by Woody Minar
Published in Midwest Flyer – October/November 2018 issue
In the August/September 2018 issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine, I wrote about pet peeves that fight instructors and air traffic controllers around the country have shared with me in person, emails, or other correspondence. Below are some more pet peeves.
Concept of Airspace – There are many Class D airports underlying Class B shelves. Let’s use Anoka County – Blaine Airport (KANE) in the Twin Cities, for example. Its ceiling is 3400 feet MSL while the overlying Minneapolis Class B airspace is 4000 feet MSL. One controller told me that aircraft have been seen flying at 3900 feet MSL over Anoka. While this is perfectly legal, is it really safe? What if your altimeter is off and you haven’t reset it in a while? You could actually be in Class B. And what is the purpose of Class B? To separate us little guys from the really big guys. A controller could have a 777 fly at 4000 feet right over you at 3900. The outcome would be disastrous. Give yourself a buffer between the Class D and B; better yet, request a transition through Class D.
Self-Announce Transmissions – Advisory Circular (AC) 90-66B dated March 13, 2018 states, “Self-announce transmission may include aircraft type to aid in identification and detection, but should not use paint schemes or color descriptions to replace the use of aircraft call sign.… “Midwest Traffic, Twin Commander Five One Romeo Foxtrot 10 miles northeast” … not “Midwest Traffic, Blue and White Twin Commander 10 Miles Northeast.” When referring to a specific runway, pilots should use the runway number and not use the phrase ‘Active Runway’ because there is no official active runway at a non-towered airport.”
So, What Runway? – “Bonanza 12345, left downwind runway twenty-eight?” Who taught this pilot communications and why hasn’t the pilot been corrected during a flight review? “Runway two eight.” It doesn’t take any longer to say it.
As long as I’m at it, “…entering a left final for two eight.” Huh? It’s final. Period. And that’s final.
“Any traffic in the area, please advise.” – Why? Watcha gonna do about it? This cancerous announcement got so bad the FAA put it in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) under Section 4-1-9.g.1 – “Traffic in the area, please advise is not a recognized self-announce position and/or intention phrase and should not be used under any condition.” It’s ALSO printed in AC 90-66B. So there. Remember the phrase “See and Avoid?” This also includes “…five out, inbound for 34. Be advised….” Oh, and “Skyhawk 12345,” with you at 7,000,” is just as bad for IFR pilots because ATC already knows you’re with them because you’re talking to them. “Skyhawk 12345 at 7,000.”
Ball Off Center – “If I told you once, I’ve told you …” The ball is there for a purpose and pilots tend to regard rudder pedals as unique curiosities. I guess you can see better out the side window if you’re climbing out in a skid. Whatever you do, don’t get slow or that skid will become a stall/spin and you’ll get a really good view out of the windscreen – of the trees! Keep the ball centered. It should be second nature.
What Was Learned Isn’t Necessarily Practiced – Flight instructors teach proper procedures and techniques outlined in the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR), Aeronautical Information Manual, Advisory Circulars, and Practical Test/Airmen Certification Standards. Once the certificate is received and time passes, bad habits can creep into the flying. Seasoned pilots who should know better don’t necessarily follow the rules; they get lazy, make up their own rules, or “I like what that pilot does, so I’ll do it, too.” Examples are drive and dive onto the runway, round patterns, three-mile-wide patterns, not using tail numbers, and unnecessary long finals causing pilots in the pattern to disrupt the safe flow of traffic. For a good review, AC 90-66B is worth reading. The AC states that “pilots conducting instrument approaches should be particularly alert for other aircraft in the pattern so as to avoid interrupting the flow of traffic…”
A common error is not repeating the name of the airport at the end of each transmission. Too often the listener misses the airport name at the beginning of the transmission. Thinking before transmitting can eliminate confusion, such as reporting a wrong position in space; “… 5 miles east inbound …” when the aircraft may be traveling east, but is actually west of the airport. Call-up, such as “… 10 miles out ….” instead of “… 10 miles north.” If you’re expecting and looking in the wrong location based on the erred radio call, there could be consequences. See and avoid.
The IFR Announcements – “Cirrus 123WM, holding over ECLEY at 3,000.” Where the heck is ECLEY? Or they will announce “… over RICNO inbound on the GPS approach.” The VFR pilot, or even an IFR pilot who is unfamiliar with a GPS approach at Osceola, Wisconsin (KOEO), doesn’t have a clue where the aircraft is located (RICNO is the Final Approach Fix for the GPS 28 approach). It’s so much easier to say “Osceola Traffic. Bonanza 543WM, five-mile final GPS 28. Osceola and other mileage announcements as appropriate or necessary. The recipient knows exactly where you are, and why you’re coming straight in (or circling). The IFR pilot coming into a strange airport, doesn’t have to think from what direction you’re coming from; the phrase is easy to remember wherever you are. Read para 9.6.1 in the AC.
“With you” or “Checking in” is redundant. “With the flash,” “Got’em on the fish finder [or metal detector],” or “Tallyho” – all very unprofessional. “Ident” or “Four two four five [and of course your tail number].” If you have ever flown around Chicago or other very busy airspace, the controllers are so busy they talk like auctioneers and don’t have time for the extra verbiage. Be professional – short and sweet.
Continuing Education – The FAA has seen a decrease in accidents, runway incursions, etc., as a result of continuing education and the WINGS program. That’s the great news. The good news is that we see the same pilots over and over attending safety seminars. The disappointing news is that we’re not seeing an increase in attendance or new faces—especially young or new pilots. How do we reach out to those pilots who aren’t attending safety seminars? We can spread the word. We can encourage new, and old, pilots to attend. We can adopt “Bring a pilot to a seminar” program. It’s a great way to meet new friends, share stories, network, and you might just learn to step on the ball, use proper phraseology, or not become a statistic.
If you haven’t done so, create an account on www.FAASafety.gov. You can get alerts about seminars in your area and webinars across the nation. The latter are becoming more popular. Three credits of seminars, webinars, or online courses and some flight maneuvers each year will extend your flight review another year. While an hour of ground and an hour in the air every two years satisfy the basic requirements of a Flight Review, the WINGS program enhances your training by making you a much better pilot through recency of training.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Woody Minar is a DPE, Master CFI, CFII, MEI, CFI-G, ASEL/ASES/AMEL/AMES based at Osceola Municipal Airport (KOEO) in Osceola, Wisconsin. He was the 2012 Flight Instructor of the Year for the Great Lakes Region and the FAA Safety Team Representative of the Year for the Great Lakes Region in 2013.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this column is the expressed opinion of the author only, and readers are advised to seek the advice of their personal flight instructor and others, and refer to the Federal Aviation Regulations, FAA Aeronautical Information Manual and instructional materials before attempting any procedures discussed herein.