Aiation Short Takes
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Why ask Why?
Article by Mike Jesch ATP MCFI
It’s often said the most underutilized words in the pilot/controller lexicon are “Unable” and “Say Again”. Sometimes, it’s critically important to get your point across; clear up a misunderstanding, get clarification in the most expeditious way possible, and at other times, the issue is a bit more subtle, but just as important.
Recently, a story came to me of a classic case of miscommunication." Fortunately, the outcome wasn’t bad, but it could have been. It’s an interesting event, and perhaps will illustrate the importance of asking questions.
The pilot was departing from one airport and destined for another some 50 miles away, and across about three separate ATC sectors. The weather was good VMC, but he wanted to fly IFR just for the practice. In our area, it’s possible to obtain a “canned” clearance – called a Tower Enroute Control – without filing an IFR flight plan and going through all those hoops. In any event, our pilot did exactly this and was soon on his way, cleared via the expected route and 6000 feet (which was higher than the normal 4000 published for the route). As he was climbing through 4700, the pilot was instructed to maintain 4500MSL for traffic, which he acknowledged and did, and got some additional vectors.
Soon, he was transferred to the next ATC sector, and then another one, and dutifully checked in each time level at 4500. One of the controllers instructed the pilot to “resume own navigation” (normally, an IFR pilot should expect a heading to intercept an airway or to a fix before resuming). The final controller eventually told him “Practice approach approved, no separation services provided.” The pilot responded with, “I guess I’ll cancel IFR then.” I can only imagine what went through the controller’s mind when he heard that!
I think this event illustrates a couple human factors mistakes, and offers a chance to review some best practices that we all might consider bringing into our technique. I believe any mistakes made were honest omissions, and no violations of procedures or regulations appear to have occurred.
First, the controller issued a bit of an unusual altitude to the pilot, which was modified to an even more unusual altitude. While it’s not normal to be assigned a strange altitude above the MEA like that, neither is it out of the question. In this case, conflicting traffic necessitated the change, and the controller probably intended to instruct the pilot to descend and maintain 4000 once he was clear of the conflict. On the pilot’s part, he received a clear reason for the different altitude, and it made perfect sense. I don’t know whether the traffic was pointed out to the pilot, or whether he ever had visual contact with that traffic. And, it doesn’t really matter.
Next, control was moved to the next ATC sector, where the pilot checked in “Level at 4500”. The previous two airplanes in the same area were both at 4500 and under VFR, so the presence of a third probably didn’t seem unusual, and no questions were asked. He might have had a little Confirmation Bias here, expecting that any aircraft at 4500 clearly had to be VFR. I have no idea what was said during the handoff procedure between sectors, or if there is an indication on their screen as to the rules under which the pilot is operating.
Eventually, control was issued to the final controller, and the approach request was made. I know from experience that if the request is made to that second controller, word often doesn’t get passed to the final, and it often seems like a surprise.
So, what lessons can we learn? What can we do to reduce confusion like this and help our teammates out on the other end of the radio? Perhaps an earlier communication with ATC, at almost any point on this flight, raising the question. Something along the lines of, “Hey, ATC, I was cleared to 4500 for traffic; do you still need that?” Or, “When can I expect to go back to 4000?” Or maybe reminding each sector that you’re “IFR, level at 4500.”
Remember that we’re all human. Our Air Traffic Controllers are excellent; they take immense pride in accurately and safely providing the services they provide us, and they do so without problems so much of the time that it may be hard to remember that mistakes will occur. They’re not perfect. But, it’s our kiesters strapped to that aerospace vehicle. If at any time, something seems unusual, or you don’t know why something is happening, don’t be afraid to ask the question. Don’t let any confusion remain in the operation, even if it’s not on your part, but you think the controller might be confused. Poke the controller for clarification or resolution. It’s possible that he or she might have just forgotten that he’d asked you to do something weird.
Finally, please take any opportunity to visit with controllers. Whether it’s visiting the tower at your local field, or a pilot group-sponsored tour of a TRACON or ARTCC facility, or even finding the Pink Shirts at Oshkosh, I cannot recommend highly enough that you avail yourself of any and every opportunity to meet these people and see how they do what they do. Write down your questions and bring them and ask them; they truly enjoy meeting the people they serve and answering them. As it happens, in this case, the pilot happened to be scheduled to tour the very facility in question just two days after the event. It was a tremendous opportunity for them to meet and explore the nuances of this tricky situation in person.
Fly Safe! Have Fun! Fly More!
-Mike Jesch ATP, Master CFI - 2018 LGB District FAASTeam Rep Of The Year
The Transformation of Certification
Adopting Consensus Standards for Light-Sport Aircraft
Article by Jennifer Caron, FAA Safety Briefing
"Catherine Ashton’s quote 'I look for the consensus because the consensus drives the policy into new places.' speaks directly to the spirit of the time — 2002 — when the FAA made the decision to use industry-developed consensus standards for the design, manufacture, airworthiness certification, and maintenance of a new, and emerging category of light-sport aircraft.
Back then, manufacturers of single-seat, lightweight ultralight vehicles were creating larger, heavier, and faster two-seater ultralights at a rapid pace. With two seats and affordable, innovative designs, these heavy ultralights were all the rage, and consumers were clamoring to buy and fly these exciting creations that required neither aircraft nor pilot certifications.
But these new ultralights were caught between two worlds;..." Learn about the history of consensus standards and the way today's world has been influenced by READING MORE HERE
The Desanctification of AoA
Opinion by Paul Bertorelli - as it appears in AVweb
"About five years ago, there appeared on the market a handful of angle-of-attack indicator products. I’m not sure why the timing unfolded as it did, but I think it might have been a confluence of several events. One, the technology became cheaper and easier to deliver to market, including displays, envelope protection was becoming a thing, the FAA relaxed the approval process and we were starting to talk about stalls as a persistent accident cause. Wait, what the hell am I saying? When have we not talked about stalls as a persistent accident cause? Wilbur and Orville even had a name for the spin that follows: well drilling."
CLICK HERE to read the AVweb Story
UAS-specific Weather Data Lacking
Opinion by Mark Huber
"The current weather tools and weather training for the UAS industry are woefully inadequate. That’s the assessment of Don Berchoff, a former U.S. Air Force meteorologist and the CEO of TruWeather. “Our Part 107 [UAS pilot] certification training has a weather section in it that is totally irrelevant,” Berchoff said. “We have a mismatch right now in standards and requirements,” he said, adding that current standards may allow UAS operators to “check the box” for regulatory compliance but fall short of operational needs."
CLICK HERE to read the AIN Story
AINsight: More Women Finding a Place in Aviation
Opinion by Rolland Vincent
"One stereotype that seems to have the half-life of uranium-238 is that men and women perform best in certain jobs. For example, some believe that men are more suited to technical and mechanical fields, where strength and stamina provide comparative advantages. Others believe that women are better suited to nurturing and educational roles in society, where interpersonal skills and empathy are essential enablers of success. While there may be some elements of logic to each of these stereotypes, are they true? What exactly might that even mean, and why is it important for business aviation?"
CLICK HERE to read the AINsight STORY
Those Lyin' Eyes (Part 2)
"Expectation bias (EB), our tendency to believe our “lyin’ eyes” telling us what we want to be true and not what is actually true, can be a killer in an airplane. Last month we discussed EB in detail and cited some examples of just how dangerous it can be. Let’s look at each of these flights we talked about and see how the crews allowed their expectations to affect their decision process. There are important skills to learn from these examples and carry with you on every flight that will help you to recognize your own expectation bias and not fall prey to its powerful charms." From Kenneth Stahl, MD, FACS written in AOPA 5/01/19 Read The Article Here.
From the FAASTeam: CFI & DPE Runway Safety Tips
Notice Number: NOTC8443
As a CFI or DPE, you are in a position to make a profound impact in reducing runway incursions. Did you know that from October 1, 2018 through March 31, 2019, there has been an average of two (2) runway incursions per day because of general aviation pilot deviations? These incursions carry a risk of tremendous loss of life and property, and therefore demand your focus and expertise.
Runway Incursion Avoidance standards are the same for Private, Commercial, and ATP pilots (reference applicable ACS or PTS). During training and testing, are you ensuring your students and applicants demonstrate knowledge of and skill in Runway Incursion Avoidance? Check out the pertinent sections in these publications:
FAA-H-8083-25 Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
AC 91-73 Parts 91 and 135 Single Pilot, Flight School Procedures During Taxi Operations
AC 61-98 Currency Requirements and Guidance for the Flight Review and Instrument Proficiency Check
Several additional resources can be found at:
...wanted to share with everyone the story from the Reason Foundation’s Aviation Policy News by Bob Poole - Remote Towers Reaching New Levels
The cover story of the current issue of Air Traffic Management is “The Digital Tower.” Inside the issue is a 20-page feature that provides both a global overview and profiles of specific programs and accomplishments.
Since my last report on remote towers, in the January issue, a number of air navigation service providers have announced their country’s first digital/remote/virtual (the terms are synonymous) tower projects. These include:
- Australia, with a trial operation for the Royal Australian Air Force, developed and managed by Indra Australia and Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace;
- Brazil, where Frequentis is implementing the country’s first digital tower at Santa Cruz Air Force Base in Rio de Janeiro;
- Canada, where Nav Canada and Searidge are considering remote towers to replace aging conventional towers, such as at Red Deer, Alberta;
- Iceland, where ANSP Isavia and Frequentis are researching an extreme-weather remote tower; and,
- New Zealand, where Frequentis is installing a virtual tower with Airways NZ, at Invercargill Airport at the southern end of South Isla
The growing experience with actual remote/virtual towers is rebutting a number of misconceptions about the potential of this new approach to managing local airspace. For example, only a year or two ago there were doubts that aviation safety regulators would approve the control of multiple airports from a single remote tower center (RTC). The most ambitious such project to date is Norwegian ANSP Avinor’s in-operation RTC in Bodo. Now under way is the roll-out of control from Bodo to 15 small airports between now and the end of 2021, with a possible future expansion to a total of 36.
Based on some very early tests, there were also concerns about the difficulty of obtaining a very high data rate to permit nearly real-time control of an airport from the RTC. But bandwidth keeps getting cheaper. Now certified and in operation, DFS’s RTC in Leipzig is controlling traffic at Saarbrücken, 280 miles away. Two additional airports will be added to that RTC’s responsibilities over the next two years.
The idea that a RTC could deliver better performance than a conventional tower had skeptics several years ago, but they are mostly being convinced by the ability of infrared cameras to see aircraft through fog and rain and to provide much better “out-the-window” views at night than controllers’ eyes can provide. Moreover, their cameras (visual and infrared) can monitor runways that cannot be seen from an existing physical tower, which will likely permit Heathrow to avoid building a new tower when its third runway is actually added. (Too bad this technology was not available for two-tower DFW or three-tower O’Hare.)
Conventional wisdom a few years ago maintained that while a remote tower may be fine for small, low-traffic airports, it could not handle a large hub. That is not the view of Katrin Scheidgen of DFS Aviation Services. She told Air Traffic Management’s David Hughes that, “Technically, it is less challenging to provide control through remote technology at a large hub airport. Hubs usually have better surveillance and a more homogeneous traffic mix of mostly IFR movements, which a remote tower system can handle more easily.” London Heathrow already has a contingency remote tower capability, and one is under development for Singapore Changi. And for medium hub Budapest, HungaroControl’s remote tower is now fully capable of handling all the airport’s traffic, but for the time being, the ANSP is using it for training and as a contingency facility—though it may well replace the physical tower in the future.
We are also starting to get a handle on cost savings. U.S. control tower developer Bill Payne told David Hughes that just building the road to reach the site of a physical tower can cost as much as the structure since it must handle heavy airport fire and rescue trucks. The tower must also have an elevator and water, sewer, and power lines—none of which is needed for an at-ground facility added to an existing airport building. Dieter Eier of Frequentis USA estimates that airports needing a new or replacement tower should be able to save 50 percent by using a remote tower instead.
The sad part of this story is that America’s ANSP—the FAA Air Traffic Organization—is still not engaged with remote towers. To be sure, there are two pilot projects under way with the agency’s blessing and monitoring (in Leesburg, VA, and Loveland, CO)—but no funding. Last year’s FAA reauthorization bill nominally created an FAA remote towers program, but Congress has still not appropriated any funding for it. The Defense Department, by contrast, has an RT program under way, with fixed sites at Homestead Air Force Reserve Base and Jacksonville Naval Air Station, both in Florida, plus two deployable RTs for use in the field.
Corporatized ANSPs are leading the way in this paradigm shift, with a number of them forming joint ventures with RT companies to market this new approach in other countries. NATS and Nav Canada jointly own RT developer Searidge. The ANSP of Sweden, LFV, has formed a joint venture with Saab to develop and market RTs. Germany’s DFS and Frequentis have launched DFS Aerosense for the same purpose, as has Norway’s Avinor launching Ninox with Kongsburg and Indra Navia. But as a government department, the FAA’s ATO cannot invest in a business venture of any sort.
Email sent to us by: Spencer Dickerson
Senior EVP Global Operations
601 Madison Street, Fourth Floor
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone 703/824-0500, ext. 130
-reprinted here with permission
Aviation Groups Object to FAA's Pilot Drug Study
by Gordon Gilbert in AINonline - April 17, 2019
"Nine groups representing general aviation and airline pilots have expressed their “strong opposition” to a proposed FAA study aimed at assessing the use of medications and other drugs among pilots by anonymously collecting and testing their urine during physical exams. The study replies to NTSB recommendation A-14-95, initially published in 2014 but for which the FAA submitted its final response last year."
Read the Entire Article by Clicking HERE
"HEADS-UP" GPS Military Interference Testing Comments by Richard Eastman, CFI
"Heads-Up" ... "Heads-Up" ... "Heads-Up"
This weekend -- April 5 and 6 in particular -- is fraught with a cross-over of multiple possibilities involving GPS testing AND VIP movement!!!
Now, if you "break" into the VIP TFR, be sure to double-check the GPS testing in effect. It's possible, though doubtful given the relatively new nature of aviation GPS, that your entire GPS system will have "transported" you to a different place!!! Or, you might be able to make the claim (or not)!
1. There are two GPS Testing events on the "event" schedule this weekend ... one which will be ongoing through mid-April (the 19th)
2. There is the GPS "roll-over" on April 6 which is when is when the 10-bit binary system used in Global Positioning Systems reaches its limit -- and will reset to Week 0 (zero)! According to some news media, your car or airplane could all-of-a-sudden find itself in the middle of the Pacific ... or the Great Plains ... while you're driving down the main streets of Los Angeles in your car; OR ... in the middle of the VIP TFR planned for the 6th in the Los Angeles Basin even though you're flying in Palm Springs or Bakersfield. "They say" (whoever "they" is) such a "transition" is unlikely -- unless you have an "older" GPS system. But "older' isn't really well defined either! The specific time of the "roll-over" isn't clear ... beyond that it is supposed to happen on the 6th.
3. Per SkyVector.Com and NOTAM 6373, there is a VIP TFR scheduled to be in effect from roughly 2PM to something close to 8PM on the 5th. Unknown at the moment is whether "the VIP" will overnight in the Los Angeles Basin or not.
It's probably not unreasonable to think that the "conventional" GPS testing that is noted in #1 above is, at least on the 5th and 6th, related to the "GPS roll-over" noted in #2. For the most part, the GPS Testing at Nellis AFB takes place on the 6th and 9th ... and will impact most of the LA Basin at 4000' and below.
Fort Irwin testing is unlikely to impact general aviation as its impact over the LA Basin is at 10,000 or above. However, as you fly toward Las Vegas or Blythe, it comes down to the surface. The testing at Fort Irwin takes place on the 5th from Midnight to 11AM and on the 6th from 11:30AM TO 1:30PM. Starting on the 7th, Fort Irwin testing continues daily from Midnight to 11AM and from 11:30 to 1:30 PM.
It is actually a weekend where it's possible that you could be impacted by GPS testing and/or the roll-over -- and if they don't get you, "the VIP" 32 mile protected areas!
.pdf documents on all of these issues are appended.
Webmaster Note: You are invited to visit our GPS TESTING PAGE located Under AIRSPACE for testing dates, and some additional comments by Richard Eastman CFI.
Re: Contacting SoCal over KSMO - letter to the Webmaster
I believe Jeff and I solved the issue, but that does not account for the ATC response. Here is the situation.
We were in the special flight rules northbound (about 9:50am PST) from KTOA. Over KSMO I called ATC on 128.75.
The controller asked "please state location and altitude only" so I said 4500 over Santa Monica VOR."
He responded "You should check your charts, contract So Cal on 134.2 or 124.6."
Unprepared for the "check your charts" comment I missed the first frequency but caught the second. In order to reduce air chatter I acknowledged the second frequency and changed. On the 124.6 frequency the controller was fine and professional.
My complaint is that I had used the box closest to SMO which said "CTCSOCAL APP ON 128.75" and received "schooling" which distracted my attention while I was navigating the busiest airspace in the world. A more professional reply would simply be "contract So Cal on 134.2 or 124.6."
After reviewing the TAC chart, LA (unlike San Francisco) has blue and magenta boxes for "contact So Cal" details. If I had heard it in my lessons it did not stick, and the chart legend does not distinguish between the colors. I now realize the blue contact boxes are for aircraft entering the bravo area and evidently the magenta boxes are maybe for those transitioning or entering the charlie area, BUT THAT is not applicable for the 134.2 box as I would have been heading away from the Charlie airspace. So if you use the color box of the airspace you are heading away from then the blue frequency was correct!
This creates a conflict in the use of the colored Contact boxes. Do you choose the box based on the color of the airspace departing or entering/transitioning. If I exit special flight rules at KSMO for KSZP would I use 128.75 (I am departing Bravo area) or 134.2 (I am not going toward Charlie for any reason). And if either is valid, why did ATC "school" me?
Having spent most my flight time in the LA area with rare excursions beyond LA or California I had not realized:
1) these contact boxes are not prolific.
2) only blue for bravo areas, but not all have them.
I may have missed in in my lessons, or just not heard it, but after today I now know the difference.
Last name withheld by request
Letter from Dennis Muilenburg (Boeing) to airlines, passengers and the aviation community
March 18, 2019
We know lives depend on the work we do, and our teams embrace that responsibility with a deep sense of commitment every day. Our purpose at Boeing is to bring family, friends and loved ones together with our commercial airplanes—safely. The tragic losses of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610 affect us all, uniting people and nations in shared grief for all those in mourning. Our hearts are heavy, and we continue to extend our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of the passengers and crew on board.
Safety is at the core of who we are at Boeing, and ensuring safe and reliable travel on our airplanes is an enduring value and our absolute commitment to everyone. This overarching focus on safety spans and binds together our entire global aerospace industry and communities. We’re united with our airline customers, international regulators and government authorities in our efforts to support the most recent investigation, understand the facts of what happened and help prevent future tragedies. Based on facts from the Lion Air Flight 610 accident and emerging data as it becomes available from the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident, we’re taking actions to fully ensure the safety of the 737 MAX. We also understand and regret the challenges for our customers and the flying public caused by the fleet’s grounding.
Work is progressing thoroughly and rapidly to learn more about the Ethiopian Airlines accident and understand the information from the airplane’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders. Our team is on-site with investigators to support the investigation and provide technical expertise. The Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau will determine when and how it’s appropriate to release additional details.
Boeing has been in the business of aviation safety for more than 100 years, and we’ll continue providing the best products, training and support to our global airline customers and pilots. This is an ongoing and relentless commitment to make safe airplanes even safer. Soon we’ll release a software update and related pilot training for the 737 MAX that will address concerns discovered in the aftermath of the Lion Air Flight 610 accident. We’ve been working in full cooperation with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Transportation and the National Transportation Safety Board on all issues relating to both the Lion Air and the Ethiopian Airlines accidents since the Lion Air accident occurred in October last year.
Our entire team is devoted to the quality and safety of the aircraft we design, produce and support. I’ve dedicated my entire career to Boeing, working shoulder to shoulder with our amazing people and customers for more than three decades, and I personally share their deep sense of commitment. Recently, I spent time with our team members at our 737 production facility in Renton, Wash., and once again saw firsthand the pride our people feel in their work and the pain we’re all experiencing in light of these tragedies. The importance of our work demands the utmost integrity and excellence—that’s what I see in our team, and we’ll never rest in pursuit of it.
Our mission is to connect people and nations, protect freedom, explore our world and the vastness of space, and inspire the next generation of aerospace dreamers and doers—and we’ll fulfill that mission only by upholding and living our values. That’s what safety means to us. Together, we’ll keep working to earn and keep the trust people have placed in Boeing.
Chairman, President and CEO
The Boeing Company
Back in February, I attended the Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association (AFCEA) WEST 2019 Expo at the San Diego Convention Center. While there, I was able to fly a F-35B Demonstrator Simulator. The following is a description I sent to a good friend of mine (a retired USMC Major General and Aviator) the day after my attendance. Read his observation HERE
Paul Bertorelli comments on the Boeing 737 Max 8 info and relates reported info from Southwest Airlines. LINK to the AVweb article HERE
Original article appeared 3/21 - Editor's note: This article was updated March 22 after further analysis of NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System reports. The review of the reports and the MAX 8's MCAS reveal that the incidents in the ASRS reports were unlikely to be caused by the MCAS. Edits were also made to correct reference to the Boeing 737 MAX 8's tail. The aircraft has a stabilizer. Read it HERE
Richard McSpadden - Executive Director of AOPA Air Safety Institute - Richard McSpadden lead’s AOPA’s ASI, committed to reducing General Aviation mishaps by providing free educational resources and supporting initiatives that improve General Aviation safety and grow the pilot population.
Aviation Needs More Women On The Flight Deck - And In All Roles - Forbes - Stephen Rice, Contributor Aerospace & Defense
The aviation industry faces a worldwide shortage of qualified pilots. Numerous agencies cite the need to hire thousands of new pilots over the next two decades. Read the Story HERE