December 9, 2011
An airport doesn’t have to be at the center of Class B airspace to have a challenging mix of traffic. Moderately busy airports in Class C or D airspace can be host to a thriving general aviation community as well as an air-carrier destination. Many nontowered airports also have regional airline service or commercial operations based on the field.
Whether your home airport is lively or laid back, eventually your flying may cross trails with larger, faster, or unfamiliar aircraft. Learning how to blend in seamlessly is a fun challenge of flight training.
Checking a busy destination’s published listing is always a good start. Another useful step is to contact the FBO where you will park or refuel and ask some questions—especially if you plan to change locations on the airport or go into town. AOPA “strongly recommends that pilots flying to an airport that offers any type of airline service check the hours of operation, call the FBO for transient pilot security procedures, and plan ahead if an escort is needed after-hours,” says this AOPA regulatory brief.
Coming and going, expect to hear callouts about a variety of traffic. You might be instructed to follow that traffic as part of your landing clearance. That will put your textbook knowledge of wake turbulence avoidance into practice for real. Don’t forget to consider effects of surface winds on wake movement. Will the reported wind dissipate wingtip vortices, or move them into your path?
Your ability to recognize the types of aircraft flying nearby—by sight and as identified in radio calls—will help you manage wake-turbulence risk. Stay especially alert for the word “heavy” after an aircraft call sign.
Making an accurate landing and exiting promptly at the next available taxiway will earn you ATC’s gratitude—but aircraft control remains your top priority. Don’t resort to excessive braking and risk possible loss of control.
Progressive taxi instructions are a gift at a busy, unfamiliar airport. Explain that you are a student pilot if you become confused or uneasy.
Looking over this sectional chart excerpt for Tucson International Airport’s Class C airspace, you see the unfamiliar letters AOE below the airport information. What does that mean? The abbreviation tells you that Tucson is an airport of entry to the United States.
Looking for a gift for an aviation enthusiast, a biplane aficionado, or a long-suffering flight instructor? Sporty’s 2011 crystal Christmas tree ornament is a Beech Staggerwing—the biplane that gets its name from the fact that the lower wing is farther forward than the upper wing. The ornament sells for $24.95; an ornament display stand is available for $5.99. Order online or call 800/776-7897 (800-SPORTYS).
Note: Products listed have not been evaluated by ePilot editors unless otherwise noted. AOPA assumes no responsibility for products or services listed or for claims or actions by manufacturers or vendors.
Question: I am working toward my private pilot certificate and I will be turning 16 soon. I would like to solo on my birthday. Is there any way that I can do that?
Answer: Yes, you sure can. By rule, you cannot solo until you are 16 and in order to do so you need to have a student pilot certificate and at least a third class medical. Typically, a student pilot applicant would visit an aviation medical examiner (AME) and receive a combination airman medical and student pilot certificate (FAA Form 8420-2). The applicant must be at least 16 in order to do that. This can sometimes present a problem, especially when a student pilot turns 16 on a weekend, when an AME might not be available. There are alternatives, however. The AME can issue the airman medical and student pilot certificate with a limitation that it is not valid until the month, day, and year of the applicant’s sixteenth birthday. This can only be done if the student pilot will turn 16 within 30 days of the date of application. Alternatively, the AME can issue a medical (FAA Form 8500-9) prior to the student’s sixteenth birthday and then have a flight standards district office examiner or FAA designated pilot examiner issue a student pilot certificate on the applicant’s sixteenth birthday—provided, of course, one is available to do so. For more information on getting your medical, read the Pilot’s Guide to Medical Certification.
Got a question for our technical services staff? E-mail email@example.com or call the Pilot Information Center, 800/872-2672. Don’t forget the online archive of “Final Exam” questions and answers, searchable by keyword or topic.
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