One of the most basic planning chores during a pilot’s preparation for a flight between two airports is to become familiar with terrain elevation on and around the route. Then you scan your navigation chart to locate individual obstructions along your course—both to ensure safe passage and possibly to use one or more of the objects as visual checkpoints.
Give careful study to the chart depictions of those obstructions. There may be more—or less—to them than what meets the eye on a chart. Or their descriptions may warn of incomplete or unverified information.
An aircraft flying between Watford City (N.D.) Municipal Airport and Sloulin International Airport to the northwest flies over an area of terrain approximately 2,000 feet mean sea level with charted maximum-elevation figures of 3,100 feet to 3,400 feet msl.
Several towers are charted obstructions west and northwest of Watford City; the highest one, south of Lake Sakakawea, rises to 2,720 feet msl. Symbols indicate that they are single (not group) obstructions that rise to less than 1,000 feet agl.
Note that one of those towers, identified as rising to 2,699 feet msl, or 310 feet agl (shown in parentheses) has the letters UC adjacent to the symbol. UC may indicate that the obstruction is under construction, but may also mean that the reported position and elevation are unverified, according to the legend of the Billings, Mont., sectional aeronautical chart.
Are there other sources of information about that obstruction?
A pilot conducting a recent preflight planning session for the Watford City-to-Sloulin flight would have found this notice to airmen: !GFK 12/015 S25 OBST TOWER 2698 (310 AGL) 9.5 WNW LGTS OTS (ASR 1058685) TIL 1212201806.
It would be worth knowing about those out-of-service lights that would lower the tower’s value as a visual checkpoint, and also for safety in reduced visibility.
As you gain cross-country flying experience, you will discover that not all obstructions are as easily spotted as their chart symbols would suggest—a good reason to build a generous safety margin into your selection of a VFR cruise altitude for flight through an obstacle-filled area.
Test your knowledge of obstruction avoidance with this Air Safety Institute Obstacle Clearance Safety Quiz.
Flight Training News
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Weight and balance apps
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NATF announces Richard L. Taylor flight training scholarship
The National Air Transportation Foundation has announced the Richard L. Taylor Flight Training Scholarship, the newest addition to the foundation's scholarship program. This scholarship is offered to a college or university student continuing his or her education in the aviation industry. The scholarship is named after professor emeritus Richard L. Taylor, who for 22 years was the director of flight operations and education at The Ohio State University.
National Aviation Explorer Scholarships awarded
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Air Safety Institute spotlight on VFR night flight
Once the sun has set and the night sky illuminates you’re in for a mostly magical and peaceful time aloft. And with the winter season’s short days and long nights, you may find an afternoon flight spill into the night rather quickly, so why not enjoy this opportunity? First review the Air Safety Institute’s Night VFR Flight Safety Spotlight, which offers plenty of night flying resources all in one convenient place. Read more >>
Aero Club Valkaria embraces business, social aspects of flying clubs
Frank Gallagher, founder of Florida’s Aero Club Valkaria, decided on a different strategy when he created the flying club in October 2010—he formed it as a limited liability company in the state. “I looked at different flying club business models. They are either very successful or they flop,” he said. Read more >>
Weather decoding skills are a crucial part of your pilot training. AOPA’s online weather tool can help you to become more proficient in reading weather patterns, and you’ll become more confident in your ability to make a good go/no-go call. Also see the many weather-related articles in the Flight Training archives, as well those of our sister publication, AOPA Pilot —all of which are free to AOPA members, including those who receive six months of Flight Training free.
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 8 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.
Off the fiscal cliff with Thelma and Louise?
Fast boats and heavily armed helicopters: Fly along with the Coast Guard chasing the bad guys. Is Washington about to pull a Thelma and Louise with general aviation in the car? We’ve got expert analysis on the fiscal cliff. Get an avgas update on when we could see a replacement for 100LL, and find out what the future holds from a pilot who crossed the United States in a solar-powered airplane in 1990. Learn more in a recent episode of AOPA Live This Week.
Boeing 737 breaks single-year order, delivery records
Boeing set a record for year-to-date 737 deliveries with its Dec. 3 delivery of the 377th Next-Generation 737. Delivery of the airplane, a 737-900ER for United Airlines, topped the previous record of 376 deliveries set in 2010. In October, the 737 also broke its own record for net orders in a single year when it surpassed the 2007 record of 846 orders. Boeing said net year-to-date orders for the Next-Generation 737 and 737 MAX total 1,031 airplanes.
Flight attendants gain OSHA protections in cabin
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) announced Nov. 30 that federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) protections will be extended to flight attendants’ work aboard commercial aircraft. The union said the FAA and OSHA worked collaboratively “to reach the policy statement released today that will correct a nearly four-decade-old exclusion of OSHA in the passenger cabin.”
For more aviation career news, see the Flight Training website.
The hangar doors rumble open. At the end of a towbar, a low-wing, canopied single rolls into view, twin vertical stabilizers eye-catching at the tips of the horizontal tail. “Look, a Fornair,” says a pilot observing through the cafe window. “That’s an Aircoupe,” states a companion. “It’s pronounced Ercoupe,” counters another. Sensing imminent controversy, the resident plane spotter seated within earshot praises all the speculations as reflective of the meandering history of this aircraft famously built without rudder pedals on its debut in 1939. This one is a 1946 415-C Ercoupe.
Sporty’s is offering a university-level complete instrument rating course that includes detailed video segments covering glass cockpits and analog gauges. The course is available on DVD or online.
The King Schools has a CD-ROM Sport Pilot Practical Test Course (Oral Exam & Flight Test) now available. You’ll learn on-screen exactly what the FAA wants you to demonstrate to earn your rating. Filling the role of the designated examiner is Rusty Sachs, former executive director of the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI), a master CFI, and an FAA-designated pilot examiner.
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.
Six things you can do to speed up your medical
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Outbreak warning: AOPA Emergency Assistance Plus is ready to help
You may be planning your first international trip or you may be a well-seasoned traveler, but in either case, your itinerary probably doesn’t include the unexpected complications caused by a sudden outbreak of illness. In that event, Emergency Assistance Plus (EA+) will provide you with the latest authoritative information and guidance, and assist you in making evacuation arrangements, including flights, securing visas, and even ground transportation and housing. Read more >>
When Chip Wright of the Flight Training blog was working on his instrument rating, one of the first skills he learned was how to enter and fly a holding pattern. He sometimes had a devil of a time figuring out the proper entry—and at that time, there really was a requirement to get the proper entry and enter the hold properly. Sometimes he had bit of (or a lot of) trouble figuring out the best time or wind correction angle for the outbound leg. Read more >>
State of Tennessee regulating flight schools
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Mrs. Alaska United America unveils aviation platform
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AOPA Career Opportunities
Ever dream of turning your passion for aviation into a career? We’re looking for an events coordinator; AOPA eastern regional manager; .NET applications developer; manager, AOPA Flying Club Network; Web developer (eMedia); and Web graphic designer. To learn more about other AOPA career opportunities, visit AOPA Online.
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