|The following stories from the Jan. 20, 2012, 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.|
Returning from a long winter's day of cross-country flying, you are cruising in smooth air under a high overcast. Thank goodness for a functional cabin heater and the precautions you took for this January outing by dressing warmly to seize a chance to fly.
Spotting your next checkpoint ahead, you estimate that the visibility isn't what it was when you started out. Just as that impression dawns, a snowflake finds its way into the cockpit via the air vent, and alights on your sectional chart.
Looking directly down at the terrain, you see clearly that light snow is falling. Is this a cause for concern?
First of all, flying in precipitation—rain or snow—is permissible under visual flight rules provided ceilings and visibility limitations (regulatory and your personal limitations) are not infringed.
Is a significant weather change afoot, or did some obscure elements of the coded forecast suggest that there was any probability of a snow encounter? Time to update your weather information. Start with any nearby surface reports that you can pick up on the radio. Then see if you can get your destination's most recent report. Give Flight Watch a call. Provide a pilot report.
Is airframe icing a concern? Many mornings you have come out to the airport on cold days and had to remove frost from the trainer, and you respect its lift-destroying properties. Fortunately, that's not a concern now. "With the exceptions of freezing rain and freezing drizzle, the only way to gather structural ice is in an actual cloud. Flying in snow or between cloud layers will not cause structural ice, although wet snow may adhere to the aircraft," explains the Air Safety Institute's Aircraft Icing Safety Advisor. See also the Air Safety Institute's Precipitation and Icing online course for additional knowledge.
Too cold for that today. Still, keep tabs on that outside air temperature gauge. Also, you may have to land on a snow-covered runway. Plan to use a light touch. While inbound, ask for any braking action reports.
After the flight, sit down and scour the preflight forecast for any clues you might have missed about the day’s weather. Later, poll the veteran pilots of your area—they may be able to tell you about any regional weather characteristics that sometimes bring on rapidly changing conditions.
That’s information well worth knowing for next time!
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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: I have a commercial airplane single-engine land certificate and I would like to add a helicopter rating to it. What do I need to do?
Answer: The first place to check is FAR 61.63 (b) since you will be adding a category rating to your existing commercial certificate. You will need to complete the training and meet the aeronautical experience requirements found under FAR 61.129 (c). Pay particular attention to where it states “in helicopters” or “in a helicopter.” You also will need the proper logbook endorsements from an authorized instructor affirming that you are accomplished in the aeronautical knowledge areas and proficient in the requisite areas of operation. Passing a practical test is necessary as well; however, no knowledge test is required. For more on ratings and endorsements see AOPA’s subject report.
Got a question for our technical services staff? E-mail [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.