Wednesday, January 31, 2007

T-minus seven days and counting

Long-time readers -- or at least those that have been here for about year or so -- will recall a visit to the ER that the IFR Pilot made. That turned into three days days in ICU, two pints of someone else's blood, and an endoscope. Followed by an eight-week regimine of Protonix and another endoscope, this one voluntary (it's amazing what you'll submit to in order to get medical clearance to fly).

That's what you get for taking too much ibuprofin: You burn a hole in your tummy. In other words, you give yourself an ulcer.

And it hurts bad when it starts to bleed. And when you lose so much blood, it wreaks havoc on your blood pressure. It's never been so low, thankyouverymuch.

Fast forward a year, your trusty narrator is cured. I've got the medical records to prove it.

Before any hard-earned money is dumped into flight training for the commerical license, wisdom and prudence dictate that we pay a visit to the AME and get that required second class medical. My current third class medical expires in April, so I'm not jumping the gun too much by going in now.

Thus, we see the AME this coming Tuesday at 7:30 a.m.

In a word: Yuck.

Have I mentioned my disdain for being a patient, even just for a flight medical?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tackling the Goals

Submitted for consideration today was a freelance article on RITTRs. We'll see if it draws any interest from the editors at AOPA Pilot.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Accident of the Week

This week's Accident of the Week is truly a tragedy. Four members of a family board for a short flight across North Carolina. The pilot and father is instrument rated. They are setting up for the approach to their destination when something goes horribly wrong:
NTSB Identification: NYC07FA052
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, December 31, 2006 in Charlotte, NC
Aircraft: Cessna TR182, registration: N7090S
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On December 31, 2006, at 1124 eastern standard time, a Cessna TR182, N7090S, was destroyed when it impacted terrain in Charlotte, North Carolina. The certificated private pilot and the three passengers were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed. The flight originated at the Dare County Regional Airport (MQI), Manteo, North Carolina, and was destined for the Shelby Municipal Airport (EHO), Shelby, North Carolina. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to preliminary air traffic control information provided by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the pilot checked in with Charlotte Approach Control at 1057, at an altitude of 6,000 feet. The controller asked the pilot what type of approach he wanted at Shelby, and if he had the current weather. The pilot responded, "ah we do the gps rnav rnav five," and stated he did not have the current weather. The pilot was then instructed to descend to 5,000 feet and to inform the controller when he had the weather. The pilot acknowledged the transmission, and shortly after was instructed to fly a heading of 260 degrees. The controller asked the pilot whether he wanted vectors for the approach, and the pilot responded, "we're probably get take a little help right now."

At 1109, the pilot stated, "ah my heading is way off I'm banking back I am now tracking three oh five trying to get back." The controller instructed the pilot to "turn left, heading two five zero." The pilot acknowledged the instruction; however, he did not maneuver the airplane to the assigned heading. The controller subsequently issued additional vectors to assist the pilot and instructed him to "check [his] altitude," when he observed the airplane 400 feet too low. After observing the airplane continuing to the north, at 1116, the controller asked if the pilot was "doing alright," and the pilot responded, "I'm struggling a little." Over the next 60 seconds, the airplane continued it's right turn, heading to the south, and the controller issued several vectors to the pilot to assist him in turning left, to a westbound heading. At 1118, the controller informed the pilot that he appeared to be correcting, and the airplane appeared to be at the correct altitude. One minute later, the controller informed the pilot that he was again drifting to the southwest, and was issued a heading of 280 degrees. The pilot acknowledged the transmission, and at 1122, the controller issued another vector of 270 degrees. The pilot again acknowledged the transmission, and no further transmissions were received from the pilot.

A witness, who first heard the airplane as he was standing on his back porch, stated that the airplane sounded as if it was "going up and down, searching for altitude." The airplane then appeared through the cloud deck, in a "nose-dive," at an approximate 80-degree nose-down attitude. The witness observed the right wing separate from the airplane as it continued to travel downward at a high rate of speed. The airplane then disappeared behind trees, and shortly afterwards the witness heard the sound of the impact.

A second witness also heard the airplane before he observed it. He stated that he heard the airplane's engine "sound loud one second and then cut out the next." This pattern repeated several times, and then the witness heard a loud "bang," and observed parts of the airplane "falling from the air." The airplane continued until it impacted the ground in the backyard of a residence.

The airplane impacted a residential area, and the debris field extended into several backyards over a 1-block area. The initial point where wreckage was observed was along a road where the left wingtip and left wing came to rest. In a front yard adjacent to the road, the left aileron and a portion of the left elevator were also observed. The wreckage path continued over several yards, oriented on a heading of 280 degrees. Located along the wreckage path was the right aileron, pilot-side door, and a portion of the roof and elevator.

Approximately 250 feet from where the left wing was observed, the airplane impacted power lines in the backyard of a residence. The wreckage path continued 35 feet from the power lines, to a 12-foot long and 2-foot deep crater. Approximately 12 feet from the crater, the main wreckage impacted the base of a tree. The main wreckage included the cockpit area, fuselage area, right wing, a portion of the empennage, and one propeller blade. On the other side of the tree, in another backyard, additional fragmented fuselage and cabin sections were noted, as well as a second propeller blade.

The engine was located, embedded in the side of a residence, approximately 60 feet from the main wreckage.

The airplane and engine were recovered from the site, and transported to a facility for further examination. The airplane was reconstructed, and all components were accounted for. Examination of the left wing revealed it remained intact, and separated at the wing root. Both the left and right wing struts also separated from their attachment points on the wing and fuselage. Aileron control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit area to the broomstraw-separated cable ends in the wing root. Rudder and elevator control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit to the flight control surfaces.

Examination of the flap actuator revealed the flaps were in the retracted position.

The left wing attachment hardware and left strut attachments were retained for further examination.

The engine could not initially be rotated due to impact damage to the number 2 cylinder. The cylinder was removed, and the engine was successfully rotated by hand at the propeller flange. Thumb compression and suction were obtained on all cylinders, and valve train and crankshaft continuity were confirmed to the rear accessory drive section. Examination of the top and bottom spark plugs, revealed their electrodes were intact and light gray in color. The dual magneto was impact damaged, and could not be tested for spark.

The vacuum pump was disassembled, and impact damage was noted to the vanes; however, the drive coupling remained intact.

Examination of the propeller assembly revealed all of the propeller blades were separated from the propeller hub. Two of the blades displayed torsional twisting and chordwise scratching, and the third propeller blade was not located.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA third class medical certificate was issued on April 14, 2006. At that time, the pilot reported 425 total hours of flight experience.

Weather reported at CLT, at 1100, included winds from 040 degrees at 4 knots, 3/4 mile visibility with rain and mist, a broken cloud layer at 500 feet, an overcast cloud layer at 1,200 feet, temperature 52 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 30.31 inches mercury.

While we'll ultimately see what the NTSB has to say, you have to guess out of the box that this was spatial disorientation leading to an in-flight breakup due to loss of control. If the NTSB does reach that as a probable cause determination -- and that's a big if -- let's hope that it is also able to shed some light on why, after several hours of routine flight in IMC ( shows that the accident flight departed MQI around 9:10 a.m., accident time was 11:24 a.m.), this pilot becomes so disoriented as to lose control of the airplane.

Perhaps there was an instrument failure. Perhaps the autopilot (if there was one, the report doesn't say) became inoperative at the worst possible time. Perhaps something -- anything -- other than pure pilot error.

Looking at the chronology of events, you see that the pilot first reported indications of difficulty at 11:09 a.m. The accident took place about 15 minutes later. The cloud tops are not indicated, but if possible, one escape strategy might have been to cancel the approach and request a clearance to someplace on top of the clouds.

Maybe that wasn't possible under the prevailing conditions. Maybe that wouldn't have helped. But it's worth thinking about if you are ever caught in that situation. Troubleshooting a problem in IMC is hard, especially if you are single-pilot and lacking an autopilot. So, if you can, consider climbing to VFR conditions and troubleshooting there. Then you can decide: Fly the approach or, if possible, divert to a destination where VFR conditions prevail.

Godspeed to the family (a third child was not on board) and friends.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Upon Further Review

To subsidize the expensive flying habit, the IFR Pilot is forced to practice law. Practicing law has its ups and downs, but that's for another forum.

Recently, a client called. He was thinking about becoming involved in a fractional ownership program for a single-engine piston aircraft. There are several, and there's no need to identify which one. He wanted an aviation-savvy lawyer to review the documents. Thus enters our faithful narrator.

I'll refrain from commenting on the merits of fractional ownership programs for piston aircraft, other than to note that they are right for some people and not for others. But here's something I toss out to the proprietors of those programs: If you are going to ask someone to invest a five-figure sum into your program and trust you to "professionally" manage a half-million dollar plane, kindly ask your lawyers to make sure that they proofread the contracts you will be sending out. It is your credibility, not theirs, that is severely undermined when the purchase agreement and interchange agreement contain spelling and punctuation errors.

That is all. Thank you for listening.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Mission Accomplished

Passed the commercial written exam with an 89%. Not a Home Run, but well enough done.

Practice Test #5

Taken early this morning: 94%. Plenty good enough for me.

Let's go take the real thing!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Practice Test #4

84% - bit of a backward slide.

There was some thought being given to taking the test tomorrow. But now, that plan's in doubt. More studying and practice tests may be in order.

Accident of the Week

This week's accident deals with the danger of inadvertent VFR flight into IMC at night.
NTSB Identification: DFW07FA049
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, January 02, 2007 in Armstrong, TX
Aircraft: Cessna 172H, registration: N3940R

Injuries: 3 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On January 02, 2007, at 2035 central standard time, a single-engine Cessna 172H airplane, N3940R, was destroyed upon impact with terrain following an in-flight encounter with weather while maneuvering near Armstrong, Texas. The non-instrument rated private pilot and his two
passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was owned and operated by a private individual. Night instrument conditions prevailed in the vicinity of the accident for the personal flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. A weather briefing was received and no flight plan was filed for the 371-nautical mile night cross-country flight. The flight originated from the Mid valley Airport (T65), near Weslaco, Texas, at approximately 2010, with Jacksonville, Texas, as the flight's intended destination.

According to preliminary data received from air traffic control (ATC), the flight started receiving VFR traffic advisories from Valley Approach Control soon after departure and was established in cruise flight at 3,500 feet. At 0825, the pilot requested to change the flight's destination to the Hallettsville Municipal Airport (34R), near Hallettsville, Texas, to refuel the airplane. Abou
t 7 minutes later, at approximately 2032, the pilot reported that he was descending to 2,500 for avoid clouds at his altitude. A few seconds later ATC advised the pilot that they were showing him at 1,700 feet and asked him if he needed assistance, to which he replied affirmatively and stated that he needed to turn to the south. The pilot was also told by ATC that the Armstrong Airport was located 6 miles to the northwest of his location. Radio and radar communications were lost at that time.

The pilot of a twin-engine Cessna 421 that was on an IFR flight plan in cruise flight in IMC at 5,000 feet on a flight from Harlingen to Corpus Christi, also monitored the radio transmissions between ATC and the pilot of N3940R. He was initially asked by ATC to attempt to establish radio contact with N3940R to no avail. He was then vectored to the last radar position of the airplane and was cleared to descend from 5,000 feet to 2,000 feet in an attempt to locate the missing airplane. The Cessna 421 pilot reported that there were multiple broken and overcast layers in the area, and the tops of the overcast were unknown. He added that at 2,000 feet, his airplane was "in and out of a broken layer of clouds." He reported that it appeared to be clear to the south of the area were the airplane disappeared, with visibilities in excess of 10 miles.

There were no reported eyewitnesses to the mishap. The wreckage of the airplane was located by the crew of a law enforcement helicopter within an hour of the mishap. The wreckage of the airplane was found on a private ranch, approximately 46 nautical miles north of the flight's point of departure. There was no fire.

All of the aircraft components were located at the accident site. Flight control continuity was established to all flight controls. The wing flaps were found in the retracted position. The examination of the airframe and the engine at the accident site did not disclose any mechanical

The transcripts from the weather briefing provided to the pilot, as well as of the pertinent communications (and radar data) between ATC and the pilot, have been requested.

The pictures show that the impact was devestating, shattering the airplane into numerous pieces:

(Images from

It's often said that accidents are the results of a series of events, any of which -- if changed -- could have resulted in the accident not happening.

The accident pilot chooses to make a flight at night. He elects not to file a flight plan. That decision doesn't appear to contribute to the cause of the accident. The PIC does obtain flight following and is therefore talking to ATC.

The pilot did the right thing and obtained a pre-flight weather briefing. We don't yet know what he was told about prevailing conditions. But, given that the nearby Cessna 421 reported bring in IMC at 5000', we can assume that the accident pilot was informed of an overcast sky somewhere at least as low as 5000'. That's significant, because it means any moonlight from the full moon prevailing that evening would have been obscured by the overcast. Night flight with overcast is like being in IMC even outside the clouds. Review this AOPA article if you're a member.

The report is a big unclear in how it reports the sequence of events, probably because radar tapes haven't been fully analyzed. But it recounts that the pilot advises that he was descending "to" 2500' to avoid clouds. But then, "a few seconds later," ATC advises the pilot that he is at 1700'. So, that's a descent of at least 800 feet in only a "few seconds." Even if was only ten seconds, that translates into about a 5000 FPM descent rate. Sounds like a possible spin resulting from lost of control, ne c'est pa?

The preliminary examination shows no anamolies with the engine or airframe. By all accounts, this appears to be a in-flight loss of control. So, it doesn't look like there are all that many places that the chain of events leading to this accident could have been avoided. Perhaps the only chance was to help the pilot realize that the weather conditions were much more challenging than he appears to have perceived.

News reports indicate that the accident pilot was a youth minister and the passengers were two teenage members of the congregation. That's tragic. Interestingly, one report indicates that the pilot had flown to South Texas to have dental surgery in Mexico. Certainly, if that's accurate, attention will have to be paid to the question of whether the pilot had fully recovered and the potential of the surgery to adversely affect his aeronautical decision making. Another report indicates that the pilot had taken the teenagers to Mexico to talk about missionary work there.

Folks, be careful when you fly at night. Especially if you aren't instrument rated and comfortable on the gauges, make sure that you're night flight doesn't bring you close to tangling with weather.

The Upper P

MS and the IFR Pilot are planning their next hair-raising, boys-weekend adventure. We're thinking of conquering the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the spring. Besides Mackinac Island, who's got other suggestions for us on places that we gotta see and things we gotta do? You know, stuff that isn't likely to be found here.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Practice Test #3


Still need to review FARs. Not good for a lawyer, I eat and breathe regulations. I should score 1000% on that section, not 71.4%

Practice Test #2

On my lunch hour, 50 questions. 92%.

Including a whopping 0% on "Using Navigation Instruments."

Damn Figures 16, 17, and 20.

Bloggers Unite! Part Deux

Pursuant to a very scientific study, the first BloggingPilotWorld International Fly-In and BBQ (tm) will convene in Toronto, Ontario on 23 June 2007. Go here if you want to get included on the listserv that has all the pertient details.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez! (Which would be more apropos if we were going to New Orleans, or even Quebec, but, hey, it's the right sentiment.)

Practice Test #1

86%. Not too shabby.

Need to review the W&B calculations for the weight shift problems and some of the FARs.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Will someone please tell me why the FAA Commercial Pilot Knowledge Test includes 14 questions relative to ADF, but NONE about GPS?

Mind you, those 14 questions include a series of -- at least to me -- nearly-incomprehensible questions requiring the strangest drawings I've ever seen. MH, MB, RB, from, to, blah, blah, blah. I think it's been years since I was even in an aircraft that had an operable ADF. And that may be part of the problem: An utter lack of real world use of the ADF, so I can't relate the questions into any actual experience I've ever had.

I hate to take the lazy way out, but I may just opt for rote memorization of the answers to these questions, as even the material from which they are derived (according to the source attributions in the Gleim study guide) aren't much help.

(By the way, Gleim references Chapter VIII of the Instrument Flying Handbook. But that chapter deals with the National Airspace System. Methinks they really meant to cite Chapter VII, "Navigation Systems.")

Coming Soon

Perusing the IP addresses of yesterday's visitors and their corresponding geographic locations -- thanks -- the IFR Pilot saw a Canadian visitor from a town heretofore unknown to the IFR Pilot: Tobermory, Ontario.

What, you say, you're also not familiar with Tobermory? Well, here's where it is:

By all accounts, it looks like a lovely little place for a weekend escape. According to the offical chamber of commerce website, there's hiking, diving, golfing, glass bottom boat tours, and lots of places for the IFR Pilot to use his new digital SLR camera -- perhaps capturing some shots like these:

(Photos from

To get there by land would take about 8 hours, according to Google Maps. Fortunately, there is an airport (CRN4, 3100 x 60 asphalt runway) and the air route is much, much shorter. Straight line distance is 252 NM, so about 2 hours, 20 minutes in Mike Hotel. But the stright-line route would require extended time over Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, so that's a no-go. Here's the proposed route:

It adds about 40 miles and 20 minutes or so, but generally keeps you over land (if you count Lake Erie island-hopping as "staying over land."

Stay tuned for a PIREP.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Accident of the Week

Every pilot undergoing instrument training is drilled in the concept that descending below the MDA/DH on an approach, inadvertently or advertently, is fraught with danger. And, unless certain prescribed conditions are applicable, descent below the MDA/DH violates 14 CFR § 91.175.

This week's Accident of the Week dramatically illustrates that concept, especially when flying an approach into conditions at minimums.

NTSB Identification: DFW07FA036
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, December 10, 2006 in Waco, TX
Aircraft: Cessna 310Q, registration: N69677
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On December 10, 2006, about 1859 central standard time, a twin-engine Cessna 310Q airplane, N69677, was destroyed when it collided with terrain while executing an instrument approach to the Waco Regional Airport, near Waco, Texas. The commercial pilot and the two passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to a private company and operated by the pilot. An instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the flight that originated at the Harry Anders/Natchez Adams County Airport, near Natchez, Mississippi, about 1700. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the business flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

Prior to departure, the pilot obtained weather information and filed an IFR flight plan with the Anniston Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS), near Anniston, Alabama.

A preliminary review of air traffic control (ATC) communications revealed that the pilot was cleared to fly direct from the Natchez Airport to the Waco Regional Airport. As the pilot approached the Waco Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) area, he received vectors to intercept the localizer course for the instrument landing system (ILS) RWY 19 approach at Waco Regional Airport.

At 1848, an approach controller provided the pilot weather information obtained from another pilot who had just executed the ILS RWY 19 approach and landed without incident. She reported "breaking out" of the overcast layer at an altitude of about 800 feet, approximately one-mile north of Runway 19. The pilot acknowledged the information and responded "that sounds good [N69]677."

At 1854, an approach controller informed the pilot that his position was 7 miles north of the COFFI intersection (final approach fix) and that he was cleared for the ILS RWY 19 approach. The approach controller also instructed the pilot to turn to a heading of 220 degrees, and maintain an altitude of 2,000 feet until established on the localizer course. The pilot acknowledged the clearance and shortly after was cleared to contact the Waco Regional Airport Control Tower. The pilot contacted the control tower, and about a minute later, a tower controller cleared the pilot to land on Runway 19.

At 1856, a tower controller informed the pilot that the weather at the airport was "two-miles visibility with a 200 foot overcast ceiling and fog." The pilot acknowledged.

Approximately two minutes later, a tower controller alerted the pilot and said, "N677...low altitude alert...check altitude immediately." Shortly after, a tower controller reported seeing a "fireball" north of Runway 19.

A preliminary review of radar data revealed an IFR target approaching the Waco Regional Airport from the north. At 1854, when the target was about 7 miles north of the airport, it was at an altitude of 1,800 feet mean sea level (msl) at a ground speed of 76 knots. Approximately two minutes later, when the target crossed over the final approach fix, about 4.5-miles north of the airport, it was at an altitude of 2,100 feet msl at a ground speed of 78 knots.

At 1858, when the target was approximately 2.3 miles north of the airport, it was at an altitude of 900 feet msl and at a ground speed of 81 knots. At this point, the target momentarily ascended to 1,100 feet msl, and maintained a ground speed of 81 knots. Over the next 30 seconds, the target's altitude descended to 600 feet msl and the ground speed decelerated to 59 knots before the data ended.

A witness, who was driving on a road located north of the accident site, reported that he first observed the airplane out of the right side window of his vehicle. He reported that the "lights" of the airplane appeared "hazy," and were not as "bright" as he was used to seeing on other aircraft that flew into Waco Regional Airport. Shortly after he observed the airplane's lights, he observed an "explosion" behind a tree line that was located between him and the airplane. The witness immediately called 911 and drove to the site of the accident. He added that the Fire Department arrived within five minutes of the accident.

The witness also stated that the weather was a low overcast, fog, rain "sprinkles," and mist. He reported that the cloud layer was above the height of the trees and that the visibility was approximately .5- to 1-mile. In addition, the witness said it was "very dark outside."

Weather reported at the airport, at 1851, included winds from 140 degrees at 8 knots, temperature 50 degrees Fahrenheit, dewpoint 48 degrees Fahrenheit, and barometric pressure setting 30.15 inches of Mercury. The visibility was 2-statute miles, mist, and the ceiling was 200 feet overcast.

The airplane wreckage was examined at the site on December 11-12, 2006. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The airplane came to rest upright in a plowed cornfield, on a heading of approximately 160 degrees, at a ground elevation of approximately 450 feet msl, about 1.5 miles north of Runway 19. A post-impact fire consumed most of the airplane. Several initial impact marks consistent with the shape and size of the airplane's wings, tip tanks and engines, were located underneath and several feet to the right of where the main wreckage came to rest. The main wreckage included both wings; tip tanks, engines, the fuselage, and the tail section.

The right engine cowling, right door, three seat frames, and a nose gear door were found forward of where the main wreckage came to rest.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate for airplane single-engine and multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. He also held a flight instructor certificate for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. In addition he held a private pilot certificate for gliders. His last second class Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical was issued on March 3, 2004. At the time of his last medical examination the pilot reported a total of 3,275 flight hours.
According to the approach plate for the ILS 19 at ACT, the DH for the straight-in ILS 19 is 705 feet. The TDZE is 505 feet. So this is a standard 200 foot minimums approach, and one minute after clearing the pilot for the approach, that is what the tower controller advised were the prevailing weather conditions.

The report indicates that the crash occurred approximately 1.5 miles north of Runway 19. Here's a view of that area, as you'd see if you were flying inbound to the runway. (The white line ends at a point aproximately 1.5 miles from threshold of Runway 19.)

Unlike some airports, Waco isn't surrounded by terrain that poses a potential conflict in flying the approach. There also don't appear to be a huge amount of old-growth trees projecting hundreds of feet into the air and posing a hazard to aviators. And there also doesn't appear to be a forest of cell phone towers in the area.

And still we have an accident that, at least at first blush, appears to have been caused by flight below the DH. It remains to be seen if there was some mechanical defect that befell the flight at the last minute. It's possible that the descent below the DH could have resulted from an erroneous altimeter setting, but that's complete speculation at this point.

There's one last detail worth noting. According to this report, one of the passengers made a phone call "as the small plane he was flying in approached the Waco Regional Airport." Now, the regulations on instrument flight are explicit:
14 C.F.R. § 91.21: Portable Electronic Devices

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no person may operate, nor may any operator or pilot in command of an aircraft allow the operation of, any portable electronic device on any of the following U.S.-registered civil aircraft: (2) Any other aircraft while it is operated under IFR.
Now, there's no question that a cell phone will NOT interfere with the operation of an altimeter. For those that need a refresher, the altimeter is a mechanical instrument that relies on static air pressure. Radio signals don't affect air pressure. So some pundits may cite this accident as an example of why the FCC and FAA should continue to ban the use of cell phones in flight. In response, to use a favorite legal term, we could say this accident is "inapposite." Let's hope people aren't fooled into believing that the person who may have made this call somehow was the caused of this mishap.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Bloggers Unite!

E-mails are currently flying around (pun intended) among a group of Blogging Pilots concerning a possible fly-in. If you haven't been included in the list, go here and join the group. (Thanks, Paul T., for setting up the listserv.)

Several folks have suggested Toronto, where our small Air Force could take over City Centre Airport, and the jumpseaters can negotiate their way from Pearson International. A plan may be coming together...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Freelance Topics

The IFR Pilot's #6 goal for 2007 is to publish at least one freelance article on an aviation topic. Here are some ideas for articles, with working thoughts:

1. Stepping up: Buying your first complex aircraftAn account of issues involving in moving from a Cessna 172 to a Piper Arrow.

2. Flying to Alaska: Visiting America's Final Frontier by light aircraft. This would be a multi-part series on planning and executing a flight from the continental US to Alaska in a general aviation aircraft. Focus would be on how to do it without being part of a guided group.

3. FAA liability for ATC errors: Lessons from the crash of Comair 5191. This article would discuss circumstances in which the FAA can be held liable for money damages when an airplane crash is caused, in whole or in part, by the negligence of air traffic controllers. A more scholarly version might be developed for a legal journal.

4. Flying to the Bahamas: It's Easy! A rather self-explanatory title. This article would provide justification for actually making that flight, which others have already written about. Query to tax professionals: If the article is published, can the cost of the trip be deducted as a "business expense"?
After all, there's no credibility in writing about something you haven't actually done!

5. RITTRs: Getting a Direct Route Through Terminal Airspace While Flying IFR. The inspiration is a flight that MS just took, during which he wanted to transition CVG airspace on T-217. When he told the FSS briefer that he wanted "Tango 217," the briefer said "No such thing." This article would outline the origins and purpose of Are Naviation Instrument Flight Rules Terminal Transition Routes, the formal name for a RITTR (a/k/a Tango Airway).

Anyone care to provide some feedback on what you'd actually be interested in reading? Or suggestions as to other topics???

Monday, January 01, 2007

2006 Year in Review and 2007 Goals

Around this time last year, the IFR Pilot posted his goals for 2006. To review, they were four-fold:
  1. Private Multiengine rating
  2. Commercial (single-engine) certificate
  3. Aerial tour of San Francisco Bay Area with the Freight Dog [n/k/a Aviation Mentor]
  4. Five Angel Flights
Only two of the four were accomplished. Frequent readers will know that #3 and #4 got done (trip reports here, here (this one's actually not much of a report), and here), but #1 and #2 didn't. That's 50%. If the IFR Pilot were still in college, that would be an "F." If the IFR Pilot played professional baseball, a .500 batting average for the season would be in the record books and the IFR Pilot's mug would be cast in bronze and on display at Cooperstown.

On the flip side, however, the IFR Pilot sold 78S and acquired Mike Hotel with the indubitable MS. So the funds that were going to be invested to accomplish goal #1 were redirected. And goal #2 took a backseat to enjoying the heck out of Mike Hotel.

Of further note is that the IFR Pilot logged 101.6 hours in 2006. According to this graph (thanks, that's the second highest since flying operations commenced in 2000, second only to 2005, during which the IFR Pilot trekked to Alaska and back. So that's not too bad.

The qualitative breakdown for 2006 is also noteworthy:

  • Total Flights: 55
  • Time in Flight: 101.6
  • Day Landings: 76
  • Night Landings: 23
  • Actual Instrument: 10.4
  • Simulated Instrument: 4.1
  • Approaches: 21
  • Night: 6.5
  • Cross-Country: 79.5
  • Solo: 37.6
  • PIC: 101.4
  • Dual: 16.9
  • High Performance: 2.0
  • Complex: 78.0
So, in sum, 2006 is officially declared a success, notwithstanding the unaccomplished goals.

For 2007, then, the following goals, and the applicable deadlines, are set forth:

1. Commercial, single-engine license. (Written done by February 28; license accomplished by June 30.)

2. Certified flight instructor license. (Written done by September 1; license accomplished by December 31.)

3. Ten Angel Flights.

4. Log 20 hours of actual instrument time and 10 approaches in actual.

5. Return to publishing "Accident of the Week" each week. Or at least on a more regular basis.

6. Publish one freelance aviation article.

And, hopefully with any proceeds generated by #6, get one of these.