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Looking out below
An old saying that every pilot should know states: “From hot to cold, look out below.”
Wait a minute—that’s not how the familiar mnemonic goes. It should be, “When flying from a high to a low, look out below.”
The second adage is more familiar, but both are true, and both offer ways to learn the complex behavior of a very simple cockpit instrument: the altimeter. What’s also true is that questions about altimeters routinely trip up pilots on knowledge tests, during checkrides, and in flight.
Suppose you flew yesterday, and today a low is moving in. If your aircraft has remained parked since you flew it, will its altimeter read higher or lower today?
The altimeter will “interpret” the lower pressure as a climb, and a higher altitude will be the resulting indication.
“A decrease in pressure causes the altimeter to indicate an increase in altitude, and an increase in pressure causes the altimeter to indicate a decrease in altitude,” explains Chapter 7 of the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. “Accordingly, if the aircraft is sitting on the ground with a pressure level of 29.98 ”Hg and the pressure level changes to 29.68 ”Hg, the altimeter would show an increase of approximately 300 feet in altitude. This pressure change is most noticeable when the aircraft is left parked overnight. As the pressure falls, the altimeter interprets this as a climb.”
The “hot to cold” variation on “look out below” also appears in the chapter. It teaches that temperature variations also can cause an altimeter to mislead.
“When the air is warmer than standard, you are higher than your altimeter indicates. Subsequently, when the air is colder than standard you are lower than indicated. It is the magnitude of this ‘difference’ that determines the magnitude of the error,” explains the Aeronautical Information Manual’s discussion of altimeter setting procedures.
Update your altimeter setting frequently in flight, using the nearest station, as specified by regulation.
Remember that an inch of barometric pressure represents about 1,000 feet of altitude, and that if a properly set altimeter indicates more than 75 feet off compared to a known field elevation, it should be examined by a technician.
Altimetry is challenging to master in its details, and deserves periodic review by pilots of all experience.
YOUR PARTNER IN TRAINING
Every pilot must remain vigilant during ground operations. To help ensure that you know where you are in reference to taxiways and runways, always use an airport diagram and mark the runway in use with the heading bug. Once you're on the runway, verify that the heading indicator (and bug) are aligned with the runway. Pilots should also know the meaning of all airport signs and markings. To help you brush up on signs and markings, review the Air Safety Institute’s Runway Safety online course and Runway Safety Flash Cards. Free airport diagrams are also available on the institute’s website.
Did you know that student pilots who join AOPA are three times more likely to complete their flight training? Membership includes unlimited access to aviation information by phone (800/USA-AOPA, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time) or from Flight Training Online or AOPA Online. If you're not already a member, join today and get the pilot’s edge. Login information is available online.
The FAA, responding to an outpouring of criticism from AOPA and others for unannounced changes to the knowledge testing system, has promised better coordination with the flight training industry on future reforms. Officials of the FAA’s Airman Testing Standards Branch met April 20 with AOPA and other industry participants to address concerns about changes that without notice altered the content of numerous knowledge test question banks, spiking failure rates. Read more >>
The Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution April 20 to build support for legislative or administrative action to alter the departure path because of safety and air pollution concerns, and close flight schools at Santa Monica Municipal Airport. AOPA weighed in with its opposition, saying that the airport has an “impressive safety record” along with operational limitations that mitigate noise, safety, and environmental concerns. Read more >>
From weather reports to time/distance calculations and airport frequencies, there are plenty of details involved in the planning and execution of a cross-country flight. If your organizational approach is simply to scribble everything on a blank sheet of paper, may we suggest there’s a better way? The Air Safety Institute offers a free flight planning form with a navigation log and ample space for weather details, as well other handy information. Download the PDF >>
Bill could fix California flight training fiasco
When the California legislature passed the California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009, one of the unintended consequences of the bill threatened to devastate the state’s flight training industry. The act required new fees and reporting requirements that “would put most flight training businesses and independent CFIs out of business,” according to AOPA California Regional Representative John Pfeifer. Aviation groups worked with the state legislature in 2010 to delay the act’s implementation for the flight training industry until July 2011. But another, more permanent fix is in the works. Read more >>
First flights, airport events can inspire future pilots
An invitation to the local airport may be the difference between dreaming of flying and signing up for lessons. International Learn to Fly Day May 21 provides an opportunity for pilots to tear down the perceived walls at airports and get future pilots up in the sky for their first flight. Check out AOPA’s online resource to learn how to participate in an event near you or plan your own. The page includes such resources as “Six steps to a successful orientation flight” and a special offer to help new student pilots kick-start their training.
New York instructors offer free ground school
To get more people interested in aviation and lower the barriers to entry, two flight instructors from New York are offering a free ground school. Zachary Barrett and Jay Van Essendelft are running the school, which begins May 14 and will run every Saturday for 12 weeks. “The goal of the course will be to spread the word about general aviation, educate new pilots, help individuals towards passing the FAA written exam, as well as help current pilots boost their knowledge levels,” Barrett said. Read more >>
Air Camp USA enrolling students
Does the young aviation enthusiast in your family have plans for summer vacation? Air Camp USA, in Dayton, Ohio, is accepting applications until May 6 for its weeklong camps designed for middle school students. Campers will train and fly as a co-pilot, learn about aeronautics and design an aircraft, fly a remotely piloted aircraft, meet scientists at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and work in teams to plan a humanitarian rescue mission. Sessions are scheduled for June 26 through July 1, and July 10 through 15.
Ceiling and visibility: Beyond the numbers
You know what the regulations say about ceiling and visibility minimums. But what about helping you determine what you can expect from Mother Nature as you plan that cross-country trip? The METARs and TAFs can give you the numbers, but you should be armed with more than that. Learn more about the science behind the numbers in the Air Safety Institute’s WeatherWise: Ceiling and Visibility online course.
Bank of America offers benefits for members
One of the benefits of securing an aircraft loan through AOPA’s partner, Bank of America N.A., is the pre-approval process. Prospective owners often reverse the process, according to Jennifer Giampietro, Bank of America senior vice president for aircraft financing. First they find an airplane; then they see if they qualify for the loan. She suggests that buying an airplane is far easier if you do those steps in reverse order. Read more >>
Are your flying activities covered?
Did you know your current life insurance might exclude general-aviation-related activities? Not all insurance policies protect pilots. Sometimes you pay higher rates or have a special rider that excludes flying. AOPA Aviation Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance offers guaranteed protection exclusively for members. Coverage is available up to $300,000, no medical exam is required, and there are no rate increases because of age or changes in health. Just be sure to enroll within the first 90 days of your membership year. Your participation in the AOPA AD&D insurance program helps to rally GA by funding the association’s daily efforts to maintain the freedom, safety, and affordability of GA. Start your coverage today >>
Color E6-B from ASA
The trusty E6-B gets a colorful makeover in a new version produced by ASA. The aluminum slide-rule computer’s circular side uses black for the rate arrow and units to be calculated; red for weight and volume; and blue for distance, time, and temperature scales. Colors on the wind side are used to identify wind variation. The unit will sell for $34.95 beginning in May. Orders may be placed 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.
Question: Recently on a cross-country flight I tuned in a VOR and when I turned up the volume there was weather information being broadcast along with the Morse code. I also noticed an H in the upper right corner of the communications box for that VOR. What does that mean, and what was I hearing on the VOR?
Answer: You were listening to the hazardous in-flight weather advisory service (HIWAS). This is a continuous broadcast of in-flight weather advisories that includes sigmets, convective sigmets, center weather advisories, airmets, aviation weather warnings, and urgent pireps. HIWAS is an additional resource for keeping track of hazardous weather information. Check your IFR en route low-altitude charts and VFR sectional charts for HIWAS availability in your area. For more on weather services and sources see AOPA’s Handbook for Pilots .
Got a question for our technical services staff? Email [email protected] 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.
What’s New Online
Spring and warmer temperatures bring some additional considerations to your flying—like soggy, water-saturated landing areas. Read more from Chip Wright in this week’s Flight Training blog.
AOPA Career Opportunities
Ever dream of turning your passion for aviation into a career? We’re looking for an application support engineer and member services representative. To learn more about other AOPA career opportunities, visit AOPA Online.
Pilots love to take photos, and they love to share them with other pilots. Now you can upload your flying photos to our online gallery, “Air Mail.” Share your special aviation images, or view and rate more than 7,500 photos (and growing). Photos are put into rotation on the AOPA home page!
AVIATION EVENTS & WEATHER
Want something to do this weekend? Planning an aviation getaway? See your personalized online calendar of events . We’ve enhanced our calendar so that with one click you can see all of the events listed in the regions you selected when personalizing ePilot . Now you can browse events in your region to make planning easier. You can also bookmark the personalized calendar page to check it as often as you want. Before you take off on an adventure, make sure you check our current aviation weather provided by Jeppesen.
Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics
The next Air Safety Institute Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics are scheduled in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Pensacola, Fla., May 14 and 15; Sacramento, Calif., Kansas City, Mo., Albany, N.Y., and Houston, Texas, May 21 and 22; Orlando, Fla., Charlotte, N.C., and Columbus, Ohio, June 4 and 5; San Jose, Calif., and Minneapolis, Minn., June 11 and 12. For a complete schedule, see AOPA Online.
Can’t make it in person? Sign up for the CFI Refresher Online.
Air Safety Institute Safety Seminars
Air Safety Institute Safety Seminars are scheduled in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., May 2; Garden City, N.Y., May 3; Cohoes, N.Y., May 4; Rochester, N.Y., May 5; Morganton, N.C., May 7; Newton, Mass., Salisbury, N.C., Brookings, S.D., and Madison, Wis., May 9; East Hartford, Conn., Jamestown, N.C., Aberdeen, S.D., and Milwaukee, Wis., May 10; Smithfield, N.C., Spearfish, S.D., and Manitowoc, Wis., May 11. Topics vary—for details and a complete schedule, see AOPA Online.
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Editorial Team: ePilot Flight Training Editor : Jill W. Tallman | ePilot Editor: Sarah Brown | Contributor: Alton K. Marsh