A Safety Journal for General Aviation
by Max Trescott, Master CFI & FAA Aviation Safety Counselor
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It's seem like just last week that I was paying $2.39 for a gallon a gas. Actually it was! Except that I was in Bartlesville, OK driving back from the Cessna factory in Kansas to catch a flight back home out of Tulsa, OK.
I just spent three days of training on the G1000 glass cockpit aircraft--on top of the 3 days I did in June--to get certified as a CFAI, or Cessna FITS Associated Instructor. Which basically means that I can now deliver the same training locally that you might get if you were picking up a new plane at the factory. Cessna will also issue you a FITS certificate, which will probably become increasingly more important in the future.
So what's FITS? That's the FAA Industry Training Standard, which is a joint program with industry to standardize training, particularly in Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA). A TAA is essentially any airplane with a GPS and moving map, and it includes the modern glass cockpit aircraft. FITS puts a strong emphasis on scenario training and increasingly it's expected that insurance companies will look for FITS certification as a rate factor in calculating your insurance cost.
I already knew a lot about running the G1000, and was able to run through the programming scenarios easily. However, I did learn a lot about equipment failures, how to simulate them and the proper pilot response to each scenario. What was most impressive to me was how much information you still have even after losing a major system. Whereas flying partial panel in a convention aircraft is hard work, flying these aircraft after a failure seemed relaxed by comparison.
In most failure modes, you still have one display and the autopilot will still work in some of its modes. Interestingly, with a failure of the primary flight instruments, we found ourselves mostly looking at the remaining moving map and barely looking at the three standby instruments (altimeter, attitude indicator and airspeed indicator). While some people may chafe at the idea of flying an airplane that's even more dependent upon electricity that traditional airplanes, I assure you that the backup systems in these aircraft make them far safer to fly even after a failure. I'm convinced that the sooner we get more of these aircraft into the fleet, the sooner we'll lower the accident rate.
I'm going to keep this newsletter relatively short. Two out of state trips this month plus a large writing project have knocked me for a loop. We'll try to make up for it next month.
Feel free to forward this newsletter to your flying friends and encourage them to subscribe. If you're on the distribution list, you'll receive an email each month highlighting the information contained in the online version of the newsletter. Submissions and feedback are always welcome!
Have fun and fly safely!
Max Trescott, Master CFI
get Goosed in Palo Alto
You might not be the only one in the traffic pattern
I am a huge bird lover, as long as they're not trying to share
the same space at the same time with the airplane I'm in.
Anyone who flies out of Palo Alto knows that this airport is listed in the Seagull's Guide to Better Dining. After all, if you were a seagull, wouldn't you hang out at the garbage dump on the approach end to runway 31 at Palo Alto.
I think we're all used to dodging the seagulls. Last fall, one collided with the wing of a Cessna at RHV and put a dent in the leading edge of the wing that was over a foot wide and several inches deep. That was one of the those times when it would have been better to be flying a low wing aircraft. But if a seagull could make that much of an impact, image how much more damage a goose, weighing perhaps 4-5 time more, could produce.
It's been three years since I regularly flew out of Palo Alto, but this year I've noticed that the geese have taken to the airport like never before. Twice in the last month, the tower has called when I was on short final to alert me to geese crossing the runway. Both times I spotted a small formation of geese and concluded they would pass before we arrived. And then I spotted the main formation following close behind! Both times required a go-around to avoid producing what would have been copious amounts of fois gras had we hit one or more geese.
I think there were probably 30 to 40 geese in each of the larger formations that passed over. My landing protocol at Palo Alto now calls for looking both ways on short final for geese. You might want to do the same!
396 Portable GPS
Datalink Weather you can take with you!
Last month, I devoted the entire newsletter to Oshkosh. Even so, I wasn't able to cover many of the things I wanted to.
While you know by now that the major themes included private travel into space and Light Sport aircraft (which are just about as opposite as you can get), I didn't get a chance to tell you that the big buzz was around the new Garmin GPSMAP 396 with datalink weather.
Ever the skeptic, when I first heard about this, my first thought was "Who would pay $2500 to get a GPS just so they can get the weather?" Apparently a lot of people. The devices were largely sold out at the show and lots of people were talking about them. I finally got a chance a few weeks ago to fly with a client who has one in his aircraft, and I'm becoming more impressed.
I've talked about the GPS 296 before, primarily for its terrain awareness capability. As you know by now, too many pilots in California meet their demise when the marine layer comes in and they blunder into the clouds and the rocks they obscure. Terrain awareness could make that scenario a thing of the past if everyone had a GPS with a terrain database that showed them where the rocks are located. The GPS 396 builds on this remarkable product by adding datalink weather capability which is virtually identically to the weather you'd receive in a modern glass cockpit. And get this--it's far better than the datalink weather you can get on the nearly ubiquitous GPS430 and GPS530.
Weather When You Want It
My client had a really outstanding reason for buying the GPS 396. While he has a Garmin 530 panel mount GPS in his cockpit, which would seem to be the preferred way to display weather, he went with the GPS 396 for a couple of reasons. First, it's much cheaper than the $6000 module that he would need to add to get weather information on the GPS530. Also, he can take the GPS 396 out of the plane and monitor the weather where ever he is. So on those long trips to Mexico, he can be sitting in the hotel room looking at the weather he's likely to encounter as he crosses the border (each time I flew to Mexico, the weather was always on the North side of the border!).
Also, I don't think he even knows this advantage, which I discovered last week while back at the Cessna factory. While the GPS396 and the Garmin G1000 display the same weather with 16 different weather products, the Garmin 530 only displays two weather products: NEXRAD radar and METARs! Apparently the processor in this product, which is now over 5 years old, isn't up to the task of handling many services, which is why it's limited to just two. So let's see, pay $6000 for two weather services or $2500 for 16? Not a very tough decision.
Back in Economics 101, I learned that there was no such thing as a free lunch (that was of course before the dot com era) and that's true here too. The catch, if there is one, is that you need a weather subscription and it does have a cost. You'll need to contract with XM Satellite for one of their aviation weather packages, which are currently priced at $29.95 and $49.95 per month. You can find more details at http://www.wxworx.com/aviation/service_pricing.php, which is the website of WxWorx, which provides the weather service to XM Satellite.
What do you get for $360 per year?
If you'd ask most people what one weather service they'd like to get, they usually say that they'd like to get NEXRAD weather. So after spending two decades working in marketing, I wisely guessed that this was included in the premium package that costs more. Fortunately, I was wrong!
NEXRAD, which stands for Next generation RADAR (bet you didn't know that) is the product that we're so used to seeing on the Weather Channel and on local TV news shows. It seems fairly intuitive. Stay away from the nasty red areas and if you have to go through it somewhere, aim for the green. If only it were so simple!
First, the weather you receive in the cockpit is not real-time. At the very best, you're looking at information that is a minimum of 8 minutes old and may be older. That's because the NWS radar site takes about 5 minutes to complete a scan and then it takes several more minutes to process the data. When you receive the data in the plane it's already 8 minutes. And then a misleading timer starts which tells you how long you've been displaying the data. So if it says the age of the data is 1 minute--it's really been 9 minutes since the events you are seeing occurred.
So obviously NEXRAD radar is a strategic tool. Use it to avoid weather it displays by a very wide margin. Don't think of it as a tactical tool that you can use to help pick your way through the weather. We'll spend more time talking about NEXRAD in a future issue.
Other weather services that you can now have displayed in the
° METARS -- Current weather at airports with a weather observer
° TAFs -- Terminal area forecasts
° TFRs -- So you always know where the forest fires and the President are located
° Winds Aloft -- Updated every hour by a forecaster--much more useful than DUATs Winds Aloft
° Satellite imagery
° Surface Analysis Charts -- So you can see the Highs and Lows and frontal areas
° Lightning -- datalink lightning from a ground based service. Differs somewhat from Stormscope lightning data
Note that some of the services listed above are only available with the premium service at $49.95 per month.
Forecast from the Crystal Ball
While I'm not the Magnificent Carnac, let's go out on a limb for a minute and make some predictions.
When I started flying about 30 years ago, nobody flew with headsets and intercoms were unheard of. Now, everyone flies with headsets, virtually every rental airplane has an intercom and many of us are now using ANR noise-cancelling headsets (if you haven't tried one you should!).
A lot of pilots also have portable GPS systems. They're great since you can take them into any plane with a minimum of fuss and you instantly have a battery powered backup system, which is really nice if the airplane's electrical system decides to take the day off. Not everyone is going to rush out to get a weather enabled GPS system. $360 to $600 to get weather isn't cheap (particularly if have the luxury of not flying in the weather!). However, low cost weather alternatives are becoming available and over the next 10 years, prices are bound to come down. So, 10-15 years from now, perhaps a significant number of pilots will be dragging a weather enabled GPS with them. Certainly, if they're flying a glass cockpit aircraft, they'll already have that capability built-in. So it's fair to say we're going to be seeing a lot more datalink weather in the cockpit this decade whether we bring it along with us or it's already in the panel. Or as Carnac would say, "May a weather enabled camel sit in the right seat with you on every flight."
More risk management and personal minimums
No, the PAVE checklist is not something you use when you get your driveway (or runway if you're lucky enough to have one) resurfaced. It's a great concept that the FAA uses to get people to think about their own personal minimums. It's also a great tool to use before each flight to help you consider the unique risks involved with each flight. You can download a copy of the PAVE document at my website at www.sjflight.com/Safety.htm. Look toward the bottom of the list of Accident Prevention Brochures and download P-8740-56 Personal Minimums Checklist.
So what is PAVE? It's
Each category has perhaps 10 factors to consider. Think of it as not only preflighting the aircraft, but also preflighting yourself, the flight environment and the external pressures that you may be facing.
Part of the checklist is for you to enter your own personal minimums. For example, while it's legal to fly in 3 mile visibility in the daytime, you might decide that your own personal minimum is 5 or 6 miles in the day and even higher, perhaps 10 miles, at night. Another part allows you to enter current conditions for this particular flight.
I always think it's important to preflight the pilot, and it covers several important areas. For example, how many takeoffs and landings have you made recently and how many hours do you have in the make and model of the aircraft you plan to fly? The latter is particularly important, since accident rates are higher for pilots with less than 100 hours in the model of aircraft they're flying. Other areas cover how much sleep you've had in the past 24 hours and when you last had food and water.
Download PAVE and make it part of your routine every time you fly! Since most of the accidents are pilot error, it makes sense to spend as much time preflighting the pilot as we do the airplane!
Recent Fatal crashes in California
Night and Clouds Kill Again
You've heard me report that over two-thirds of the fatal accidents in the S.F. Bay area include night or weather as a factor and many include both. So it came as little surprise that a plane that crashed en route from San Luis Obispo to San Jose did so at night after taking off into the clouds. Hopefully we're getting the word out to Bay Area pilots on the twin dangers of night and weather. Unfortunately this non-instrument rated pilot was from the Fresno area.
According to the NTSB report:
"Work associates of the pilot reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that on August 1, the pilot had departed his residence by 0700, and he drove to work in Selma, California. After completing work in Selma, the pilot drove to Fresno where he boarded the accident airplane and flew to his next job site, which was located near San Luis Obispo. After completing work at that site, the pilot was dropped off at SBP. The associates reported that the pilot's next work site was located in San Jose, California, where he was expected by 0730 the following morning. The associates indicated that upon departure from SBP, the pilot would have either flown to his Fresno home airport, or he would have flown to San Jose to position himself for the following day's work.
"About 2150, witnesses located in the San Luis Obispo area reported observing a hillside fire about 1 mile northeast of SBP. According to a California Department of Forestry fire captain, who is also a current airplane pilot, upon responding to the accident site he noted that the clouds were nearly at ground level. The captain stated that the forward (horizontal) visibility was between 1/4 and 1/2 mile. The wind was calm. No moon or stars were visible. The sky condition was overcast."
Risk Management Courses Improving Safety
King School courses may be having an impact
I just read a blurb in the National Association of Flight Instructor's Mentor magazine that quotes Avemco, an aviation insurance company, on the results they're seeing with the risk management courses from King. According to Jim Lauerman, AVEMCO's chief underwriting officer, "After two full years of monitoring the results, the numbers have become statistically significant. Of particular interest is that people taking the Practical Risk Management courses are having significantly fewer serious losses than those who have not taken the course, which leads me to believe that there are pilots and their families walking around today who wouldn't be here is it weren't for this program."
I haven't seen the courses myself, but two things suggest to me that they may be worthwhile. First, the FAA gives Wings seminar credit to anyone who takes one of these courses. If you're not familiar with the Wings program, it's an alternative to taking the required Flight Review (formerly called a BFR) every two years to keep your license current. Basically, you attend an FAA seminar and fly three hours with an instructor. Besides the nice pin and certificate, my friends in the FAA tell me that pilots who have an infraction, but who have participated in the Wings program are generally referred for remedial training. That's a who lot better than having to hire a lawyer to defend yourself at an FAA hearing.
The second thing I've noticed about these courses is that Cessna gives away a copy to eveyone who buys a new airplane. I'm sure they're trying to minimize expense to remain competitive. But apparently they feel it's worth the expense to help keep their pilots safe.
I cruised by www.kingschools.com and found that there are three separate CD-ROM's in their Practical Risk Management series. There's a general one for pilots, one on weather and one on landings and takeoffs. Interestingly, AVEMCO is quoted as saying that a quarter of their claims are paid out for losses that occur during landings and takeoffs. If anyone has tried the courses, please send me some feedback on them and we'll pass it along.
New Cessna in the Pipeline?
The rumor back at the factory was that Cessna will announce a new airplane at their dealer conference which will be held in a few weeks. Apparently it will be introduced in 2006 and is intended to target one of their major competitors. It's no secret that Cirrus has been giving Cessna a run for their money during the last couple years, and nearly eclipsed them as the #1 selling airplane last year. So if true, this new airplane undoubtedly targets the Cirrus products. Unfortunately, that's all I know.
If I had to guess, I would image that we're talking about an all new airplane that's relatively fast and perhaps is even constructed of composites. If the rumor is true, general aviation is going to get even more exciting next year. Stay tuned and hang on for the ride!
Last month's newsletter on Oshkosh, brought more reader feedback than any prior issue. Clearly we struck a chord with many of you. Here are some of your letters.
You don't need to convince me that
I absolutely MUST go to Oshkosh. I have friends who aren't pilots who remind me
regularly that when I go, they are going too. This year must be really really
amazing with SpaceShipOne and the others. I view
that plane/spaceship as the next Wright Flyer. Thanks for the write up.
wanted to thank you for the great 'write-up' on Oshkosh! I've never been to
Airventure and was hoping to go this year, but I was close to my checkride for
my Commercial Certificate and couldn't spare the time. Really
just wanted to thank you for your Airventure write-up!
Thank you Max! I was
planning to go to Oshkosh for many years, but I am IT person and for me to get
away for more then a couple of days was not possible until now ….Now with all
the wireless technologies I can be anywhere and still be able to stay on a top
of things. Yes I am planning to go next year. Thanks again!
Great report this
month! Thanks for the OSH update – I felt like I was back there again!!!!
I too enjoy
Oshkosh. I've flown my Bonanza there six times. Can't figure out if
I like the trip or the show more. Thanks for the note.
Thanks Max! Really
enjoyed the Oshkosh story. Been wanting to go since I was 12 ( a LONG time ago)
Hope to make it happen in 06. Best regards,
Nice story on Oshkosh.
I'm still trying to get there!
Excellent and extremely
well written article. As a former United, Capital and TWA employee of 44 years I
really enjoyed it.
Thanks again for a
great newsletter. I always enjoy reading it, the Oshkosh edition was a special
Great job on the trip
review Max. I enjoyed it very much and the photos were the 'icing' on the cake.
September 24, 2005 8-4PM Airport Day Reid-Hillview Airport
September 30 - October 2, 2005 Salinas Airshow Salinas, CA 831-754-1983
October 6-11, 2005 Fleet Week San Francisco, CA 650-599-5057
On the Air
XYZ: Reid-Hillview Tower it look like there's another aircraft off to our side on downwind
Tower: XYZ. Yes, that's the other aircraft I was telling you about on downwind. You just passed him.
XYZ: Oh. (Then very upbeat) Well we're just busy here giving very professional flight instruction.
Tower: Yes, your reputation precedes you.
Pilot Safety News
© 2005 by Max Trescott
Master CFI & FAA Aviation Safety Counselor
Please contact me with your feedback or if I can be of service to you.
www.sjflight.com (650)-224-7124 Subscribe or email Feedback on Newsletter