January 14, 2011
As you prepare for tomorrow’s cross-country flight to an airport at the center of Class C airspace, you learn that your old reliable trainer is out of action. You will have to make the trip in another trainer of the same type that is a much less familiar aircraft to you.
In some ways, that’s good for your training, as your instructor may point out when breaking the news. No two aircraft fly exactly alike and it’s educational—if not always comfortable—for you to have to deal with the differences, on short notice.
Equipment differs from one trainer to the next, too. You may find that you are switching temporarily from an aircraft with the best nav/comm package the fleet has to offer to an older aircraft with basic radios, no altitude-encoding transponder, and perhaps just a handheld microphone that you’ll drape over the yoke when it’s not in use. So when you file your VFR flight plan, be sure to use the proper equipment code in Block 3 of the flight plan form, as illustrated in the Aeronautical Information Manual.
Switching aircraft might also require switching destinations. For example, if your new equipment code is now C150/X, for a Cessna 150 with no transponder, or C172/T, for a Cessna 172 with a transponder without altitude encoding, your flight to Class C airspace has become problematic.
Why? It’s because required equipment for flight into Class C airspace includes a two-way radio and unless otherwise authorized by air traffic control, “an operable radar beacon transponder with automatic altitude reporting equipment.”
Can you overfly Class C airspace in your C150/X en route to another destination?
As the AIM explains, the requirement for having altitude reporting equipment applies “within and above all Class C airspace, up to 10,000 feet MSL.”
Sometimes it doesn’t even take a change of aircraft to require the pilot to initiate a change of equipment code. Equipment failure can require that you provide air traffic control with a new equipment code for continued service, as a pilot related when posing a question for Quiz Me! in the Dec. 31 ePilot—just another reason to know your codes and the limitations they may impose on your next flight.
Essential Flight Technology, makers of the Chartflier electronic flight bag software, is offering a January special in which you can purchase a refurbished Fugitsu convertible tablet PC bundled with a one-year subscription. Chartflier includes VFR sectional charts, IFR low and high enroute charts, procedures, airport diagrams, and an aviation/navigation database. The Fugitsu bundle is priced at $399. For more information, see the website.
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’m a little confused over when to use the terms “Mayday” and “Pan-Pan.” What is the difference between the two, and how are they used?
Answer: First, it is important to determine whether you are in distress and need immediate assistance, or your situation is urgent but you are not in need of immediate assistance. According to Chapter 6, Section 3 in the Aeronautical Information Manual, "distress" is a condition of being threatened by serious and/or imminent danger and of requiring immediate assistance. Distress communications have absolute priority over all other communications, and the word "Mayday" commands radio silence on the frequency in use. "Urgency" is a condition concerning the safety of an aircraft or other vehicle, or of person on board or in sight, but which does not require immediate assistance. Urgency communications have priority over all other communications except distress, and the term "Pan-Pan" alerts other stations not to interfere with the transmissions. For more information on handling emergencies, read the Air Safety Institute’s Emergency Procedures Safety Advisor.
Got a question for our technical services staff? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org 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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