AOPA Online Members Only -- AOPA ePilot Custom Content --Vol. 5, Issue 29

November 11, 2009

The following stories from the July 18, 2003, edition of AOPA ePilot were provided to AOPA members who expressed an interest in the particular subject areas. Any AOPA member can receive information customized to their areas of interest by updating their member record file online.

My ePilot - Instrument Interest
The FAA on July 10 updated IFR high and low altitude en route charts, instrument approach charts, Airport/Facility Directories, and some sectional, VFR terminal, and world aeronautical charts. See AOPA's Online Directory Online for the current instrument approach charts.

My ePilot - Piston Single Engine Interest
Operating VFR above the cloud tops is legal, but is it always safe? On July 28, 2001, a noninstrument-rated private pilot and his three passengers were killed when he became disoriented while descending VFR through holes in the cloud layer near De Queen, Arkansas, in a Cessna 205. Read about this accident in a report prepared by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, exclusively for ePilot readers.

My ePilot - Student Interest, Training Tips
No training program is complete without meaningful practice of in-flight emergencies, using or simulating use of the procedures set forth in the emergency checklists for your aircraft. What should your training program strive for in this area? For some practical suggestions, see "Keeping it Real" by David Wright in the January 2003 AOPA Flight Training, and this newsletter's June 21, 2002, "Training Tips" on "Practicing Engine Failures."

Less well understood is what happens after a pilot declares an emergency. At that point, the pilot in command (or solo student) wields special authority as set out in the federal aviation regulations, but also takes on solemn responsibilities.

What constitutes an emergency? The FAA describes it as a condition of distress or urgency. "Distress is 'a condition of being threatened by serious and/or imminent danger and of requiring immediate assistance.' Urgency is 'a condition of being concerned about safety and requiring timely but not immediate assistance; a potential distress condition,'" explains John Yodice in his July 1997 AOPA Flight Training column "Pilots' Emergency Authority." He reviews the FARs governing a pilot's use of emergency authority, noting that "over the years this language has been interpreted to mean that pilots are excused from violating any operating or flight rule so long as the violation was necessary to meet an in-flight emergency." The exception is when the emergency is of the pilot's own making, such as intentional visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions.

Many air traffic control services are available to pilots facing an emergency as summarized in Chapter 6 of the Aeronautical Information Manual. Remember that a special communications frequency, 121.5 MHz, is monitored for emergency transmissions. For a thorough discussion, see "What's the Frequency" in this newsletter's March 28, 2003, "Training Tips"-but remember that if you're already talking with air traffic control when you experience an emergency, explain your situation on your current frequency and don't change to 121.5 MHz unless you're asked by the controller.

Must you submit a written report of the event? (Your flight-test examiner could inquire.) The answer is no. Reports must be made only when requested by the FAA, as Kathy Yodice explains in the November 2001 AOPA Flight Training magazine's "Legal Briefing" column. Review the series of discussions about pilots and emergency authority in the August, September, and October 2001 "Legal Briefing" columns. Then read the self-critique by one pilot who dealt successfully-in most ways-with an emergency, as retold in AOPA Pilot's July 2003 "Never Again" column, and incorporate his insights into your safety-knowledge bank.

My ePilot - Training Products
The student pilot who trains in a Piper J-3 Cub faces challenges her colleagues might never encounter-like starting the engine by manually turning the propeller. Sporty's has combined two instructional programs- Taming the Taildragger and Handpropping Light Aircraft-onto one DVD. The taildragger segment, aimed at pilots who trained in tricycle-gear airplanes and are planning to transition to tailwheel aircraft, covers three-point and wheel landings with an emphasis on proper rudder and aileron control. The handpropping segment gives a step-by-step demonstration on a restored J-3 Cub engine. The DVD is available from Sporty's for $59.95. To order, see the Web site or call 800/SPORTYS.

My ePilot - Student Interest, Final Exam
Question: Can you tell me how the maximum elevation figure (MEF) on a sectional chart is calculated?

Answer: Cartographers have a formula for calculating the maximum elevation figure. First, they add a minimum of 100 feet to the highest elevation depicted in the quadrangle. Then, this number is rounded up to the next 100 value. Finally, because only obstacles higher than 200 feet are required to be charted, they add 200 feet in case there's an uncharted obstacle. For example, a quadrangle showing the highest mountain peak (known as the critical elevation figure) at 5,357 feet above mean sea level would gain 100 feet (5,457) and then would be rounded to the next hundred (5,500). Add on 200 more feet for a possible uncharted obstacle on the mountaintop, and the MEF for that quadrangle will be charted at 5,700 feet msl. More information on this subject is available in "Legends: Maximum Elevation Figure" from Flight Training magazine.

Clarification: The Final Exam in the July 11 newsletter included a misleading statement about the safety of composite aircraft in lightning. Several composite aircraft manufacturing companies offer a variety of models that comply with FAA Part 23, which requires lightning-strike protection. Manufacturers accomplish this in different ways-for example, by embedding either a metal mesh or metal strips in the composite airframe to allow electrical current to pass through and exit the aircraft. Models offering lightning protection include the Lancair Columbia, Diamond DA40-180 Diamond Star, and Cirrus SR22. However, not all composite aircraft are manufactured under Part 23, and such aircraft may not provide lightning protection; check with the manufacturer if you have questions on a particular model. More information on this subject is available at AOPA Online. AOPA regrets the oversimplification and any confusion it caused.