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EgyptAir officials said late Thursday that debris spotted in the Mediterranean was not from the missing Flight 804."We stand corrected on finding the wreckage because what we identified is not a part of our plane. So the search and rescue is still going on," the airline's vice chairman Ahmed Adel told CNN. The Airbus A320 disappeared overnight en route from Paris to Cairo. The search continues for the fifty-six passengers and 10 crew members on board. CNN reports that government officials say signs point to a terrorist bomb exploding on the jet. 

The flight was at about 37,000 feet and had just entered Egyptian airspace before approaching Cairo when it turned abruptly about 175 miles from Egypt before disappearing, officials said at a press conference this morning. News reports say the aircraft turned left, made a full circle to the right and plunged 22,000 feet before radar contact was lost. Search efforts include a C-130 and other aircraft dispatched from Greece. 

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All seven crew members on a B-52H Stratofortress that crashed Thursday morning in Guam escaped the aircraft before it went up in flames. The heavy bomber, deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam from Minot AFB in North Dakota, was on a training flight when it crashed. Details on the B-52’s phase of flight and what occurred were not immediately available. The aircraft crashed on the flightline of the Guam base about 8:30 a.m. local time, the Air Force said on its website.

Officials are investigating. “We are thankful that the aircrew are safe,” said Brig. Gen. Douglas Cox, the 36th Wing commander. “Because of their quick thinking and good judgment in this emergency situation, the aircrew not only saved their lives but averted a more catastrophic incident.” The crew was from the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron. Emergency crews responded and extinguished the fire, and no injuries were reported. News reports showed dramatic images and footage of the bomber on the ground, burning up in flames and thick black smoke.

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A Zenith Zodiac 601 went out of control after landing and crashed into a parked Cessna 441 on Tuesday in California, catching on fire. The pilot escaped with burn injuries. KCRA in Sacramento reported that the pilot, 75, had touched down on the runway at Nevada County Air Park in Grass Valley, then veered into the ramp and struck the right side of the twin-engine Cessna.  

Emergency crews took the pilot by helicopter to a local hospital, where he was in stable condition, KCRA reported. Friends of the pilot interviewed by the station identified him as the builder of the Zodiac, which is sold in kit versions. One friend said the aircraft was still within its 40-hour test flight time. The Zodiac is based at Nevada County, according to the FAA aircraft registry.

A British pilot flying across the U.S. to commemorate the nation’s airmail pioneers crashed her Stearman in the Arizona desert last week, halting the journey until the biplane is repaired. Tracey Curtis-Taylor, who earlier this year flew the 1942 Stearman from the UK to Australia, said in a Facebook post she’s determined to get her aircraft, Spirit of Artemis, flying again and continue the route from Seattle to Boston, perhaps next year. Curtis-Taylor and a passenger walked away from the crash, which occurred after a fuel stop in Winslow, Arizona.

Curtis-Taylor cited high density altitude as a factor in the crash, as Winslow’s elevation is 5,000 feet. In an interview with the CBC, she said she had just flown through the region and over the Grand Canyon, “so this was nothing untoward.” However, the Stearman lost power soon after takeoff and “started to sink,” she said. Turning left to avoid power lines, she landed the biplane on the sand, but rolled over a thick bush that ripped off the right gear and the aircraft cartwheeled. Repairs will take place in Hungary, where the original restoration of the Stearman took place.

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The Weekender has some family-friendly outings on the SocialFlight calendar, along with an aviation expo and even a chance to fly in for some fishing.

The Idaho Aviation Association, in partnership with Aero Mark, will host the 6th annual Idaho Aviation Expo Friday and Saturday in Idaho Falls, featuring bushplanes to business turbines, displays for maintenance and parts suppliers, avionics, aviation organizations and workshops.

On Saturday, Lorain County Regional Airport in Ohio will host a family-fun fly-in with kids’ activities, entertainment, automobiles and aircraft on display. EAA chapter 1252’s volunteer pilots will sponsor free Young Eagle rides for youths ages 8-17. Visit the AvLab’s flight simulator and purchase a ride on an AT-6 Texan.

The Morgan Military Aviation Museum in Brady, Texas, will host the 6th Annual Armed Forces Weekend Celebration and Fly-In, which kicks off with Friday Night On the Square. The Saturday fly-in will feature re-enactments, warbirds and a noon honor guard. Stay late for the hangar dinner and big-band dance.

Fly in to Port Washington, Wisconsin’s turf runway Saturday for a coho fishing tournament just for pilots. Enjoy an excursion on Lake Michigan, hosted by Harbor City Sportfishing. There will be free transportation to and from the local marina for those who fly in. 

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AVweb's search of aviation news around the world found announcements from Vector Aerospace, McKinney Air Center, LifeStyle Aviation and Flightglobal. Vector Aerospace Corporation, a global independent provider of aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services, announced the grand opening of a new engine test cell at its Summerside facility in Prince Edward Island, Canada. It joins three existing test stands at Summerside, two dedicated to turboprops and one to turbofans. McKinney Air Center earned the top spot in the 2016 Pilots' Choice Awards survey. Now in its seventh year, the survey is open to all of FltPlan's 157,000-plus registered users. In addition to U.S. FBOs, the survey ranks FBO chains, Canadian, Caribbean, and Mexican FBOs, ATC Centers, ATC Towers, and airport-based U.S. Customs & Border Protection facilities.  

LifeStyle Aviation announced the expansion of their popular DiamondShare aircraft access program to include the all-new Diamond DA62 and the Diamond DA40 NG and DA42-VI modern aircraft. The company is highlighting the availability to purchase the new seven-place DA62 as well as the expansion of the DiamondShare Program during an East Coast Demo Tour. Flightglobal's second annual Flight Safety Symposium takes place from Sept. 13-14 at the Radisson Edwardian Hotel, Heathrow Airport in London. This unique symposium showcases the importance of the continued improvement in global aviation safety through a three-conference-in-one format showcasing a range of issues within the industry from SMS and 'Just Cause' to Safety II and the regulation issues.

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A reader of IFR Refresher recently inquired about the ATC/Pilot relationship for departures from airports in Class G (uncontrolled) airspace—specifically executing these clearances, and ATC’s expectations of how that aircraft will maneuver. Hailing from an en-route center where mountainous terrain dominates and TRACONS are scarce, I frequently encounter situations where aircraft request departure off one of our numerous non-towered airports, most of which are Class E only upon reaching the typical 700 or 1200-foot AGL mark.

If the transition from Class G to Class E airspace is a bit muddy for the pilot, rest assured, Class G airspace operations are a bit of a mystery for ATC as well—for the precise reason that it is uncontrolled. ATC typically operates on the premise of knowing where an aircraft will be at any given time; however, departures from non-towered airports without Class E surface areas are a bit undefined, with pilots and controllers alike often operating under a set of expectations rather than hard and fast rules.

Altitude Separation

In the center environment, there are often large swaths of landscape where our radar coverage does not reach to the ground, and is often still limited or non-existent at the floor of Class E.  Due to this, ATC will typically maximize your safety with altitude separation. We will give an initial altitude that meets our Minimum IFR Altitude (MIA) or Minimum En Route Altitude (MEA) requirements, and also stops you below any overflight traffic in the vicinity. Sometimes, though, that is not enough to avoid what we might see as excessive delay, and we may take advantage of our rules allowing us to issue headings to uncontrolled airport departures.

Let’s draw up a mental scenario that differs from the oft-used “as filed” clearances many pilots receive out in the boonies. Assume there is traffic interfering somewhat with your departure this day, and your departure airport is surrounded by significant, though not prohibitive, terrain. It is an uncontrolled airport with Class E airspace beginning 700 feet AGL.

You have, for better or worse, filed the now-commonplace direct destination flight plan, requesting an altitude well above surrounding OROCAs. Weather conditions are barely IMC, with no icing or convective activity around to preclude a flight. Due to the terrain, a textual obstacle departure procedure (ODP) is present which you have reviewed and would like to execute.

Your departure airport has an FSS RCO, and after your usual pre-flight routine, you call for your clearance requesting the ODP. After a minute on hold, FSS relays the following clearance from Center:

“N12345, cleared from ABC airport to XYZ airport. When entering controlled airspace, fly heading 180. Climb and maintain 8000.  Contact Anywhere Center 123.5 on departure, squawk 3456.”

You read back the clearance correctly and finish up with the FSS. Now what? You figured you were going to get “as filed” and just use your textual ODP, but no dice. When do you turn to that new heading? What does ATC expect of you? What happens after the 180-degree heading?

First, as the PIC, you must evaluate whether this ATC-created departure procedure is safe. If this heading is out of your comfort zone, be it an unfamiliar airport, personal minimums, or any significant doubt you have that this ATC instruction puts you in harm’s way, call back and get an amended clearance. ATC won’t try to fly you into terrain, but we don’t know your aircraft’s performance as intimately as you do.

If the textual ODP is more confidence-inspiring, call back and explicitly ask for it. You may be delayed for a few minutes while the sector controller works out a revised plan that takes into account your needs, but better that than launching into a plan you didn’t create and are not sure about.

Class G airspace.

ATC has no legal authority to vector your aircraft while in Class G airspace unless a pilot requests it, and only then as an additional service (meaning it takes a legally-lower priority than, say, vectoring aircraft for sequencing in Class E airspace). FAR 91.123(b) makes an interesting statement that has thought-provoking consequences for uncontrolled airspace:

(b) Except in an emergency, no person may operate an aircraft contrary to an ATC instruction in an area in which air traffic control is exercised.

The contra positive is that in areas where ATC is not exercised (i.e., Class G airspace), a person may operate their aircraft contrary to an ATC instruction. Whether or not this is a safe course of action is very situational and debatable.

Combine the above FAR with this excerpt from FAA JO 7400.9X, Page A-1, Subpart A, 1000.(f):

(f) Airspace not assigned in Subpart A, B, C, D, E, or H of this order is uncontrolled airspace and is designated as Class G airspace. There is no airspace within the United States designated as Class F.

Given the above statements, ATC ultimately carries no authority over your aircraft in uncontrolled airspace.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s presume you are willing to forego your pre-planned textual ODP and follow the given clearance verbatim. After you lift off, when do you turn on course?

The Rest Of The Story

Seeing that the clearance itself explicitly stated “when entering controlled airspace,” ATC is complying with their own regulations which preclude us from issuing departure clearance items that might be construed to apply in uncontrolled airspace. Reference JO 7110.65 4-3-2.c.1.(c):

(c) At all other airports-Do not specify direction of takeoff/turn after takeoff. If necessary to specify an initial heading/azimuth to be flown after takeoff, issue the initial heading/azimuth so as to apply only within controlled airspace.

So the easy answer is turn to the assigned heading when you enter Class E airspace. Nothing says you can’t do it beforehand, but there’s no requirement. You need to have some freedom to maneuver your plane as necessary for safety prior to entering our world. The short version of this: ATC can neither prohibit nor explicitly assign a turn on departure until your aircraft enters Class E airspace.  In fact, if you depart an airport with a Class E surface area and a controller gives you a departure heading, they would need to inquire whether the clearance they gave you allows compliance with terrain and obstruction clearance requirements.

This is an option, though not required, for Class G departures. Frankly, don’t expect to be asked. Given that most Class E areas around airports with instrument approaches are 700’ AGL, it’s all but certain you are entering controlled airspace below the MIA or MEA, especially in FAA designated mountainous terrain. Always double-check your departure profile before you taxi out for take-off.

When Is It A Vector?

The reader also inquired about whether the departure heading given is a vector. The Pilot/Controller Glossary defines a vector as: “A heading issued to an aircraft to provide navigational guidance by radar.”

While the first few minutes after departure may be out of radar coverage, the intent here is for ATC to acquire you on radar to provide additional navigation guidance to your destination as necessary. Unlike our TRACON brethren, center controllers can’t issue a new heading below an MIA (except in the rarest of circumstances), so the departure heading might be our only chance to initially get you reasonably on course.

What happens after you are established on the final heading? ATC will clear you on course when appropriate, so absent any communication failure (and associated FAR-defined procedures), just fly the heading as assigned, as ATC has a plan in mind on how to get you on course after you are above terrain and clear of traffic.

To conclude, ATC can use departure headings off non-towered airports legally, and they often will for separation, safety, and efficiency of the operation. If you ever receive a clearance that you question, for whatever reason, get a clarification from the controller.

If you feel an assigned heading will put you in harm’s way, and you wish to use a textual ODP, query the controller for that option and get a revised clearance. Again, no guarantees against it costing you a few minutes on the ground, but the safety of your flight is a joint effort. Fly Safe.

The author is an ATC specialist who regularly handles clearances that transition pilots from uncontrolled airspace.

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of IFR Refresher magazine.

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In another chapter of my publishing career that might as well have taken place on Mars, I worked for a company that hit the magic. It started a publication in the craft field right in the midst of an explosive interest in craft revival in the mid-1970s that few knew was happening. (No internet then; no Facebook, no Google.) In those days—and still—we sold magazines through junk mail packages and with a near bottomless pit of latent demand, those mail packages returned as much as 20 percent, a response that's scarcely believable today. (Two percent is a smash hit now.)

That insane success was a mixed blessing. It made for tidy profits, but it set expectations so high that future sales efforts were never seen as worthy, even if they turned 10 or 12 percent. In reviewing pilot certification stats for this blog, that experience came immediately to mind. Check out the graph below and notice the rocket rise of pilot growth between 1965 and 1971. It didn't quite double, but it did increase by 71 percent. We were adding as many as 75,000 pilots a year for an average growth of about 3.3 percent. (It had spikes up and down, of course.) We didn't know it then—and that's when I came into general aviation—but it couldn't last. In retrospect, that curve has all the earmarks of a bubble and it's not unusual for any product or service in a developed economy to mature this way.


click for full-size image

Why did it happen and why can't we duplicate it? It's complicated, but my guess is the mid-1960s were the perfect combination of World War II veterans, many of whom were pilots, reaching financial security in their 40s in a strong economy. There were 5 and 7 percent growth years in the general economy during the period. Cessna was coming of age as a mass manufacturer of then-affordable airplanes and if nothing else, it knew how to sell them. Unions were reaching peak influence and yes, factory workers could afford to buy airplanes and did. The airlines were growing and hiring, too, and the pipeline was partially stoked with GA pilots. But all bubbles eventually pop and the GA boom did in 1980. Pilot starts diminished gracefully, a trend that continues yet today. Manufacturing volume went off a cliff and now it's just tumbling gently down a screed slope. The peak volume never recovered and many of those airplanes we fly yet today.      

We never got over those peak years. How many times have you read in this blog or other analytics a reference to the glory days followed by the lament that if we did it then, we can do it again? We must be doing something wrong, goes the reasoning. But we aren't. Faded glory isn't an opportunity for a corrective, but a starting point for what's next.

In Monday's blog, I opined that three developments may inject a little vitality into GA: Third Class Medical reform, the Part 23 revision and relaxed avionics regulations. I'm not expecting a buying frenzy, but I still see these trends as nothing but positive. Is there concurrent good—OK, less gloomy—news in the pilot certification trends? Hard to say, but it's not all bad news, either. I've always maintained that GA is shrinking rather than dying and it will eventually find a critical mass and resume modest growth.

I can't put that on the calendar, although in its most recent aviation forecast, the FAA thinks private pilot certificates will decrease by 0.6 percent a year until 2036, beyond which its crystal ball doesn't extend. Just for the record, since the 1980 zenith, the pilot population has decreased an average of 0.9 percent per year. During the past 10 years, it has declined to 590,039 from a 10-year high of 627,588 in 2010. Historically, the decline has been steeper at times and shallower at times. Note the sharp drop-off in 2012. Those have occurred before, so I don't know what it means, if anything. I'm not sure how reliable the FAA data, from whence I got these numbers, really is.

But also see the sharp uptick in student pilot certifications beginning in 2010. That's great news, right? Well, sort of. It's due at least partially to a regulatory sleight of hand that increased the duration of student pilot certificates for under-40 students from 36 months to 60. I see that is good because heretofore, when the 36 months passed, students may have been less likely to renew. Now they've got five years and perhaps, by random chance, if they hang around that long they'll bump into an actual pilot certificate. It beats the alternative, no?

Growth is clearly evident in the sport pilot category. It's fashionable to describe the sport pilot segment as a miserable failure, both in terms of pilots added to the flock and airplanes added to the fleet. The airplanes, after all, turn out not to cost $40,000, which some of us seem to have thought they would. This sentiment is understandable if you lapse into the logic of using the never-to-return glory days of 1980 as the metric.


click for full-size image

Nonetheless, the FAA's records show we've added 5482 sport pilots to the rolls since 2005. See the graph for the details. This is indeed modest growth, but it's growth all the same. Bitch about it if you must, but I don't find much merit in that because (a) I don't have a better suggestion to offer cheaper new airplanes and easier pilot certification and (b) neither does anyone else. If you want to really complain about something being a failure, that would be the recreational pilot certificate. As of 2015, that rating had declined to a lousy 190. I don't think it ever got much above 300. I wonder if we would be further along if the recreational pilot had been what the sport pilot certificate has become. But in 1990, when it was created, we were still in a regulatory straitjacket that we're just now beginning to loosen.

I claim no particular expertise in predicting how the general aviation market will perform, or fail to. I'm not sure the FAA is any better at it either, because the agency is hobbled by the same unknowns as the rest of us. The only advantage we have is that we understand how regulation has inhibited both growth and continued participation by those already in the industry while the FAA is just slowly, dimly beginning to grasp this.

I will claim to be—or try to be—clear eyed about industry prospects. There are no market forces visible that will return us to the salad days of 1972, no matter what happens with regulation or how much we jawbone about medicals, the high cost of airframes and avionics and what it costs to get through the gate at Sun 'n Fun. It's just the reality we live with. The demographics were different then. So are the economics. Within our difficult universe there are plenty of green shoots, just no shimmering city on the hill. Personally, as I mentioned in Monday's blog, I like to rise above the wallow, at least momentarily, and grasp whatever bright spots I can find. And there are a few to relieve the drumbeat of negativity. I don't know about you, but I'm willing to take what I can get for now.

In the next blog, I'll take a look at the big coming growth engine: Icon. Yes, Icon. If you plug their claims into a spreadsheet, the sky parts and the sun shines.

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Mustangs are among the most numerous warbirds but each is worth a close inspection. AVweb's Paul Bertorelli took a look at Berlin Express, a rare B model, at this year's Sun 'n Fun.

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Visit Aircraft Spruce at the AOPA Fly-In in Beaufort, NC || Booth #25 || May 20-21, 2016

Heard anything funny, unusual, or downright shocking on the radio lately? If you've been flying any length of time, you're sure to have eavesdropped on a few memorable exchanges. The ones that gave you a chuckle may do the same for your fellow AVweb readers. Share your radio funny with us, and, if we use it in a future "Short Final," we'll send you a sharp-looking AVweb hat to sport around your local airport. No joke.

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