Sunday, January 31, 2010

A critical look at use of reduced thrust takeoffs. Why ever use it?

I have been critical of the use of reduced thrust for takeoffs for more than forty years.  The arguments made in favor of using it to save money and engine life were never good enough for me. Especially when you took a good look at the negative side of using it. When reduced thrust is used for takeoffs the amount of runway required to accelerate to V1 is increased substantially.  This leaves you with less runway remaining in the event of encountering a high speed aborted takeoff.

If you do not encounter an aborted takeoff while using reduced thrust, you are still going to pay the piper by extending the time you and your aircraft spend below 1,000 feet above the ground.  I believe the time we spend at less than a thousand feet above the ground is more likely to expose us to a greater chance of an accident. This will happen as a result of the lower rate of climb due to the use of reduced thrust.  Maximum thrust will allow you to spend less time below 1,000 feet above the ground and therefore in my opinion, will enhance the over all safety of the flight.

Reduced thrust takeoff power settings were not mandated but instead were to be used subject the captains discretion.  He was not permitted to use the reduced power if the runway was not clean and dry or if a tailwind existed or if he suspected wind shear in the takeoff area. I used to ask my co-pilots how could you not suspect wind shear on takeoff?  Is there some magic combination of wind velocity, direction and temperature or other atmospheric aspect that could deliver that information to the pilot? I know of none of these.  Therefore, I feel the use of reduced thrust takeoffs should never be used on any takeoff.  Yet even when I would explain my reasons stated above to other pilots, many would go ahead and use it over and over again.

I guess I was not a very effective communicator. Maybe one of you could offer a plausible explanation why pilots continue to use reduced thrust takeoffs very day. The last time I used it was in 1967 and although I had many company as well as FAA check pilots fly with me through the years, none ever wrote me up for not using it.

Once again, I would encourage you to post your thoughts and opinions here on my blog on using reduced thrust takeoffs.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Weather deviations while in radar contact with Air Traffic Control

FedEx deviations around line of thunder storms Memphis 2003
48 seconds YouTube

I would like to suggest a better, more professional way for pilots to conduct weather deviations while in radar contact with air traffic control. First of all, it is the pilot-in-command's prerogative as how he accomplishes the deviation, not the air traffic controller's. After you have evaluated your situation simply inform the controller that you are going to deviate.

If your initial deviation is going to be to the right of course, simply inform the controller you are doing to deviate to the right. As it may not be possible to know how many miles or how many degrees you are going to deviate, there is no requirement to give him that information. You do not require the air traffic controllers approval to deviate.You are only required to inform him you are going to deviate. The air traffic controller can not deny you the right to deviate.

I have listened to too many pilots asking the air traffic controller for permission to deviate. Permission to deviate is not a requirement.  I have never expected air traffic to issue me "permissions" for my flight operations but instead I expect to receive "clearances." In my opinion, this is very unprofessional on the part of the pilot. It appears to me by using this type of "permission transaction", the pilot is appearing to allow the air traffic controller to take command of his flight.

Any time a pilot permits this to happen, he has done a terrible disservice to himself as well as to the piloting profession. If enough pilots manage weather deviations in this incorrect manner, there is a possibility in the future of the pilot loosing his pilot-in-command authority. The command authority rightfully belongs in the cockpit, not on the ground.

Just to reinforce this point, I feel the term air traffic controller is inaccurate. The pilot is in control of the aircraft, not the controller. Perhaps a better term for the guy on the ground would be "air traffic talker" or "air traffic clearance delivery."

I do not want to berate the guys in air traffic facilities with this post but want to encourage both the pilot and the air traffic controllers to expect each to act and deal with one another professionally.

Thanks for taking time to read this lengthy post and I want to encourage you to post your opinion as well.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Automated oceanic position reports via Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Contract (ADS-C)

Over half of the airliners making North Atlantic oceanic crossings are equipped today with Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Contract (ADS-C) equipment that delivers automatic position reports. As a result you may notice a lower level of use of the High Frequency (HF) radios.  It should be much easier for you to contact the radio operators to deliver your voice position reports and requests as fewer pilots are talking to them.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This post is for you Lou...Use of a satellite telephone for normal oceanic position reports/requests has finally been approved!

Inmarsat-3 providing satcom service for aircraft
TWA Captain Lou Burns indicated to me in a private e-mail he remains interested in the latest developments in flying the North Atlantic.  One of the latest improvements that just happened in September 2009 is the ability to use satellite telephones to deliver the normal position reports and requests formerly given by High Frequency (HF) radio.  We no longer have to endure the some times tedious effort required when using the HF radios.  The quality of the reception by the phone is far superior to that of the HF radio which makes it much easier to fully understand clearances. It is definitely a work load reducer for the crew.

The following appears in the latest version of the North Atlantic Minimum Navigation Performance Operations Manual edition 2009:

"6.1.14 Following successful trials, SATCOM ATS air/ground voice may now be used for any routine, non-routine or emergency communications throughout the NAT Region. State AIPs contain the necessary telephone numbers and/or short-codes for air-initiated call access to aeradio stations and/or direct to OACs. Since oceanic traffic typically communicate with ATC through aeradio facilities, a SATCOM call made due to unforeseen inability to communicate by other means should be made to such a facility rather than the ATC Centre, unless the urgency of the communication dictates otherwise...." 

Well Lou, it finally happened.  It is now possible to use satellite phones to make normal oceanic position reports and requests. 
In my next post, I will discuss automated oceanic position reports.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Randomness is good!

Many years ago while I was still working to get my instrument rating, I received a piece of advice from my flight instructor.  His name is Calvin Wilson and was to become Chief Engineer at Piper Aircraft in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania.  He suggested I apply the concept of randomness to my aircraft's track and altitude.  The result of doing this would be a much lessened chance of having a mid-air collision with another aircraft.

After giving this idea considerable thought, I agreed with it and I applied randomness in all my flying in the years since receiving the advice.  I would deliberately not fly exactly on course staying a small distance to the left or right.   I would avoid flying exactly on my assigned altitude by flying either a little higher or a little lower.  It did not matter whether I was flying under instrument flight rules (IFR) or under visual flight rules (VFR) or whether I was in radar contact or not.

In 2004 the authorities recognized the value of randomness when they approved the Strategic Lateral Offset Procedure (SLOP) to be used as a standard operational procedure while flying in the non-radar coverage oceanic airspace. China even approves the application of the Strategic Lateral Offset Procedure when operating in radar contact 

As many aircraft today are navigating the North American Airspace using Wide Area Augmentation Service (WAAS) Global Positioning Systems (GPS) with a navigation accuracy standard of plus or minus one meter, applying randomness is even more important to prevent collisions. Another place to consider applying randomness is in the airport traffic patterns.  Many airports publish traffic pattern altitudes and I avoid flying the exact altitude published for obvious reasons.

Strategic Lateral Offset Procedure Movie
(four minutes 18 seconds)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Global Positioning System (GPS) Calculated Altitudes

Most GPS receivers will deliver to you a calculated altitude.  Not all, but most do.  The accuracy of this altitude indication in a Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) GPS receiver today is plus or minus one meter, never worse than two meters. In the event you lose your primary altimeter, the calculated altitude may be used to good advantage. For a non WAAS GPS receiver, the altitude accuracy will be plus or minus 12 meters. Prior to the shutting down of the Selective Availability system, which happened on May 1, 2000 the calculated altitude accuracy was much worse - plus or minus 300 meters.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Use your Pilot in Command authority

Only the pilot in command decides which runway is used for take off.  He is also the one who decides which instrument approach is utilized as well as the one who determines which runway is used for landing.   In order to make this happen, he only is required to request it from ATC.  ATC may not deny the request but may offer a delay to comply.  If you have a good reason to request other than what Air Traffic Control offers you, do not hesitate to make the request. Never permit the Air Traffic Controller to assume command of your aircraft.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast ground stations - Pennsylvania

File cabinet sized ADS-B ground station

        ADS-B antenna Queen City Airport ABE
The state of Pennsylvania has purchased and installed 4 Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast ground stations. They have been installed at Allentown Queen City airport, Wilkes/Barre Scranton airport, Lancaster airport and University Park airport in State College and are fully operational providing ADS-B coverage for eastern Pennsylvania. Photos by me.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

China launches third Beidou GPS navigation Satellite

                                                      Photo credit: Xinhua News Agency
On January 17, 2010 China launched a third Beidou GPS navigation satellite.  The three Beidou satellites in geostationary orbits provide China with regional navigation signals. When the numbers are expanded to 35 satellites, it will  enable world wide coverage. The expanded system will be renamed Compass.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

European Union announces increase in size of Galileo constellation to 32 satellites

In a surprise move, on January 7, 2010 the European Union announced the number of the satellites to be utilized by the Galileo system will be 32. This is a change from the original number planned of 30. The Galileo program has been plagued by delays and ever growing costs. When first announced in 1999, the total cost was projected to be 4.76 billion dollars and it was planned to be fully operational in 2010. A recent estimate is that it will not be fully operational until 2020 and its total cost will exceed 7 billion dollars. At the present time there are just two Galileo satellites in orbit.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Visual Flight Rules operations while in Airspace A

Most pilots think it is not possible to operate under Visual Flight Rules in Airspace A. However if you experience loss of communications while in Airspace A, provision to operate under VFR is found in 12.4.1 of the USA Aeronautical Information Publication. You can download or refer to all 798 pages of it on the internet at:

12.4.1 says: "If the failure occurs in VFR conditions, or if VFR conditions are encountered after the failure, each pilot shall continue the flight under VFR and land as soon as practicable.
This procedure also applies when two-way radio failure occurs while operating in Class A airspace. The primary objective of this provision in 14 CFR Section 91.185 is to preclude extended IFR operation by these aircraft within the ATC system. Pilots should recognize that operation under these conditions may unnecessarily as well as adversely affect other users of the airspace, since ATC may be required to reroute or delay other users in order to protect the failure aircraft. However, it is not intended that the requirement to “land as soon as practicable” be construed to mean “as soon as possible.” Pilots retain the prerogative of exercising their best judgment and are not required to land at an unauthorized airport, at an airport unsuitable for the type of aircraft flown, or to land only minutes short of their intended destination."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Air Traffic Control expected climb and descent rates.

Most pilots with whom I have discussed ATC expected climb and descent rates are not aware they even exist. I discovered them long ago (1969) when I was browsing the Air Traffic Controllers handbook. You can find it today as FAA publication JO 71110.65T (effective February 2010). The prescribed specified climb and descent rates for your make and model aircraft are found in Appendix A of the handbook. See:

While operating your aircraft and Air Traffic Control issues a descent or climb clearance assure that you comply with the published rates. In 1997, the FAA notified 42 airline captains notices of certificate actions due to non-compliance with the published rates while climbing and descending. If you decide to descend or climb at a rate other than what is published, I suggest you receive a specific approval from your Air Traffic Controller.

Here is an excerpt from Appendix A of the entries for Cessna aircraft:
Climb Descent
If you are operating a Cessna C560, ATC expects you to climb at a rate of 6,000 feet per minute and descend at a rate of 3,500 feet per minute.

The Antonov 225 has a new paint job!

The only currently operational An-225 Mriya (UR-82060) has just received a new paint job. Take a look at:
Looks good to me!
What do you think?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Resolved! Use of flight simulators to maintain instrument currency requires an instrument instructor to be present.

Dick's Elite Aviation Training Device
FAA Approved Flight Simulator

Just received this e-mail from Alan Gauthier which appears to resolve the question he raised in my previous post. An instructor must be present when using a flight simulator for maintaining instrument currency.
Thanks Alan.

Sorry to stir up any confusion on this. I received updated word from AOPA. The FAA (have) given and taken away. AOPA is appealing or at least questionsing this change. In the August 2009 Federal register the FAA's comments on this subject allowed the use of simulators to maintain instrument currency w/o an instructor. New FAR 61.51 (pilot logbooks) issued within the last 2 days now requires an instructor even for maintaining currency in a simulator. What idiots are running our government? I knew the FAA would not do anything sensible fo pilots.
Alan Gauthier

Use of desktop simulators to maintain instrument proficiency

I received this e-mail from Sky Manor Based Cessna 210 pilot Alan Gauthier. I would appreciate your comments.

After many hours of research on the above subject I still do not feel I have found an answer that is "carved in stone" so I thought I'd throw it out to other pilots I know.

Here's the issue. (and I have to thank Don Wright for giving me the opportunity to waste so many hours! ) In August 2009, the FAA issued a change to CFR (FAR) 61.57 effective October 2009 relating to the use of flight simulators in maintaining instrument currency requirements. The issue that I cannot get a definite answer to is: Does an instructor need to be present while logging simulator time for the purpose of maintaining instrument currency. Furthermore, it is clear that an instructor must be present when using a simulator for time accumulated towards a certificate, rating or flight review. However, if a pilot is instrument current he is not accumulating time towards any certificate, rating or flight review he is simply maintaining currency requirements specified in 61.57. For the present, lets not digress into the 3 types of simulators, the question that no one (except seems to have an answer to is about the necessity of having an instructor present. The folks at bruceair are adamant that an instructor does not have to be present.
A reading of the new 61.57 or 61.51 (logging of time) does not answer the question. The answer to the question is found in the Federal Register of August 2009 which I have personally read and cut and pasted below:
"A person would not need a flight instructor or ground instructor present when accomplishing the approaches, holding, and course intercepting/tracking tasks of §61.57(c)(1)(i), (ii), and (iii) in an approved flight training device or flight simulator. Only when a person is required to submit to an instrument proficiency check must a flight instructor or ground instructor be present. The rationale is that a person is not required to have a flight instructor or ground instructor present when performing the approaches, holding, and course intercepting/tracking tasks in an aircraft. If the person is using a view-limiting device (i.e., hood device) when performing the approaches, holding, and course intercepting/ tracking tasks in an aircraft, only a safety pilot is required to be present. If a person is performing approaches, holding, and course intercepting/ tracking tasks in an aircraft in IMC, it is permissible to log the tasks without a flight instructor being present. Therefore, a person who is instrument current or is within the second 6-calendar month period (See §61.57(d) for currency) need not have a flight instructor or ground instructor present when accomplishing the approaches, holding, and course intercepting/ tracking tasks of §61.57(c)(1)(i), (ii), and (iii) in an approved flight training device or flight simulator."
This seems crystal clear to me and the people at, with whom I have corresponded. However, after days of trying to get an answer from AOPA with nothing but whishy washy answers that never came close to answering THE question I thought I'd send it out to all of you to offer your opinions and thoughts!
Best regards!
Alan Gauthier

Thursday, January 14, 2010

GPS Satellite constellation to be increased from 24 to 27.

The enlarged constellation of satellites was just announced by US Air Force. It will take about 24 months to move the existing satellites to provide improved accuracy from the larger constellation as well as improved availability of the signals in mountainous terrain. Today there are 30 operative satellites in orbit with six acting as backups. No new satellites need to be launched to expand the existing system as they are already in orbit.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The best substitute for brains is fuel.

The only time you have too much fuel on board your aircraft is when you are on fire!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Icing and dangers of attempting to get on top by Don Wright

Columbia LC 42-550FG (2007)

Just received this post from fellow pilot flight instructor and Delta Captain Don Wright:

Hi Dick,

Congratulations of your new blog!

My two instrument students were asking about in-flight icing, and the Cirrus accident the NTSB attributed to ice came up. I don’t have the file in front of me, but, as I recall, the Cirrus pilot was flying at a pretty high altitude over mountains and reported that he could see the moon through breaks in the overcast. He asked for higher and shortly after disappeared from radar. The NTSB attributed the accident to airframe icing, but I have a different take on it.

Let me set the scene: You're cruising along at 15,000 feet or so in turbulence and picking up a little ice. Service ceiling is 18,000, but you're a little heavy for it according to the charts. You look up and notice the moon is peeking through breaks in the overcast. Damn! I'm almost on top, you think and ask ATC for 17,000 even though the POH says you can't maintain that altitude. You think you'll be on top in a few hundred feet, so you're not too worried about actually having to climb to 17,000. You can just cancel or go "wrong way" at 16,000. Anything is better than bumping along at 15,000. Clearance received, you pitch the nose up confidently expecting to be in bright moon light in a few seconds. WRONG! You're now at 16,000, still in the clouds with the IAS dropping toward the white arc. So close, you think. But 16,500 should do it, you think. Long before you get there the ADI rolls over on its side, the IAS goes off scale and in less than two minutes you are reduced to warm, red mush.

The lesson is this: Never, ever try to "zoom" the airplane up to a marginal altitude. If you must climb, do it like you’re milking a mouse--gently. Never ask the airplane to do more than it's capable of. You want 500 FPM? Make sure the airplane will do it. Better yet, don't ask.

Never try to judge the height of the tops from below. It always looks like you're just about to pop out into clear air. An old joke has it that John Glenn in orbit called Houston and said that if he could climb another thousand feet, he'd be on top.

One dark night on climb out from JFK, I watched a captain with 20,000 hours try to "zoom" a B-747 up out of turbulence. We popped up using Max Continuous Thrust to an altitude that we should have been able to sustain, but we were seriously behind the power curve. Normal climb is 300 knots to Mach .75, then maintain the Mach all the way to altitude. We were back to about Mach .55 with the nose up in the air and the throttles (Thrust Levers) firewall forward. As I remember, the 74 had a digital (well, Mechanical-Digital) airspeed indicator that clicked every time it changed it's display. I sat there listening to the IAS click down from Mach .55 to something less with the nose going higher and higher. The autopilot was telling us, "You want me to maintain this altitude? OK. I'll give you whatever it takes." We finally gave up and asked Center for lower. It took about 4,000 feet to get our airspeed back.

Yes, ice is a winter time concern, but stalling the airplane while trying to get on top will kill you just as quick.


In the United States, airports have no runways numbered with a preceding zero.

The US does not use a zero to precede the runway number. For example, a runway heading of 040 degrees results in the runway being numbered simply as runway 4. Not 04. However in other parts of the world, the use of the zero is used to precede the number.

See FAA Advisory Circular 150/5340:

a. Purpose. A runway designation marking identifies a runway by its magnetic azimuth.
b. Location. Runway designation markings, as shown in Figures 1 and 2, are located on each end of a runway.
c. Color. Runway designation markings are white. It is particularly helpful to pilots if these markings are outlined in black on light colored pavements (see paragraph 4(a)(1)).
d. Characteristics. A runway designation marking consists of a number and, on parallel runways, is supplemented with a letter. A single-digit runway designation number is not preceded by a zero.

Monday, January 11, 2010

There are more Californians than there are Canadians!

California has a population of 36,756,666 whereas Canada has a population of 33,963,000. California also has a larger population than Australia which has a population of 22,111,000.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Today in the USA, there are only two basic kinds of airspace.

Airspace in the US can be described as either controlled airspace or uncontrolled airspace. There are many different classifications of controlled airspace however.

There is no Airspace A over Hawaii.

Not only no Airspace A over Hawaii, but portions of Alaska have no Airspace A and the island of Santa Barbara (just southwest of Los Angeles) and the Farallon Island (just west of San Francisco) have no Airspace A either. I am on a quest to discover why these airspaces were excepted from Airspace A coverage. I would appreciate any information concerning why they are not included.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Boeing 787 does not use Pratt & Whitney engines.

Video General Electric GEnx-2b engine production line assembly (click on triangle)

Only General Electric GEnx-2b and Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines available as options for the 787. I can't imagine a Boeing aircraft without Pratt & Whitney engines. I wonder why?

The Boeing 787 does not have winglets.

When pilots fly the A-380 into the United States airspace they must suffix their call sign with the word "Super"?

When pilots fly the A-380 into the United States airspace they must suffix their call sign with the word "Super".