The following stories from the August 11, 2006, 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.
Fortunately, failures are often only partial. Some aren't failures at all but reflect pilot mismanagement of complicated or poorly understood communications systems. Spending some downtime in the cockpit studying radios and interconnecting devices, and testing radios before you fly, prevents false alarms. "Radios don't fail all that often-certainly they malfunction far less frequently than just a few years ago-but it does happen. When you think the com is dead, first check the squelch to see if you can receive. Assuming that you can, it's possible that you aren't transmitting. Try another radio. Now, for the sake of argument, let's assume that you have just the one radio. If, for example, you're coming in to land at a towered airport, try reaching the controller on the ground frequency. Sometimes radios keel over on just one or a handful of frequencies," Marc Cook suggests in "Form and Function: Com Sense" in the August 2000 AOPA Flight Training.
Another problem making pilots think they lost communications is a push-to-talk microphone button stuck in the activated position. Chapter 4 of the Aeronautical Information Manual explains how to detect that problem. "Be alert to the sounds or the lack of sounds in your receiver. Check your volume, recheck your frequency, and make sure that your microphone is not stuck in the transmit position. Frequency blockage can, and has, occurred for extended periods of time due to unintentional transmitter operation. This type of interference is commonly referred to as a 'stuck mic,' and controllers may refer to it in this manner when attempting to assign an alternate frequency." The chapter also tells what to do if you are inbound to land at a tower-controlled airport and you sustain a true radio failure. Be able to interpret light-gun signals that ATC will use to communicate with you!
And here's a small research project for you: What is the correct transponder code for an aircraft that has lost its radio communications? You'll find the answer in the AIM.
My ePilot - Training Product
AEA PUBLISHES 'PILOT'S GUIDE TO AVIONICS'
At first glance, The Pilot's Guide to Avionics, published yearly by the Aircraft Electronics Association, appears to be a glossy buyer's guide to the latest electronic gear for the cockpit. But it's also a handy little addition to your aircraft bookshelf, even if you don't currently own an airplane. The 2007 edition of the Guide features a tear-out radio troubleshooting guide that you can carry along with you, and a thorough avionics glossary so that you can know the difference between FADEC (full authority digital engine control) and a FDRS (flight data recorder system). For a free copy, see the Web site or call 816/373-6565.
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: Is there a way to look up ASOS and AWOS reports for specific airports online?
Answer: Yes. The FAA provides a Web site where you can access weather data from FAA-commissioned ASOS and AWOS sites. The site also provides ASOS and AWOS frequency information as well as local phone numbers to call to obtain the automated weather information. For additional information on weather and flight planning, see the Flight Training Online.