The following stories from the May 29, 2009, edition of AOPA ePilot were provided to AOPA members who expressed an interest in the particular subject areas. Any AOPA member can receive information tailored to their areas of interest by updating their preferences online.
Too many lakes
An account of cross-country flying gone wrong appeared recently in the AOPA Aviation Forum, attracting much reader response. Student pilots can learn from the experience of the aviator who braved much criticism—not all constructive—to share the details in a quest for insight.
The 41.2-nautical-mile outbound leg, originating at an airport beneath a shelf of Class B airspace, quickly deteriorated. The VOR that the pilot planned to track in the absence of GPS in the aircraft seemed not to work. (How do you check the status of VORs and related equipment? Review Chapter 14 of the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge .) The air was rough. The many Minnesota lakes did not match charted water bodies. (Picking quality checkpoints was discussed in the April 10, 2009, Training Tip.) When the destination airport failed to materialize, a time check suggested that it had been overflown. The pilot “got lost and (was) wandering around.”
When an airport appeared, confusion arose. “It was windy and no one was on the radio. No one was flying. I was expecting RWY 33 MKT, but it said RWY 34! I was wondering if the Airport/Facility Directory was outdated, but it was published for 2009! I must have been flying over a wrong airport!” The pilot landed at the unknown airport, took off again, established contact with air traffic control, and returned home safely with ATC’s assistance—without an airspace incursion, fortunately.
What are the lessons? Complacency can be ruinous; even a short flight can go bad, sometimes quite close to the destination. (A checkpoint the pilot had identified visually was only 13.1 nm from there.) Another lesson: Make sure you know how to interpret the effect of wind on groundspeed and drift. Also, don’t let unanticipated problems—such as the one that arose when the comm radio being used to contact ATC worked poorly—frazzle you or impair your decision-making judgment.
Free airport diagrams for mobile phones, personal digital assistants
Approach Systems Inc. is offering a free download of its EasyTaxi application, which can be used to geo synchronize the location of aircraft on all airport diagrams from the National Aeronautical Charting Office (NACO). The program uses a detailed NACO database to dynamically render maps of all U.S. airport diagrams and, through the use of GPS technology, show pilots their positions on the airport surface, the company says. EasyTaxi works with all Microsoft-based platforms. See the Web site for more information.