Unusual Airspace

Prepping for a ground lesson today. I’d assigned a student to plan a cross-country originating from KAST, and noticed the Class E designations:

The semi-circular segments and piece-meal layout of the Class E airspace looked pretty odd, and I couldn’t let it go without trying to figure out why. Instrument rated pilots might already have a clue. I had to look it up to see if I was right. The answer is in AIM 3-2-6(e), and looking at the instrument approach procedures really cements that bit of learning. This ILS approach for KAST involves a 19 NM DME arc that exactly overlays the Class E extension on the VFR sectional.

A Test on Your Night Regs Knowledge

I always hated memorization, and never did very well in classes that required a lot of regurgitation. So the regs that require me to memorize the different definitions of night have always been a bother to me. (If anybody has some nifty mnemonic or memory aid for keeping them straight, please let me know or add it here; I tried coming up with a few, which are posted in the Night Definitions lesson plan.) In a recent AOPA Pilot Test Pilot article (which I love because it’s usually challenging, but also hate because it’s often obscure trivia), they offered a scenario that addresses the night regulations. I’ve tweaked it a little, but see if you can come up with the answer without consulting your FAR/AIM.

A private pilot is flying with several passengers in the contiguous US. His last night landings (3 touch and gos) were 30 days ago. Can he continue the flight after the sun goes down without violating the FARs?

If you need a refresher, I just added a short lesson plan that summarizes the differences between the definitions used for “night”, and hopefully will add a complete lesson plan on night operations soon.

Here’s another one that I’m working on to reinforce knowledge of night regulations. I think I’ve thought it through, but what do you think the answer is? Is it a question you’d use to test your students knowledge of these regulations?

Is it possible for a pilot to have made >3 full-stop landings after sunset and have logged night time in the last 90 days, but not be able to legally carry passengers for a nighttime flight?

L NOTAMs Extinct

Those of you who have done your PPL within the past year have no idea what I’m talking about. The “L” or local NOTAM was one of 3 types of NOTAMs, and it covered operations on the airport surface. The classic was personnel and equipment working, but sometimes included special events, local hazards, inoperative equipment. The line between a D NOTAM and an L NOTAM was unclear. That’s been corrected, and the NOTAM system considerably simplified. L NOTAMs are gone, and that information is now covered by D NOTAMs. FDC NOTAMs stay the same.

There’s also a new type of NOTAM: the Pointer NOTAM. See, there also used to be this uncomfortable thing about NOTAMs where some were published. When you called flight services, you’d get all the L and D NOTAMs, but it was possible that there were published NOTAMs that FSS wouldn’t give you. Pointer NOTAMs take care of that: if a D NOTAM has been around long enough, there will be a Pointer NOTAM that will tell you where to look for it.

When I did my PPL, the L-D-FDC system was still in effect, and for some reason, I didn’t get the memo when it changed during my commercial training. I figured it out this past week when I was doing some FAAST/WINGS courses in preparation for an upcoming flight review. I highly recommend the Know your NOTAMs course…doesn’t take long, and really makes sense of the whole NOTAM system in a way that just didn’t seem possible with the L-D-FDC set-up. There’s a link to the FAAST site in the new NOTAMs lesson plan (which is a watered down version of what you’ll find on the FAAST site).

Change in Phraseology for Taxi Instructions

Something that’s not terribly relevant for us, but after June 30 there’s going to be change in taxi clearances that include crossing another runway. AOPA has a good article on this, with scenarios, so I’m not going to try and top them. You can read it here. Well…they coulda given you the airport diagrams for the scenarios, so here are those (answers stuck in the first comment). But you should still read their article.

Situation 1: Lincoln Airport, Lincoln, Neb., taxiing from the east ramp to Runway 14, no other traffic.

Situation 3: Baltimore/Washington International, Baltimore, Md., taxiing from the GA ramp to Runway 22, no other traffic.

Situation 4: Crystal Airport, Minneapolis, Minn., taxiing from the southwest ramp to Runway 24R, no other traffic.

Situation 5: San Antonio International Airport, San Antonio, Texas, after landing Runway 12L taxiing to the FBO on the far south part of the airport east of Runway 03.

A Visit From the FAA

The first thing I see in my inbox this morning is a moderation request for a comment posted today that starts:

From my perspective as a FAASTeam Program Manager…

FAAST is the FAA Safety Team. “Man, I hope I didn’t say something…” Happily, he was pretty pleased with the site overall. For those of you who don’t know, FAAST is the safety training and outreach arm of the FAA. I first came across them through the AOPA/Air Safety Foundation online courses, and talked with some of their reps at HAI last year. There’s more information on the FAAST site than I’ve had time to explore, but I thought I’d point out one feature you should all be interested in: the WINGS program. For me, this has been the starting point for access to a number of good educational programs. Awwww, education…boring. Losing….interest. (Another topic altogether, but it’s your book knowledge that’s going to keep you from having to use your stick skills to save your ass…or a lawyer to save your commercial ticket. Here’s a good post on that from Maria Langer.)

WINGS. In CFR 61.56, which lays out the requirements for flight reviews, section (e) talks about an “FAA-sponsored pilot proficiency award program.” That’s what WINGS is. Instead of doing your flight review, you can meet the proficiency requirement by completing WINGS programs. All you have to do to meet those requirements is complete 3 knowledge and 3 flight credits from the activities listed on the WINGS site. Finding knowledge programs is pretty easy–there are online programs and live programs, both of which I’ve done some of, and based on your preferences, these are screened for you so you get the most relevant ones.


I like to search through the dialogue on the left, because it gets me to the search form shown on the right…there you can move back and forth between knowledge (K) and flight (F) programs at the different levels (B=basic, A=advanced, M=Master). Searching knowledge programs pulls up the online courses that you can do at your own pace and at your convenience. The AOPA/ASF has a decent series, all of which are targeted at plank-drivers but many of which (like the ATC, weather, and decision-making courses) are relevant to any pilot. This search also brings up local events that you can get credit for–FBOs and flying clubs sponsor these seminars. In addition to the general topics–DPEs or somebody from the FSDO talking about IACRA and doing a CFI clinic–the local information from these talks is what’s really valuable. Of the ones I’ve attended, one was a pre-flight weather planning talk from a corporate pilot based in Seattle, the other was from the local ATC controller, discussing their systems and procedures for the local airspace. And that one came with a BBQ lunch. Many of the on-line courses are free, and the live ones are either free or have a nominal cost ($10).

The flight portion as changed a bit since I last looked at it, but basically you go out with a CFI and perform the maneuvers specified in the activity. For example, the Performance Maneuvers activity is autos, quick stops, and off-airport landings. There’s also an instrument procedures activity that you can use both for currency and WINGS credit. You should print out the endorsement and the requirements for the activity, since the CFI might not be familiar with the WINGS program.

You might be looking at this saying, “3 online courses and 3 flights…that’s more time and money than I’d put into just doing the BFR.” Yes, you are correct but the incentive for the WINGS program isn’t saving you money.

The most significant incentive to participating pilots is the added level of safety and professionalism that is obtained through adoption of a consistent recurrent training program.

The ground portion lets you seek out topics that are of interest to you, and often gets into more detail on topics that are glossed over during your PPL(H) ground training. The idea behind the flights is that, by spreading out your recurrent training, you are better able to fight the natural degradation of skills that you don’t practice every day. Also, by having your technique regularly critiqued and refined, bad habits are easier to identify, correct, and unlearn...you can’t expect to fix sloppy pinnacle approach procedures during a short flight review if you’ve been doing it that way for the last 2 years.

The best news from the aforementioned comment is that FAAST is developing online courses and CFI modules just for helicopter pilots. Since we face different operational challenges than airplane drivers, this is sorely needed. Hopefully I’ll be posting links out to those soon.