The following stories from the September 28, 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
ASKING ATC's HELP
Pilots pride themselves on their decision-making and problem-solving skills. Situations arise, however-mechanical problems or deteriorating weather ahead, for instance-when it is time to ask for help. The judgment call is to act in a timely manner that prevents a small problem from becoming a full-blown emergency. This may require putting aside the often strong desire not to make a fuss or call attention to yourself.
Handling this kind of decision correctly is a practical test item in areas including emergency procedures and lost procedures, which were reviewed in the July 19, 2002, Training Tips. Remember that one element of lost procedures is to follow the well-known four C's: climb, communicate, confess, and comply. Three of the four C's remind the pilot to seek help. The first C, climb, is present because climbing improves radio communications.
When else might a pilot want to contact air traffic control to request a so-called "flight assist"? Low fuel, severe turbulence, or pilot incapacitation might necessitate a return to your departure point or a radar vector to a nearby airport. Remember, your first task is to fly the airplane! Don't become distracted. How to request a flight assist, what can be done for you, and handling any possible administrative follow-up is the subject of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Safety Advisor Say Intentions... When you need ATC's help. (Also take the online course.)
If your problem has already become an urgency condition, follow the procedures set forth in Chapter 6 of the Aeronautical Information Manual. That may include broadcasting on the well-monitored frequency 121.5 MHz and setting your transponder to code 7700. What is an urgency condition? "An aircraft is in at least an urgency condition the moment the pilot becomes doubtful about position, fuel endurance, weather, or any other condition that could adversely affect flight safety. This is the time to ask for help, not after the situation has developed into a distress condition," the chapter explains.
Making a habit of using services available to VFR flight in your everyday flying will make you more at ease calling air traffic control with a special request under challenging circumstances. For more information, see Mike Collins' commentary "Preflight: 'The System'" in the November 2003 AOPA Flight Training.
My ePilot - Training Product
'PROFESSIONAL PILOT'S CAREER GUIDE'
If becoming a career pilot is your goal, Rob Mark's new book, Professional Pilot's Career Guide, will serve as the bible of everything you've ever wanted to know about working in aviation. Though the guide is ultimately most useful for newer students, pilots, and CFIs, seasoned pros will find useful tidbits, advice, and resources. The book contains chapters with detailed profiles of the regional and major airlines. There is also a chapter on how to most effectively tackle flight instruction and advanced ratings, a lengthy list of common interview questions, a chapter on other types of professional flying, and a useful chapter on job-hunting tips. The book sells for $17.95 and may be ordered online.
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: Daylight is quickly getting shorter with the arrival of fall. When can I log night flying time for the purposes of meeting the requirements for the private pilot certificate?
Answer: Part 1 of the federal aviation regulations defines "night" as the time between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight, as published in the American Air Almanac, converted to local time. The U.S. Naval Observatory provides a user-friendly twilight time calculator to help you determine when you can officially log night flying time in your logbook. Additional information on flying at night is discussed in the online article "The after-hours club."