Full disclosure: I suck at holds. I can find the fix and figure out the recommended entry method without too much trouble. And I usually turn the correct direction upon crossing the holding fix. Usually. After that, things start to become loosely held, and it might take me a couple of laps to nail the wind correction angles. Throw in a descent while in the hold and my cockpit gets busy. I guess thats why the FAA a few years ago added holding patterns to the maneuvers required to accomplish an instrument proficiency check. Its all my fault.
Like it or not, winter weather is upon us here in North America. After a few brief weeks of not as much thunderstorm activity, were headed squarely into a a couple of months featuring widespread near-freezing temperatures and precipitation. From storing our airplane, to preflighting it, picking a route and ensuring our destination doesnt have any slippery surprises, winter weather will have an impact on our operations, likely even if we stay in the pattern at a Southern California airport.
Its basic human nature that we often want to improve the efficiency of the things we do. Its also human nature to be skeptical when were offered something of value that carries little or no cost: Wheres the catch? What am I giving up to benefit from this largesse? These can be legitimate questions, and they deserve detailed answers, no matter whats being offered. When considering how pilots use the mixture control to manage aircraft piston engines, desires to improve efficiency and healthy skepticism can intersect.
Notams have had a rocky decade, getting most of the blame in 2010 when the FAA accused U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) of landing on a closed runway in Texas. He maintained he researched applicable Notams as part of his preflight planning, but didnt find one for his destination. The FAA didnt agree and brought an enforcement action against the Senator. In turn, Inhofe developed and in 2012 saw enacted the Pilots Bill of Rights, which among other things mandated an overhaul of the Notam system. Subsequent legislation-2015s Pilots Bill of Rights 2, also by Inhofe-sought to further improve the Notam experience for pilots. Its the legislation that created the BasicMed option to traditional FAA medical certificates.
At least in North America, that also can be the dead of winter for many locations, and the personal airplanes many of us fly just arent equipped to cope. For example, and other than a warm pitot tube, they generally lack anti-ice equipment. They likely may not have the range or endurance to reliably avoid weather, or retreat to solid-gold alternates. For non-instrument-rated pilots, the challenges can be even grimmer: Low ceilings and visibilities can wreck carefully made schedules by forcing us to stay on the ground.
Since Eric is a working controller, I respect his advice. I was a little surprised when he stated that filing direct grinds controllers gears. With GPS capability, filing direct has saved me a lot of time and money. It was never realized that doing so was creating a problem for anyone. It was not done as a sign of laziness or to engage in a bad practice, but to get in and out of the ATC system as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Its an aviation clich that your single engine goes into automatic rough when crossing any significant body of water. To be sure, any engine problem while beyond gliding distance from land is a critical problem, even if you have more than one. When flying a single, its everything. Another clich is that most of us dont bother to analyze the real risks of overwater flying. Any water crossing of any significance-and wed put the Great Lakes, Hawaii and Bahamas in that basket-should be carefully planned to ensure risks are mitigated to acceptable levels. The thing is, both clichs are true more often than not.
I spend a lot of my flying in the Idaho backcountry, where there are a lot of challenging but worthwhile airstrips. But it's not a forgiving environment since go-arounds can be problematic and density altitude means pilots may not be accustomed to the reduced performance. After decades in the business, Patrick has a lot of lived experience seeing a wide variety of crashed planes, especially in the backcountry. As a window into answering the eternal question "Why do pilots crash?" I felt his insights would be valuable.
The FAA's FAR 43.3 says "the holder of a pilot certificate [other than a sport pilot certificate] issued under Part 61 may perform preventive maintenance on any aircraft owned or operated by that pilot which is not used under Part 121, 129, or 135...." Appendix A of FAR 43, meanwhile, details what tasks are considered "preventive maintenance." Everything we're suggesting in this article flows from Part 43's definition of what constitutes preventive maintenance (PM). If you're not afraid of getting some grease under your fingers, you can save a lot of time and money performing regular maintenance tasks yourself. Here are our top five projects you may consider performing.
The question is as old as the powered aviation itself: Assuming a single-engine airplane, if power is lost immediately after takeoff, should you land straight ahead or try to get back to the airport? This magazine has often addressed the question, including a January 2006 article by spinmeister Rich Stowell. Rich detailed the results of a simulator-based study examining "the feasibility of successfully executing a 180-degree turnaround following an engine failure at 500 feet agl." The study concluded that practicing the maneuver boosted its success rate, but landing straight ahead (or nearly so) had a higher success rate.
If you're like me, one of the first goals I assigned myself after earning my private pilot certificate was to add the instrument rating. For other pilots, VFR-only flying may be where adding certificates and ratings stops but the education continues. The daunting task of putting trust fully into your instruments and air traffic controllers is a bridge some pilots won't cross. But in the natural progression of pilot certificates and ratings, adding the instrument rating is a common goal after getting through the private checkride.
Yet, as with all airplanes as time marches on, wear and tear take a toll on the way various mechanisms work, and better designs often are available to replace them. That's especially true when it comes to the PA-28 fleet's sidewall-mounted fuel selector, the current design of which now is in its third generation. The original design-generation 1, or Gen1-did not have much in the way of a detent protecting against inadvertent repositioning, nor does it prevent over-rotation leading to unintended movement to the OFF position. These characteristics aren't the most desirable in a fuel selector assembly, especially since the component is mounted in the sidewall under the pilot's left knee, where it can be difficult to view.