6 entries from December, 2010

United States Airspace – Class A

*** This series is meant as a general guide, and is not guaranteed to be comprehensive or even 100% accurate. You should always consult the FAR’s rather than trusting this blog to have the final say.

Prior in Series: Class B Airspace
Next in Series: Special Use Airspace

Senior Living
When we retire, rules disappear and things go back to being a lot like Class G airspace. That is until we get to the point where we are no longer able to take care of ourselves. At this time, we get thrown into a senior living home.

Life here is completely different than anything we have experienced previously. We basically give up control over our lives. All of our time is spent being controlled by the system, and the system is different than anything we have previously experienced.

This is Class A airspace. Everything you do is controlled by ATC. Altitudes now reference standard pressure instead of the local surface pressure, and they are defined by flight levels rather than feet.

Just as some of us will never live long enough to enter this stage of life, many pilots never enter Class A airspace. The reason is that unless you are otherwise authorized by ATC, all flights must be under ATC Control and under Instrument flight rules (IFR). Since many pilots never receive an instrument rating, the regulations prevent them from entering class A airspace.

Another reason many pilots never fly in Class A airspace is because it is high. The airplanes I fly aren’t even capable of reaching Class A airspace, so even if I do get an instrument rating, there is a good chance I will never see Class A airspace.

I’m also hoping to see old age without seeing senior living!

Definition and Rules
Class A airspace starts at 18,000′ MSL and extends upwards to FL600 or approximately 60,000′. Above this altitude, the airspace reverts back to Class E.

In class A airspace, altimeters are set to 29.92″ Hg instead of the local altimeter setting. This helps to ensure aircraft separation. At the speed aircraft are traveling it would be difficult to keep up with local pressures.

As previously mentioned altitudes are not referred to in feet, but rather flight levels. Instead of flying at 20,000 feet, you fly at Flight Level 200 (FL200). As you can see flight levels are in hundreds of feet. So if you are flying FL200, you are flying 200 hundred feet, or 20,000 feet.

To enter Class A airspace your aircraft will need to be equipped with a “Mode C” transponder, and you need to be on an IFR flight plan.

VFR Visibility Requirements
Day or Night 5 Miles

VFR Cloud Clearance Requirements
Day or Night 1,000′ Below, 1,000′ Above, 1 Mile Horizontal

If you look at FAR 91.155, you may think I am incorrect in listing those weather minimums since it says they are not applicable for Class A airspace. However, it is possible to fly VFR in Class A airspace, and this FAR does say that the above table is the minimums when more than 1,200 feet above the surface and at or above 10,000 feet MSL.

The Safety
While flying in Class A airspace, you basically have ATC directing you. However, you can still run into issues with thunderstorms, so if they are sending you towards one, let them know.

This altitude brings about other safety concerns as well. For example there isn’t much oxygen in the flight levels. In Class A airspace, you not only have to be flying the airplane, but you have to be monitoring your oxygen supply as well.

If you start feeling groggy is it because it has been a long day, or because your oxygen supply has a leak, and you are succumbing to hypoxia?

Really though flying in Class A airspace is some of the safest airspace to fly in. It is pretty difficult to run into terrain since you are so high, and it is difficult to encounter an another aircraft since ATC is controlling things.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get the opportunity to enter Class A airspace other than as a passenger in an airliner, but I’m hoping I do. Like I said before, a lot of pilots never get there.

Cheating on My 150

Some friends who are non pilots wanted to go to Sporty’s pilot shop.  While they are both non pilots, they are both aviation enthusiasts.  Not wanting to let them down, I offered to fly them there.

They lived close to AOH, so I decided to rent the Cessna 172 from there.  Even though AOH is roughly the same distance from my house as OWX, I decided to drive to OWX and fly my Cessna 150 from OWX to AOH to rent the airplane.

While I had rented airplanes from AOH plenty of times in the past, this was the first time that I pulled up to the building in an airplane rather than a car to rent an airplane.  It was kind of strange seeing my bird on the ramp while I was preflighting the 172.

It almost felt like I was cheating on my 150 while we loaded up in the 172 and took off.  I kept telling myself that this was an irrational feeling since airplanes are just that… airplanes.  However, as I suspect most pilots do, I somehow had developed an emotional bond to that flying contraption that I continuously entrusted my life to.

We had a great flight down to Sporty’s, and while we were there we saw a lot of different airplanes, so my friends had a blast.  I even managed to keep my 150 out of my mind and enjoy the flight in the 172.

After we returned to AOH, I showed off my 150 to my friends.  When I first got into the 150 to fly home it felt strange since I had just flown a few hours in the 172; however, everything felt completely normal by the time I started the takeoff run.

Instead of flying straight home, I took some time to make up with my 150 by just going for a fun little flight.

That was the only time I have ever piloted two different airplanes in one day, and it was a neat experience.  I was familiar with both airplanes, but each one felt strange to me at first since I just came from the other.

Unfortunately since I had to sell my 150 (not because of the cheating… she forgave me for that) it will probably be quite a while before I experience something like that again.  Nevertheless it was a day I will never forget, and that is one of my favorite things about being a pilot.  Not only are airplanes flying machines, they are also great memory making machines.

How many different airplanes have you piloted in one day?  Anything more exciting than two small Cessnas?

United States Airspace – Class B

*** This series is meant as a general guide, and is not guaranteed to be comprehensive or even 100% accurate. You should always consult the FAR’s rather than trusting this blog to have the final say.

Prior in Series: Class C Airspace
Next in Series: Class A Airspace

Bring on the Family
Once we start to get the hang of working life, along comes a wife or husband. Of course they are quickly followed up with children. So now all of the responsibilities we had when we were single are still there, but we now have the added pressure and demands of the family.

When the family enters the picture, life gets a lot more busy and things can seem hectic. Now is the time we have to really get organized. If something doesn’t make it on to the calendar, there is a good chance that it won’t happen.

This stage of life is like Class B airspace. Class B airspace is really a very busy class C airspace. In Class B airspace you have to get a clearance just to enter the airspace, unlike Class C which only requires you to establish 2 way communication.

In other words if they don’t put you on the calendar, you entering the airspace is simply not going to happen.

Many pilots never fly into Class B airspace because they get intimidated by it. There really is no reason for this. If you can fly in Class C airspace, you will be fine flying in Class B.

Definition and Rules
Class B airspace is the busiest and most sophisticated of the airport airspaces. It is also the biggest. Whereas Class C airspace has two layers, class B typically has 3 layers.

There is no standard dimensions or layouts for Class B airspace, but it does normally extend from the surface to 10,000′ MSL. Since Class B airspace boundaries are not uniform, you will need to refer to either a Sectional or VFR Terminal Area Chart to know the specific boundaries for class B airspace.

Class B airspace does not require you to establish 2 way communication prior to entry. It goes a step further and requires ATC to clear you to fly into Class B airspace. If you do not get a specific clearance from ATC, you better avoid the airspace.

As with Class C, Class B also requires you to have an operating Mode C transponder.

VFR Visibility Requirements
Day or Night Below 10,000′ msl 3 Miles
Day or Night Above 10,000′ msl 3 Miles

VFR Cloud Clearance Requirements
Day or Night Below 10,000′ msl Clear of Clouds
Day or Night 10,000′ msl and Above Clear of Clouds

The Safety
Don’t let Class B intimidate you. If you doubt your ability to navigate and communicate in Class B airspace, grab a pilot that is comfortable in Class B airspace. If nothing else, grab an instructor.

It can often be safer flying in Class B than flying in VFR corridors, because of the watchful eye of ATC.

Even though you do have ATC watching out for you, as always you as pilot in command are ultimately responsible for the safety of the flight. As with other controlled airspace, if ATC asks you to do something that will jeopardize the safety of the flight, let them know immediately that you cannot comply.

One last thing unique about Class B airspace is that Student and Recreational Pilots cannot fly into Class B airspace without receiving an endorsement, and even then some Class B airspaces will not allow students to land at the primary airport.

So if you are a student or recreational pilot, be sure to get the proper endorsement before attempting to fly into the airspace.

Intimate Preflights

Preflighting an airplane is such an intimate experience.  I consider it the equivalent of foreplay.  Think of all the things you do to your airplane to get her “turned on”.  I think if everyone thought of the preflight inspection as foreplay rather than a chore, they would do a better job with the inspection and get a little more joy out of doing it.  If nothing else, you would definitely know your airplane a little better.

I typically start the preflight out by rubbing one of her feet.  I visually inspect the brakes and wheels, but I also use my hands to make sure the break lines are connected properly and that there are no loose connections.  Just for good measure, I play a little footsie as I gently kick the tire.

Next I caress her body as I run my hand along the airframe looking for dents, missing screws or anything out of place.  Sure I could just quickly walk to the tail without this step, but I would be missing out on the opportunity to get to know my girl.

The walk along the fuselage inevitably leads me to her tail.  This is where you really get to tease her by putting her in different positions as you move the rudder and elevator inspecting each to make sure there is free movement.  I look at it as getting her to stretch out and loosen up so she is ready for the big event.  You definitely don’t want her to “cramp up”, because that will definitely ruin your day.

After inspecting her tail, it is time to caress her body again before reaching another wheel where I rub her foot and play another round of footsie.  At this point I’m starting to get her juices flowing as I take a sample from the fuel tank to look for water.

Now that her juices are starting to flow, I can put my hands on her great big, luscious wing.  I run my hand all over it as I look for loose screws, obstructions to free movement, and any cracks that might be starting to form.

After the wing, the juices are really flowing as I empty the fuel sump and check the oil.  Next I rub her foot and play a little footsie before inspecting the cowling and propeller.  I close my eyes as I run the tips of my fingers over the propeller.  As I feel for anything out of the ordinary I think to myself how before too long I will have this girl spinning like mad.

Leaving the cowling and propeller behind, I play with her other wing, and once again her juices are flowing as I take a sample from the fuel tank.

Before hopping inside and completely turning her on, I climb on top of her to check her fuel levels.  This is one more opportunity to check that your girl is ready for you to light her fire.  Next I climb aboard, prime her, and start her up.

Since I am a guy, this is written from a guy’s perspective, but I’m sure a woman could write something similar from her perspective.  The idea here is to get you to think differently about the preflight inspection.

Most people view it as a time consuming chore that can be glossed over or skipped if pressed for time.  But the truth is if you want your girl to be ready for you when you are ready for her, you really do need to take the time to get her ready.

Do any of you think of the preflight in this way, or am I the only one?

United States Airspace – Class C

*** This series is meant as a general guide, and is not guaranteed to be comprehensive or even 100% accurate. You should always consult the FAR’s rather than trusting this blog to have the final say.

Prior in Series: Class D Airspace
Next in Series: Class B Airspace

Entering the workforce
Once we manage to graduate from college, life finally gets its hands on us for really the first time. We might have thought we had responsibility while in college, but now we get to find out what the word responsibility actually means.

In college, if you shirk on your responsibilities, you might get a lower grade that can easily be made up. After entering the workforce, if you shirk on your responsibilities, you can lose some pay or even your job.

All of a sudden, you need to take responsibility much more seriously. Class C airspace takes responsibility much more seriously than class D does. In class D airspace, you do have the tower to help you out, but Class C airspace brings about radar.

Now ATC no longer needs to rely on you giving accurate position reports until they can see you. With the help of the transponder that you are required to carry on board, they know where you are even if you don’t.

Definition and Rules
Another way of looking at Class C is the middle child of the airport airspaces B, C, D. It is more grown up than Class D, but not as sophisticated as Class B.

Class C is typically two stacked layers of circular airspace where the upper layer is wider than the lower layer. The lower layer normally has a 5 mile radius and starts at the surface. The upper layer usually has a a 10 mile radius and starts from 1,200′ AGL.

The upper limit of Class C airspace normally is 4,000′ AGL. These boundaries are how Class C airspace is typically defined, but just like Class D has exceptions to its boundaries, Class C also has plenty of exceptions.

As with Class D airspace, Class C airspace requires you to establish 2 way communication prior to entering. As mentioned earlier, Class C also requires you to have an operating Mode C transponder.

Class C airspace also gives us a speed limit. At or below 2,500′ AGL and within 4 miles of the Class C airport, your airspeed must be below 200 knots. Totally not a problem for the aircraft I fly!

VFR Visibility Requirements
Day or Night Below 10,000′ msl 3 Miles
Day or Night Above 10,000′ msl 3 Miles

VFR Cloud Clearance Requirements
Day or Night Below 10,000′ msl 500′ Below, 1,000′ Above, 2,000′ Horizontal
Day or Night 10,000′ msl and Above 500′ Below, 1,000′ Above, 2,000′ Horizontal

The Safety
Flying in Class C airspace is fun! It is a great chance to share airspace with airliners and business jets. It is always interesting to be putting along in a Cessna 152 when a jet goes screaming past around 1000′ away.

With all of the technology in use within Class C airspace, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking ATC will handle everything. However, as always you as the pilot are still responsible for the safety of the flight.

When flying in Class C airspace, you still need to keep situational awareness, and be on the lookout for traffic. Often ATC will tell you which aircraft to follow in, so knowing where you are will help with finding the other traffic so you can be sure to keep separation.

Radar is nice, but it still doesn’t guarantee that ATC will not send you on a collision course with a cloud. If ATC requests something of you that will cause you to break a FAR, interfere with your ability to keep the flight safe, or both, you need to let them know that you will be unable to comply.

The maturity and professionalism of Class C airspace does make it enjoyable. Being an amateur sharing airspace with professionals is a great experience for any pilot. Just be sure to remember the rules, use your radio, and be prepared to say “No”, “Negative”, or “Unable” if needed.

Win an Airplane

If you dream of owning an airplane, but cannot afford to buy one, try winning one instead. Your odds might not be the greatest, but chances for some of these airplanes, don’t really cost much.

AOPA
Perhaps the most well known airplane sweepstakes is the airplane given away by AOPA every year. All you need to do to enter is either become a new member or renew your membership. You can also get additional entries by signing up for auto-renewal, becoming a life member, etc. If you aren’t yet a member of AOPA, you really should consider it. In addition to the sweepstakes airplane, you also get a choice between two pretty good magazines.

EAA Airventure
Not to be outdone, EAA also has a sweepstakes airplane. Instead of tying the airplane sweepstakes to their membership, to win the EAA airplane, you donate money to the EAA sweepstakes. That money is then used to support numerous EAA programs.

Pilot Mag
If you want a magazine without the membership, but still want a chance to win an airplane, you need to check out Pilot Mag. This airplane sweepstakes is raffling off an airplane for just purchasing a one year subscription. Like AOPA there are additional things you can do to increase your odds as well.

Sporty’s
One of the simplest ways to attempt to win an airplane is simply making your aviation related purchases from Sporty’s Pilot Shop. All orders give you one chance to win an airplane. If you are going to make the purchase anyway, why not do it through Sporty’s and try to win an airplane in the process?

Flight of the Phoenix Aviation Museum
The Flight of the Phoenix Aviation Museum is raffling off an airplane to help raise funds. Each ticket in the airplane raffle costs $50, but since only 1,100 tickets are being sold, your odds are better than any other sweepstakes airplane. Even if you don’t win, at least your money is going to a good cause.

1940 Museum
Not to be outdone, the 1940 Museum is also raffling off an airplane. Each ticket also costs $50, but for this raffle up to 2,500 tickets will be sold. Still your odds aren’t too bad, and your money is going to help the museum maintain our aviation history.

Faith Christian Church
I’m not sure what it is about Texas, but even a church in Texas is raffling off an airplane. Again the cost is $50 and proceeds support the Faith Christian Church Building Fund.

If you know of any airplane sweepstakes not listed here, let me know and I’ll be sure to add them. I love to know all the places I can attempt to win an airplane. If nothing else, at least we can dream of plane ownership.

United States Airspace – Class D

*** This series is meant as a general guide, and is not guaranteed to be comprehensive or even 100% accurate. You should always consult the FAR’s rather than trusting this blog to have the final say.

Prior in Series: Class E Airspace
Next in Series: Class C Airspace

College Life
When entering college your responsibility increases dramatically. It is now up to you to choose the classes that will best help you to prepare for your career. It is up to you to determine a balance of partying and studying. It is often up to you to determine how to pay the massive bill.

While the typical image of a college student is a fun loving, carefree partier, the truth is college students are under much more stress since they have a lot more responsibility. Sure they aren’t burdened as heavily as someone supporting themselves and a family, but they have now moved up from big wheels to training wheels.

Class D Airspace is the same as this college student. In Class D airspace, the control tower now starts to help control the flow of traffic to and from the airport.

Having the tower help with traffic separation is a huge advantage of Class D airspace. Now you have someone telling you where other aircraft are instead of you having to rely on others to give position reports.

Definition and Rules
Class D is the first of the airport airspaces. While Class G and E Airspace does surround some airports, Class B, C, and D are only found surrounding airports.

Class D airspace is typically circular with a 5 mile radius and extends from the surface to 2,500′ AGL. When the control tower is closed, Class D airspace reverts to either Class E or Class G airspace.

Before entering Class D airspace, two-way communication must be established with the tower. This doesn’t mean that the tower must give you permission to enter the airspace. The tower simply repeating your N-number and telling you to stand-by is establishing two-way communication, and you are free to enter.

VFR Visibility Requirements
Day or Night Below 10,000′ msl 3 Miles
Day or Night Above 10,000′ msl 3 Miles

VFR Cloud Clearance Requirements
Day or Night Below 10,000′ msl 500′ Below, 1,000′ Above, 2,000′ Horizontal
Day or Night 10,000′ msl and Above 500′ Below, 1,000′ Above, 2,000′ Horizontal

The Safety
Although Class D airspace has a control tower that helps with traffic flow, you as the pilot are still responsible for the safety of the flight.

While you typically will want to comply with what the control tower tells you, you also need to be able to tell them “No” once in a while. If you are flying a Cessna 150, and they want you to fly your final at 100MPH, you may need to let them know that isn’t going to happen.

If the tower gives you permission to land, but tells you that you must turn off the runway before an intersecting runway, and there is any doubt that you can get the aircraft stopped in that distance, you need to tell them No.

Likewise if the tower wants you to take off while only using a partial runway, and you have any doubts about the safety of the takeoff, key the mike and tell the tower, “Unable”.

Remember that the control tower is there to do a job, and that job is to help the pilots operate their aircraft in and around the airport without running into each other. In other words, the controls tower’s job is to help with the safety of flight.

If you receive a request that in any way jeopardizes the safety of your flight, you need to let them know as quickly as you can that you will not be able to comply.

Why Cessna 150 and 152′s are not rented as much

I was completely baffled as to why none of the 3 airports near where I live offer a Cessna 150/152 to rent.  All three choose to rent Cessna 172′s instead.

After checking out typical rental prices for areas similar to mine, it soon became clear why they are not being rented anymore.

Costs per flight
When I learned to fly, I could rent a Cessna 152 for $45/hour wet.  I could also opt to rent a Cessna 172 for $65/hour wet.  At those prices, it made sense to rent the 152 for most flights.

I have always had a limited flying budget, so after gaining my PPL I went searching for people to take flying.  This meant that I could split the cost of the rental.  So if I took 1 person flying, the cost would be $22.50 in the 152.  If I took 2 people flying, the cost would be $21.67 in the 172.

Looking at it this way, the costs to fly were the same for either airplane.  The choice of which airplane to fly was made solely on the number of people going with me.

Today the 172 rents for $100/hour.  This translates into $33.33 in the 172 if taking 2 passengers.  If the ratio were still equal today, the 152 would then rent for around $65/hour.  the problem is that it doesn’t.  Most places that offer a 172 for $100/hour are offering a 152 at $85/hour.

So now it costs $42.50 to take someone flying in the 152.  That is almost $10 more per hour for choosing to take only 1 passenger instead of 2.

Student training
Most instructors also seem to push the 172 for flight training as well.  The normal reason is that it is IFR equipped, so once you receive your private pilot license, you can start right in with you IFR training.  The idea is that you will save yourself time and hassle since you won’t have to learn a new airplane.

This doesn’t make sense to me though.  If you use today’s prices listed above, and an average of 60 hours to get your private license, the rental cost of your training in the 150 would be $5,100.  In the 172 it would be $6,000.

That translates into a savings of $900, or 9 “free” hours of flight time in that 172 to do your transitional training.  That should be more than enough time.  After completing my flight training in the 152, I only flew 1 hour in the 172 to get checked out in it.

How did we get here?
How did these prices get so out of whack?  I realize that the price of Avgas has gone up, but that doesn’t explain this since the cost of the 152 went up $40 and the 172 only went up $35 despite burning more fuel.

I think it has more to do with people choosing to fly the 172 over the 150/152.  With fewer people flying the 150/152, it costs more per flight hour to maintain the airplane, so this cost gets recouped in higher rental rates.

In addition to instructors and flight schools pushing the 172, I think America’s expanding waistline is also playing a factor.  If the instructor weighs over 200 pounds, you are only going to be able to train pretty thin people in a 150/152.

Even if the pilot is thin, after getting the pilot license, you have to be choosy about which passengers you can take with you in the 150/152.  I think this expanding waistline is also one of the real reasons that instructors and flight schools are pushing the 172.

So what are your thoughts?  Are we eating our way out of the 150/152?

United States Airspace – Class E

*** This series is meant as a general guide, and is not guaranteed to be comprehensive or even 100% accurate. You should always consult the FAR’s rather than trusting this blog to have the final say.

Prior in Series: Class G Airspace
Next in Series: Class D Airspace

School Begins
Children that are in school typically have more structure in their lives than children that are not yet in school. School brings about more rules and more responsibility for the child.

Since Class E airspace builds upon the structure and rules of Class G airspace, I like to think of Class E airspace as a school age kid. Class E airspace is where the airspace first starts to help with the responsibility of flight.

Class E airspace helps by making VFR flight following available. When using flight following, which is not available in Class G airspace, you get an extra set of eyes to help with traffic and terrain avoidance. In the case of an emergency, ATC can help clear other traffic, and give you suggestions that might help you to a successful outcome.

While Class E airspace does add more structure and rules, the safety of the flight is still ultimately the responsibility of the pilot.

Definition and Rules
Class E airspace is basically controlled airspace that sits on top of Class G, and is airspace that all other airspace is carved out from.

Class A airspace splits Class E in two halves: a lower half and an upper half. All airspace above FL600 (the upper limit of Class A) is Class E airspace. Down lower, Class E airspace generally starts at 1,200′ AGL, but around airports, it often begins at the surface or 700′ AGL. The upper limit of this lower half of Class E airspace is 18,000′ MSL, which is where Class A airspace begins.

Class B, C, and D airspaces are all carved out from Class E airspace.

VFR Visibility Requirements
Day or Night Below 10,000′ msl 3 Miles
Day or Night Above 10,000′ msl 5 Miles

VFR Cloud Clearance Requirements
Day or Night Below 10,000′ msl 500′ Below, 1,000′ Above, 2,000′ Horizontal
Day or Night 10,000′ msl and Above 1,000′ Below, 1,000′ Above, 1 Mile Horizontal

The Safety
Even though Class E airspace is controlled airspace, it doesn’t mean that ATC is controlling your every move. All it really means in Class E airspace is that ATC is available and some aircraft might be flying on instrument flight rules (IFR).

You can fly in Class E airspace without a radio installed in the airplane and there are no requirements to communicate. However, it is wise to communicate your intentions and give position reports while flying in Class E airspace, especially around airports.

There are times that Class E airspace can get very busy, and not everyone is flying IFR or VFR with flight following. As a result, you need to be on the lookout for traffic.

If you are flying from one airport to another, it is highly recommended to use flight following. As I already mentioned ATC will help with traffic and terrain avoidance, and can even pitch in and help in an emergency.