) is aimed at pilots and maintenance technicians.

Weight-Balance-Cover

The Aircraft Weight and Balance Handbook has been prepared in recognition of the importance of weight and balance technology in conducting safe and efficient flight. The objective of this handbook is twofold: to provide the airframe and powerplant mechanic (A&P) with the method of determining the empty weight and empty weight center of gravity (EWCG) of an aircraft and to furnish the flight crew with information on loading and operating the aircraft to ensure its weight is within the allowable limit and the center of gravity (CG) is within the allowable range.

You can find free PDFs of these handbooks and other FAA training manuals on the FAA website here and here.

Comments on Proposed Rule Changes

The FAA recently proposed several significant changes to regulations that expand the use of aviation training devices, training for the commercial pilot and certified flight instructor certificates, maintaining instrument currency, and other issues of interest to many general aviation pilots and flight instructor.

Below are my comments on some portions of the proposed rules, which I have submitted to the docket.

Use of TAA for Commercial and Flight Instructor Certificates

For all the reasons outlined in the proposal, I support the option to substitute a TAA (as redefined in the proposed rule) for the training and practical tests required for the commercial pilot and certified flight instructor certificates with single-engine-land ratings.

One commenter objects that pilots won’t gain experience “with higher performing engine[s], retractable gear, constant speed propeller, etc.” But most flight schools offering training for those certificates rely on aircraft such as the C172RG or Piper Arrow, which have at most 200-hp engines. These are hardly high-performance aircraft, either as defined by FAA regulation or by their speed, sophisticated avionics and equipment, or handling characteristics. Pilots who want to fly aircraft with retractable landing gear, constant-speed propellers, turbocharged engines, and other characteristics typically associated with high-performance aircraft will still, as a practical matter, require checkouts and operating experience mandated by regulations (e.g., the endorsement required to act as PIC in an aircraft with an engine rated at more than 200 HP), insurance, flight school policies, commercial operator specifications, and common sense (a refreshing concept endorsed in the recent proposal to revise 14 CFR Part 23 aircraft certification rules—viz., “The part 23 regulations should not need to prescribe basic physical principles, sound engineering judgment, and common sense.”).

The checkout required for aircraft like the C172RG or Piper Arrow is hardly a leap from a Skyhawk or Warrior. Instead, it’s a small step, and learning to operate and confirm the configuration of, for example, retractable landing gear, is only a small part of a complete commercial pilot or CFI training syllabus, and that basic training hardly prepares a pilot to fly a truly high-performance “complex” aircraft such as Cirrus SR22 (which has fixed landing gear) or a Beechcraft Bonanza.

Similar examples: (1) Pilots with MEL ratings on their pilot certificates legally can fly any multiengine aircraft that doesn’t require a type rating. But in the real world, they must receive training and gain operating experience in specific makes and models to obtain insurance, fly rental aircraft, or act as PIC in a commercial operation; (2) Regulations require only a single logbook endorsement to fly tailwheel aircraft. But the handling characteristics of tailwheel aircraft vary widely (even among those that don’t have big engines, constant-speed propellers, etc.). Again, insurance, rental policies, and common sense oblige pilots who fly tailwheel aircraft to receive training and gain operating experience in specific makes and models.

Maintaining IFR Currency with ATDs

I applaud the proposed changes that would allow instrument-rated pilots to maintain currency with in any combination of aircraft, FFS, FTD, or ATD without requiring an instructor to be present. The current regulations are a deterrent to pilots who use ATDs. They must parse the rules and carefully review their logbooks to ensure that they have met the arcane requirements for various tasks, time limits, and calendar constraints. Instead of using training devices, today most pilots hop in their aircraft with a safety pilot (not necessarily an instructor) and repeatedly fly the same familiar procedures in their local areas, missing opportunities to practice the important skills of briefing and setting up a variety of DPs, arrivals, and approaches that include such elements as DME arcs and course reversals. They also typically don’t gain experience handling realistic equipment failures, challenging weather, and so forth. As the FAA notes, the proposed changes would encourage pilots to maintain their instrument skills.

My experience as an instructor strongly suggests that it’s the mental, puzzle-solving side of IFR flying that deteriorates most quickly over time. Use of training devices is the most effective, efficient way to hone and maintain those mental skills.

Pilots who want to use a training device at a flight school will still require at least an initial checkout on the equipment to ensure that they can use it effectively. Those checkouts are an opportunity for pilots to work with instructors to deficiencies in both their understanding of IFR flying and specific piloting skills, and those encounters will help instructors to develop relationships with pilots who otherwise might not be receiving training.

Pilots are upgrading aircraft to include sophisticated avionics (even if the panel doesn’t meet the revised definition of a TAA). They are increasingly using tablets and other devices as substitutes for charts and to provide information about weather, traffic, and other details. Allowing pilots wider, creditable use of training devices that include, for example, GPS navigators, will help them develop and maintain the essential skills described in such publications as the Advanced Avionics Handbook and Instrument Procedures Handbook. Using training devices also gives pilots opportunities to practice using new technology and develop good operating procedures.

Definition of ATD

The notice includes a new definition of aviation training device (ATD):

The FAA is now proposing to define ATD in § 61.1 as a training device, other than a full flight simulator or flight training device, that has been evaluated, qualified, and approved by the Administrator.

It’s not clear, however, if the proposed changes would eliminate the basic aviation training device (BATD) and advanced aviation training device (AATD) categories as described in AC 61-136 FAA Approval of Basic Aviation Training Devices (BATD) and Advanced Aviation Training Devices (AATD). The language in various sections of the proposed rules is ambiguous and should be clarified, and AC 61-136 and related policy guidance should be revised to ensure that both FAA and airmen throughout the system have a clear understanding of distinctions among the devices. I understand that for the purposes of FAA approval the existing categories may remain desirable—especially for manufacturers. But FAA inspectors, pilots, and instructors should not be confused about the practical application of ATDs for training and maintaining currency.

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.

 

Updates on Using Aviation Training Devices (ATD)

FAA has published new regulations and guidance for pilots and instructors who use aviation training devices (ATD).

Updated AC 61-136A

First, FAA published AC 61-136A: FAA Approval of Aviation Training Devices and Their Use for Training and Experience on November 17, 2014. This updated document provides information and guidance for manufacturers of ATD and for instructors and pilots who intend to use a BATD or AATD for activities involving pilot training or certification under 14 CFR Part 61 and 141.

The updated AC also explains the requirements for obtaining a letter of authorization from the FAA for all ATDs. That LOA must be renewed every five years.

Changes to 14 CFR Part 61 and Part 141

On December 3, 2014, FAA published changes to 14 CFR Part 61 and Part 141. (You can read the full announcement of the changes in the Federal Register here.) The changes are effective January 20, 2015.

The new language in § 61.65 revises paragraph (i) and adds paragraph (j) to read:

(i) Use of an aviation training device. A maximum of 20 hours of instrument time received in an aviation training device may be credited for the instrument time requirements of this section if—

(1) The device is approved and authorized by the FAA;

(2) An authorized instructor provides the instrument time in the device; and

(3) The FAA approved the instrument training and instrument tasks performed in the device.

(j) A person may not credit more than 20 total hours of instrument time in a flight simulator, flight training device, aviation training device, or combination toward the instrument time requirements of this section.

Part 141.41 is updated to read:

An applicant for a pilot school certificate or a provisional pilot school certificate must show that its flight simulators, flight training devices, aviation training devices, training aids, and equipment meet the following requirements:

(a) Flight simulators and flight training devices. Each flight simulator and flight training device used to obtain flight training credit in an approved pilot training course curriculum must be:

(1) Qualified under part 60 of the chapter; and

(2) Approved by the Administrator for the tasks and maneuvers.

(b) Aviation training devices. Each aviation training device used to obtain flight training credit in an approved pilot training course curriculum must be evaluated, qualified, and approved by the Administrator.

(c) Training aids and equipment. Each training aid, including any audiovisual aid, projector, tape recorder, mockup, chart, or aircraft component listed in the approved training course outline, must be accurate and appropriate to the course for which it is used.

And Appendix C of Part 141,section 4, paragraph (b) is updated to read:

4. Flight training.* * *

(b) For the use of flight simulators, flight training devices, or aviation training devices—

(1) The course may include training in a flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device provided it is representative of the aircraft for which the course is approved, meets the requirements of this paragraph, and the training is given by an authorized instructor.

(2) Credit for training in a flight simulator that meets the requirements of § 141.41(a) cannot exceed 50 percent of the total flight training hour requirements of the course or of this section, whichever is less.

(3) Credit for training in a flight training device that meets the requirements of § 141.41(a), an aviation training device that meets the requirements of § 141.41(b), or a combination of these devices cannot exceed 40 percent of the total flight training hour requirements of the course or of this section, whichever is less.

(4) Credit for training in flight simulators, flight training devices, and aviation training devices if used in combination, cannot exceed 50 percent of the total flight training hour requirements of the course or of this section, whichever is less. However, credit for training in a flight training device or aviation training device cannot exceed the limitation provided for in paragraph (b)(3) of this section.

Ground Instructors, ATDs, and Flight Simulators

Some ground instructors have asked about their ability to provide instruction to pilots using ATDs and flight simulators. The FAA has published two letters of legal interpretation to clarify this matter.

The Gatlin letter, issued on September 24, 2010, discusses whether an Advanced Ground Instructor or Instrument Ground Instructor is an “Authorized Instructor,” as defined in 14 CFR 61 for purposes of giving instrument instruction to candidates for pilot certificates and ratings.

The letter explains that ground instructors are authorized to provide only ground training and are not specifically allowed to supervise training time in a flight simulator or training device for purposes of logging time toward an instrument rating or pilot certificate.

The Frick letter, issued on March 30, 2011, backs up that interpretation. It explains that a ground instructor may use training devices as tools, or aids to instruction, but the time cannot be counted towards meeting the aeronautical requirements for a pilot certificate or rating.

In addition, the Frick letter notes that ground instructors may provide instruction in a training device or simulator that helps a pilot meet proficiency requirements. Again, a ground instructor use the devices as tools during training, but that time may not be logged, endorsed, or credited towards recency experience for maintaining a rating.

Logging Instrument Approaches as a Flight Instructor

Aspen 1000I recently acted as a flight instructor for a customer who is learning new avionics (especially an Aspen Evolution PFD and a Garmin GTN750) recently installed in his 1970s vintage Cessna Turbo Centurion (T210).

For more information about logging flight time, see this item here at BruceAir.

Typical autumn weather prevailed in Seattle, so we conducted the entire flight under IFR, and we were in the clouds for most of the 1.5 hour flight. The owner flew two ILS approaches and one RNAV (GPS) procedure with LPV minimums. We also flew a hold-in-lieu of a procedure turn (see AIM 5-4-9).

Now, IFR pilots generally must meet the requirements of 14 CFR 61.57(c) to maintain their IFR currency. That regulation states:

…(c) Instrument experience. Except as provided in paragraph (e) of this section, a person may act as pilot in command under IFR or weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR only if:

…Within the 6 calendar months preceding the month of the flight, that person performed and logged at least the following tasks and iterations in an airplane, powered-lift, helicopter, or airship, as appropriate,…

(i) Six instrument approaches.

(ii) Holding procedures and tasks.

(iii) Intercepting and tracking courses through the use of navigational electronic systems.

The question, often asked, is whether I, as the flight instructor, can log the approaches flown by the owner. FAA issued a legal interpretation on this specific issue in 2008. (You can search the FAA website for legal interpretations here.)

The 2008 letter states in part:

Am I correct in understanding that a CFII may log approaches that a student flies when the approaches are conducted in actual instrument conditions? Is there a reference to this anywhere in the rules?

Ref. § 61.51(g)(2); Yes, a CFII may log approaches that a student flies when those approaches are conducted in actual instrument flight conditions. And this would also permit that instructor who is performing as an authorized instructor to “log instrument time when conducting instrument flight instruction in actual instrument flight instructions” and this would count for instrument currency requirements under § 61.67(c).

The letter elaborates by noting that:

The FAA views the instructor’s oversight responsibility when instructing in actual instrument flight conditions to meet the obligation of 61.57(c) to have performed the approaches.

Although the letter does not specifically address the other requirements for IFR currency–holding procedures and tasks and intercepting and tracking courses through the use of navigational electronic systems–the reasoning of the interpretation seems to support allowing an instrument instructor also to log those tasks when the aircraft is operating in actual IMC.

Endorsement from Rod Machado

Rod Machado writes a monthly column for AOPA Pilot magazine. The May 2014 edition, which discusses using simulation to reduce training costs, includes this comment about my book (thanks, Rod):

Your first purchase should be a book that will give you the intimate details of simulator operations. Without a doubt, one of the best on the market is Bruce Williams’s Scenario-Based Training with X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator.