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!
Flight Training News
A few years ago the future of Microsoft’s flight simulator franchise seemed all but over when the company axed the entire staff associated with the popular game. But things are looking up for flight sim fans. The company announced recently that the latest iteration, called Microsoft Flight, will be released this spring. It will feature more of a gaming experience than previous flight sim editions, and it will be a free download. Read more >>
‘Flying Wild Alaska’ pilot to talk cold weather flying
What’s not to like about winter flying? High climb rates, improved visibility, and no bugs to wipe from the wing’s leading edge are reasons enough to log some memorable hours. But flying during the winter months requires a little more advanced planning and preparation than just jumping in the cockpit and cranking the engine. When should you preheat your engine? What are the icing levels? Join Flying Wild Alaska pilot John Ponts and Boise, Idaho, tower controller Andy Marosvari for the Air Safety Institute’s Cold Weather Operations webinar as they discuss these considerations. Webinars will be held Jan. 25 and Jan. 26, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern time. Register today >>
Students progress at Redbird Skyport
Aviation students from Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology recently completed their ground school requirements and are moving into the flight training phase of their accelerated private pilot course at Redbird Skyport in San Marcos, Texas. According to King Schools Inc., which is partnering in the program, the students are working with Redbird Skyport to determine the most effective way to use simulators in private pilot certification. “The goal is to turn out a pilot who is not only physically proficient, but is a good risk manager and truly ready to be pilot in command,” King Schools owners John and Martha King said in a blog.
Chart provider shuts down, citing FAA changes
EZFlightChart.com, a California producer of wire-bound books of charts, has shut down. The company said the FAA’s recent change on lead time on the release of digital charts from 17 days to one prior to expiration made its products obsolete. Read more >>
Few things in flight training are more baffling than weather charts, especially those depicting fronts and associated weather patterns. The solution? Take the Air Safety Institute’s WeatherWise: Air Masses and Fronts online course: Interactive scenes and visual cues explain what to expect when frontal boundaries collide, and you'll get to understand what’s behind pressure systems. Why not discuss your findings with your CFI? Course completion qualifies for AOPA Accident Forgiveness and FAA Wings. Take the course >>
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.
Release the death grip
Do you find yourself forgetting to use the trim while flying—or, worse, do you just not use it at all? Do you find yourself flying along with a death grip, trying to overcome considerable control pressure? If you don’t trim, you’re missing out on a great tool that will make your flying that much easier. Best of all, once you've got it ingrained, trimming will make takeoffs, landings, and instrument training easier, too. Flight Training Associate Editor Jill W. Tallman shows you how to trim the airplane in this AOPA Live® video.
Fairs scheduled for China pilot jobs
Pan Am International Flight Academy will join forces with WASINC, China's largest airline pilot leasing company, to host the All-China Pilot Job Fair at Pan Am's Miami and Las Vegas training centers. The Miami job fair will be held Feb. 23 and 24 at Pan Am's headquarters at the Miami International Airport, and the Las Vegas job fair will be held Feb. 26. Pilots will have the opportunity to pass scheduled sim evaluations, and meet airlines hiring pilots. Qualifying pilots will also receive on-the-spot conditional offers for jobs flying the Boeing 777, 747-400, 767, and 737NG; Airbus A340, A330, and A320; and Embraer EMB 190 and EMB 145. Space is limited, and candidates are encouraged to register early for this free pilot career fair by visiting the Pan Am website or by calling 877/394-2118.
Boeing increases 737 production rate
Boeing on Jan. 10 successfully achieved a production rate of 35 airplanes a month for the Next-Generation 737, with the delivery of the first airplane produced at the new rate to AWAS Aviation Services Inc. Norwegian Air Shuttle will lease the airplane from AWAS. While employees focus on stabilizing the production rate at 35 a month, investments are under way to increase the rate to 38 737s a month in the second quarter of 2013 and 42 a month in the first half of 2014.
“What are those huge things on the wing tips of that airplane?” Looking down the line, you spot the object in question, and reply, “That’s a Cessna 310, and those things are tip tanks. Each holds 50 gallons of fuel.” Whether it’s a 1960s model or a much newer airplane, these fast, powerful twins jazz up the line on a general aviation ramp. Pilots note great handling but distinctive roll characteristics from having all that weight at the wing tips, stored in containers some describe as “tuna tanks” (because of their fishy look).
Private Pilot eKit from ASA
With the proliferation of electronic books on the market, it was only a matter of time until someone bundled training resources into one electronic kit. The Private Pilot eKit from ASA features The Complete Private Pilot by Bob Gardner as the primary textbook and syllabus, plus electronic versions of the Federal Aviation Regulations/Aeronautical Information Manual; ASA’s Private Pilot Test Prep; the Private Pilot Practical Test Standards; and the Private Pilot Oral Exam Guide. Included in the package are a fiberboard E6-B flight computer, a Square Chart Plotter for flight planning, and a logbook. The package sells for $79.95. Order online or call 800/272-2359 (800-ASA2FLY).
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.
Protect yourself with AOPA Aircraft Title Services
Buying an airplane is a stressful endeavor. Never mind the fat check that must be traded for the keys—getting there is most of the battle. One must-do step along the way is a title search. If you buy an airplane with a lien, you'll be responsible for it. Protect yourself with a title search from AOPA Aircraft Title Services. Read more >>
What are your most common emergencies?
Have you ever had to declare an emergency? Chip Wright has, on more than one occasion, in the course of flying for the airlines. In this week’s Flight Training blog, he counsels on the need for you to define your own concept of an emergency—and describes some surprising situations he’s encountered.
Survival time: Two nights outside in Montana
If you had to make an off-airport landing—in the winter and in the wilderness—would you be prepared? AOPA Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Miller was in Montana this month to take a winter survival course, and she describes two very cold nights spent sleeping in the fuselage of a Beechcraft Musketeer and in a homemade survival hut in this week’s Reporting Points blog.
AOPA Career Opportunities
Ever dream of turning your passion for aviation into a career? We’re looking for a corporate partnership coordinator, chief flight instructor, director of corporate finance, manager of flight training programs, AOPA Live producer/videojournalist, and associate editor–Web/ ePilot. To learn more about other AOPA career opportunities, visit AOPA Online.
AVIATION EVENTS & WEATHER