The following stories from the December 14, 2007, 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.
My ePilot - Student Interest, Training Tips
CALLING IN ON CTAF
Nontowered airports can be extremely busy places. Knowing the fine points of an arrival procedure can advance safety and smooth traffic flow, as the Dec. 7, 2007, Training Tips article "I'll call your base" described. No one calls your base when you arrive at a nontowered airport. But someone may advise which runway is active and give the winds if you call in to request an airport advisory.
When is the correct time to make that call? "Monitor the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) when the aircraft is 10 miles from the airport and establish and maintain communications until landing," advises Section 5 of AOPA's Handbook for Pilots. That also means self-announcing your position when entering the downwind, base, and final legs, and leaving the runway, adds Chapter 4 of the Aeronautical Information Manual (see Table 4-1-1, summary of recommended communications procedures). This gives other pilots time to spot your aircraft. You can make yourself more visible by using your landing light.
Often aircraft arriving at a nontowered airport may have been receiving radar traffic advisories from air traffic control while en route. You may be only two or three miles from your destination when the controller advises, "Radar service terminated, change to advisory frequency approved"-especially if you have not yet reported the airport in sight. Although the notification terminating radar service may include instructions to switch to the advisory frequency (see the Pilot/Controller Glossary ), make sure you have already started monitoring the CTAF on another radio 10 miles out.
What if an airport advisory seems to recommend landing on an inappropriate runway or with a tailwind? A flight instructor challenged Rod Machado to tackle that query in the February 2004 AOPA Flight Training. He responded, "I teach every one of my primary students to call for an advisory, then overfly the nontowered airport (at a minimum of 500 feet above TPA, or traffic pattern altitude), and look at the wind indicators. At this point they make a decision on how to land that also takes into consideration the current flow of traffic." See the rest of his discussion for other tips about airport advisories-everything from tumbleweed reports, to cars, debris, or children on the runway, just to name a few!
My ePilot - Training Product
AVIATION SAFETY STOCKING STUFFERS
Looking for the perfect holiday gift for that uneasy cockpit companion? Pinch Hitter -one of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's most popular DVDs-has saved many flying relationships. This at-home course includes the basics of aircraft control, communication, introduction to navigation, and how to land in an emergency. The 45-minute DVD may be purchased alone or with a useful print manual that reinforces key points. To make sure the gift arrives in time for the holidays, plan to allow two business days for shipping. For pricing and other aviation-related gift ideas, see the foundation's store.
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.
My ePilot - Student Interest, Final Exam
Question: What's the difference between a unicom and a common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF)?
Answer: A unicom station (the base-radio unit) is privately owned and operated by a business entity (usually a fixed-based operator, or FBO) at an airport. Pilots flying in and out can communicate with the FBO to request information such as fuel availability, rental car reservations, and hangar/tie-down space and cost. The unicom can be used to give advisory information about the airport (active runway and wind direction, for example), but it should not be used to control traffic around the airport. On the other hand, the CTAF is assigned to a nontowered airport (or an airport where the tower operates part time) for the sole purpose of allowing pilots to report air traffic activity. In some situations the airport CTAF may also be the unicom frequency. Additional information on this subject is discussed in Chapter 4 of the Aeronautical Information Manual.
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