Check Those NOTAMS – Know Before You Go if Your Intended Approaches are Active

Over the past month, I have on at least 3 occasions noted prior to flights that the approaches I would normally have intended to use for my destination airport were Out of Service when I checked NOTAMs. This was able to be managed when known ahead of time, but in two of the cases it did require some re-planning to make accommodations.

Know before you go, don’t forget to check those NOTAMs for your destination and alternate airports to make sure what you are planning on flying for approaches is going to be available and won’t leave you scrambling at the last minute to try to come up with a Plan B.

NOTAMs that affect approaches can be obtained through a weather briefing both digitally and on the phone, and in most modern flight planning applications on devices such as iPad’s they are easily retrievable.

notamexampleBe sure to check the details. It won’t always be the case that an approach is NOTAM’d completely out of service, but particular parts of it may be made unavailable, and depending on the type of equipment in your aircraft, it may or may not make the approach unusable by you for your flight.

Many times, we find that VORs are out of service that define step-down fixes, NDBs that define outer markers may be out of service, or a glide-slope may be out of service. Each of these factors may not entirely make an approach unusable, but may change the minimums, may require that an aircraft with an IFR GPS use GPS data to supplement identification of a step-down or crossing fix, or may require use of an alternate missed approach procedure if the primary one is not able to be used.

This is much easier to think through and figure out if you are doing so prior to departure than it is if you are “in the soup” 10 miles from what you thought was going to be your final approach fix when you get the note from ATC that the approach is unavailable. Continue reading

Perspective on Airline Reliability


I was talking with an acquaintance not long ago who was complaining about a commercial flight that had arrived 20 minutes late and how much of a problem it was and it got me thinking. Twenty minutes is actually pretty darn close to on time. Now, I am not saying we shouldn’t strive for perfection, and if that delay had meant a missed connection to another flight, it certainly would have been inconvenient, but it really wouldn’t be all that earth shattering in the grand scheme of things. In fact, if we think about the perspective of aviation history, it is actually pretty amazing we are as on time and accurate as we are today. The history of aviation wasn’t always quite so perfect.

I am reminded of two stories from friends that really illustrate the perspective.

gcmapbermudaThis past summer we were visiting friends in Bermuda and got talking about how their family came to Bermuda originally. While Martin came to Bermuda after meeting his dear wife Jo, she was born on the island and it was her grandparents that had been the first generation of her family to emigrate to Bermuda.

While her grandparents airplane arrived successfully from England, the flights scheduled before and after theirs departed, but never arrived. Now, we aren’t talking about 1910 here, we are talking about a time period shortly after WWII. Continue reading

Practice the Glide….

Gliding is for gliders, right? Well, it’s not just for them. Something I notice in many checkrides I give and I know is the case for many pilots is that they don’t really know how to “glide” the aircraft they are flying. Why on earth would you want to know how to glide when we have a powered aircraft you might ask? The obvious answer is in the event of an engine failure.

When an engine quits in an aircraft, we are effectively a large, heavy glider. Even in a twin-engine aircraft, our approach path is significantly affected. In most training, pilots are introduced to this possibility and then given a checklist to go through of potential solutions while they are expected to “pick a suitable landing area” and prepare for potentially an off-airport landing. Somewhere before reaching 500′ AGL, a recovery is typically executed. There is something missing in this practice scenario; what would happen if you couldn’t do the “go-around?”.

What I notice in many pilots demonstrating this is that they are often not able to judge the glide distance to their intended landing point very well. In some cases they are setting up a glide that will put them short of the landing area, and in other cases setting up a glide that carries too much speed and would overfly the intended landing field. In a few cases they get lucky and it works out. When setting up a glide, I would typically prefer a pilot be long than short (it is always better to end up running off the end of a field rolling slowly than ending up short of the field going fast), but what I am seeing is that they aren’t just a little long, but are completely overshooting their intended landing area. Continue reading

Out of the Air for Two Weeks, but Planning a South America Trip Again?

It has been a long time since I wasn’t in the air for more than two weeks. In fact, it may have been more than a decade since this happened. Wow. Wonder when the shivers of withdrawal will start? They have to be soon. I’m already starting to count down the time until I am back in the air in 7 days. I guess a vacation (working one) isn’t that bad though.

But it doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about flying. The trip has been a “working” on on which I have spent time updating “Plans of Action” for practical tests. A part of the job of every examiner is to keep their practical test plans changing and up-to-date so they don’t become too predictable or stale. So new plans, new questions, and I will be ready to put them to use on upcoming practical tests in September! Something to look forward to for upcoming applicants right!?

ParaguyRoute_Page_1 I have also begun and finished a few articles written in the time I have been out of the air will hopefully show up in a couple publications over the next few months.

ParaguyRoute_Page_2In the break, I have also have gotten word that the Cessna 337 ferry trip to South America may be back on. With a couple modifications.

The new destination is now Asuncion, Paraguay (previous was Buenos Aires, Argentina). Continue reading